This blog is about Graphic Design, Vector Art, and Cartoon Illustration

Behind the scenes of commercial illustration

When I first started learning about commercial illustration, in college, I wanted to know the process. No, I didn't mean what type of pens or paper to use. I meant how it all got started. The very first steps before the actual drawing began. In the classes that I taught at The Art Institute of Phoenix, I often included this information for the benefit of those people who would become commercial artists. And while many students rolled their eyes and could see no point to it, the ones who really wanted a career, and to make money, with their artwork paid close attention. If that's you, this is how it starts:

• Meeting with the client. Yes, commercial illustrators meet with people. They don't just think up something and start drawing. They work on assignment. And one of the smartest things I ever did, in my first years of college, was to take a basic class on salesmanship. And from that the most important thing I learned was to listen, and to take notes.

• Clarification of the client's needs. Before you wander off to the drawing board, listen to what the person who is paying for it wants. They are paying for an illustration. It's their idea, their concept, their vision that you need to draw. And yes, they do get to tell you what to do. I'm an artist, not a concept person. If someone wants me to dream up a concept, I can try, but it's not my specialty. I draw things.

So that's the behind the scenes. It's a bunch of sketches and stray notes. The project that I am working on is to create a character of a woman at a bar which will represent "The Heartache's on Me". As you can see on the notes, she will have full red lips and buck teeth. There will be a bottle, in the shape of a whiskey bottle. The bar will have a moderate amount of architectural detail, and a bar rail, where she will have one foot on. I will need to do more research on the height and shape of a country-western bar, and also what it looks like from both sides, as this will be rendered ultimately as a carving, in three dimensions.

When it's finished, it will be funny. Hopefully.