After receiving my Master’s degree in Illustration with my focus on children’s book illustration I relaxed. I thought I had arrived and now I didn’t really have to follow all the arduous, time-consuming, boring steps to creating illustrations that my instructors pounded into my head. I immediately went to work on the children’s book I wanted to finish for publication. Each double page required a new character and After only a month I got bogged down and lost momentum. I thought that maybe it was just the long months preparing my thesis and finishing my schooling that oppressed me and all I needed was a break. Two months later I was still dragging along wondering what my problem was. I jumped right into making myself work on thumbnail sketches for each page but they were lacking in innovation, imagination and cuteness. Over and over I changed things but still I wasn’t making any headway.
Not long later, I was approached by my nephew who wanted a few illustrations for a YA fantasy novel he was writing. He wanted to spend time talking about backgrounds and time frame. My training kicked in and I made him describe his main characters so I could create a character sheet with facial expressions and body poses for each one before even trying to place them into an environment. After working on I had been skipping the step of creating character sketches for them. I had thought I didn’t really need this step because I knew what I wanted but obviously I was wrong. You may know mentally what you want but till you put it to paper and play with poses and facial expressions, you cannot really get the full visual sense of how you want it to lay out.
Lesson learned: don’t skip steps even if you think you don’t really need them. All the steps are vital to the process or they wouldn’t bother teaching them in art school.