Reflections In Hindsight

Grace in the Rearview Mirror…it's closer than it appears

  • Ephesians 4:29

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The Creative Process

Posted by Luther D. Powell on September 27, 2012

The past few weeks for me have been spent drawing. Drawing, and thinking of what to draw next. Oh, and getting paid to draw. And doing sketches for future drawings. And finding reference photos for –OKAY, so yeah, it should have been obvious what I could blog about for today, but it wasn’t until my Splickety-writer-buddy Avily Jerome suggested the topic that I decided to blog about this. (Thanks bunches, Avily!)

So, how do I come up with stuff to draw, and what’s the creative process behind everything? I’ll explain how I go about it step by step!

Step 1: Inspiration. I get inspired by lots of things. Sometimes, this step is cancelled out by the motive behind the drawing. If it’s for class, I may or may not have limitations on what I’m doing. If it’s a commission piece, there will definitely be limitations, thus less ‘real’ inspiration. For commissions, I’m often asked to draw very specific things. Other than that, I have to say, “From whence was my urge to draw such things?” and go from there. Life experiences? Bible stories? Pop culture (books, movies, etc.)? Inspiration branches into a number of other sub-steps of making artwork; deciding on the intended audience/viewers, message behind the image, tone of the image, all that good stuff, but I don’t need to delve too much into those details. General idea, once I’m inspired by something, then I can figure out where to get my references.

Step 2: References. Oddly enough, finding references for my art has recently become one of the most difficult steps in my creative process (and not just because I’ve been drawing a lotta werewolves lately, ‘cause Lord knows those aren’t easy to come by). Just like citing sources when writing an essay, picking out the right reference material for drawings is obnoxious. For me, finding references varies from asking friends to pose and let me take photos of them to look at, to Googling a mess of stuff, to straight-up conjuring images out of nothing. The more fun variation is taking pictures of friends. It’s an odd sort of bonding experience when I’m attempting to make small talk with someone and telling him/her to “move your arm a little more this way, yeah, that works, keep it like that.” Once photos are taken, I’ll sometimes edit them to heighten contrast, make them black and white, basically do things that will make it easier for me to draw them as I see the piece in my head.

Step 3: Sketches and composition. This step is sort of two steps in one, because I’ll usually do sketches of individual figures, then put them together in a composition with slightly more detail. The sketches vary widely  in detail, starting with simple geometric shapes then fleshing out the human form (or whatever it is I’m drawing) little by little, layer by layer. Sometimes I come up with 1-3 sketches and I know just what I want, sometimes it takes up to 10 or more sketches. After I’ve decided on my composition, where everything’s going on the paper, then I begin the final step.

Step 4: DRAW. This part is pretty self-explanatory. I start by mapping out where my figures and objects in the background and foreground will be, again, with simple shapes. The first lines are very, very light, because I always erase the most during the first layer of the drawing. Lay the first lines in too dark, and you either gotta work with what’s there or start over on another sheet of paper. Layer by layer, I add details, and most of the time, I’m a huge detail-nut. I don’t strive to make my pieces photo-realistic necessarily, but realistic enough that one can see the image come to life. In some cases, I let the ‘artist’s hand’ show through along the edges of paper. That means, sometimes you can see my pencil-marks on the paper directly, but most of the time, I blend everything together enough to give the image a more natural appearance. A lot of illustrators enjoy seeing the line work throughout a drawing, and I understand why. It’s a matter of aesthetics, and not everybody feels the same way about seeing the artist’s hand in his/her work. From simple shapes, to a contour form, to minimal shading to super-high-contrast-dark-shading, a drawing can take anywhere from a few hours to a few months for me to complete depending on size and detail.

That’s my creative process. Now, take all you just read and try to imagine God’s creative process. What were His references? According to Genesis 1:26, HIMSELF. At least when creating mankind. Aside from that, God literally made everything out of nothing. John 1:1 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Clearly God must have put inconceivable amounts of thought into the creation of all things, but all The Bible tells us is that He said, “I’m gonna make this,” and then it was. It’s a humbling consideration that I try to dwell on whenever I’m drawing something new. I must remember, “I couldn’t make this if God hadn’t made me first,” and because of that, I strive to make what I make for Him, not just for me. God is the ultimate writer and artist.

Here’s an example of a drawing I made using these steps pretty thoroughly. I’ll let you guess who the guy’s supposed to be.

In Christ,

Luther D. Powell

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One Response to “The Creative Process”

  1. Mom said

    Awesome and thoughtful blog! I’m going to have to share this one.

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