Why are you drawing?

That might seem a strange question coming from me, a person who in the past on here and in my classes has been known to shout “stop telling me about your idea and just draw it!“…

Regardless a recently read Twitter link* lead me to this: http://litemind.com/problem-definition/

It is well worth the time it takes to read it, especially if you can juggle the words “problem” and “drawing/design brief” as interchangeable concepts as you do so.

It’s an article in which Einstein is paraphrased as having said that “if I had one hour to save the world I would spend fifty-five minutes defining the problem and only five minutes finding the solution”.

…and so, here we have another potential skill building exercise for my design/drawing/craft & media technology class.

This way of thinking is something that I learnt from a more senior designer I worked with when I was a “nugget” designer in the themepark design industry from an amazingly methodical (and henceforth amazingly effective) visitor attraction (and other things) designer by the name of Barry Lee**.

Barry taught me to think and read through a design brief thoroughly, all in spite of pressures from company directors and project managers to get jobs into the workshop, he taught me to consider as many of the contextual aspects of a design brief as I could before putting pen to paper, and to iron out as many of the design flaws and problems before handing the designs over to third parties (we actually saved time by doing this).

And I thank him for that.

So I guess what I’m asking is NOT “why are you drawing?”, as that might simply be you preferred way of thinking your way through a problem (I know it’s mine), but instead the question should perhaps read:

“What is the final context of the drawings/designs you are working on likely to be, and should you show an understanding of that in your presented solution?”

As a fledgling art student it is all to easy to interpret a given brief as simply a “college bound” project with a single “picture” or single outcome based solution with no further consideration.

Come project “hand-in” time I receive more “outcomes” than I can handle that resemble a “pretty picture” done simply for the sake of doing a pretty picture. Limited annotations, a dearth of recording of process and no context for the solution add to this abstraction.

This outcome might answer the brief as far as the college is concerned (though in most cases these days it won’t) but it will not make you a better designer.

REMEMBER!!! You are no longer making pretty pictures for grandma or mummy to fridge-magnet or tape to the fridge…!

If you wish to develop a professional approach, your solutions to any given brief should consider the final context:

Pictures for Granny’s Fridge                 vs.                Illustrations shown in Context

If it is an illustration, is it an illustration for a book or a magazine? A CD or DVD cover? A poster, a wall mural, a bag design, an automotive or skateboard graphic, a biscuit tin, t-shirt or mug design? Where will your illustration be printed?

If it is a book will it go inside the book? Will it be the cover image? If so what other information will need to go over, on or around your image that might mean you have to alter your composition? What size is the book? It probably wont be a typical “A Size” so why start drawing in that format? Is your image a double page spread, and will the crease of the page fold cause problems? If the cover, will it be a hardback cover with extended dust jacket flaps? Will this give you an opportunity to create a much longer image?

Only after asking these questions should you begin to work on your solution?

So… give the article a read, start thinking about the context of your creative outpourings and in so doing improve your creative solutions

*…thanks to the inspirational @MikeHarman for retweeting the original link from @grattongirl – go check out his blog at http://MikeHarmanIllustration.blogspot.com/


**I met and worked with Barry Lee at the now defunct AWPgroup (Attraction Projects Worldwide) a theme park and visitor attraction design and build company at which I, along with so many other young designers, was apprenticed to my craft.

APW was the baby of a creative called Keith Sparks, an inspirational, genuine, articulate, funny, enthusiastic creative who had a major influence on my early career and who gave me the opportunity as a young “know nothing” designer to punch above my weight and work on some great projects across for clients dotted across the globe, as well as the opportunity to  work with some of the best creatives I’ve had the fortune to meet and become friends with.

I will always think about the times we worked together in the big studio workshops in Beccles and later out of his amazing little studio in the country in Suffolk with great affection.

Just over a week ago (Oct 11th) I received the news that Keith had sadly passed away at Beccles War Memorial Hospital, following a long struggle with Parkinsons Disease.

Keith Sparks’ funeral took place this weekend and though sadly unable to attend, my thoughts were and are with Bobbie, his family, friends and colleagues who will all miss him greatly.

Here’s to you Keith, and thank you.

Obituary Notice – ParkWorld Magazine online

~ by hesir on October 31, 2011.

3 Responses to “Why are you drawing?”

  1. Great blog post! It’s all stuff I’ve learnt over the 3 years of my illustration course but sometimes when you’re in a rush it’s easier to skim over some of it, so great to have a reminder! 🙂

  2. I had been searching for anything to do with Keith sparks I have no idea why but i came accross your posting and read that he has very recently passed away ……shit how sad he was an inspiration to me a forthright no messing sort of chap who gave me a break I had just found his ex misses Mary who runs the museum in mersea colchester, I thought i was making progress in finding him, I had asked her to contact me to catch up on the happy past but oops ….. god rest Mr Keith Sparks x
    Martin Eccles

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