“There’s a lot of courage gone now and a lot of guts and a lot of clearness — and a lot of Artistry too.”
— Charles Bukowski
One of the devils we have to face with creative pursuits is daring to lose control and letting that loss take you somewhere new. To me that’s what Bukowski meant by courage and guts — the terrible choice of letting your art possess you and keeping your eyes open all the while.
With client gigs, you’re in someone else’s ride and their limitations give you direction. As professional creatives we’re trained for this — we plan seven steps ahead, taking into account all the parameters like budget, style and deadlines from the start so the project has the best chance at succeeding.
This is great and necessary and all of that.
But somehow this system of planning and forethought doesn’t translate into personal projects. The soul revolts. You know what it’s like. The stuff you make when you plan is different to the stuff that makes itself through you. When we plan and control, we already know — to a greater or lesser extent — what the outcome is going to be. The results might be clear but there’s nothing daring there.
I’m going to try and let go of that kind of willful planning with this personal project. This project is to turn a Bukowski poem into eight to ten illustrations that will be compiled into a website.
This is my second attempt at this project — I first tried to do it about a year ago. I created five images before running out of steam and scrapping the whole thing. I’d spent too long hemming and hawing on each image and allowed too much time to devour all inspiration.
Talking with friends makes me suspect this is not a unique struggle; it’s probably the norm. So I’d like to invite you along to witness the guts of this body of work as it unfolds.
Dipping Into Chaos
The go-to for any illustrator, animator or designer is the reliable thumbnail.
Solve the thumbnail and everything else falls into place. But I wanted to invite a little more chaos into the process – especially at the beginning – and I thought even thumbnails were a bit constraining. You have to have a pretty solid idea of what you’re committing to the page before you start thumbnailing.
So I took a step backward: pre-thumbnail, pre-form, back into the precosmogonic chaos of wet, fat mediums like chunky charcoal and ink: