I was talking with a colleague recently about losing steam on pieces. It happens to everyone at one point or another, where it doesn’t turn out how you’d envisioned, or worse yet you get stuck on something without a real plan forward. I’m certainly guilty of this, and have a considerable graveyard of failed personal efforts. Sometimes things just weren’t meant to be.

However with client work it’s a situation you really need to avoid since its for someone else and it’s usually due at some point in the near future. Failure is not an option (‘though it also definitely happens). It can also be more difficult to stay engaged in a painting of something you aren’t really all that personally invested in.

Advertising work in particular can be difficult for this reason. It’s hard to be passionate about a commercial selling orange juice or car insurance. Though there are some pretty funny car insurance commercials from time to time…

Sometimes a large part of the effort can be spent making sure you are able to stay engaged and can continue to move purposefully forward toward completion on a piece, no matter what it is. It should LOOK like you had fun on it, or at the very least it shouldn’t look like you hated doing it.

One of the most basic methods I tend to employ is to find the fun! This doesn’t have to be illustration #4080 where you start and complete it in the same mechanical fashion. Find a way to work a new technique or workflow into it. Are you really into paths right now? Or foam rollers? Macro photography? Figure out a way to work that into how you construct your image somehow. I guarantee if you can apply a new technique to solve a problem within the context of an actual job, you will learn something valuable from it.

I try to look at it kind of like a puzzle, where I generally know where I’m trying to land with something, but how do I get there? There are a million different paths and each one comes with its own set of rules and unique circumstances. I might know 10…but which one works best? And why? What are the roadblocks you can see running into, and how can we plan for or avoid them? What can we play up, what can we lose, and how are we going to close this out?

While it can be impossible to predict client feedback and where a piece will truly land, I always at least come with a plan that will get me to the finish line, and if I need to adjust or change course thats fine. Having a plan at least keeps you on course and engaged.

The Problem solving can sometimes be more enjoyable than actually painting the image. I was hired on a commercial job last year to create a Muybridge-style illustration of a person getting knocked down and then getting back up again. It wasn’t for chumba wumba (I hope someone gets that reference)

To add to this, the “person” was to morph into different people as the sequence played out. Starting with a boxer, then a construction worker, a business woman, a chef, a doctor, a businessman, then back into the boxer.

This is kind of a complex idea to convey visually in a still image, so before I even started thumbnailing anything, I figured out a plan of attack.

First thing needed was to figure out what a Muybridge sequence of someone getting punched in the face looked like. After some googling, I realized that the best way was actually going to be to film pregnant Melissa gently punching me in the face at a high frame rate, then separate out the individual frames and lay them out in photoshop.

Once I had the template of myself, it was much easier to composite/paint new people on top.

This allowed for me to be reasonably accurate in terms of the motion paths.

This was for a large agency,  and as is standard with jobs like this, there were a lot of eyes on it,  and it went through many iterations. I had to film myself getting punched a second time, the subject matter was maybe not my favorite thing in the world to paint, and I think they came back twice for additional tweaks.  But all in all it wasn’t bad because they were longtime clients I have a good rapport with, I had the template to work from, and it’s strangely satisfying just seeing an idea like this come together in a way that makes sense visually.

Wasn’t sure what ever happened with it until one night I’m closing up the shop out here and I glance over at the tv and see this:


Also found some still/print ads that are much closer to what id mocked up, but much higher quality and with the actors from the commercial.


It’s still so cool to see something you helped out on come to fruition. And they did a great job. It was totally worth getting punched in the face.

Also been pushing the VR stuff a bit more, doing these quick little sculpt tests in between changing diapers and getting small people snacks. Was thinking it might be cool to try painting something like this. The idea of creating something virtually and making a physical painting of it is compelling for some reason.