A few months ago, a client emailed me her interest in commissioning me to produce a history-to-date illustration as a gift for her husband to celebrate their silver wedding anniversary. I had done something similar before for another client (see here), which was a timeline of key events and memories of their lives together, and after showing this to her, she was very happy for me to produce a timeline of her important memories over the years.
As a freelance illustrator, one part of the job I love is the dynamic back-and forth ideas bouncing between the client and myself. She selected each moment, whilst I provided ideas and feedback on how an illustrator could present each moment in a way which remained true to reality but with a stylish aesthetic. Whilst I asked very specific questions regarding each moment, it brought out the inner art director in her and so began many engaging communications between us.
For those of you interested in an illustrator’s project management and workflow, I will now go through each piece of the final timeline. Each will start with a blue pencil line sketch, then the inked version and finally the coloured version. Having a client approve the sketch stage means that there are less likely to be major revisions down the line.
(Images can be clicked for larger versions)
Everyone remembers their first date! In this case, it happened 25 years ago, but the client went down memory lane and gave me a description of their clothes, the setting and a key moment from the date. Apart from a few photos of their faces, this image I had to make up nearly from scratch.
This picture was important as the bride and groom’s parents never actually stood together in the way that I have rendered them. For this reason, the client loved having them in the picture all together of their big day. An illustrator can go beyond what photographers can do and create much more versatile images. It was also something important to show their children. also, I loved rendering that big 80s hair style!
This one was relatively straightforward. Instead of a flat, straight on view of both houses, I decided to go for an angle to show the features of the house exteriors instead.
For this piece, I really wanted to show several messages. First, the joy and frustrations of having siblings! The second is to show growing up through placement of the younger version of the brothers in front and the older version behind. I then added in the pets laterally, to the centre image of the two brothers to balance the composition. This one I had much more freedom to work on, allowing me to really use my sense of design in addition to just using photographic reference.
For this panel, I was told to incorporate several elements such as the castle, the little cabin and the beach which do not fit as a photo. This is more of a collage piece rather than being based on any single moment or photo. Again, design wise, I placed the elements around the central character, with the vanishing point of the sea moving your eyes to the middle of the image to retain focus on him.
This one was another straightforward piece which allowed me to use background textures and create objects from scratch digitally.
Partway through the project, the client asked me to add this panel. The photograph originally had the fishes tail obscuring one of the faces, but as an illustrator, I can sort that out. This piece based on a photograph really allowed me to get into digital painting and shading, blending different opacities, as well as being able to use different texture brushes on the fish. I expanded from using two shades to three to allow a more accurate depiction of the light values from the sunny weather.
The final piece was similar to the beach one prior in that the client asked for certain elements to be placed in the panel such as the fishing boat and the smallest bar ever!
Here is the process by which the final piece came to fruition, from sketches to inks and finally colours. Needless to say the family loved it!!
As an illustrator, being privy to another person’s special moments and history makes me reflect on my own life and realise life becomes richer when you’re with people you love.