This is a place for both creative buyers and illustrators in the business of marketing communications to share positive insights about their profession. It is hoped that peer empathy will be keenly felt by all who visit and participate* here.
Illustration Commentary I
Over a dozen illustration styles using more than a few mediums was just the beginning.
Having become somewhat of an illustration stylist, the copy for my first published illustration ad began like this: "Crosshatch, stipple, color, style, thin line, thick line, shakey line, fun, pastel, texture, wash, drama, airbrush, mixed, mystery and more!" Of course, only I knew how much "more" and tried to show as much of it as I could in follow-up ads. And was sure at the time that "good and plenty" described my illustration capabilities to a tee. Good enough to attract prestigious clients. And plentiful enough, style-wise, to keep me busy satisfying a variety of needs.
Then came digital manipulation. Just in time to trip the light fantastic with inexpensive cd roms full of rights-free images. Even stock photo houses were becoming more sociable and negotiable. All of a sudden, out of the blue, it just wasn't enough anymore to only offer traditionally created custom illustrations. Here were zillions of inexpensive photos that could be montaged together. Things were really heating up. I was absolutely compelled to try my hand at some of new directions. So my extended list of illustrative offerings grew to include: surrealistic, photo montage, super conceptual, photo/illustration montage, digital realism, traditional/digital watercolor, traditional/digital coloring, traditional/digital compositing, speed, experimental traditional/digital, ultra stylistic/mixed combinations, awesome, traditional/digital jpeg'n, traditional/digital gif'n, mindetching and more! "All here and accounted for", as one ad said.
Over the last few years, I've had the opportunity to speak candidly with others in the business. Come to find out, I wasn't on this roller coaster ride by myself. In fact, most illustrators dabble in different things until the work they feel most comfortable with finally emerges. And more than a few others, to one degree or another, had experienced the extreme multiple style syndrome that I describe. Some had even come up with a different by-line for each style, thus helping to maintain a sense of individuality for each look. That feels a little funny to me, but probably makes some sense from a commercial point of view.
The big question is, should one illustrator take on so many directions(here, I must remember that my children may read and even heed a little of this some day)? I had an art director tell me one time that I should grow up and stick to one thing. Always wished I'd had my thoughts gathered enough to let him know how I felt. The truth is I love the discovery aspects of moving freely through a wide range of medias, aesthetics and sensibilities. Then there's the joy of carrying over a lesson learned in one approach to enhance the quality of another. And the ability to help gear the style of a piece to best fit the project's goal is a contribution that client's appreciate. But, after everything is said and done, there's still a feeling that maybe a single focused style would have been the more meaningful path. That there should be this huge collection of consistent work. The kind of inventory an art director could pick through and build a brochure from scratch. Right behind that, though, comes this rememberance of so many drawings that I would not have missed doing for the world. So kids, maybe I don't have one answer. Done over I may have been well advised to choose a more traditional path. Having done what I've done, I can't bring myself to change a thing.
commentary by Andy Attiliis
Illustration Commentary II
No one ever came out and emphasized it, but after a few creative sessions I realized that background materials presented by the art director or other job originator were worth my complete attention. The odds that one of my ideas would fly were much greater if it were based on pertinent information rather than what I felt like doing that day. Even with this realization proven beyond a doubt, it would have been helpful to tattoo such truth upon my arm. Because, in reality, maintaining one's creative spirit while getting in the mood to illustrate on someone else's behalf doesn't come naturally. For me, it requires more than a little reflection to remember the magic feeling that works everytime...willingness. Once I've let myself become totally willing to get caught up in the focused research of others, the process can begin. Out of myself, into the work, it's not long before good, supportable ideas spring forth enthusiastically.
With the value of willingness now recognized, it seemed worthwhile to outline an entire routine. Such a mind set might enhance creativity, discipline and efficiency throughout the entire process. Once again, this is the kind of simple, common sense thing that is seldom spelled out. Only after a good bit of floundering does it hit home that a thoughtful plan could improve performance. For what it's worth, here's the general approach I bring to the table:
Absorb the materials supplied by the art director and/or project originator. Organize and consolidate necessary input. Whenever the timing and situation permits, participate in the initial conceptual phase by submitting thumbnail** layouts as ideas come to mind. From the established style or range of styles settle on the look that will best enhance the creative direction. Provide a rough sketch to establish the content, composition and relationship to the written message. In many cases, a more finished line drawing or work in progress version called a semi-comp is then presented. Draw or otherwise render the finished illustration. In most cases, supply in a digital format on disk. When beneficial to the client, provide a useage policy option that offers multiple exclusive useages based on a specified time periods.
**These initial rough concepts facilitate the creative process in a variety of ways. Quick to do and easy to understand, they distill the idea into the simplest of forms so that its merit, or lack thereof, is very clear. Sometimes, after a great deal of creative exploration, that first thumbnail turns out to be the very best solution.
commentary by Andy Attiliis
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