It was back on February 13, 2022 that I finished inking a drawing for my Great Gatsby project. I’ve finished other illustrations from the project since then (it’s April 24, 2022 as I write this) but it took me until yesterday to finally getting around to finishing that party scene. Why did it take so long to finish that one? Time. I knew it was going to take me a long time to color the party illustration in Photoshop so I kept putting it off. It was too big a job for me to tackle that early on in the project. I wanted to get some other stuff done first.

It usually takes a while to color one of my pieces in Photoshop. It can take anywhere from four hours to fourteen hours I’d guess. Sometimes I stretch that time out over a few days. I’ll even work on something for a few hours, be almost done with it, but then let it sit to be finished the next day. That gives me time to think about the color and figure out what I want to do with it. Sometimes the figuring out takes more time that the execution. With the party piece I knew the execution was what would take a lot of time.

The Gatsby party illustration is one of my “Dozens of interlocking people and objects” drawings. That’s when I take a blank page, start in the top left corner, and fill the page will little drawings of people and things. Everything is jammed together without making a literal scene. It’s a visual jumble that I thought would be good for depicting a party. It took me a while to draw and then a while to ink but I thought it came out well. But then the coloring seemed daunting.

Conceptually the color wasn’t daunting, I knew I didn’t need any king of special approach or technique, but the execution would take a lot of time. Organizing that many colors in a jam packed space is not easy to do. The colors have to make things clear and easy to see. That takes a lot of work. Trying to keep the chaos away takes time.

There is a video meme going around with a guy singing “You’ve gotta show up if you wanna get it done” and that certainly applied in this case. I couldn’t get it done for over two months because it was too much. I didn’t want to show up. At least for coloring this piece. I got plenty of other stuff done that probably took as long as the party art but still I had trouble facing it. Until yesterday.

It was on Friday night that I said to myself that I was going to get up on Saturday and start coloring on the party scene. It was time. Often I like to decide in advance what art project that I’m going to work on any given day. That gives me a sense of structure and helps me get things done.

Saturday morning I woke up and got started at 8AM. My approach was to just start adding color to the art. That’s usually how I have to approach a piece that is this visually complex. I have to pick and area and start adding color there. It almost doesn’t matter what color either because it’s probably going to change. With Photoshop, and digital coloring in general, change is easy. That’s why I try not to sweat my early decisions and get started.

I don’t remember where I started but I picked a section and dropped in the color. After coloring about 1/50th of it I decided to color all the faces. That’s the only decision I remember making since there were so many color decisions to be made. As I was working I even changed the background color about half a dozen times as I went along.

After starting it was a ll a matter of keeping going. I’d color part of the bottom right corner, get stuck, and them move to the top left. I probably got stuck a dozen times and moved to another part. I had to not let getting stuck bother me. That’s the key to coloring something like this. It’s always going to be a big job that trips me up. That’s why it took me so long to get to it.

Besides the basic color I added a small bit of technique to it. I knew I wanted some texture in it so I added some to the background color. Then I turned the background color into colors. I liked what the texture added so then I put a small bit of texture over the whole drawing and printed it out. Seeing the piece printed helps me to see problems and fix them.

I ended up making about six printouts and fixing a bunch of stuff. The biggest thing was to replace one of the faces. In the printout that face looked too goofy. It didn’t fit in with the rest of the piece and it was one of the biggest faces. It kept drawing my attention and not in a good way. So I drew a new face and patched it into the drawing in Photoshop. Digital makes changes easy.

The second biggest thing I did was to delete some of the texture that was over the drawing. I liked the texture in a lot of the faces but not in all the areas of flat color. The texture was dulling the color too much. I couldn’t decide if I should keep the texture or not but then I finally decided on the Gordian Knot solution of deleting selected areas of the color. That took some time but it was the right decision. I like the way it worked out.

In the end it took me from 8AM until 7PM to get the piece done. I took my bike ride from 9-10AM, broke for lunch and dinner, and tried to pace myself well in general but it was still a long day. No wonder it took me so long to get there.