IF: Mischief

This “mischievous” little guy is part of a much larger illustration (see below) for a magazine spread I worked on this week. The larger picture depicts a scene from an accompanying story where the boy’s placed an egg in a pile of mashed potatoes, part of a meal that his older sister has placed in a microwave to heat up for her boyfriend. The egg is blowing up and splattering food all over the inside–and outside–of the microwave.

Sounds fun to draw, eh? It’s been quite the challenge, I must say. In this case I made some last minute changes to how I chose to handle the background (deviating from the rough I’d sent). And as the deadline was looming closer and closer, I found the piece not coming together as I had hoped. At points I had to stop and make decisions such as whether I should start over, change the layout, alter the characters, etc. The further along I would get, the more I was limit on what I was able to change or fix. To add to things, my computer started to act up towards the end with the program crashing, over-loaded with a huge file containing multiple layers. At that point, I became more anxious as the computer problems were hindering my abilities to solve my creative problems. In the end, I felt that I had done my best, given all my obstacles and challenges, but it still felt less than MY best.

(Since I’ve yacked about the piece, I guess I should post visuals so you can see what I’m talking about. Below is the rough and final for the spread. There is also a third page, but I’ve not included it.)

I’m not looking for anyone to say, “Oh, that looks fine (or awful, etc.)”, I just want to use this venue to share the creative process I went through with this particular project and allow others to see/hear my experience in hopes to hear YOUR thoughts and experiences. So how do you handle (and feel about) handing over a product to a client when you are less than happy with the results? As for me, I’ve had to learn to deal with the, “If only I had more time (etc.) I could have done better,” feeling often over the years, as we all do from time to time in whatever problems we’re solving. And most of the time, the little extra time wouldn’t done the trick to fix whatever my problem was with a piece in the first place, as the problem started back in the beginning stage, where more than likely I would have needed to start from scratch to see if I could get a better result (which I STILL may not have!). That’s the way I see it anyway. I may be able to smooth out a few extra things to make me feel better, but there’s an emotional battle that I’ve already waged with the piece and now I’m just trying to make some sort of peace with what I’ve ended up with.

Oh…And I don’t tell my client how I feel! That’s all between me and my illustration (and my husband, my cat…and now my blog!) They aren’t interested in the angst of the process, just what I delivered in the end. And I present myself as satisfied with the end result as it’s not professional to appear less than enthusistic about what you’re giving them. I assume this is part of the creative/business problem solving process that we all go through, yes? So I’d like to hear how you others out there feel about my intial question:

How do you handle (and feel about) handing over a product to a client when you are less than happy with the results?

Please don’t be shy. Think about it and let me/us know what you do in this situation. Or am I the only one? :)

rest o’ blog & website

13 Responses to IF: Mischief
  1. Kerry
    May 11, 2005 | 2:01 am
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    okay then! i love the concept, but the colours are alll off. the last guy in the green is okay, but the rest are so pastel…i thought they would be more neon being so close to the t.v. it’s a fantastic illo, though!

  2. wynlen
    May 11, 2005 | 2:14 am
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    I like the expession on his face, fits the theme very well.

  3. IinI
    May 11, 2005 | 3:12 am
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    It is just great! Really, really!
    And about the question… I try my best to do better next time.

  4. Jacque Davis
    May 11, 2005 | 5:22 am
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    HI! Thanks for posting your process and problems, I think it really helps to know that everybody struggles. I really liked seeing the rough draft and the finished drawing. I think the finished product works fine, but I hear what you are saying about turning in something that you don’t love at the moment. But isn’t the critic in us, the one that helps us make the creative decisions that we need to make moment by moment a great deal more severe that any other critic. I think so. A question? What software program do you use. I’m a huge Painter 8 (or 9) fan. I regularly hit out at 35-40 layers . Do you use a different program, or were you at a lot higher layer amount?
    Best Regards, Jacque

  5. janee
    May 11, 2005 | 9:51 am
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    Paula, I can tell from your work that you strive to give 110% on every project. Face it, you’re bound to only reach a 105% every once in a while.

