An Artist’s Process From Sketch to Finish: How’s It Done?

February 19th, 2014 by Student Blogger
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By Colleen Clark

With hundreds of different stylistic approaches to art even within each major, everyone’s process from the beginning to end of a piece is unique to them. I have no idea how people who make art in other majors approach their projects (I have no idea how I would begin making a sculpture or a blueprint for an interior design, for example), but in Illustration, some processes have become routine for showing progress to your teachers:  thumbnails, value/color studies, lineart, finished details. My work is typically digital, and even though sometimes it takes me way longer to get from A to B than it should, my process typically goes as follows.

1. The Assignment/Concept: What is the assignment given? Or, if I’m making personal work, what is my conceptual goal? Before I start any illustration, I have to figure out what exactly it is I want to say. In the example I’m showing here, the assignment was to draw anything pertaining to an American president. I had just watched Grease when we got the assignment so, naturally, I decided to make Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama the “Pink First Ladies.” I don’t really know if there is a deep philosophical meaning to it besides me wanting a First Ladies greaser girl gang.

2. Sketching/Thumbnails: The next step is usually to start sketching out my ideas in thumbnails—tiny drawings with hardly any detail. I use these to start to develop my composition: what goes in the front, what goes to the back? How many First Ladies can I fit in this composition? How should I pose them, knowing I want to draw their butts? Then I had to gather reference: pictures of their faces, their poses, what they will be wearing. (I had to rifle through a lot of really bad quality Grease costume photos to find good quality satin jackets to draw. Michelle and Hillary wouldn’t settle.)

3. Value/Color Study: After I figured out how I want them to stand, I had to figure out the general color scheme and what pieces were going to stand out as the lightest parts or darkest elements. I worked out my general colors, adjusting the overall warmth and coolness along the way until it felt right.

4. Lineart: A lot of my art tends to rely on line, which is completely circumstantial to every artist. I decided to tidy up my lines, giving the drawing a more finished feel before I went into more details.

5. Likenesses: Since my piece features two extremely well-known people, I had to spend a lot of time on the faces to make sure Michelle and Hillary were recognizable. I can say I spent nearly half the total time working on Hillary’s face alone! Below you can see a few attempts before the final.

6. Final, Feedback, and Extra Changes: To finish up the piece, I added some highlights and shadows on their jackets, hair, and butts. I also added some textures, which can make a digital piece look more organic when overlayed on top. After the class critique (a wonderful plus of going to art school), I was told to add something around their circle frame, and I decided on the stars, which mimic the star arc seen on a dollar bill, adding to the presidental theme.

Finished piece! With added highlights and shadows, textures, and other details

Finished piece! With added highlights and shadows, textures, and other details.

All in all, the piece probably took around 20 hours to complete. That amount of time is about average for a college art assignment, with more complex pieces taking up to 70 or 80 hours total! More or less though, this is how I do it. One of the best things I have learned so far in art school is to take a step back and thoroughly examine your work in between each step. It’s always good to get a fresh look or to switch up your routine every now and then, but a reliable process can also help you develop your style and technique.

The moral of the story is: if it makes you want to make art, stick with it! Keep anything and everything that inspires you close and, if you’re me, draw lots of butts!

Colleen Clark is a CCAD senior majoring in Illustration who wishes Star Trek was real. She loves comics, puppies, anything involving Tina Fey, and sharing her art and thoughts through her online blog.

 

 

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