Prompt Process?



  • Hi everyone. I'm new here and this is my first post so a bit of an introduction. My name is Jeremy. I am getting back into drawing and found SVS. I'm currently going through the foundation classes and realizing how much I need to learn.

    I really enjoy seeing everyone's interpretation of the prompts on here and inktober prompts on Instagram. The ideas that some people come up with are amazing. My question is about the idea phase. Can some of you share your process? Do you brainstorm ideas or just get right to work on the first idea? Write out your ideas or straight to thumbnails? Do you research inspiration before brainstorming?

    Sorry this is kind of big question but even if you can share a tip that has helped you come up with good original ideas?



  • Hi Jeremy ๐Ÿ™‚ Welcome!

    What a great question. I look forward to reading everyone's responses.

    I generally begin by sort of "stream of thought" writing. I'll write the prompt down, with a pen (there's something about feeling the words that I like and helps me grasp the idea) and then I write down the next thing that comes to my mind. And then the next. and the next. This can last for quite some time until I land on an idea that I like. I'll write down the emotions I want to convey, the colors I think would work. I write everything out.

    And then I start to noodle. Sort of like thumbnailing but not trying to nail down any composition, just trying to figure out the main characters/action of the idea.

    If I land on some noodles that I like - I'll pull up some reference. Then I'll start thumbnailing! I wish I spent more time in this stage, since it is so important. I also wish I spent more time doing color thumbs, also very important. But I'm not great at sticking to thumbnailing/color studies. I usually get excited and launch into bigger roughs. ๐Ÿ™‚

    How do you generally start a piece?



  • @EliaMurrayArt My process is basically non-existent at this point. Which brought about the question. The only drawing I've ever done is from observation. I've never really focused on creating scenes. I just enjoy the process of drawing what I see but I'd like to start attempting to draw from prompts.



  • @Jeremy-Lynskey drawing from observation is the best way to learn! so you're off to a great start.

    What I would recommend is doing master studies too - add that to your scheduled practice. And by masters studies, I don't necessarily mean old stuffy paintings (though those are great to study too) but illustrators who you really admire and you admire their concept. If you see an "idea" you like, go ahead and make a sketch of how they did it and see if you can break down what you like most about how they accomplished their illustration.

    Does the illustration have an interesting angle? Are there multiple characters? What is the character doing? How does it make you feel? What colors are they using? What do the colors make you feel?

    Then I would recommend finding a story you know really really well, perhaps a fairy tale, let's use Goldilocks for an example.

    Think about Goldilocks and what you know about the story - there is a main character (a little girl, but not necessarily) and 3 bears (again not necessarily) - Do some sketches about the story. What do your characters look like? Is your main character a little girl? Or is it a blonde dog? What scene are you focusing on - is your character eating porridge? what does the porridge look like? Is it porridge at all?

    If your character is a dog, perhaps it's eating 3 different kinds of kibble, and the 3 bears are actually 3 different cats.. so the blonde dog has snuck into the cats house and is now eating all the cats kibble... and the cats come home to a very full dog sleeping in their beds. What does that look like? Look up some images of cat photos/character designs, cat beds, dog photos/designs.

    The best thing to do when starting an illustration is to ask yourself questions that will spur on your imagination. ๐Ÿ™‚ It's like walking through a maze, each turn might lead you down a new exciting path. And if you get stuck, ask yourself a new question and follow that new path!


  • Moderator

    If I donโ€™t have an instant connection with the prompt I will mind map, Leeโ€™s version of brainstorming. See his visual storytelling class for the full description.
    Then I make thumbnails from my favorite ideas from the mind mapping. Then I make sketches from my favorite thumbnails. And so on. If I do have a connection, I skip the mind map stage and go right into thumbs.



  • My pre-production process is almost all internal. If I don't have an immediate, flash "oh, I know exactly what I'm going to do" reaction to a prompt, I'll spend a day or two letting it simmer on the back burner of my brain, and not trying to force anything. I think a good approach to repeating prompts (like Inktober 52) is to pick an overarching theme or project (for example, each Inktober drawing for me is an animal character solving problems using some technology of some sort. That will keep you from feeling like you have to reinvent the wheel every day or week. If I still feel stuck after thinking for a bit, I like to talk out ideas with a friend or my kids.

    Once I select the direction for a prompt, that's when I pick up the pencil or pen. If it's for just character drawing (like I do Inktober), I might do one rough sketch, but I usually just jump to the final sketch, while having some reference images up on my computer. For a bigger prompt or client project, I'll write a brief synopsis of how I see the illustration, including what tools I'll use and what style will best fit it. Then, I'll do 1-3 thumbnails of about storyboard size and quality so that I know where everything needs to go on the artboard in terms of proportion and spacing. I don't want to overwork or overplan too much in the thumbnail/rough sketch phase, so that when I move to the full scale, final sketch, there's still room for creation and improvization.


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