    Your clients are absolutely thrilled with the piece, I’m sure. That’s your goal.

    Stop beating yourself up.

  6. violetismycolor
    May 11, 2005 | 8:37 pm
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    This is wonderful…both the illo and the explanation. Thanks for that.

  7. lorigrace
    May 11, 2005 | 8:39 pm
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    I love seeing your process demonstrated. I think the problem is that there is never enough time to be perfect. I’m struggling with trying to develop fluency in Painter IX (which is new to me) and Photoshop CS (which I’ve used for awhile but still feel like I’m a rank beginner). One thing I’ve learned, though, it clients can surprise you. They think you’re a magician–who are you to tell them that they’re wrong?

    Every once in a while I work on something where that “flow” state happens–things suddenly start to click and somehow it all works out perfectly. Even though I might have started with a different idea. Sometimes it helps me to leave it alone for a while (easy to do with personal projects), like letting it simmer on a back burner.

  8. Jules
    May 12, 2005 | 7:55 am
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    I know exactly what you mean Paula. That are many times I am not totally happy with work that I have handed over. And I shudder when I look at work from say 10 years ago and think “jeez, they paid me for that?!” But I think that is just in large part the nature of what we do. Heck I even have some DIDI work (do-it & deny-it) in my design career.

    I think the piece is fabulous.

  9. paula
    May 12, 2005 | 2:01 pm
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    Thank you all for taking the time to comment!

    Kerry: Ah…Memories of college art class critiques! Thanks for your comment on the colors. I’m not quite sure what you meant by the colors being ‘all wrong’, though. The client wanted the faces to be odd colors (not fleshy colors). I think I agree that some colors look washed out and should could maybe be brighter. Fortunately the designer needed me to rework the title for placement and kerning so I took that opportunity to also brighten it up a tad. I think it improved the piece, so thanks for spotting that.

    Wynlen: Merci! Yeah, he’s got one of those ‘Gotcha!’ faces

    IinI: Oh, yeah, of course!

    Jaque: So right. Easy to be hyper-critical, but I can’t always tell when that’s the case. It’s a fine line, as we do have to have something in us telling us when something is working or not.

    I was primarily using Painter 7, though I have 8 & 9 (and 5 & 6!). The brushes in P7 have the best feel for me. I’ve not yet figured out why it’s not the case in the later two versions. P7 doesn’t handle memory that great, so I try to keep my layers to a minimum. I group them and at some point flatten it all to keep it smaller. In this case, the file size was 11″ x 16″ at 300 dpi. Fairly big given that I’m also not working on my primary computer at the moment, which has a lot more memory, etc.

    30-40 layers! I don’t think my MAIN computer would handle that (for large pieces)!

    Janee: Oh, Mom! (Hee!) Sorry, but that’s what SHE would say. Do I sound like I’m beating myself? I didn’t think I was, but was simply sharing my process. Am I too hard on myself?

    violet: Thanks. Good to hear you appreciated the read. : )

    lorigrace: Good Point: It will NEVER be perfect. And it’s true, the client usually fawns over the piece. We’re just too close to it.

    I LOVE when that ‘flow’ state happens, as you said. I feel like that happened somewhat with this piece. The smoke extending across the entire spread was not in my initial concept (or the rough the client approved), and that only came together towards the latter part of working on it. But I felt that it worked with the flow of the piece, so I chose to go with it. It felt like it was a ‘save’, though not how I intended to the piece to go at all.

    Jules: DIDI! Never heard that before. Very appropriate for a lot of stuff I did early on, too. And sometimes stuff I do now. Thanks for your input!

