Sunday Mailbag

March 9th, 2008 | Posted in Freelancing

Q: When is an illustration completed ?? As a freelance illustrator and cartoonist for almost 25 years, I still have the problem not knowing “when to stop”. I sometimes OVERWORK my illustrations which means I start to loose the more spontaneous feel.

A: I think a lot of illustrators have this problem. It’s easy to get very involved with what you are doing and overwork something.

By “overwork” I mean to keep rendering or working on a piece, adding more and more to it, until you compromise the effectiveness of the illustration. Often that means making the piece too “busy”, where the eye can’t figure out what is going on or the message your illustration is trying to convey is lost of muddled. Sometimes it just means the color or some other technical aspect of the artwork gets muddied up and looks too heavy or confusing.

The answer to that question depends on not only the artist but the style and purpose of a given piece. Some pieces need to be very busy and chaotic. Others would be ruined if that was the case. No matter the purpose or style of art, there I always a point where you have to step back and let it go. The best advice I can give is for the artist to clearly define what their goals are for a given illustration, and then to physically step back from the art and try to be objective about if those goals have been met. That can be hard because as an artist you are usually too close to a piece and have some emotional investment in it that makes being objective difficult.

All you can do is your best. Being aware of overworking as a issue is half the battle, however.

Thanks to Mynderd Vosloo from Stellenbosch, South Africa 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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New profile pic courtesy of my self-caricature for the Scott Maiko penned article “Gotcha! Mug Shots of Common (but Despicable) Criminals” from MAD 550

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