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Our second project in Illustration was to create a conceptual image to accompany the first chapter of The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck. It has a lot of nuggets about delayed gratification and growth through suffering. But like many of my classmates, I found truer inspiration from my own life.

I was going through a really rough episode at the time, but one day I noticed that the fear of what people thought of me was no longer taking up much space in my heart. I had been trying with mediocre success to get rid of that for years. If pain and conflict was what it took to free me from that fear, then – I decided –  it was completely worth it. “The greatest gifts come disguised as problems,” I thought (rather poetically). And behold, a concept for my illustration! A stack of presents ironically gift-wrapped in various types of pain.

Coming up with a good composition of packages was trickier than I expected. Sketching them from my head was problematic because the perspective became skewy. Photographing the real boxes that I had was too limiting (I tried, valiantly). So, Google SketchUp to the rescue! This free 3D rendering program let me make boxes, tweak boxes and rotate around them to my heart’s content. When I had a stack that I was happy with, I took a screen shot. Then I went into Photoshop and started on my wrapping paper ideas.

As you can see, the first pain I figured out how to represent visually was anger. Next, I did a study of some broken hearts….

I worked out physical pain next, then depression, and finally interpersonal conflict. Whenever I felt unsure what to do, I took a picture of my painting in progress and tried out several ideas digitally. For example:

Even after turning in my painting, I went back into Photoshop. Here you can compare my “final version” with the scene as I actually painted it. I wasn’t happy with all the colors and values, so I figured it was my prerogative to adjust. You can play Spot the Difference if you want!

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