How do I maintain a personal interest on a large scale project?
I believe that the above question is something that many illustrators encounter. From a purely illustrative perspective, maintaining interest in a project can be the difference between creating something that one is excited to create, a product that one is excited to share, and one that really demonstrates passion, versus one that becomes a drudgery, difficult to complete, or one that will occupy the recesses of a drawer in your studio or workspace. I have a previous article addressing how to use some elements and principles of design to stay interested in what a client is interested in. You can read that article at http://illo.cc/83394. I would like this article to focus on the actual design process, and how the process can actually keep you engaged in the project.
To address this question, I think it is important to understand a specific premise of illustration- namely that illustration is visual problem-solving. Even this definition is a little nuanced, however, because “visual problem-solving” implies several other principles. Actually solving the “problem” is one such issue, but HOW you solve the “problem” is a completely different thing to tackle. That process of “how” you solve the problem can really impact how efficiently you work, but it can also impact your level of interest in the project as a whole. This is because there are certain visual problems that are more engaging than others. The classic example is filling an image full of little details. While adding detail can be a very satisfying step from a creative perspective, it is not the most important problem to solve, and they can be very challenging problems to edit if a client requests a change to the image.
It is important, therefore, to establish a process that is simultaneously orderly and predictable but allows you as the creator to solve interesting problems at every step. The basic illustration process may look like this:
Step one, do thumbnails to establish a rough sketch/layout
Step two, establish valuable relationships. What area will be the darkest? What will be the lightest?
Step three, color. How will the image use color?
Step four, final.
Obviously, depending on the project and the individual, this general bare-bones approach could have almost infinitesimal latitude with opportunities for more steps, but this is a general beginning. It can be really easy to get carried away at any point in this process, believing that each step has to be taken to a specific level of finish, but this simply isn’t the case. Thumbnail sketches can be extraordinarily rough. Value relationships can be simplified to just a three value system. And color can be constrained. The point is, if those steps are utilized efficiently, you add little details along the way, and clean up as you go, without having to have a completely rendered and finalized thumbnail. This allows you, as the creator, to stay engaged with what you are doing, while still moving forward to the completion of your project.
In the end, this may be an oversimplification of abstract ideas, but considering using the process as a way to stay interested has been considerably rewarding to me as an artist, and has allowed me to shift from “chore” mentality to really looking forward to each new step in the process.