Sunday Mailbag

September 30th, 2007 | Posted in Mailbag

Q: My question is about how you go about getting your ideas for an assignment or a piece. I assume your clients offer different amount of direction, where do you get your concepts when you have a bit more freedom? Also, do you see the end image in your imagination before putting it down on paper? Have you ever been stymied?

A: I always tell people that illustration is communication, and my job as an illustrator is to communicate an idea, message or subject to the viewer through an image inthe same way the writer of whatever article I am illustration is doing with words. Since my work is humorous in nature my job is usually to add humor at the same time.

Sometimes the client has a very specific idea of what they want in their illustration, and sometimes I am allowed great freedom to come up with my own concept to deliver whatever message they are looking for. Usually it’s some combination of the two.

Sometimes an idea pops fully formed into my head, but much more often it’s a process. I start out reading the article and direction, and then begin with rough thumbnails. I doodle this and that, write down ideas, doodle some more, cross off things that aren’t working, and eventually work up three or more different ideas that I think have something going for them. It’s always harder when you have totally freedom to do come up with something by yourself… but the end result is usually a lot more creatively satisfying. You really have to think about the message and the best way to convey it, so that it is easy to understand and not ambiguous. The old adage that art is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration is very true.

I’ve never been stymied but I have done illustrations I’ve thought less successful than others. As long as the client is happy I am happy.

Thanks to Julie Tucker for the question. If you have a question you want answered for the mailbag about cartooning, illustration, MAD Magazine, caricature or similar, e-mail me and I’ll try and answer it here!

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