Thursday, March 13, 2014

Personal work? Maybe.


One of my biggest fears in pursuing a professional art career was that it would suck the fun out of drawing. Thankfully, this hasn't happened. However, I have found that it's more difficult to create personal work.

Before starting a personal piece, I get stuck on a dozen questions. Is this too similar to something in my portfolio already? Is this filling any gaps in my portfolio? Is this something I would like to draw again? Would this fit on a promotional postcard? Is it dynamic enough? Is it dramatic enough? Is it too comfortable? Should I make it a wraparound? Should I do something fun or take on a new challenge?

As a result, I've found it difficult to start - and finish - personal work lately. When I'm left to my own devices, totally free to draw whatever I want, nothing seems fresh or original enough.

The drawing above is an unfinished personal piece I can't decide whether to complete. I definitely gave myself a huge challenge here: horse, a ton of birds, morning light, and - my archnemesis - buildings. I guess I'm not making things easier on myself, am I?

7 comments:

  1. Ha, I thought it was only me. I think I've finally worked out the recipe for a personal piece that will actually end up finished: something I like to draw + something I need to practice drawing (or need to have in my portfolio) + something new and different (whether that's a technique, medium, or subject matter) + a deadline of some kind. If it's missing one of those aspects, the project languishes no matter how strong the other three are.

    Multiples of the same object (like your birds here) definitely add an extra layer of inertia - I can force myself to finish a lot of repetitive elements for a client, but I have a hard time putting myself through the tedium in my free time unless I treat it as the "practice" component and make it the piece I learn to draw birds/etc accurately for.

    Sometimes it's good to shelve a project you're not sure about (nice as this one is). Later, if you can't bear the thought of leaving it unfinished, you'll know it's worth revisiting and you can pick it up then.

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    1. Thanks Wylie. Glad to know I'm not the only one who struggles with this. Thanks for the "formula" - I think it will really help.

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  2. That's very true! I just recently picked up a personal piece that had been languishing as a very rough sketch on my hard-drive for 8 months (although some languish forever) but a combination of no deadline + piecemeal other things to work on + hot weather has made it difficult to actually FINISH it. I need to force myself to spend a couple of hours finishing it up (it's nearly done), with no distractions, and move on to something new.

    I try and use my sketchbooks to do the brainless things – my default states of drawing girls in pretty dresses and cute children – so that I do get to do some things I like and don't have to work at without having to commit to something huge that may not be right for my portfolio. But when I do complete big pieces, I'm just like you – I have fabulous ideas that involve perspective, buildings, horses, jungle, seventeenth century astronomy.... anything that will be hard to do but will end up looking impressive, or that requires a lot of research. =P Maybe it's some sort of internal glitch illustrators have....

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    1. Thanks Alene. I also find that it's hard to do digital painting when it's really hot out. And whatever you're working on that involved seventeenth-century astronomy, I think you should finish it. It sounds awesome.

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    2. Yes, in the heat I tend to stick to my graphics tablet! Our summer was pretty hot this year, too, a lot of 38C days...
      Oh, I plan to finish it very soon indeed. It's an idea that had been rattling around my head for about ten years, and I'm getting a bit tired of it (although I do like how it's looking) =P It should be on my blog within the week. =)

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  3. The only remedy I have been able to come up with so far is to trick myself into being less demanding. If my motivation begins to falter part-way through a project (usually because I realize it doesn't meet one of the criteria you listed) I set myself a new goal for the piece. For example, the piece I'm working on starts to feel too safe? OK, sell it on Etsy. The piece feels to similar to one in my portfolio? OK, pressure's off, so let's play with the color palette or lighting. Thankfully, it works some of the time . . .

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  4. The horse looks remarkably calm for galloping through a narrow lane with birds flying up in his face. His head should be up higher, ears forward, and eyes wider with a little bit of white showing.

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