This was always going to be a bit of a mess. You can only form the coherent storylines once the process is complete. But I can take stock of where I’m at, what I’ve learned, and start wandering in other vague directions.
Big Blaugust Lessons
The things that I really want to hold on to:
- An illustration needs a purpose (an emotion, idea, or narrative) and communicating that purpose is more important than communicating that I have any particular technical skill.
- Style and technique are there to serve the goals of the picture, and my overall artistic goals, rather than ends in and of themselves.
- I need fodder to make interesting illustrations. Drawing observationally, as research, and from life, gives me material to pull into illustrations. I shouldn’t just draw within narrow research bounds, but more widely to give myself ideas.
- And I need to draw to practise seeing. I need to draw to practise knowing what I care about in a scene, and to experiment – in a low-stakes situation – with how to represent that.
- I can spend more time on individual illustrations than I have been. I can do many roughs, including colour roughs. It’s important to take my time in order to render in a way that feels right to me, rather than rushing it through in a way that I don’t really like.
- I’d really like to get better at traditional art.
- Experimenting with new materials, new techniques, new ideas is A+ good stuff, and that’s where a lot of my development comes from.
- It’s important to get good enough at the things I don’t care about so that they fade into the background and don’t attract attention away from the things I do care about.
- On that note: it’s okay to care about some parts of a picture more than other things. Necessary, even. I should stay curious about what things I personally care about, and be aware so I can amplify or tone them down to fit certain illustrations.
- It’s worth chasing the things I care about, and continuing to try to build them into my practice, even if I’m not sure how.
What were the goals again?
- Figure out the kind of stories I want to tell
- Consider the pieces of art I really like, stylistically
- Analyse the way those styles and techniques support the stories and emotions they’re conveying
- Tie this all together by doing studies and experimenting with new techniques
Have I achieved them? I’ve definitely done a lot of 2 and 3, but there’s a lot more to cover. I’ve been doing some of 4, though you haven’t seen much evidence of it. And 1… well, the realisation that pictures need to be about things rather than about skills has just sort of done away with this as a question that needs to be answered. I was looking for an answer like ‘oh, yes, draw people-based stories from Ancient Civilisations, sometimes fantastical’ and then I could start ticking boxes within that category. But that all seems backwards now.
In the rest of the month I’d like to expand on points 2,3 and 4, by considering elements of illustration I haven’t yet investigated.
I want to look at different methods for creating contrast and leading the eye. I want to look at various ways that illustrators seem to consciously step away from realism, and their reasons for it. I want to focus on some specific things like illustrating people and illustrating in greyscale. I want to go back in history to other art movements/illustrators I like and see what they have in common with modern illustrators I like. I want to do some studies of individual illustrations to really get into the nitty-gritty of how it works. This is a slight change of topic, but I also want to reflect a little on organisation of materials, projects, folders etc and how to make it easier for myself to create. And I might start posting some of the sketchbook experiments I’ve been working on.
That’s a lot of stuff and I’ll be busy volunteering at, and attending, the Melbourne Writers Festival in the final week of August, but we’ll see how it goes 🙂