Colorful Authors

First off, I'm loving this class. Fabulous insight, and a return to fundamentals. Too often I skip those early steps and don't have a cohesive vision or color scheme before I begin working. I promised myself I would sharpen these skills in the coming year. This class is a great place to start.

I haven't done a real mind-map since I was in college. I have no idea why I stopped. 

For my project, I decided to choose one emotion, loneliness, and branch out into the various ways I combat this. I've gone through a very tough time and I've sought refuge in a lot of little things that make me happy. I didn't want to focus on the sadness itself, because that's not my natural tendency, and who the hell wants to see me whine in vector form?

My mind quickly scattered all over the place. But I had a ton of good things to work with. In the past I've often chosen to do this in my head until I hit on something I like, then start working. The problem, of course, is that I sometimes run out of steam or realize the idea didn't have much depth to it. By taking the time away from the computer to run with these ideas, I was able to fully flesh out a concept before ever opening Illustrator. 

After the map, I made a number of lists based on things that jumped out to me. I ran through an animal theme, an old movie theme, and another idea involving places in New York that always comfort me. I got excited about each of these, then burned out and tossed them. I didn't include all these, because I don't want to put people in a coma.

What I finally settled on was the big pile of books I've been reading. I tend to read several at once, to satisfy the different itches I have. It seemed perfect. I quickly rattled off a bunch of authors I love, but focused mainly on ones I have read in the past couple of years.

Rather than depict a particular book or a scene from a book, I decided to focus on the authors themselves. This allowed me to whittle down the list a bit. I was able to take into account the author's demeanor and physical appearence and decide which matched the emotion I was going for.

My idea is to do a simple little portrait of each author. They are as follows:

Christopher Hitchens - representing determination and courage

Truman Capote - representing love (family love - mostly from his old Christmas stories)

John Swartzwelder - representing humor. He's an old Simpsons writer who now writes ridiculous detective novels that I adore.

Dashiell Hammet - representing nostalgia

All four capture the types of emotions that have been important to me, especially lately. My determination, my family, my ability to laugh at anything and everything, and my nostalgic fascination with old-timey things.

Now I'm going to get to work on some sketches and put together some color schemes, which I hope to share in the next few days.

Thanks again.


This is what I get for starting a class during the busiest time of my life. I've only been able to nip and peck during most of the last few months, but in the last two weeks I got back in the saddle and finished up my work.

I went through at least 4 color schemes for each illustration. All of them were pretty good. But none of them felt right. I slept on them and updated them a few times before realizing I was trying too hard to emphasize bold contrasts rather than getting it right. I was taking into account the technical part of the lessons without incorporating the aesthetic or emotional. I ended up with much more muted colors than I originally wanted, but all of them feel right.

I also shifted away from the more obvious choices I initially came up with. For example, the color scheme for humor started off with a wacky, eclectic, and overly bright palette. Of course none of that made sense for the actual author I chose. It's as though some idiotic part of my brain instantly thought of Carrot Top or slipping on a banana peel-style humor, even though I knew better. I gradually whittled all four down, and I'm very happy with what I came up with. Ultimately I had to realize that I was the client for this project, and the look and feel were up to me. Hopefully I actually took into account the class lessons along the way.


Here are the main color palettes I came up with. Although later I expanded them slightly with a few additional shades, I never drifted from the main scheme.

Determination and Courage:





And here are the final illustrations. I would appreciate any and all comments and feedback. Oddly enough, I got to exercise these lessons in my work for a few clients before ever finishing these up, so it's already been a great help.

Christopher Hitchens:

Truman Capote:

John Swartzwelder:

Dashiell Hammett:

Thanks so much. This has been a joy.


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