Illustrating the Story, or Thoughts in Paint – Part 4

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!


Managing the project: how do I keep from getting lost?

Or how do I keep my sanity, might be the better question! There were 28 days of stories to illustrate in Flash Fiction February 2019 and I did a total of 60 paintings for Fictive Dream editor Laura Black to choose from. I started to work on December 2, 2018, and got Laura’s approval for the last works on January 8, 2019.

It was a very compressed time frame and the deadline was firm. I knew I had to work quickly at making pieces and I could not afford to get confused as to where I stood with a particular story, to lose a painting somewhere in a file, or to have to repeat work because of carelessness or simply forgetting.

Luckily, I’m a paperwork-loving kind of person, and my employment background includes a lot of practice in managing data and projects. I’m also very methodical, and though there are those times I wrench the steering wheel hard to zoom down a byway or to go off the scheduled route, I try to channel that creativity into the artwork, not the project management.

Enough talking. Here’s how I kept up with things. I warn you, it’s a pretty dry account. I wish I had some pictures to show you but you know what…paperwork just doesn’t lend itself to the visual, does it?

I don’t blame you if you just skim through. But, if you ever do a project like this, come back here and take a look. Why reinvent the wheel?  Call on me and I’ll help however I can!

Art supplies

I made a list before I started any artwork of what I would need: paper, paints, inks, glues, etc. I checked my existing supplies and filled in any gaps.

Estimating timeframes

I gave some thought to how many works I would need to do (understanding that the pace of work also depended on how Laura’s workflow went in accepting stories) and figured out how many a week I needed to make in order not to run too close to the deadline. I also resolved to make this project a priority over all other art work.

Keeping a log

In my opinion, the key to managing a project like this to set up a log and to maintain it. Never do anything without recording it on the log. Just don’t.

I made two logs: one for work in progress and one to record the final selections Laura made. The WIP log was the one I never lost sight of. I had a paper version and I also created one on the computer, using an Excel spreadsheet. You might wonder why two?

Well, I was working on a physical item, the painting, in my studio, and I don’t take my computer in there. Paper can get spilled on and and pretty much things are ok. Computers, not so much.

But I did significant work on the computer for this project, too. There was a lot of digital work needed to get the images to Laura in shape for her to use. Plus, it was nice to have a copy of the WIP log (in case that spill in the studio turned out to be…disastrous…)

I maintained a paper log  for the creation of the pieces and then updated the computer log when I did the digital work. That way the two stayed in sync and I felt secure about my road map.

Here’s the paper WIP log I used. FYI, I numbered each painting rather assigning it a name, as I did not know which ones Laura would choose. This system worked well and we never got confused, as each painting could have only one number.

You can see from these pages that I could look at any time and see where I was with a particular story and what images went with that story.

At the same time, I kept a file folder that held all the actual WIP paintings.

When a story finished its journey, it went into the Final Selections list.  At the same time, I moved the chosen painting into a file folder containing only selected paintings. Here is the Final Selections log.

Flash Fiction February 2019 log (2)

Digital work

Once a painting was made, it was scanned. Every one of them. Because Laura needed to see all paintings in order to make her selections, that’s why.

Here is the workflow:

  • Make painting
  • Scan and process (I’ll explain “process” in a minute)
  • Send images to Laura
  • Laura chooses image
  • Digital folders and logs updated

When I say “process”, each painting went through these steps:

  • scan the painting
  • piece together the scans (my scanner required me to do each painting in 2 parts, which I then used the PhotoMerge function in PhotoShop Elements 15 to stitch it together, digitally)
  • digital image created, full size (same as the painting)
  • banner applied to digital image at full size, leaving it in layers (in case I needed to move it around the image because it got cut off on Laura’s thumbnail image on her blog – this way I didn’t have to rescan and start over if there were mistakes)
  • flattening the digital image with banner, at full size
  • reducing the flattened image to a size suitable for internet requirements and sending it to Laura

I maintained digital folders in all these categories

  • Original scans
  • Images with no text
  • Images with text and image in layers
  • Images flattened
  • Images reduced to blog size

Sounds like a lot. But in this way I was able to find any image in any stage of work. And I’ve learned the hard way that it’s important to be able to do that in a project like this one.

Following along with the event on my blogs

I wanted to feature the paintings on my own blogs to coordinate with their publication on Fictive Dream. The order in which I did the work was not, of course, the order in which they were published. Laura sent me a schedule that I was able to use to set up my own posts. I created simple posts featuring only the artwork and a link to the event using the list, working ahead to have the whole month done ahead of time.


All right. I think now you know all about my work for Flash Fiction February 2019. I want to thank Laura Black and all the authors once again for allowing me to participate. I feel proud of my work and I hope that it represents the stories well. Thank you all for following along with me on this journey.




7 thoughts on “Illustrating the Story, or Thoughts in Paint – Part 4

    1. Claudia McGill Post author

      Yes. You know, I drew on years of running projects at the bank where I worked and also in keeping an art business going, it paid off to have that experience in doing something like this. Also a good thing that I like keeping records! I hope that if someone else does anything like this it might be of use to them, too.

  1. Fictive Dream

    It is very interesting for me to see how you kept track of the project, and in particular how much is involved in the ‘process’ stage. I had no idea, and it’s good to have this insight. In fact, just an appreciation of what you do to create an image, increases my vocabulary and I can communicate more intelligently with you in the future, I hope. I too had to keep a tight reign on the project and I wholeheartedly support what you say: “the key to managing a project like this to set up a log and to maintain it. Never do anything without recording it on the log. Just don’t.” Absolutely right – a log of some sort is crucial. This brings me back to a comment I made in one of your earlier blogs about collaborators sharing work values. If one of us had been disorganised, this project wouldn’t have progressed as smoothly as it did.

    1. Claudia McGill Post author

      I concur 100%, projects of this complexity require a firm hand on the facts, as there are always so many moving parts. And having worked with disorganized or chaotic processes in the past, at work or in other settings, well, I am truly grateful for how smooth you made things for me in this project – it made it easy on me to hold up my end of things.

    1. Claudia McGill Post author

      Thank you. I have really enjoyed it, learned from it, and it has opened up a new art activity for me, as I had not ever thought of illustrating (even though I guess I have been all along in many cases, where I depicted scenes I’ve seen and so on, but never words). Thanks for taking a look, I know there is a lot of it.

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