This the stage at which, sometimes, I have a hard time making up my mind on what to do. If you are like me you have alot of different ideas going around in your head that you’ve considered trying and settling on the right one is somewhat of a challenge.. The passage of scripture at the left is one that I’ve had in my heart for a long, long time and had considered doing an illustration of it many, many times. The Bible is full of facinating imagery to portray on paper or canvas. There is so much fantastical scenery that one could conceivably be busy for many years working on illustrations of these stories. I personally get a head full of imagery when I read these stories from the Old Testament and New Testament. So, we’ll see. Like I said, I have alot of ideas and deciding is the task at hand.
I know of some artists that either do have or claim to have a photographic memory. I’m not one of them. There are somethings that I can draw off the top of my head. But, because I haven’t gotten as much drawing time as some artists (8-10 hrs a day) who work either as a cartoonist or comic book illustrator, I sill require reference material. I also try to keep a file of my past sketches and line art. I have some old drawings that were done 20 years ago. I collect photos and illustrations from various artists that have inspired me over the years. I use this material to refresh my memory of as an encyclopedic file of techniques. There are examples of atomospheric effects (sky, clouds, fog) as well as, lighting and shading, color schemes, proportion studies, you name it, rocks, ships, stars, clothing, landscapes, etc,. Anything and everything that I think may be of use at some future date.
Along with my files I also have library of sorts. It is confinded to a small bookcase (more or less) and contains “how to books” and other cool stuff like StarWars concept art. There are National Geographic magazines and other publications that have great pictures in them as well. At one time my reference library was 5 or 6 shelves high and a good ten feet long. But, I’ve moved a few times and have had to pare it down a bunch for the lack of room to keep it in. The drawback to using reference material is that copying from it can get you in to a heap of trouble from the other guy’s lawyers. It’s called plagerism. Its OK to get ideas from other works of art or photography and learn how things are done but, you can’t copy it literally.
The best way to avoid a possible lawsuit is to take your own pictures or to sketch from live models. I took this picture to use for a Lord of the Rings illustration that I had in mind. I saw this winding country road while I was driving along one day and stopped to take a few shots. I really liked the way the road wound off into the distance. I could just imagine Gandalf or some Hobbits walking along it. I also thought, that with a little modification, the hill that is center right would work well as a part of Hobbiton. How about a Black Rider sitting on his horse in the woods? There is an excellent book by a guy named John Howe. He is a awesome illustrator and worked on conceptual design for the movie as well as doing many drawings and paintings of J.R.R. Tolkien’s book. His book is called Fanatsy Art Workshop. He shows you how to get the most bang for your buck when it comes to working from life and infusing your imagination into it. The artist’s imagination is the greatest gift he has at his disposal. Use it, make it serve you, if you can see it in your mind’s eye then very likely you can get it down on canvas if you work at it. Sketch books and cameras are the best way I know of to practice this and they can go almost anywhere that you can go. Next time we’ll look at getting our ideas down on paper. In the mean time, keep drawing and sketching. Practice what you know and use your imagination.