Thursday, July 18, 2013

How Many Sketches Should You Send In?


Back in my editorial days I was always coached to send in multiple sketches and ideas for the art director to choose from. Now that I'm a children's book illustrator I've come to realize that sending in multiple sketches for one page is not often the best policy. The reason: I always like one better than the other(s) and often the editor or art director will pick the one I like the least. Then it's a let down having to paint an image I'm not as happy with.

I just created the image above for a new book I'm working on "There Once Was a Cowpoke who swallowed an ant" by Helen Ketteman (Albert Whitman). My working process is to send in rough sketches for the direction I'm thinking of. Then I get feedback from the art director and editor. My goal is to make myself happy and then see if the team likes it. If they do then I move to a final drawing refining details and making any alterations asked for by the team.


 Sometimes they don't like the direction at all and ask for a new idea -offering their suggestions. I love working this way. I've taken the time to explore many thumbnail sketches and ideas and I don't want to share my rejected ideas just to offer more choice. Sometimes more choice just offers more confusion. Ever tried to order at restaurant with 100 menu items? You feel overwhelmed and start to think you're going to miss something really good - so you spend more time reading the menu rather than visiting with the people you went to have a meal with.

I'm a big believer in working hard to develop a sketch you can't wait to paint and then working with it until you and your team come to a consensus. I've taken the time to do a lot of editing in my development process and I choose NOT to share that with the creative team at the publisher.


16 comments:

  1. Thank you Will. I think it is interesting because often times the illustrator feels like they need to overcompensate for their work. I don't know if it is a lack of backbone, or where the balance comes in, but to a degree there has to be a balance between realistic efforts to please a client, and valuing yourself and your work. Great write up, thanks.

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    1. Yes - balance is key - this works most of the time for me...but I try to modify for each client.

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  2. Sending only one idea shows you are committed to your idea, that you think it is the best. If you give more than one option, you subconsciously tell the AD that you are not sure which is best and that THEY should choose. Bad idea. Don't let them have any more control of your work than they need to fulfill the problem. They hire YOU because they can't do what you do .

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    1. Good point Greg (and Will)... I have always felt that I need to give a client options. In fact I think I was told that in school by some of my professors / visiting illustrators :)

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    2. I was told that as well. I think it goes back to the old school model of working. For some reason, ADs (not all) feel like they need to justify their position by putting their finger in the the pie too deeply, as if letting you do a great job and then taking credit for it was not enough. These days, with stock photography and illustration and the ever present internet, if a client can't see it finished, they can't visualize it at all. I stopped letting them visualize anything that I didn't want to render. Seems to be working pretty well.

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    3. LOL Trevor - thank goodness learning is ongoing - sorry for leading you astray :)

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    4. No substitute for real world experience huh Greg?

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  3. Thanks for more excellent advice, as usual!

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  4. Wow whats a great and amazing place you shared here. Like and love this kinda of artistic blog for ever. Feel gratitude to you and loving this kinda of plenty informative blog.

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  5. Great post. Loved the final image on IF this week -- beautiful light and the road weary feeling is palpable! Composition has great curves and angles. Your process post is VERY helpful. I like the change to include the cowboy's face. It adds a lot to the story!

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  6. Hi.....I love your art illustrations!! they are wonderful!! I use to be a illustrator for the military long ago,while in college.I didn't learn computer graphics so all I know is the "old school" way.I want to write an illustrate a children's book about my 2 dogs I had.I was going to self-publish and put on Amazon.com.Do you have any advise or suggestions,I'd really appreciate it.(My Google acct. is down right now)Thanks,Gayle Hartman-W. (gayle_weatherford@yahoo.com) BtW....I found your link on Linked-In.

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    1. Hi Gayle...you might like to watch some of my videos on youtube - here is one of them that might pertain to your situation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EJzBjR65pXg

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  7. Hello :-)
    I love your work! I'm a 4th year undergrad illustration student, and I was wondering if you might have any tips on breaking into the industry and promoting my work?
    Thanks!

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    1. Hi Maddy - I have a lot of youtube videos - there's a link to my channel on the right...here's a video you might like: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h_YDztn3vxY

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