A few people have asked me about my process of working up a concept or illustration so I figured I would start posting a few "process helpers" to share.
"There is no end to education. It is not that you read a book, pass an examination, and finish with education. The whole of life, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a process of learning."
-Think before you draw-
A great piece of insight I received in my education was that to become a competent artist one must learn everything there is to know about History before grasping the true present. The more you understand the underlying and influencing structures in place at any given place in time the more it informs you about the character of their meaning in context and how and why forms are represented in stylistic manner based on relationships. One must learn everything there is to know about the process of image making and make that second nature before you are truly free to speak with a clear visual language and create within the full spectrum of technique. -You can't break the rules until you first have a solid grasp of how they have been employed in the past and how you are choosing to employ them now.
"If you can't describe what you are doing as a process, you don't know what you're doing."
-W. Edwards Deming
Whenever I feel stuck or feel I need to fix something that isn't working in an image... I try to keep in touch with the fundamentals (for now I won't bother repeating what the masters have already taught us...). There are countless artists that have outlined the basic principles of line, composition, colour theory, ect...and the wealth of information at our fingertips of the scientific principles underlying the nature, light and the material properties that follow is becoming staggering within this day of age.
I recommend studying the books of Andrew Loomis Creative Illustration and James Gurney for a traditional start to get a base. A Dictionary of Symbols by J.E. Cirlot and Dictionary of Symbols by Carl G Liungman is a great visual reference for gestural and compositional rules for mark making that are innate in all of us. Pay attention to the 5 basic ideographic structures in Nature: the straight line, circle segment, spiral curve and point dot when making bold strokes in composition> Design Synectics: Stimulating Creativity in Design by Nicholas Roukes also...
Gestalt is formed from the combination of basic elements and their relationship with each other (earth, air, fire, water, and the eye of the beholder) and there are examples of pattern all around us. Look at the cosmos and we can recover a diagram of almost any state of perceivable nature to type and digitally reference.
Compositional Subdivision from Andrew Loomis-
I have been trying to make a habit of "Heating up the morning Iron" as I tell myself when I am about to attack a painting. That means first thing I force myself mentally or physically to do is shake off the rust which sometime results in a half decent quick study. Here's a few quick warmups:
Assignment No1: familiar my self with the fundamental geometric relationships of pure composition and texture (see Andrew Loomis), then start daydreaming and identifying relatable subjects, perspectives and settings...the squint test.
No2: assign properties to the composition (and start with few) these are what the things you might be seeing could possibly represent based on exercise No1s results.
No 3: Settle on your key light and model from there and best judge for yourself what means of an end you would like to achieve in another 10 mins (usually stylistic detail treatment experimentation....fun)
If there is any takeaway from a couple of new morning scratch doodles please remember "speed painting without thinking" should be preserved in its pure form within the creatively acting animals like child primates and elephants. Until you have a grasp on the fundamental properties of nature through observation and accurate representation that instills absolute confidence in experience with handling a medium that you can then apply with Intention.
This is the goal of the lesson I use it when needed to free the gap up between what I can possibly imagine in my head and what I can reasonably execute within whatever medium or time limit I am working with for the rest of the day - Its a brain exercise in seeing things in their pure form and breaking it down into reasonable general representations of the overall message.... quick warm ups:
....just run down my brushes and loosen up: