A day in the life of my creative process.

by Michael Zabel

Last week while I was driving to work I heard a story on the radio.  This is more times than not the source of most of my editorial ideas as I consider NPR a very reliable source for accurate, and mostly impartial, news.  The story in example for this anecdote will be the recent chapter in the allegations against world famous athlete Lance Armstrong.  For those who don’t know, Armstrong has been accused, on numerous occasions, of using performance enhancing drugs that are obviously illegal in the sports community.  The concept that came to my mind was an image of a mere mortal man (did I mention he beat cancer?) who absolutely shattered every meaningful record in cycling now being reduced to a shattered remnant of a once heroic being.  Shattered, being the key word here, invoked the mental image that I then ran with after some rough ideation sketches:

The first, and very crude, sketch.  Getting the idea down on paper is the most important part.
Through sketching more ideas come to mind which are written down as notes for future reference.

During the sketching process, I am mostly concerned with concept and layout as opposed to detail (this will come later).  I usually move on to the next step after I have determined which elements I will omit and include, the composition and color scheme of the finished piece.  This is where the idea goes from a crude representational sketch to a more refined drawing which I can then paint:

A watercolor painting on top of my more “finished” drawing.
Another element created traditionally.

 During this step I also paint a background (sometimes many):

A textural hand painted background.

From this point, all of the elements are scanned and carried out to finish in Adobe Photoshop and/or Adobe Illustrator.  The flexibility of these tools allow for the workflow of the editing and finishing process to flow intuitively and naturally.  As you can see, in this case, I knew I wanted to yellow to be a dominant color in this piece (relating to the yellow jersey of the leader in the Tour de France and also the yellow of Armstrong’s LiveStrong foundation).  I painted a dark background originally but it wasn’t working out the way I wanted it to so I made the change on the fly to make this piece a monochromatic scheme; manipulating the hue but keeping the texture of the hand painted background:

The final image, with all the elements.

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