Steph and I worked on this Annual Report cover together under the guidance of art director Elizabeth Gray. The Securities Commission deals with things like investment fraud and other financial things (things=stuff I don't fully understand). Below is the process that I used for this project and one I employ in most of my illustration work. The following four images are the rough sketches that I sent after the initial briefing that came to me through Steph from Elizabeth. Essentially the brief asked for a financially related theme. At some point I met one of the commissioners of the securities commission and he knew that I used to draw editorial cartoons and he was hoping for something of that look. Due to some budget cutbacks, this year's annual report is all b&w except for the red on the cover. I think that the black only illustration is a good throwback to yesteryears editorial cartoons. I try to keep these sketches small so that I will avoid adding too much detail. They are more about the general idea and conveying the concept rather than displaying any skill at drawing. Each one is heavily erased and changed which I prefer to starting a new sketch each time.
The first sketch is the one that they decided would work best for them so I moved onto a more refined sketch. This refined sketch is also much larger and is now constrained specifically to the proportions of the final piece. The rough sketches are all less than six inches wide. The refined sketch is 11x8.5 inches which is the exact size of the cover. It is sometimes a good idea to work larger than the final work so that it is reduced for reproduction in order to produce a cleaner look. I find it difficult to guess what details will be lost in the shrinking so to stay a little bit in control, I often work to the final size. In this case, I didn't want the small dots and ink marks to disappear. During this sketch I want to consider the arrangement of multiple characters, facial expression, any angles that will catch the viewer's eyes and redirect their view, the overall shapes of objects and how I can use contrast in the final piece to control the viewer's eyes:
At this point I am looking at feedback on the refined sketch. The general consensus was that the bull's head from the very first rough sketch was preferred to the new head in the above refined sketch. I have to agree. The following is the new refined sketch.
Once the changes were made to the refined sketch I moved to a lightbox to enable the transfer of the image onto bristol. Since this illustration is only going to have ink, bristol is a good choice. The wetness of the ink and sharp metal nips will easy tear through drawing papers. Bristol is smooth and the fibers rarely lift when ink is applied which keeps the nibs working well for longer. For color work I love hot press watercolor which doesn't behave as well as bristol with the ink but is awesome with washes while bristol never really works at all. While I could have worked on the bristol for the refined sketch and simply inked over the pencil lines and erased what was not covered, I have three reasons for not doing this:
1. I draw too hard and too lose with a pencil to every fully erase the lines. Even lines that do erase leave dents in papers like bristol that can show up after scanning. While I do occasionally fix things in Photoshop, primarily if a job has a tight deadline, I try to never, ever, ever rely on this. Transferring the image allows me to draw hard all day and not worry about having to erase.
2. I have this unfounded idea that better paper must have a better image placed on it. This thought places undue pressure on myself to make the refined sketch something more than it ought and this pressure rarely produces the kind of work that I am after. There is a balance between making extremely refined work in the first pass across a page and the looseness that I am after. My sketchbooks are fairly inexpensive so that I will not be burdened with something really good on every page as opposed to using them for their intended purpose of exploration. Steph gave me a much nicer sketchbook last December and there are 1.5 drawings in it because I don't want to mess it up. I have filled 7 of my regular sketchbooks since December.
3. By leaving out the details I feel free to make subtle changes. Too much details becomes restrictive and a case of merely tracing to get the final image. If you look closely you will see several changes. The largest one is probably the bears eyes which never seemed angry enough in all of the sketches:
The almost finished cover, note the place holding text. The illustration will also be used on a post card directing Pennsylvaniaites to the commissions website:
I am all done! Well, sort of, I still have the great opportunity to learn from this piece. I will leave it out where I can see it near my drawing table so that I can be reminded of my mistakes, things that I like and possible new approaches that are not necessarily better but just plain different. I am already very disappointed with not pushing the expressions of the two characters further; the bear should be angrier and the bull should show more fear. Anywho...
Thanks for checking this out!