A seasoned production artist is a valuable asset to your creative team.

Growing up in Winston Salem, I cannot remember a time that I was not being creative. Even when making art, I was always a rule follower so having specific instructions made me feel safe and at ease. Every summer I took classes at what is now the Sawtooth School for Visual Art. I tried many different mediums; photography, pottery, painting, fiber and graphic design (pre-computers).

My most memorable experience came from a drawing class. The instructions were simple. Take a 4-inch by 6-inch photograph and line it with an 8-inch by 10-inch grid. Then enlarge that same grid onto a 20-inch by 30-inch poster board. Next, sketch each small square onto the corresponding larger square.

I can still feel my confidence from knowing my illustration would be similar to the original, because of the consistency of the grid. Meticulously drawing the details in each square, one at a time, the first row and then the next, gave me a sense of accomplishment. Following the pattern was soothing and I finished with a beautiful self-portrait that still hangs in my parents’ home.

Other teachers, and later bosses, would say, “Think outside the box,” or “Come up with something on your own.” Hearing these phrases, I would instantly freeze and begin to doubt myself. My brain doesn’t work like that.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve created many pieces that are still displayed, but none taught me as much about myself as when I was creating my portrait. I struggled for many years to find one type of art that just naturally fit. It wasn’t until I reached my 30s and I was teamed with a group of different types of creative people did I figure it out. I am neither a conceptual artist nor an applied artist, but I’m a production artist. Here’s how I know …

  • I love the details, and yes, sometimes that’s where the devil is. I’ve spent (too many) hours retouching whiskers and stray eyebrow hairs on an older person’s portrait only to have it be printed as a tiny headshot. No one would have ever even seen those details, especially printed on newsprint, but once I got started, I just couldn’t stop. Here at Vela, we call it “going down the rabbit hole.” However, the details are usually what make or break a project, so appreciating and focusing on details often sets production artists apart from designers.
  • I want and really need to understand the “why” of the projects I work on. For example, before I begin, I want to know if the piece will later be re-purposed into multiple formats, sizes or shapes. I can then plan my file setup and folder structure, which will help smooth the flow of ideas out of my head and onto the artboard. A flier turns into a bus ad, which turns into a billboard, then finally to a quarter-page printed ad. Knowing all of the pieces up front will not only save me time, it will keep me on task.
  • Coming up with a design concept all by myself is paralyzing. A group thinking session with ideas being thrown out – and even shot down – helps to get me started. I am at my best when I’m given a designer’s beginning piece and I’m asked to finish or expand it. I thrive on font consistency, color accuracy, and element alignment.

Finally, I do my best work when I know my abilities are respected. It takes a strong leader to appreciate the value that a seasoned production artist will add to a team. I am fortunate to work with co-workers and leaders who see production as an essential art form.

Vela has a talented team that’s ready to go to work for you on your next marketing projects. Contact us today to learn more.