Editorial illustration practice and the lessons I learnt

Every now and then I like to make some time to learn new skills, get better at the ones I already have, and to challenge myself.

If you follow me on Instagram you will have seen that my challenge of the month is Inktober. Not long before that, I decided to step out of my comfort zone and to practise editorial illustration as this is something that I would love to do more of in the future.

Luckily I found Ed J Brown’s class on Skillshare which enabled me to ‘fake’ the conditions of a commission and set a strict deadline to my practice.

I picked the article about US economic growth as I felt that starting with an article that was a bit dry might help to make other articles after that easier in comparison. And this was challenging indeed!

DAY 1

After reading the article a few times and highlighting the key points I started taking a few notes and doodling, which was quickly followed by some rough sketches (I drew 14 in total but am only showing my top 5 favourites)..

Notes and initial doodles

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Top 5 favourite sketches

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DAY 2

Sometimes it’s a good idea to sleep on what you’ve drawn and to look at it with fresh eyes the next day. In the case of my editrial illustration practice, I felt that I wasn’t quite there yet and sketched 8 new images. I ended up choosing the sketch below.

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DAY 3

After facing several problems with my illustration and trying different colour palettes while trying to maintain my usual style I had to come to the conclusion that it was just not working and that if this had been a real assignment, I would have failed miserably .

Below some of my unfinished attempts:

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DAY 4

I decided to give myself another chance, because who likes failure? So I cheated and allowed myself to work on a few different concepts knowing that if this had been a real assignment my Art Director would have probably not been very happy with me, or he/she wouldn’t have allowed it altogether.

Besides my clear composition and planning problems, I think that my main issue was that I ‘cared’ a bit too much (read: I was taking it all a bit too seriously).

Fortunately, Ed was an absolute star and as well as giving me some constructive feedback, he gave me some words of encouragement that made me more determined than ever to finish that mock assignment and more importantly, to have fun while doing it.

So I simply followed Ed’s advice to not care so much. And it worked!

I started with a red background because I liked the contrast with the black and white illustration…

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But while I had chosen colours that I liked, I had forgotten an important detail: the article was about growth and red wasn’t quite the right colour to convey the positive message of the article. Ed’s feedback confirmed my own thoughts. So I tried a green and a blue version instead.

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And ended up choosing the blue one.

 

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CONCLUSION

Past the disappointment resulting from my failure to finish on time and to finish the illustration that I had initially selected, I was really glad that this was practice and not a paid assignment. And I was glad that I got to learn so much in the process.

Here is what I got out of the exercise:

  • Plan my illustrations more carefully in the future: take the final dimensions of the illustration and the title placement into account earlier in the process.
  • Keep calm: I didn’t mention this and it probably ties in with the first lesson I learnt, but I was overexcited when I started working on this personal project. This probably resulted in me rushing things a little (at least at the beginning).
  • Pick colours that reflect the message of the article.
  • … But don’t overthink it.
  • And have fun!

I really enjoyed Ed’s class and strongly recommend it if you too want to practise editorial illustration in near-real assignment conditions.

 

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