Twelve steps forward, ten steps back, four more forward.... (AKA: Struggles with Rendering)

  • Hey guys, I don't know if I have a specific question or if I'm maybe just looking for support?

    TL;DR version: I am putting together my portfolio and have to pick my best work, but I feel like none of it is my best because by the time I finish a piece I feel like I could do better if I just reworked it - however, I can spend hours/days rendering and rerendering a piece before I get it right.

    Long version:
    I feel like I'm in the steep part of my learning and development curve and one really frustrating thing that I've experienced quite a bit lately is with rendering.

    Sometimes I spend hours on rendering and go down a road that ends up not working despite all my efforts to pre-plan. I end up scrapping it and re-rendering, sometimes multiple times. At other times it feels like my skills improve over the course of the piece, such that as I get close to finishing it, it looks terrible and I backtrack and rework it into something better. But then by the time I finish that I feel like I could do better still if I reworked it again - however at that point I'm 1) getting tired of the image 2) It's getting overworked and 3) I have to finish at some point and move on to the next.

    The problem is that I'm putting together my portfolio for the SCBWI conference in a few weeks and the advice is to only put in your best work - but anything I finish feels like it needs to be reworked before I could put it in. At the same time I need some pieces in there! I have a bunch of not-quite-finished pieces and as the deadline gets closer I am becoming paralyzed figuring out which to finish and how I want to render them.

    Example 1: Clawrella de Vil
    I made an initial sketch and spent an embarrassing number of hours rendering it. I was totally in flow and enjoying the rendering process but as it progressed the rendering was looking cool (there's a lot of detail you can't see in this small image which is unfinished) but the overall piece had just lost something and didn't feel like "me". I know enough from my fine art work to not fear restarting, so I scrapped the render, went back to the original concept sketch and reworked it in a different style.

    Example 2: Cozy Cuppa
    This one I almost abandoned... twice. It's for a book charm idea I'm trying to make and I liked the initial sketch, but couldn't figure out how to render it:

    I was doing some SVS coursework and decided I needed a better base sketch, so I reworked it paying more attention to design. Got to a sketch I really liked and tried to render it out again but still just couldn't get it to work (there are more attempts that I didn't save examples of):

    I went back and reworked it AGAIN keeping the intended purpose in mind (as a 2.5" square the revised sketch was just too detailed and I needed a diagonal composition). I was still struggling with rendering so I rewatched Therese Larssen's course and finally did this which feels like a very different style than Clawrella up there (I like doing both of them BTW).

    Now I look at Cozy Cuppa and just see SO MANY issues with it. I don't have time to rework it again though, not if I want to get anything else done.

    I don't know if this is just the normal growing pains of progressing with my illustration, or if there are things I could do to spend less time going down 'wrong paths'. I have several more pieces to render with the intention of putting them in my portfolio... but I'm afraid that even if I decide to set a deadline and try to stick to Jake's 'finished, not perfect' motto I still won't be happy putting any of it in my portfolio.


    Sorry for the long ramble. It's been cathartic just to write this.

    Any advice, critique or thoughts are welcome if you made it this far 😉

    ~ Pam

  • SVS Team SVS OG

    @pam-boutilier I really can't give you any advice on portfolio pieces and what should go into them. I would say whatever style you are happy working with, go with that. You want to be happy with whatever you end up doing otherwise you will eventually regret it.

    I really like the style and render in your final render of cozy cuppa. It feels warm and fuzzy. FYI The work on your Instagram is amazing. Whatever you decide to do, i wish you the best of luck!

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