Case Study: Project Fail!


Have you ever started a freelance project or personal project and have known it’s not going the way you envisioned?  What to do?  Do you scrap it, change it mid project? Or just blow through it and then file it somewhere never to be seen again.   It’s so darn frustrating.
I have struggled with this on more than one occasion because I don’t want to “waste my time” doing something I don’t like, or that isn’t coming out the way I thought it would. Truth be told, that’s an excuse, and not a very good one.

Case study: Project Fail

Recently I posted a revised sketch of a “City Life”, a hand lettered illustration onto Instagram, It’s still there. I wanted to journal my process.  I want to get into the habit of building case studies for my work.  I spent approximately 25 hours on this project and when I finished it… I hated it.  Well, maybe I didn’t hate it, that’s such a strong word and I try not to use it.  I found the illustration to be boring! The handlettering is lifeless and I just thought, overall, it has no purpose.

Like I said, such a waste of time, right??  Wrong!

Wrong for so many reasons. Let me explain.

city-life-thumb-nail.jpg  The initial thumbnail sketch. (Oh wait, thumbnail is an overstretch, none of my initial drawings are actually thumbnail size)  So, the idea – something to go on  a tote bag or coffee mug. Also, I really like the idea of getting into editorial work or licensed art work, so I was thinking, this would be a good piece to show.



I’ve been working in Illustrator and wanted to do the whole piece in Illustrator but still have a handrawn look to it, so there is a lot of hand drawing of the blocks and of course “City Life”.
I’m ok with the way it looks at this point.
As I stated earlier, it took me approximately 25 hours to do this illustration up to the point I stopped.  The lettering wasn’t to difficult because of the wonkiness of each letter, I could be a little lenient because the look was meant to be off and not perfect.
So here we are at the almost finished project.   I am going to finish it, even though I don’t really like it and maybe I’ll never look at it again, but I’ve learned a great deal from this project and that’s why I’m going to finish and why I changed my thinking on the whole “waste of my time” thing.





First:  I added to my Illustrator skills.  I took a Skillshare Class by DKNG Studios   Mastering Illustrator: 10 Tips & Tricks to Speed Up Your Workflow  which was amazing and very informing.  I will have to take it again because I’m sure I didn’t get everything the first time around.  But ‘Targeting Levels’ and ‘Giving Depth to Simple Shapes’ were both techniques I put into this illustration.

Second:  I stepped out of my comfort zone a little and did something I wasn’t really sure about to begin with.  I liked the initial idea but didn’t really know how to proceed to the end result.  In other words, it was kind of a ‘Wing It’ job.  A lot of my compositions I have a basic idea but it’s not until I’m in the thick of it that it actually starts taking shape.  It’s a pretty organic movement and development that I like because my thought process moves to quickly to stick to one idea.  Uh, I think some call that a lack of focus. Anyway,  It is the way that I am and I have to work within the parameters of the way my brain works.

Third:  I can study this piece and analyze what I do and do not like about it.  I am in control, so I can change what I want.  Nothing here is in concrete.  I created this and I can change it. One of the issues with this piece is I feel it doesn’t connect to anything.  I just saw it in my head but for no reason other than the illustration itself.  Maybe the lack of ownership to a specific need is what makes it less interesting for me.  But then I don’t live in a city and probably can’t relate.

Fourth:  I think it’s going to help me build responsibility for my work ethics.  If I force myself to finish projects, even If I’m unhappy with them, and turn my thinking around to something I can get behind then it’s an accomplishment.  It’s technically a goal achieved.
So, What am I going to change about this?  How am I going to make it a better finished project?

  1.  Thinning the dividing line and adding the bird that was in the original thumbnail
  2. converting the whole illustration to a clean vector, without the hand drawn look
  3. add some clouds and trees
  4. change the text or take it out completely.
  5. add it to my portfolio as a vector illustration and use it as a technical piece.

No sun should set without learning something new.  Now, go out and have a great day!

Freelancing – The Danger Zone



So, when I think of the “Danger Zone” immediately my brain goes to Maverick and Mother Goose, F-14 Tomcats, aerial dog fights and well… beach volleyball.

The “Danger Zone” is exciting and furious, it gets your blood heated and your heart beating faster. It’s that moment where sometimes the phrases “Oh Shit”, “Oh, Dear God” or “What the Hell am I Doing?” come to mind. Yeah, hopefully you all have had that experience once or twice… or maybe more. It’s liberating, it’s fierce, AND it’s totally worth exploring.

OK, Cool, and how does this apply to design, art, freelancing – or anything for that matter?

Well, it does, for me at least. I think everyone should have a “Danger Zone” That place where we break out of our own comfort. Where we are compelled to believe in ourselves, trust in our own instincts when the circumstances seem to outnumber us or we just feel overwhelmed by our own insecurities.

As a graphic artist, lettering artist or designer the biggest fears I have are hitting the submit button, asking for opinions, putting myself out there to be judged by all, and OMG, seeking out new clients. I used to think I was part of a very small, doubt inflicted, self conscious group. I know better now, I know that feeling of self doubt and questioning is rampant. It plays out in all of us to some extent. Kudos to those who step up, go beyond that and make your dreams happen.

My goal these days is to challenge that fear and make my dreams my reality. Fly full on into the “Danger Zone”, risk my feelings getting hurt, or having to learn how to look at my work from a different perspective or even being rejected all together. It’s ok. It’s scary but doable.

I feel this inertia within that I know will propel me to be greater, to be unique, to question every question and have a retort for every doubt. It’s a process, that I do understand, and it takes commitment, and drive, motivation and desire. I have all those. My strengths are in my mind and in my heart!

For all the artists, writers, musicians and freelancers out there take a moment and look into the lives of those before us. Those that have flown full force into the “Danger Zone” and came out successful and victorious!!

Tell me what your “Danger Zone” is —

With that being said… “Headin’ into twighlight… spreadin’ out her wings tonight…
                                                           Gonna take it right into the Danger Zone”
                                                                                             – courtesy of Kenny Loggins 🙂