Friday, March 30, 2012

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

-by Eric Fortune

Often we see works of art that leave us inspired with dribbles of saliva flowing down the sides of our mouths. Sometimes that's just an excuse for random dribbles of saliva that flow down our mouths for no reason. What we're experiencing is the end result of long hours of work without the frustration, dookie sketches, obscure chicken scratches, that huge phase(aka the ugly phase)prior to finish, and artist's block etc.

Not every job that lands in our email is going to have the same potential for inspiration, cool imagery, or creative freedom. However, it's our job as illustrators to take these challenges and consistently create engaging, quality imagery from the given narratives. This is something that I and I would suppose everyone else has dealt with at some point. Depending on many various factors there's an ebb and flow and compromise that sometimes occur. For example, how strict are the parameters of the job? How much creative freedom are you given? Sometimes the client is set on a concept that doesn't have a lot of wiggle room and the job becomes more of a technical exercise. If the opportunity for concept isn't available then make the best technical piece that you can. Every once in a blue moon there's a flash of inspiration that happens with little effort. The art director loves your idea and it turns into a killer piece of art. Wham and Bam. I'll take more of these please. However it works out we should all have certain standards for the art we create.

Here are some sketches I've been struggling with. Sometimes I get stuck on predictable ideas and compositions that I just have to grind through before something more inspiring comes to mind. Sometimes it takes time for a good idea to strike. With looming deadlines that extra time may be a luxury. These are all factors that we illustrators work to refine and become more efficient at. Something that I still work on.

There is definitely a different dynamic when working on a personal piece of art where time and freedom are more available. I personally feel I create much better work with a certain amount of artistic autonomy and have the time to see the painting through. Whether or not such an image would sell more books or magazines is up for debate. Hopefully, clients are contacting you because they like what you do. Hopefully, the work you are representing yourself with are works that you yourself like and enjoy working on.


  1. Here's to hoping that the 'grind' constitutes only a small part of my professional career.

    These still look good to me, especially that second page. The buildings with the moon behind them could make for a really moody piece!

  2. Spot on for me, at the moment.
    I'm in such a sketch funk.
    We should trade.

  3. Inspiring!

    Encourage words for all of us, lonely lurkers who work on isolation, just expecting the best with no real idea if, in the end, it will came out good.

  4. Second sketch:

    The streetlight and person "holding something" belong with the London residences on the London street with the full moon.

    Why does the street have only 1 street light? Who is the person standing on the lonely, dangerous-looking street? Why is the person there? And what's that in their hand?

  5. Thanks for sharing your sketches and thumbnails! I love seeing in process work and it really provides insight.

  6. Dan- find your shittiest sketch and we'll work something out ;)

    ces- I read through the given info I have on the project. Did some research for the era, fashion, location, architecture, mood, etc and stared at a blank page for a while. I throw down my chicken scratches and the most readily ideas that first come to mind knowing that a lot of them probably will need a lot of refining or may not be worth taking to final. But it's more of a warm up exercise I think. So many of the sketches aren't thoroughly thought through. Especially in this one particular I imagined perhaps a dense fog that may only show one detailed lamp though others may be suggested in the background in a vague, foggy manner. At this point things may still change completely.

  7. I am so glad I'm not the only one!!! My ugly phase is usually underpainting, Its the moment when I struggle to transform it from an idea to a finished, polished, thoughtful piece. Sometimes, I call it the teenage years. Haha! The painting is rebelling, so like a teenager, I have to leave it alone with itself for a little while before I can come back to it. Sometimes, I pray for a little divine inspiration and that helps a lot too. Good luck!

  8. Hi, it's so strange, because I just saw your blog today for the first time, and this post caught my eye, because I just started a blog, and posted an entry on the same day as this---and I called it theThe Good , the Bad, and the Ugly too! Maybe there was a Clint Eastwood marathon that we both heard in the background while working. Anyway, I liked your post, and it's nice to hear I'm not the only one who shudders at the some of the things I turn out. I read somewhere that some famous artist's dry answer to someone's question of "What does it take to make a great body of work?" was "Throw away the bad ones." Thanks, Doug


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