• Batching Portfolio Pieces

    One of my goals for 2020 is to have a complete portfolio of my shaded pencil style.  I have 6 pieces that I am proud of on my website today. I plan on increasing that to 20 solid pieces.  I've spent the last month batching out additional portfolio pieces. 

    Why batch?

    I've been thinking about how to increase my efficiency.  And as I've watched you tube videos of people who are selling product on Etsy, I've found that they don't just make one apron, or one book, but they line everything up and batch out a dozen at a time.

    I'm applying this concept to my illustration work.  I've found that working on 4 images allows me to take a break so I can come back with fresh eyes the next day and instead of only getting 1 image done a week, I can work on 4 0r more at the same time.


    First I spend a couple hours at the beginning of the week, doing thumb nails and looking for ideas.  At the end of the 2 hours, I take a look at the best of what I've got and develop them. I'm looking for 4 good ideas for each batch of images.

    4x5 Line Comp

    I scan in the thumbnails I plan on developing and crop. I'm looking to end up with an 8x10 picture, so I initially crop them with a 4x5 ratio and increase the image size in photoshop to 4"x5".  If the image needs a bit developing, I will draw on my cintiq and try to improve the drawing. I also check to see where the rule of thirds crosses the main element of my drawing as I play around with the crop of the image.

    If I can, I clean up the image in photoshop and print it off.  Sometimes, I'm ready to go into the value study and other times, I take what I've printed and go to my light table.  I can usually draw better with pencil on paper than with a stylus on a monitor.  

    4x5 Value Comp

    I could do this next step in photoshop, but I love my copic markers. 

    I usually start at the lightest value (N0), because like watercolor, you can always go darker, but you have to use white pencil to go lighter.  (Sometimes when I've made a mistake and I don't want to scrap the whole comp, I go back in with a white pencil to see if it would work to lighten up an area.  I kind of like the effect.)

    Doing a value comp helps me decide on a small scale what values I am going to use in the finished piece.  Because it is only a 4 x 5 inch value comp, if I find that the values aren't working, then I can easily print off another image and try again and I've lost less time than if I just went for the finished piece and fixed the values there.

    I have discovered that I need some distance between making decisions on how to improve my drawings in each step, so batching my drawings works well.  Once I get each image to the value study step I tape them on my wall and wait until the next day.

    Initial 8x10 Line Drawing

    The next morning, I take a look at the images and critique them.  I read once that you need to be your own best editor.  I can't really do that on the same day as I draw them, because I'm too close.  Waiting until the next day, really helps me gain distance.  Occasionally, I'll finish the value sketch and already see a problem, so I'll make a note about what I need to change in the margins of the image but I still wait until the next day to make changes.

    After I've critiqued my images, and I have a good 4x5 image, I scan it back into photoshop and increase the image size to 8x10 and I print it out once again.  I take all 4 images back to my light table and draw the initial 8x10 line drawing.  If I like it and I don't see any more things that I need to fix, I tape the initial 8x10 line drawing to my wall and wait until morning again.

    Refining the 8x10 Line Drawing

    I critique my 8x10 drawing in the morning and I often see things that are wrong or things I forgot to address.  I scan, correct, print, draw on the light table over and over again until I like the image and I am ready to work on the finish drawing.  Sometimes it is straight forward and sometimes I use 20 sheets of paper or more making changes to the same drawing because it isn't working for me.  I might even go back to the 4x5 image and redraw it on that scale to fix issues or to give myself a new perspective on the drawing. Or I might change drawing tools, and scan it back into Photoshop and use the stylus to draw something different.  When I can't seem to solve the drawing problem, changing it up a bit helps.

    Finishing the Pencil Drawing with Shading

    Often, when I'm ready to shade the image on Bristol paper, I don't even stop, I just get the bristol paper and tape the image onto the back of it and use my light table to start on the finished shading. Sometimes  I'm not even aware that I've stopped drawing and started finishing until I'm done.  

    I use the 4x5 value comp heavily as I shade.  It  helps to remind me where I already decided to place the shadows and the highlights.  It is a great map.

    Adding Color

    When the pieces have been shaded, I scan them into Photoshop and color them.  I like to use a separate multiply layer to color on top of my drawings because it allows the lines and shading I've done to come through.  I can also change the color of my lines and shading in photoshop to allow for other possibilities.

    Where I am at:

    As of this morning, I have 8 pieces completed through the shading step.  I have one more piece that I should be able to complete by the end of today, and one I am struggling with. I've taken this latter image to finish and then realized it had some major drawing flaws and took it back to the drawing board (no pun intended) and worked on it some more.  It's still on my wall, waiting for my brain to solve the design problems it has so I can take it to finish.  

    I haven't colored any of these new images yet, but I figure I can batch the coloring of them all together.

    I wanted to know how long it took me to complete an image.  As I am tracking my working hours between billable and non billable, I write down what I worked on.  After my first week, I decided that I need to get faster in my process.  And since a lot of the time was spent on drawing and redrawing, I have no doubt that the more I do, the faster I will get at this process and the more I will like the end result.  I haven't tracked this week's stats, but I think I am faster this week over the last two weeks.  

    Talk to you next week.