…there was a completely blank slate, nothing existed but a void, waiting to be filled with…what? Oh, the possibilities! Think what could be! Anything is possible. The World is Our _____.
Then, the moment of euphoria past, the realization sets in: there are decisions to be made. Hundreds, maybe thousands of little choices.
Light or dark? Big or small? Screen or print? Serif or sans?
For example, this article started out as a diatribe on why I need more sleep and what that extra sleep might actually help me accomplish. Oh, if only I could have that extra hour of unconsciousness, every remaining waking hour would abound with productivity! Look, this guy said my schedule makes sense! Validation! THAT’S why I haven’t done anything productive today!
Enough with the excuses. Get to work. Design is a job.
Better get busy. Start making. Don’t delay, just do. Pencil on paper. Move it. Okay, perhaps some time should be spent thinking, considering, pondering, musing. But not too much. Your work is worth nearly nothing when it’s still in your head.
But if in spite of this you will not listen to me, but walk contrary to me, then I will walk contrary to you in fury, and I myself will discipline you sevenfold for your sins. — Leviticus 26:27-28
About 6 years into my career as a designer I decided to take an introduction to drawing class at a local community college. One of my favorite assignments from that class was an exercise in ideation. The idea was to write down 16 actions or emotions, then quickly sketch each of them without using pictures of things.
Shapes, shades, textures: yes.
When endless possibilities cause a paradox of choice, put some limitations in place and work up against them. Set boundaries (however arbitrary) that can be pushed.
The illustration (above) of Leviticus 26 began as one of those sketching exercises, but instead of pencil, I just picked two colors that I thought contrasted well and grabbed the pen tool in Photoshop. 16 clicks later (the number of points that make up the jagged schism), I had the basic outline for the picture.
Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life. — Proverbs 13:12
Oddly enough, growing up, I never really considered myself creative. At least, not compared to people like Chris Riedell, for whom new and fantastic ideas and stories seem to just appear out of thin air.
No, I consider myself a translator.
Languages other than English never have been my strong suit. But I take ideas, words, actions, feelings, emotions, and translate them into visual form. I pull concepts out of the realm of imagination and make them visible.
That’s why I love tools like Photoshop. They take the limitations of a pen and paper and cast them aside in favor of options and flexibility. With these Bible Illustrations, I take the concept into Photoshop as quickly as possible to begin iterating over the one or two simple ideas that come together.
Then he dreamed another dream and told it to his brothers and said, “Behold, I have dreamed another dream. Behold, the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.“ — Genesis 37:9
It took years of work for me to be comfortable avoiding over-processed photographic imagery and stick to simple shapes in my illustrations. The style of this series was not a purposeful, one-time choice. Every single image started out almost the same way: a Photoshop document with a grid I put together—based on the Golden Ratio—and some textures to overlay the vector objects.
Genesis 37:9 was one of the very first illustrations I created in this specific style. After having tried so many other styles before and being dissatisfied with the results, I finally hit upon a look that I could see fitting a wide range of the pictures in my head when I read through the Bible.
And the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. — Exodus 3:2
Inspiration can come from many sources when you keep your eyes open for it. A linocut tree print I made years ago became the basis for an illustration of Proverbs 13. A photograph of a bonsai tree became a template for a burning bush.
Make connections. The more you make, the easier it becomes to make new ones. Like playing word association with pictures. Look for new ideas in new places. Try a new color palette. Pick up some watercolor pencils and a notebook and take a walk without a camera.
I didn’t set out to illustrate the whole Bible. I just started translating the imagery in my head onto screen and paper. Trying to make ideas into reality.
But before I could do that, I had to start somewhere.
Ideate, create, iterate.
Want to see more illustrations from this project? There are 35 of them so far, and more on the way: www.kevinohlin.com/bible