What do you do when you're compelled to include a HAND DRAWING in a piece you're creating? Edit, edit, edit, and then edit a little more.
If you've ever thought you were pretty good at drawing, sit in a classroom full of illustration students and take a look around. Peeps be talented, yo. I've always been a huge "everybody can draw" advocate, and so I remain—but now including a big, rocky grain of salt. People have their own way of drawing, which sometimes looks traditionally beautiful to the eye and sometimes does not.
My own relationship with drawing has been tested to the limit to the point where I've thought it was the only thing I should do, and then later the one thing I should never do again. But isn't it funny how some habits just keep making their way back into our lives no matter how hard we try to get rid of them?
The literal only impetus I had for my foray into design and digital arts was that I've always liked to draw, but have never quite been able to get over that hump of creating on paper what I see in my mind. Digital is a miracle in my life, where my shaky hand and astigmatism give my drawings a wee bit more quirk than I ever really intend. Thus, I've been rolling with vectors and pixels for the past year with no intention of ever stopping.
But then, school assignment: Draw something BY HAND. Make a POSTER out of it.
Like an icicle in my heart.
Not only did we have to draw by hand, but we had to draw an instrument—one of the more technical things a person could ever try to draw. Fortunately, there were no restrictions on style, degree of detail, etc., so we had free reign. But with all the illustration kids surrounding me, I had to think of a way to get across a hand-drawn look that didn't try to compete with their technical prowess.
I got my sketchbook out.
To create this poster, I must have drawn at least 20 cornets (the instrument I was assigned by drawing a slip of paper from a hat). I studied their gorgeous brass bodies—the curves and lines and complex mathematical construction that makes them a sonic force to be reckoned with. And then I scanned in my favorite drawing and did a lot—a LOT—of contemplating.
The interesting part was the buttons. It was as pure and simple as that. The scan and trace in Illustrator left me with raw, organic forms that, as a whole, were far too loose to use in full. I considered cleaning it up to make the edges smooth and the curves perfect, but that would have taken the soul out. The answer? Editing.
Here are some versions I played around with before I decided on the yellow and gold drop-cap as my final:
I trimmed out the buttons and created a smooth, swooshy shape (inspired in no small part by the Pepsi logo) to mimic the opening of the cornet. By combining the two into a symbolic representation of the instrument, it still reads as "cornet" without even beginning to enter into a competition with technical drawings or fully-fleshed-out illustrations.
The rough-hewn hand plus the smooth vectors (and Helvetica, of course) create something that's dynamic, unexpected, and a little mysterious. There is something vaguely Dia de los Muertos about it for me, possibly due to the color palette, which hints at a slightly macabre New Orleans flavor. (Indeed, my final product was very different from the results produced by my compatriots in class, which I will judge as neither good nor bad.)
In the end, getting my drop cap to look perfect was way harder than the 20 illustrations of cornets over which I labored.
Conclusion? Drawing: I'm going to own it one day. But until then, I'm going to make what I can do work for me.
(Full size: click here.)