How about some background on how I did my work for the illustrations for Flash Fiction February at Fictive Dream? I’m going to write a few posts on topics related to the process. I hope they might give you some insight into how I approached the illustration of a collection of very different pieces of short fiction.
Flash Fiction February is in progress right now, by the way. Take a look!
Parameters of the project
Today I’ll address some of the technical aspects of doing the art for the project – meaning, all the things that had to be figured out before I painted a single picture. I learned from my previous illustration experiences for the September Slam 2018 at Fictive Dream that planning makes a big difference. Let’s get started!
Style: I’ll go into the process of how we agreed on the art style in a later post. For right now, it’s enough to know that the illustrations were paintings done in acrylics on watercolor paper.
28 days in February, so 28 stories, so 28 separate pieces of art. Editor Laura Black and I continued the practice we had followed for the Slam – I asked her to send me an unmarked copy of the each story along with another copy marked with her suggestions. In this way I was able to read the story and see what ideas occurred to me without outside influence and then to compare them with her take on the text. This method was really useful to me as it allowed me a lot of freedom and yet provided me with her guidance.
It was important for me to remember that in the end, the story was the star of each day and that my art was intended to support it.
Size: Laura needed the art to fit exact dimensions in order to appear correctly and there were two sets of measurements I needed to keep in mind.
- the full illustration that appeared with the story – conforming to the dimensions of 1200 x 745 px in a landscape orientation.
- the thumbnail that appears on the main page and elsewhere – it had to be sized at 800 x 400 px, also in a landscape orientation.
I could make the physical art piece in any size, but when I sent digital images to Laura, it had to be proportional to those numbers. And you might notice those two sets of numbers produce different aspect ratios (ratio of height to width). Oh no. How to deal with that?
Luckily, we had faced the issue of aspect ratios in the September Slam and solved the problem, so I will not go into the math calculations here. What it means is that it was necessary for me to figure out the common ground in the illustration that would show in both places. I had to make sure of two things:
- the illustration was coherent and all important elements showed in each location
- wording/text was placed so that it would appear in each location
As I said, I did all that math back in the fall! Fantastic. The real life dimensions of these illustrations was 11.5″ x 7.25 inches, based on the paper I was using. I did some calculations and understood that all important elements had to be fit into about the middle 5.25″ of each picture.
Every time I worked on a painting, I made small marks in the margin to guide me in my composition. (I then proceeded to forget about those marks, in quite a few cases, but I’ll tell you about it later on).
Workflow: Laura sent me stories over a period of about six weeks, more or less. I decided to work on each story, finish the art, and then move on to the next one. I did not mix my work on stories; it was too confusing with so many of them.
I also made at least two and sometimes more selections for each story – I know from past commission work that for me this method produces superior work than if I try to do one piece and make it perfect. (Theory being – throw things at the wall, something will stick.)
I kept extensive records to maintain control of the project. I will show you that aspect in a later post.
Designing the banner text: Each story needed a banner saying Flash Fiction February 2019. I gave thought to what characteristics I felt flash fiction to have: edgy, sharp, quick to the punch; the story has to move to get its point across in such a short time.
I had incorporated handwriting in the banners for the September Slam, but I felt this event needed something different. I offered the idea of a “ransom note” look to Laura and she liked it. To create the banner, I cut out letters and pasted them on cards and scanned them:
turned them black and white using PhotoShop Elements 15:
and added a border, also using Elements:
I submitted some samples of artwork with various banner sizes for Laura to decide – once she did, I used the same banner on all the artwork, just changing its position using the Layers function in Elements. As a note, I also made a reversed color banner in case we needed it, but it was never used.
All right. Now I had all the technical aspects settled. Next I’ll talk about the art itself – settling on a style, a look, and a way of illustrating a diverse group of stories in a way that allowed them their individuality while maintaining a coherent look.