I had announced earlier, that I would post a more in-depth making-of of one of my illustrations. So this is it. I posted my last illustration for The New York Times yesterday, and here is a look at the process.
The first step for this one for me was to create a set of thumbnails. The article is about the hopeless situation for a lot of young people in Algeria and that a lot of them are leaving the country towards Europe. The quality of these first sketches is quite low and in scenarios, where I have more time, I would definitely want to refine them, before showing them to anyone. On fast turn-around jobs, like this one, they sometimes have to do however for a first presentation. Sometimes I wonder if art directors get worried at this stage about the quality of the final image.
I numbered the ideas from 1 to 8, but you see, that they are not all distinct ideas. They are often rather variations on an idea. The quick sketches and rough drawing allows to quickly try to change compositions or add or take away elements. I sometimes think of it almost like a puzzle in my head, finding the right pieces and putting it together in the right way. While drawing them, a feedback loop happens, that I get new ideas, sparked by what I just drew. In a good scenario, the idea evolves slowly into several variations.
Most of the first ideas are based on the Algerian flag. I got the feedback, that this edition of the Times is already "flag-heavy", so we decided to just omit it, although in idea 8, the elements of the flag could have been brought in a meaningful way (the people jumping off the star, almost like leaving a sinking ship).
There are so many aspects to this subject, like failed policies of the Algerian state etc., that I sometimes think, that a simple "clever", classical conceptual illustration (country = sinking ship) does not do it justice. I rather try to tap into an emotional level of the subject. Sometimes more successful, sometimes less.
This second step sketch was already done in Procreate (the software) on the iPad.
After the sketch was agreed there comes the final step of actually drawing it. You will notice in the video, that I try to set up the drawing into these two rectangles at first. The idea was to somehow anchor the image that way and maybe also fragment the boat and the guys at the edges of the rectangle. The art director, Alex, was against it, and in hindsight, I think it was a good call not to do it.
After what can be seen in the video, I still took the image to Photoshop to add textures and do some contrast corrections. Before I send out anything to a client I need to see it on my old Macbook with Photoshop CS 5, otherwise, I do not trust, that it will come out alright in print. The Macbook has not disappointed me in that regard.
I hope that was fun, if only for some illustration-nerds. I got asked a couple of times now to explain the process of the "Darker" images, which I may do in the near future. Thanks for reading!