Right, here we are again. Volume 3. Paul has done it again. Pretty damn exciting. It’s been a few years since I had the opportunity, I say opportunity but they make me, to write a few words to accompany the errant mark-making I put forward for the book. What has changed since last time? For the most part, not a lot—still illustrating from home and working for RPG companies in the States.
I like to think my work is improving, but that is very hard to see at times, if it is at all. Hard to be objective when you are in the driving seat, much easier as a passenger. So I will leave that call up to you and others. I guess one change, one that I am aiming to reverse, is that I am working totally digitally now, not even putting pencil to paper to sketch roughs any more. This makes for a faster work process and means the roughs are all colour and easier to work into the final from. But it also means I have no hard-copy original work; not a single piece of marked paper to show for all of the work, and I do miss that. I am not saying I want to get back to painting old-school, that would be awesome, but I am being realistic here. No, just pencil scratching on paper would be enough. So for my next few commissions, that is what I will endeavour to do.
After eight years working purely as a freelance illustrator, I made the move back into the film industry as a concept illustrator for the production designer on a Disney film shot here in Wellington. It was quite the culture shock to be back working on a film. Being part of a creative team, part of a larger product, being a cog in a machine in a way that you aren’t working from home on illustrations. I loved the energy of the job, the fact that I was only ever generating ideas; they never had to be fully realized, they were only part of the process. It really reminded me of the difference between the two jobs. Illustration is about a finished product and an integrity-of-work process, whereas design is only to inform the finished product and any method that gets that done is valid.
By this, I mean that when I sit down to illustrate for a client I am very particular in how I like to work. I try to be as traditional in my techniques and approach as possible, whether I am working traditionally or in Photoshop. But when working in a designer capacity, virtually anything goes to get the ideas generated and inform the next stage in the process, whether that’s a film set, creature, jug design or wallpaper pattern.
Design is so much about the final product and not the design drawings, photo bashing, any quick and dirty method. I hope to balance these two aspects of my work. They satisfy different parts of me creatively and, I think, inform each other indirectly.
I might even try to do some personal work, but that is very unlikely. I have the best of intentions, but it seems there is always something else to do. I have wrestled with this for years. Most of my artist friends and colleagues are doing personal work. As you can see by the content of this book, it is all some of them do. This was a constant source of worry and stress for me. Why wasn’t I doing my own work? I am not driven by a creative urge to paint and draw, I don’t have stories I want to tell and illustrate or films I want to make.
After years of this, I had an epiphany. I simply don’t want to. I realized that I am very happy to just do this as a job. A job I enjoy, and not everybody is lucky enough to be able to say that.
I think it is really important to realize that it is okay to be creative as a job but not have to feel that you are somehow being lazy or uncreative if you don’t do personal work or have a project you are always working on. It is certainly cool if you are that sort of person. Most artists I know are. But it is equally okay not to be. It seems very obvious, but it is something that took me a long time to work out. It is, generally, not something that folks talk about in classes or at work. Not many tutors or artist friends tend to talk about the lack of desire to paint and draw, or actively support yours.
Get out there and enjoy your work, but don’t let a lack of drive for personal work make you feel you are not achieving or that you are lazy. This rant will not have much meaning to most reading this book, but for those who feel as I do about their art, I hope it helps.