The Creative Process
The creative process comes in 5 steps:
1- This is awesome.
2- This is tricky.
3- This is crap.
4- I am crap.
5- This might be ok.
6- This is awesome.
In this post I'm going to take you through my creative process for my latest illustration, "Maiden of the Night". The steps I listed above couldn't have resonated more with any illustration but this one. Let's begin.
1. This is awesome.
My process for creating original work starts with stealing. Yes, I steal references from a multitude of sources and compile them to create one singular artwork. Mind you, there’s a difference between stealing and plagiarism. I'm going to reference a quote from the author Austin Kleon: "Take from one, that’s plagiarism. Take from many, it’s research".
Here are all of the references I borrowed from google for inspiration on my latest Moroccan folklore piece. I simply researched various artifacts from Amazigh culture to find inspiration. I'm sure you can spot where I incorporated the artifacts within the final illustration.
2. This is tricky.
Once I got everything together, I started drafting the pose for the main subject. One thing I want everyone to know is that there is no shame in looking up poses or references. If you're not good at drawing hands or body proportions in general LOOK UP REFERENCES OR MAKE YOUR OWN. Personally I suck at hands, so I photographed myself in my own pose to use for the drawing.
Now that I had it all together, I started the sketch. I always start with laying out the body parts and making sure they fit in proportion, and then adding more definition. This stage involves a lot of erasing and light, rough strokes to get the whole image laid out. If you notice in the first pic, the raven looks super weird, but then gradually gets more definition when I go back to sketch details. It's all in the process, folks. Be patient. Let it come together. And erase often if you don't like it. Personally, I like to outline my sketches before coloring, although I know some prefer the opposite. It all depends on the type of inking pens and markers you're using, and how well they blend or smear.
3. This is crap.
I want to share an important lesson I learned at this point. Initially, the woman in this drawing was going to be bronze-skinned like my last illustration, but I changed my mind after adding the first layers and decided to make her darker (gotta love representation). I started to add more layers, and then it happened. The colors became so saturated that it blurred her face, and the paper was fading. I tried desperately to fix it ("maybe if I add even darker colors I'd be able to create shadows on her face!"). It was all in vain. And before I knew it, I was crying real tears at the sight of the horrendous mess I made.
4. I am crap.
Perhaps the image on the right doesn't look like too big of a deal. But I had a certain mental visual of this artwork, and this mess prevented me from adding layers or shadows. The paper actually developed a waxy texture in the face area, and the markers refused to blend properly anymore. After all those hours sketching and outlining, I was deeply disheartened.
5. This might be ok.
My biggest problem was having to redraw the whole thing all over again. Thankfully, I had a friend who knew how to use photoshop. I've been taking pictures of the drawing for progress pics to show later, and I had a decent picture of the outline. We were able to adjust it so that it can be reprinted. And voila- I had the same outline printed out and I purposely made the outline lighter so I can go back and retrace with inks. Technically it's not cheating since it's my own outline. This isn't the first time I've saved my artwork this way, so I thank myself over and over for developing the habit of taking progress pics. And with that, I was set to color again.
It took me forever to figure out a color scheme, and I had to ask multiple people for advice, but eventually I got the outcome I wanted. Now came for the accents of the image, and this time I had to do more research. I looked up multiple henna designs, patterns, and amazigh symbols, and used a variety of them combined to get the background created.
6. This is awesome.
After adding the black accents in the background, I just needed to add the final touches of white highlights. I used a white gel pen to outline the woman's clothes and the ravens on her shoulders. However, that was just the final drawing step. After creating illustrations, I always get a photographer to take a high quality pic of the artwork (or do it yourself if you have a decent camera) and then I pull up the image on Adobe Lightroom and edit it. This way I can use the artwork for prints or any digital distribution.
Well, here she is: Maiden of the Night. This character was inspired by all of the tales my grandmother told me in Morocco, and there's a bunch of fun stories I can come up with myself after drawing this. What does the dagger mean? Why is it floating? Why does she have ravens on her shoulders? What is she doing in this image? There's no right or wrong answer, so let your imagination do its thing when you look at it. Feel free to comment below your thoughts. Thank you for being a part of this process.