If you ever want to know why artists, illustrators, cartoonists, or anybody on a deadline does things the same way time after time I have the answer for you. Trying to do something a new way takes ten times as long. This weekend I’ve been working on my Gatsby Project (for which I’m not on a deadline) and I’ve been doing things a new way and it has been slow going. Frustratingly slow.

I’ve been working on making illustrations to go along with the book “The Great Gatsby” since the beginning of 2022. It has taken me a couple of months to find my footings with it but for the last couple of months (it’s the beginning of June as I write this) things have been going well. I’ve got a few illustrations finished and a few more in the process. Not bad.

This weekend I decided to go back and work on one that was almost finished but that I didn’t like how it was turning out. It was an ink drawing that had Tom, Gatsby, and Daisy in it. The main problem was, once again, drawing the suits. This time it wasn’t the fashion details of the suits that was bothering me (I think I have the details down now) but the drawing style itself. The drawings of the two men looked boring.

The drawings were full figures of Tom and Gatsby standing apart but back to back. Each drawing is about six inches tall and the men are wearing suits. It was one of the drawings that I used 3D models to get just the right pose and then drew suits over the models. They were adequate drawings but too boring for me to be satisfied with them. So I redrew them.

First I redrew them with pencil and then I inked them. I tried inking them with some pens but they didn’t come out well. After that I inked them with a brush and they were fine. I digitized the ink drawings and set about coloring the piece in Photoshop. As I was coloring I thought the suit drawings were still boring. I tried to compensate with some coloring techniques but nothing I tried worked. I probably spent two hours trying to color those suits only to come up with nothing. So I went back to the ink drawings.

I decided the failure was still in the ink stage so I tried some other ink drawing techniques. I failed another three times. I finally remembered that the comic book artist Frank Cho had done some nice suits that I saw months ago on Instagram. I decided to look them up. He was using an Art Deco hatching technique where he drew black lines directionally following the pull of the tension of the fabric. He did a really great job with it.

I gave a try to that technique but it took me another three tries to get it right. At least as right as I could get it. There wasn’t a lot of tension and folds in the suits I was drawing. The suits weren’t in action and were designed to have a good looking straight silhouette so it was hard for me to pick the right lines and the direction of them. But I got it done. In the end I like the technique a lot better than what I had before.

Finishing the suits I had to decide what I wanted for the large Daisy head I had at the bottom of the drawing. I wanted to color it but it was a stripped down and simplified face. It seemed to want some shading and realism but how much and with what technique? I wasn’t sure at all.

I’ve been doing a lot of coloring with markers in the last few years. If I had decided to color this piece that way instead of digitally I would have had this face done and looking good in forty minutes. That’s what I mean when I say people on deadlines don’t try new things. Two hours later and I still didn’t have what I wanted with the Daisy face.

At one point I even decided to try and finish the face as if I was using my markers. I scanned in the marker color swatches I made on a piece of paper so that I could sample the colors and use them in Photoshop. It didn’t work out. Drawing digitally is not like drawing in the real world no matter how much I prepare and want it to be. I couldn’t pull it off.

Keep in mind that last weekend I digitally colored two of these Gatsby drawings. They took a long time to do but I knew what I was doing the whole time. I was using my usual techniques and liked the drawings I was working on so that I didn’t have to “Fix” them at any point. So today’s drawing was extra frustrating.

I’m still not done with the Daisy face but I think I figured out how I’m going to do it. After failing with various digital drawing techniques I finally decided to draw only the shapes of the shadows with the vector pen tool to make the curves. It’s a tedious way to draw but sometimes I like the result.

It took me a good two hours to nail down the technique but I still have to erase all that and start again. Y’see, between using my regular color palette and the marker palette that I made I really screwed up my color. He face was not quite in harmony. I also made the mistake of putting my shadows and highlights on the same layer. That makes it harder to mass change either category of the color. I have to redo it all, get the color correct, and put the shading on different layers. That way if I decide I want my shadows a little darker it’s an easy adjustment. If they’re on the same layer it takes more time and therefor discourages me from making possibly necessary changes.

But it’s 8PM on Sunday night right now. That’s way too late for me to start anything. Daisy’s face will have to wait for another day.