On social media a few weeks ago, I received this question from a reader,
My daughter is interested in being an artist. Can you write a blog about how you create art?
My artwork usually varies, based on whether or not it’s a personal product or a client project. Usually if I’m doing something for a client, the process is a little bit different.
My Client-Work Creative Process
Usually, doing artistic work for a client starts off with me finding out about what a client wants and needs, and then estimating how long this is going to take me. I also write up a design contract for them.
The contract helps us to both know exactly what we agreed upon. I didn’t use to do this, and I would get myself into trouble in that regard. Now, I do it for any new client work.
After we know what the client wants, and what they need the design to do (this is important, by the way. It’s not about “what they like” but rather “what accomplishes what they need”), I start gathering further information and ideas. I usually make a mood board on Evernote (Which is free software) and I show them my ideas and basic sketches to make sure we’re on the right page.
Next, I actually create the design (which I’ve written about in more detail here on sketching), and I send it to them explaining some of my design decisions. Usually, there are small tweaks, which I figure into my quote in the first place, but if anything goes above and beyond, I have to let them know that major changes will be extra.
When I’m making something for this website to fill a specific need, I generally use this same process, even though there is no paying client involved.
For personal projects for a specific need, I create a notebook in Evernote, think through the specific needs and goals that this project needs to meet, and I gather inspiration and ideas for making that happen. Then I get to work, sketching and doodling on paper until I have what I want. Then, I create a the artwork on the computer, using PhotoShop, InDesign, or Illustrator.
My Personal Projects Creative Process
When it comes to personal projects, I can divide those further into projects of passion and projects to learn. Particularly in the field of digital design, I find that I have to be constantly learning and growing in order to keep up. If you stop learning, especially as quickly as technology changes, you will slide backward. I use skillshare.com and Lynda.com to keep up my skills in most areas, and I try to do at least 3 months of learning a year. I wrote more about continuing your education in a post here.
So for my learning projects, I usually decide on a goal of what I want to learn, and I create some projects for myself based on the topic I’m learning more about. Most of those will never see the light of day until I’m dead and someone decides to publish the contents of my hard drive…let’s hope not.
For projects of passion, these usually spring up from my daily sketching. I try to start my day writing, even if I don’t publish it. In fact, I like to sit on what I write for at least a week. After I write, I usually will move to my drawing table and sketch for a good hour. I have tried to set a goal over the last few years to sketch daily. Again, no one will ever likely see these, although sometimes they turn into something I publish. The recent quote by Dietrich Bonhoeffer is a good example of this.
With these projects of passion, I usually will have some inspiration in mind that I’m working from. My menu planner posters that have the art deco motif were created after I saw that motif in an old book while I was digging through some used books I inherited.
I took some photos of the art in the corner of the book and played with the design over and over again. Finally, I had redrawn it enough times that it became “mine”, and so I again photographed it with my phone, uploaded it to Evernote, then downloaded it again to my computer. From there, I created some usable vector artwork in Illustrator.
Usable Vector Artwork? Huh?
Naturally, the second question came up,
Forgive my ignorance. What is usable vector artwork? Do you have to have a special program?
Sorry! Sometimes I talk and assume people know what I mean.
There are two kinds of computerized artwork. The first is raster art, which includes jpg’s and png’s. If you zoom in really close, you’ll see tiny squares and it will look fuzzy.
However, if you create the second kind of artwork, vector art, the image can be zoomed into infinity and never look fuzzy because it’s made up of a mathematical formula to tell it where to put each line and curve. You can create raster images from a vector (that is, publishing an Adobe Illustrator file as a jpeg). If you publish it as a jpeg, then you have to use it at that size or smaller, or you’ll get fuzziness. It becomes a raster if you publish it as a jpg or png, however you choose what size you want it before you publish, to avoid the image being blurry at your desired size.
I’ve done some logos for someone who owned several veterinary clinics. These logos needed to look good on a business card, flyers, and other print media, as well as on their website. However, the logo also needed to look good on their sign in front of the clinic. Using a vector program like Adobe Illustrator to create the images, I was able to make sure the logo would look great no matter what size it was used at. They had me publish some logos at different sizes as png’s to use in their clinic and on business cards, and I sent over the artwork to a sign maker for the sign in front.