This month I’ll be guiding you through how to develop your ideas. For me, this part of the creative process is just as important as the creating itself, as it’s the pre-planning that forms a solid foundation for my work. So let’s get stuck in…
‘Where do I begin?’
If you’re working towards a brief (if you’re studying art/design at GCSE onwards this word will become familiar to you and you’ll hear it often) then you have a good starting point. Read it carefully and make bullet-points or highlight exactly what it is you need to fulfil. Are you designing a Christmas card? A design for packaging? Does the brief state what style/feel they want? The more information you have the easier it is to generate ideas. Starting a self-led project from scratch can be difficult because every decision you make has to be your own and a successful design isn’t usually created by just picking up your paintbrush straight away without any blueprints. If you don’t have a brief, set yourself one. Write down briefly what you want to create, who/what it’s for and what sort of style you want. For example, I’m creating a Christmas card design, it’s for my family and friends, and I’d like it to convey warmth and cosiness and be in a cute illustration style.
Now you’ve got your basics you need to build on this. Your task is to convey your meaning successfully. It can help to make some notes (I like to do colourful spider diagrams) to get any ideas in your head down. Let’s use my brief as an example. It’s for Christmas so I’d write down all the things I associate with Christmas, for example: holly, mistletoe,family get togethers, gifts, snow, stars etc. Do the same for the other important messages behind your intended design, in this case ‘warmth and cosiness’, which made me think of things like: blankets, thick coats/jumpers, fireplace, hot drinks etc. You’ll have quite a bit to work with by the end of this idea outpouring, so you need to narrow it down and decide which elements you think will work well together or excite you most.
Once you’ve decided what you’d like to include it’s time to pull the pieces together. How are you going to put these elements together in a way that’s natural and pleasing to the eye? It can help to do a bit of research at this point, see what other artists have done, and how they’ve gone about positioning things. If you’re designing a greeting card it can be really useful to browse card selections in shops. Bear in mind the message you want to communicate and work around this. For me, I wanted my design to be ‘soft’, which means soft, rounded shapes that curve and flow, rather than sharp edges. This is why I chose to position my chosen features (poinsettias, mistletoe etc) in a circular wreath and made my character rounded. Collecting images and making a small inspiration board to refer back to can be really helpful. When designing my Christmas card I collected a few photos of poinsettias and hedgehogs and worked from these, remembering my desire for ‘softness’.
I like to do rough sketches of each element I plan on using before bringing them all together. I knew I wanted to include a hot drink in my design so I sketched a couple of versions of this until I found a version I was happy with. I like to make notes next to my sketches, for example, I wanted my hedgehog to be more rounded, so I wrote a note to remind myself ’rounder’. It’s ok for your rough work to be messy, no one will see this stage, this is your chance to get all your ideas down and play around to see what works.
When you’re happy with your sketches and have decided the layout of your design it’s time to think about colour. Some colours work harmoniously and this is what will be most pleasing to the eye. Have a think about what sort of message you’re intending to send with this design, do you want it to feel cold and wintery for example? (in which case you’d consider cool colours) or warm an cosy? (in which case you’d consider warmer colours). For my design I wanted warmth but also to continue the feeling of ‘softness’. For this reason I chose not only warmer colours but quite muted versions of these colours. By this I mean I didn’t choose just orange, I chose a more burnt orange. A lot of the colours I chose I had to mix with colours such as burnt umber, burnt sienna and ochre to get that muted tone. I’m a huge fan of building yourself a collection of paint sample cards for use in your art/design planning. Get a file and get in to the habit of picking up some sample cards/booklets any time you find yourself in or passing a DIY/home shop. You can also just pay a visit to one when you have your colours already in mind. If you know you want cool colours, go and pick up sample cards just of these. You can do this for each project. I then hold colours I think I want to use next to each other and decide which appear most harmonious. When you’ve chosen, stick them to your rough sketches so you have a guide of what goes where. As you can see below, I’ve assigned colours to various parts of my character.
Starting your final design
Before starting your final design it’s useful to work out sizing and most of the time I like to have a complete rough version with everything in place. Once you know where everything is going and how large it needs to be, it’s time to select your paper and begin. You can read about selecting the right paper in my guide: ‘Choosing the right sketchbook‘. I chose to use fine grain heavyweight paper as I wanted a hint of texture as well as a paper that could hold oils well. Once you’ve transferred your design, you can begin adding colour. What medium you use is up to you but it’s essential to use paper that can handle your medium (see my mentioned guide, above, to read more about this).
As you can see on my rough pages, I’ve mixed my colours and tested them next to the samples before applying them to my piece. It’s a good idea to have some scrap paper nearby to test your colours on, particularly as they can appear different on your palette than on your paper. Some colours can dry lighter, some darker.
I’ll be revealing my own complete design next month and kicking off December with some unique, creative gift ideas for you!