It’s all too easy for an artist to become so obsessed with a particular illustration that he finds it impossible to consider complete. You have to be mindful of this sort of thing, because you will never finish anything if you can’t learn to drop the pen and walk away at some point. But what drives an artist to think this way?
Those of you who follow my “From Where I Sit” daily comic strip will recognize the above as my in-truck setting. It is a low-detail illustration of the driver side of my Silverado truck. There is no great detail in the drawing, as it is meant to be high-level suggestive to the reader of the view from behind the wheel to put the unveiling story in a particular place.
The picture on the left is my original drawing, and one I used for writing several comic strips even though something about it kept bugging me. One day it finally hit me that I had completely forgotten to put a few streaks on the glass. It is such a minor thing that I had just forgotten to do it, but something in my brain kept nagging at me that the picture was wrong.
Those three lines are the only difference between the two illustrations, and yet it is like night and day in terms of what I wanted to show in the design. I immediately went back and corrected all the strips I had written after making this change.
Above is a simple Santa Claus hat for some upcoming Christmas-themed stories. This time the difference between the two illustrations is only two simple lines that form a sort of V-shape near the bend of the hat. Clearly the illustration on the right looks much more like a hat that is folding over itself and toward the viewer than does the one on the left.
These are Christmas lights for another upcoming story. The difference here is the simple teardrop on the illustration to the right. While there’s nothing really wrong with the illustration on the left, and in context you have no trouble seeing it as holiday lighting… the illustration to the right again does a better job of being a light bulb by insinuating the glare on the surface of the glass.
So, three examples of relatively simple illustrations that are viewed completely differently in the absence of just a line or two. It’s a constant struggle to be able to put the pen down and call something complete, and this is why. The Devil in the Details is sometimes a single line and you feel like if you look at it long enough you will find that one perfect line that makes the entire illustration complete.