Thursday, September 25, 2008

AC/DC & Why I Like Art Directors

SPIN called me to do the drawing that accompanied the album review of AC/DC's new album Black Ice. The lead single from the album, which they have three and a half stars, is called  Rock N' Roll Train. The content of the image was right there in the titles and I gleefully went to work on a sketch.

While I was working on it, I was frustrated with the way the elements were working and couldn't exactly articulate why. Fortunately, the art directors at SPIN asked me to revisit it, considering how I might make it more dynamic. They also said that the way the smoke was drawn reduced the clarity of the image. As a professional image maker, it is hard to hear criticism from others that should have been totally obvious in the first place. But they were right. The train was totally unaffected by gravity and the smoke was in the way. So, I redrew the whole sketch.

The revision is completely superior to the original drawing.  The smoke frames the band and the sky now works as a much more active negative shape...basic 2D design principles. I'm so glad the Art Director, Liz Macfarlane, didn't approve the first one, despite my interior grumbling. I revised the Angus likeness and created the final.

Liz felt that the yellow had the effect of de-emphasizing the band. So, we settled on the solution of desaturating the background. Overall, the final effect is a clearer visual hierarchy and tighter color palate.

No illustrator wants to be 'meddled with' during their process, but I must admit in many cases like this one, my work was made better- perhaps a lot better. The design field is incredibly collaborative, and there are benefits if you are willing to submit to the idea that others might be able to judge your work better than yourself.


matt kirkland said...

I'm just relieved that the polar bears and igloo made it through all those rounds. Whew!

John Hendrix said...

You'll notice in the first version of the sketch, a polar bear was being run over by the train, he's out in front with the other debris.

michael byers said...

I agree that at times you need to let go and be open to criticism. I feel that in most cases they're not trying to belittle you as an artist and give the impression they know more then you but to work with you so that you can create the best image you can do. The end goal as I see it is to work together so that both parties are happy with the final product. Job well done John.

Barnabas NYC said...

Great to see a process here from beginning to end. Thanks, John.

Jeff said...


I love the sketch you posted and the final illustration. I highly appreciate you talking about your frustration with this piece. I am very new to the field with a lot to learn and it's nice to know that even the great illustrators such as your self still get frustrated at times.

I have had criticism that stings a bit, but things usually turn out better in the end. It's nice to have really good art directors even when they make you change things.

Brian Taylor Illustration said...

Nice post. Love the smoke in the final piece!

Owen Schumacher said...

Wow. I wanna draw about AC/DC. Awesome deal!

S.N. Couming said...

This is a great post! Not just the art but also the process.