Sometimes it just doesn’t feel done.
When my kids were in grade one, and just learning how to read, their teacher would always tell them: “practice makes progress.” I always thought this was much better than the original saying. Do we ever practice something and think to ourselves ‘I don’t want to get any better at doing this’? I believe we are always striving to better ourselves, and I think this notion is amplified in the things we are passionate about, no matter what that is.
I dove in to doing a full vector portrait the first time because I honestly wasn’t sure I would have the patience to do one, or even enjoy the tedious process. But what I learned during my first experience with vector portraits was that I found the whole experience to be zen-like and relaxing. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole process and loved watching the shape and structure build up from nothingness.
Before attempting a second one, I spent hours practicing vectoring skin, hair, and clothing. After two weeks of practicing, I decided to try my hand at doing a full vector portrait again. I spent hours looking for a picture and finally decided on this one because it scared me. I was terrified at the idea of figuring out how to vector his wavy, messy hair, not to mention the facial hair that I was so scared of last time. (And also, Chris Cornell*. That’s a pretty valid reason for a ‘90s rock girl like me.)
My family was away and I completely lost myself in Illustrator for almost three full days. (I logged less than 1500 steps on my pedometer on one of those days and actually began to dream in vectors.)
Throughout the process I was chatting with one of my designer friends on facebook about how I was in over my head (“Messy, curly hair. Ack!!!”). She, probably mistakenly from her point of view, asked for a sample. I began sending her progress reports, which not only allowed me to see the improvements between samples, but also create an awesome gif (see below).
I believed I was done at one point, and sent her this picture with the message “I feel like it needs more, but my house feels like it needs cleaning.” This could have marked the end of my endeavour. In fact, this is quite good for my second attempt at a vector portrait, but I just knew it wasn’t yet done. I shot her off another message: “I feel like it needs more detail, or contrast, or something?” But I didn’t know exactly what it needed at this point.
My family was home and I let it rest for a while, but I became mesmerized with watching the play of light on people’s faces when I supposed to be listening to what they were saying. (Yes, if I know you in the real world, I was actually doing this, and I’m sorry, but really you guys are awesome at having light and shadows on your faces).
I opened the file and roughed in a spotlight and the corresponding play of light and shadows. I did a completely “slap-happy” job with the pencil tool because I was sure I wouldn’t want to keep the results, but the change was amazing. The original illustration suddenly looked so flat in comparison. It took me another full day to fix my rushed job, but I believe the end result was worth it. (Scroll down to the gif and look at the subtle, but amazing change between the last two samples.)
Below are some close-ups of the finished product, and the aforementioned gif. You can view the full finished product, in non-gif-mode on my portfolio.
* I mentioned earlier that some friends and I had travelled to Seattle in the late winter, what I didn’t say was that our main objective was to see Soundgarden at the famous Paramount Theatre. I love Soundgarden (seriously, Badmotorfinger is one of my favourite albums ever) and I have a love/hate relationship with Chris Cornell (technically, he may not be aware of this relationship at all – it’s hard to say for sure).