I get asked a lot about my artistic process. It's nice that people are interested, but I'm often confounded by this simple question. Aside from being happy that people are interested in this at all, I often also feel like I'm explaining the process to myself as well as them.
I was never one to sketch out first drafts carefully; I've always been messy and probably impatient. I remember I once had my good friend at art school tell me when I could progress from the draft to the final. "Not yet!" she'd exclaim as I'd sheepishly show her my sad sketches. I love my friend for her help, and yet this process never worked for me. The end result was always stiff and alien to what I wanted to achieve. Plus, it was just never good work.
I was always more comfortable building things. At art school, some of my best work was done in 3D projects and in painting class. I liked to feel the progress through my fingers, feel the emotions of making it, become immersed, get messy. In contrast, when I tried to create more polished illustrations, I failed in spectacular ways. A turning point for me was when an instructor told us not to fight ourselves. We are who we are, we do what we do and art school is not meant to change that. What we perceive as our weaknesses can be strengths and make us stand out. Unfortunately, this advice came a little late for me in art school, but I have never forgotten it and thereafter decided to throw myself into my messy, wild ways.
As such, I have long abandoned polished first sketches. Of course, if the client wants them, I'll do them. But they aren't really sketches. I approach them more as finished drawings. The actual sketches the clients never see. Am I tricking them or myself? No answer to that. Anyhow, if it's not required, I skip this step and go straight from rough thumbnail to the final.
It has always been crucial though, that I see the final product in my head. I must have an idea of what it should look and feel like. If not, it's like I'm flailing about in the dark. Sometimes, this vision comes to me as I sketch out rough thumbnails. Sometimes it comes to me in the shower, or as I research the topic. But that is where the process starts for me. In my head.
And then I feel it out with my hands. I prep the paper, put down layers of paint and build on those layers with more paint. I have a collection of paper I've painted on, sorted into different colours. I rifle through these, select what I want and cut out shapes. I draw on them and move them around until I'm happy and glue them down. Then I use pencil crayon, ink, and anything else I feel like. This is how I build rather than draw or paint. That's why I do collage.
Ultimately, I'd love to experiment with other media, maybe even experiment with using less types of media within one piece. And I should add that I am in now way married to this style of working. There are parts I cannot change, but if I find a better way to execute my work that also jibes with my natural inclinations, then I will use that method.
So that's it. My process. Now I understand it a bit better myself too.