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Idea bashing

It’s been a while since I posted some sketches, so I thought I’d show how I work on ideas when, as often in illustration, the concept or “brief” is decided by the client, but visual interpretation is up to me. As an example I’ll show how I came up with the idea for my recent house-moving image.


The house-move picture was a self-assigned brief so there was no real time limit, but often with jobs I’m on a tight deadline and sometimes don’t have the opportunity to really work on lots of ideas. However for any given concept based illustration I try to come up with at least two, preferably three or four workable ideas, loosely scribbled in my larger desktop sketchbook, or doodled in my pocket notebook if I’m hit by inspiration outside. Often I’ll fill two or three A4 pages with small thumbnail idea notes. The best are selected and made into presentable sketches to show the client. Based on their response I then make adaptations or proceed onto final artwork. 

So, the brief is “House & studio move from one town to another, by crazy illustrator John and daughter Seren”. Sometimes I start by writing down all the visual key words I can think of to describe the brief, though in this case they were imprinted on my mind anyway: [town] [building] [move] [upheaval] [transport] [artist] [John & Seren] [A to B] [studio] [belongings] [art equipment] [father & daughter] [home]… and so on.

By mentally combining these words into visual couplings they begin to interact into playful ideas, like so:





The first ideas were somewhat obvious, but as one sketch led onto another, gradually became more whimsical…





Still, I wasn’t altogether comfortable showing straight representations of Seren and myself. Then a simple little idea popped up from a succession of associations [Home = nest] [nest = twigs] [twigs = pencils!]


The idea was worked on, more interaction between the parent & chick (me & daughter of course), removal of extraneous bits…


This was traced on a light box to drawing paper, and all is ready for Stage 2: the finished drawing.

#ideas #process #sketches

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All illustration images © John Shelley, not to be used without permission scribblatosis(at)gmail(dot)com