Sunday, June 5, 2011

what makes an image work?

i dont know if anyone reads this but a while ago i was asked to do an interview for the first sketchoholic e-mag. one of the questions i was asked there was "what do you think is the most important element in a good image?" i'm always asking myself this question but i never really put it in words until now. if you ever wondered about how i come up with my ideas you might be interested in reading this:

I've been thinking about this a lot. Obviously a solid idea is key but there has to be more to it. there are a lot of beautiful images that don’t have a clear narrative or subtext and yet they obviously work. I think it comes down to something I can only call awareness to details. Every time you draw something there are a million of question you can ask yourself. For example: a man holding an apple. on the idea level you can ask: "who is this man?" "why is he holding the apple?" "What are his feelings towards the apple?" "Why?" Each answer you come up with brings a new set of questions and also interesting solutions and subtext to your formally bland image, for example, the man is Adam, Eve just gave him the apple and he's feeling uncomfortable holding the apple since he just took a bite and with his newfound wisdom he realizes that Eve is a bit of a skank... obviously you can keep developing the idea by asking more questions, turning Eve into a strip dancer and the tree to a pole and maybe the snake is sliding singles down her leafy underwear and so on. But its not only about the idea, ask questions about who is you character, what sort of expression does he have considering his nature and the situation he's in? and also, more technical questions like: "how is he holding the apple?" Up high? Arm stretched away with only 2 fingers holding the twig part? Still chewing on it? And even more: how does a hand hold an apple? What muscles are in use? Should I even draw muscles? will a cartoonish stylized character work better? What kind of cartoon style? And of course you need to think about the environment and color – is it morning? Twilight? Summer? Should I make it all green to contrast the red apple? Where is the light coming from? Etc.

The questions here are all mixed up, some of them should be answered before others, like questions that regard style or the general tone of the image and the answers to the follow up questions must support them. this may seem like a lot but this process is fairly fast and muted, other than a couple of main questions to establish an idea this is just something that you should keep track of in the back of your head when you draw your image. the more you practice the easier and faster it gets – usually it takes me less than a minute to come up with an idea and i just keep all the questions running in the back of my head while I work. I think the best artists are the ones most sensitive to details like that.

if you're interested in reading the rest of the interview or just going over some other amazing works done for various sketchoholic contests go here.

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