  10. Fox In Socks
    May 13, 2005 | 1:34 am
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    I almost always tear my stuff apart, especially when I’m handing it to clients. I hate that feeling, I have to say. I’m looking forward to that moment when the technical part of things will start to flow more naturally so that all my energy will go into what I want to say instead of how I want to say it.

    p.s. I love your piece, what on earth is wrong with it?! :0) Lot’s of energy and wonderful colors. I wish the pieces I did that I can’t stand looked that good..

  11. wee
    May 13, 2005 | 12:22 pm
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    You know… i don’t think I’ve EVER handed over a piece that I was 100% happy with. I don’t know that that is even possible for me. There is always that nagging feeling that I could have done something more. Sometimes I actually have to shut myself down because I can easily go to the other extreme… overworking it, over thinking it, which is sometimes even worse.

    In the end, this is all part and parcel of being a creative person… what you have in your mind’s eye and what you are able to achieve are never one and the same (at least for me.) But that’s what keeps you motivated too, keeps you reaching and evolving and moving forward. There s little I can imagine that’s worse then reaching your ultimate pinnacle, painting that masterpiece. Because where do you go from there? There’s only down.

    Of course, that supposes that you the artist are actually capable of recognizing that you have created a master work. And I don’t know how many of us have that ability!!!

    Sometimes, you have to remind yourself to be kind to yourself, cut yourself a little slack and just let go. It’s hard to do without a grimace and a wince. When this happens to me and I find myself turning over something I hate (usually to estatic client reviews which baffle me completely), I just promise myself that the next thing I do will be better. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t.

    And I know you don’t want to hear it, particularly if you’re not satisfied with it, but I love it! I think it’s terrific and captures the mood in a wonderful way and the colours are spot on as far as I’m concerned!

  12. paula
    May 13, 2005 | 9:10 pm
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    Fox In Socks Thanks for posting, Paige! I’ve been wanting that feeling for a long time, myself (the ‘natural flow’ you mention). Well put, that it would be really nice to have technique mastered so we can concentrate on content.

    I’m realizing that it’s difficult to explain here why, to me, a certain piece I do falls short. I’d have to walk you through my entire process, I suppose, to show you where I had intended to go, why it went another direction (which wasn’t a choice I WANTED to make). I know…I look at some of the pieces you post where you say, “This didn’t work” and I”m going, “Huh? Looks great to me.” but I don’t know what you were aiming for, or what you wrestled with. I can certainly relate, though. :)

    wee: I don’t mind hearing comments on the piece. I just wanted to concentrate on the process and see what y’all had to say, not my end product. But thanks for the positive feedback. I appreciate it–all of you.

    And, yes, me, too. I’m NEVER %100 percent happy with anything. There was some piece I did a few months back where I commented to my husband that I was highly pleased with the outcome and how rare that was. Like Fox was saying, I’d really like to come to a place where I deeply enjoy the process of creating these pieces, where wrestling with the technique doesn’t get in the way. I think, though, I’m going to have to figure out how to better embrace the wrestling so it doesn’t do me in.

    I wonder if The Masters dealt with this (Rembrandt, Da Vinci, Raphael, etc.)?

  13. Michael Rutledge
    July 3, 2006 | 11:58 am
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    I’m not an artist, I’m a pathologist, but I share your concerns when submitting a final product with which I have reservations/regrets about. In those cases, the CLIENT’S ( another M.D. for me, and they can be picky) degree of sophistication and knowledge about the case often dictates how I’ll feel and act. I worry they too will see the deficiencies/excesses etc. which I worry could have been avoided, and thus it is in those cases that I would ‘break’ your guideline of not sharing my concerns about the finished work with them. I almost always ‘bring them in’ to my angst ridden world (at least for that case) for some intellectual/philosophical back and forth, mostly in the way of explanation and ‘massaging’ the work. I rarely will change anything as a result (!), but find that by opening up with the ‘right’ audience, my anxiety is relieved. Otherwise, I give them what I have at the deadline (no pun intended), and move on, keeping a ‘stiff upper lip’ to keep from getting a razor cut.