You never know when it will strike.
You never know how long it will last.
You think it may very well mark the end of your artistic career.
For the last three and a half months I've been in the preliminary sketch stage of the fifth of a series of five commissioned illustrations on the life of Christ.
This last one has been a stinker indeed. I've literally been banging my head against the door trying to get it to come together. It's an illustration from John chapter 9 when Christ spits, makes mud, sticks in on a blind guy's eyes, and tells him to go wash in the Pool of Siloam to reclaim his sight. Sounds easy enough right?
I literally have pages and pages of preliminary thumbnail sketches agonizing over this piece. To no avail. I'm ruined. This is the end. I'll never draw again.
Finally...last night it arrived (I think, I hope, I'm pretty sure...I think). It all came together in my mind in the chicken scratches I was spitting out in my sketch book while my beloved and I were watching "The Return of the King."
I forgot about the magic that a crappy ball-point pen can work during frantic, thumbnail, sketching sessions. The artist constipation was over and I felt great.
The hardest part of any illustration is the prepatory stage. Every once in a while, you can hammer something out quickly and it looks great. Not usually though. The laboring comes in the preparation. In times past, I've often tried to "wing it," and that only makes the project take all the longer because you're trying to make up stuff. So, as I settled and approached this illustration, I was forced to ask myself the following questions:
What point of this narrative am I illustrating?
What point do I want to get across? (In other words, what lesson do I want the viewer to learn?)
What kind of composition do I want?
Where is the light source coming from?
what else is going on in the image background?
What about facial expressions? Do these look natural?
What kind of photo references will I need?
What subtle things can I add that will make the different elements of the illustration act cohesively?
I just got done taking the photo references about 25 minutes ago. My wife and kids might make cameo appearances in the background. Once I get the photos back, I will begin the final drawing, then proceed to ink it, add ink washes, scan it and color it in the computer.
For anyone who's reading, stay tuned. I'll be posting the stages of this illustration during the next week or two until it's finished.