Evolution of Flight: Art for Irish Times 'Innovation'
It took two generations to reach the rocket age from Man's first powered flight. It took me three days. Here's how, but first settle yourself in, make sure that your seat-belt is buckled and switch on your reading light. Enjoy the flight.
The editor of the Irish Times Innovation Magazine called with a request for an image that would convey how businesses can learn from past failures. As usual, I sent in a few suggestions by email, sketched quickly with just enough information to show the thrust of what I thought would work for them. At left, I've cobbled them all together, so you can see at a glance the different approaches on offer.
The editor went for the flight-related idea, which was by far the strongest. It also provided particularly fertile ground for humour. We needed to know that our character had tried flights before and come off worst against gravity, so I put a plaster cast on his leading leg and named the apparatus 'Phoenix III'. I also wanted to suggest that this was taking place in Dublin city. It's an inaccurate portrayal but you must remember that the editorial process is almost always pressed for time. I had a look at a few references for the GPO on the electric internet and away I went. The bus had to be an approximation as I wasn't prepared to wait for one to come by.
This is the drawing, directly made onto the stretched paper. I started, as ever, laying down colour straight over the line
[I always start by laying down a wash of burnt umber and or sap green. Whatever you use, it's best to work on a ground that isn't the bright white of the paper].
I made sure that I didn't lose the line by brushing over the pencil with black at the same time darkening any of the deeply shadowed areas.
I then began blocking in the principle areas of colour. I took the character to a reasonably finished stage because I was as yet unclear how I
would describe the background. If there had been time, I would have made a small colour sketch to determine the background in such a way so as not to distract from the central character. The principal function of illustration is to convey a message, so it's important that whatever you do doesn't create visual clutter.
This is the finished art that I submitted to the Irish Times. You'll notice that I moved the shadow downwards because it looked as if he was about to scrape his undercarriage on the stonework. Now that would be a business failure. I also toned back the cityscape with a little white and cyan suspended in matte acrylic medium. It gives the impression of distance and magnitude, while isolating the main character and maintaining focus on the message.
The second illustration is obviously related to the first, with the same character, now almost entirely encased in plaster, happily rocketing [to a spectacular death?]. Since it was a progression of the first idea, it also required less work in sketching out details. Once again, the same stipulation applied that the composition be set in an urban environment [my tendency being towards laziness and the abstract shapes of nature!]. Still, I enjoyed playing with the details -the little lights blinking in the dusk; tiny plumes of smoke rising from chimneys; the vague shapes of buildings; the frightened cat and the surprised face in the window. I also had our man dropping his crutch to help along the suggestions of movement and height. In all, each illustration took about eight hours to complete, although I could've gone on, given time. It isn't often that what you like doing coincides with what your clients need but when it happens, you're flying! I hope that this helps you appreciate what goes into good, meaningful and unique art for business. Hopefully, this will encourage you to test how well those drab, meaningless stock CDs fly. I'm McSherry; Fly me.