Ross MacDonald
Due to the many, many requests.... okay - one request - here's a couple of closeups of one of the images in the book Art Direction Explained, At Last! by Steve Heller and Veronique Vienne. I have 5 spreads. My section is titled Art Directing Myself - the Terror of the Blank Page. I talk in general about the occasional projects that I get to do without any art director oversight. Each spread is a specific example - movie props, an illustration, a letterpress piece, etc. This is closeups from the spread on comics, showing a bit of the process of working on my regular comic for Virginia Quarterly Review (recently axed due to budget cuts, alas!). There is text below each image.

Here's a quote from the text on this spread:

I usually start by looking at some of my past comics, almost as if I need to confirm that I’ve actually managed to pull this off before. Then a few random phrases and images begin rolling around in my head, and when they seem like they might be coagulating, I start taking notes and making sketches – sometimes big chunks of copy or images pop into my head, other times lots of little phrases and words and tiny doodles. Then it’s just a matter of moving things around, redrawing, rewriting, shuffling bits and pieces, blowing stuff up and down, and eventually the thing starts to come into focus. A lot of times I actually write the sketch instead of drawing it. You can see that in the first rough on the left. These notes and doodles become a first rough sketch – which I refine and edit. Then I trace a finished sketch from that, and then the final art from the finished sketch. Sometimes I can visualize the color, other times I have to sit and mentally color it, trying different schemes. A lot of times, things will occur to me when I’m in the final art stage – like putting the halos around the people’s heads. Seems obvious, but I didn’t think of it till I was painting the final washes. Same with the banner of copy across the bottom, which functions almost like a punch line.


For some reason, I like to do the comic as one complete piece of color art, with lettering right on the paper. It can be kind of nerve wracking, because if I screw up, I have to redo the whole thing, and there’s never enough time to do that. It would make life a lot easier if I worked digitally, but what fun would that be?

The book isn't really a "how-to" book for budding art directors or students. It's full of essays by different people on the whole idea of art directing, case studies of Gail Anderson's posters, a poster by Paul Sahre, McSweeney's, etc

Don't judge the book by what you see here - it's really good.

Recent Articles

Movie Stuff (21)

Recent Stuff (8)