Illustrating Process

On December 5th I announced my HOLIDAY SPECIAL: until December 20th anyone for $100 (b&w) or $150 (color) can ask me to draw a picture of their favorite animal if they include one thing they like the best about that animal. There were 3  reasons I wanted to do it : 1) because I am an independent I rarely have to follow other people's guidelines/ideas and this is a good exercise to stay in shape 2) to engage with people who like my work - it's fun to give an opportunity to another person to be an art editor and order me around 3) to raise a little bit of money to be able to feed myself (if you saw my bank account you'd weep).

I got several orders and they were fun to do. But one, although seemingly an easy task, took quite a effort to develop. I wanted to share with you my process.  

The original request I received was this: My favorite animal is an octopus, and my favorite thing about them is the way they can do many fun things at once.

- Hmm... - I thought. - Many things at once.

So I sat down and sketched out my first idea on my first impulse:

Look, the octopus is getting her nails done while sleeping, while horsing around, being an angel, washing floors (it can be a fun activity if you treat it as a form of exercise), singing Christmas carols, picking a nose and stuffing a mouth with a cupcake!

The problem with this idea was that it required a lot of small details that may have gotten lost in its acrylic rendering (unless I made the picture really large, but it would be time and cost prohibitive to make it for only $150). So I decided to develop it in larger strokes:

The octopus is getting her leg massaged while checking Facebook on her iPhone and picking nose. But no, this didn't sit with me either: how I will fit the 5 other activities into this picture? Ah... What else is there for an octopus and his legs? Wait, what if the octopus' legs got into things?

The octopus is getting his nails done while his 6 other legs are creeping under women's skirts. But no, this disturbingly reminded me of our President Elect's behavior ("He was like an octopus groping me") so I scrapped that idea. Now: what if instead creeping inside the octopus' legs get outside?

Yeah, but once outside what is there for the legs to do? They kind of aimlessly look around for fun. Eh...

There is very little time to develop ideas in my busy studio, so I took my notebook with me to a screening and started to work on octopus ideas on subway. While drawing feverishly in the crowded subway car, a young woman started to stare at me, then she got up and stood close by to see what I am doing. It made my feel uncomfortable, but I was under a deadline so I continued on drawing.

- Can I ask you a question? - she finally addressed me.

- Go ahead.

- You seem to be so sure when you draw. How do you do it?

- Don't think I am so sure. In fact, I am totally unsure of myself when I draw, especially when people watch me.

- I am an artist myself and I am so timid compared to how you treat your lines.

- I don't care for the lines, I only care for the idea. And I am not afraid to make a mistake. In my world there are no mistakes, only discoveries.

- But...

Unfortunately it was my stop and I had to get off, leaving the young artist and her question in the limbo of half-answers. Good news: I had a couple of new ideas for what the octopuses legs could do in my notebook.

Octopus is a master puppeteer in a puppet theater! But wait, the request was for diverse fun the octopus is having simultaneously. Think some more. Woudln't it be fun to have octopus to be part of a human. Like, a human head with 8 legs?

Hmm... Maybe not. What if the octopus from behind the human was making him to do all kinds of fun and stupid things?

But there is not much space on the letter-size paper to show those fun and stupid things.

What if the octopus was sitting at a table like Jesus at the Last Supper but instead of Apostles he had his legs to talk to?

What if the octopus was like Jesus - "I have become all things to all people" (from Corinthians 9:22)?

I like that like Jesus the Octopus can be all things at the same time. Instead depicting simultaneous actions (sleeping, singing, horsing around) shift the focus on being - being all creatures at the same time. But who are all those creatures? I miss some animals here. What else is there? Tiger? Fish? Who has flippers?

Now I was ready to start to finalize the sketch.

And to add color.

Ready to send it off!