How I work: "Blackwood's Room"

I thought it would be interesting for some people to see the process behind the images I did for Blackwood & Bell Mysteries on Facebook and an overall overview of how I normally work with an Art Director (AD).

This method of working is very similar to the method the AD's and I use on other projects and I guess it's the most common way to work in this industry.

Maybe this small overview of my process will be handy to keep track when you read this article:
-Sketches (Colored or black and white)
-Color rough (if sketches where black and white)

First of all, I would receive a description of the scene. The length of the description varies from one line to a little text block. Sometimes an AD would attach visual references if needed.

Then I would start of with either small thumbnails or in this case, I directly started in Photoshop creating two black & white sketches. This method of working varies to person to person or because of other factors like a close deadline. Currently I prefer making small thumbnails first with pencil on paper.
Thumbnailing is a way of getting the roughly shaped ideas in your mind quickly on paper. There is no strict total amount of thumbnails you need to have each time you start with a new project. It can vary from one, ten to even fifty! I always keep dong them until I have the feeling I ran out of ideas. Thumbnails don't have to be pretty looking and all detailed, AD's actually never get to see my thumbnails, but they are just a way to get your first ideas on paper and get you started.

Next thing I do is to select at least three thumbnails I like the most and work them out to sketches which I then can send over to the AD. I always try to present at least three sketches to the AD, so they have a chance to choose between the sketches I present to them. Most of the time I present more sketches, I'm not very good in choosing ;-).

Once I have my favorite thumbnails selected, I scan them in and import them to Photoshop. I most cases, I directly start in color so I can present colored sketches to the AD. In the case of the Blackwood & Bell Mysteries illustrations I do, the AD asks for black & white sketches. When I'm ready with the sketches, I send them over and hope for the best!
The AD then will reply which sketch has his preference and is approved for Final. Other times, they can add some comments for improvement and you'll have to revise your sketch. Watch out sending useless e-mails to an AD. For example you replying to the AD's e-mail you successfully received their e-mail (unless the specifically ask for it of course). An AD gets a lot of e-mails on a daily basis, so you don't want to be the one who keeps sending them useless e-mails over and over. 


In the case of the Blackwood & Bell Mysteries illustrations, the AD asks for a color rough of the black & white sketch which needs to be approved to go to the final.

If the color rough gets approved I'm free to go and finalize the illustration.

This method of working has the most chance to success because it protects both the AD and Illustrator against failure. Imagine if you would only show the final to your AD and he doesn't like it at all. All the work you put in your illustration good for nothing!

I wish you good luck with your future projects!