Hanoch Piven
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Sometimes a good sketch is your kiss of death.
posted: September 18, 2009
Sometimes you can't beat your sketch

A couple of weeks ago I got a call from Hansen Smith to do a portrait of Tim Gunn for LA Times Magazine.
The truth is I even did not know who the guy is...sorry America.
Anyway, as a consumate pro, I did my research and faked being (and eventually became) very familiar with the subject matter.
A couple of days later I sent a sketch.

Sketching in my way of working has always been a problem.
In the old days I used to send a little doodle, which mainly suggested the objects I was going to use, thus it was more of a conceptual sketch to stress the general direction of the piece.
As the years went by I started using a digital camera to shoot the sketch as it is on the work table, meaning the sketch already includes the real objects, sometimes combined with crude pencil or marker lines. I always retouch and clean it up a bit on photoshop. Sometimes at sketch time I won't still have the real objects so I'd use a quick image from the web just to show the direction.
While it makes it clearer for me (to see if it will really work or not) it has become dangerous because:

A: editors tend to treat my sketches as finished pieces, and therefore are bothered by things that shouldn't bother them at sketch stage...
B" because the sketch might look to the untrained eye as a finished piece, editors might fall in love with it and prefer it to the finished piece.

'B" is what happened with LA Times. They loved the sketch and my whole project was then to try to duplicate the sketch.
I tried and I tried but there was really something in that sketch which captured Tim Gunn in a way that I admit, the finished piece didn't.

Eventually they asked just to print the sketch. It seemed at first like a disaster to me (not enough pixels, crude lines, digitally duplicated objects, bad photoshop work, all the NO NOs.!) but then I relaxed about it...and that is thanks to Janet my wife who said: "so what? why can't an unfinished sketch become a final. you did that sketch after all?". and the truth is that it works with the subject matter of 'the process of creativity' or something like that...
I managed to somehow improved some minor details but what printed was pretty much what they saw as a sketch.


oh well. I'm fine with it...(as long as it is clear THAT was a sketch...)

 http://www.latimesmagazine.com/2009/09/tim-gunn-motivator-in-chief.html
Original sketch...
The 'final' they liked less....
The piece as it printed....
14 comments
flaherty September 18, 2009
Make it work! (that's what gunn says on his show)
felix September 18, 2009
you made it work hanoc.
Steve B September 18, 2009
Sometimes you just have to yield to your own genius. H, just sit back and enjoy like the rest of us. EXCELLENT drawing!
Victor Juhasz September 18, 2009
There has to be an equation out there that measures what gets lost between sketch and finish, and for that matter what else gets gained. Consider it a blessing that the sketch was given the go ahead. The differences are subtle, but enough. Like the unfinished feel to the hair in the sketch.
Stephen Kroninger September 18, 2009
Collage does not lend itself well to sketches.
David Flaherty September 18, 2009
Yep. it works.
Cathleen Toelke September 18, 2009
Great story, Hanoch! Where do you go from here on out (sketch-wise)?
Harry Campbell September 18, 2009
Doing roughs is a problem for me as well. I go right to vector, takes me way longer and feels less intuitive to sketch it out then trace it again. I didn't know the name either but I know who it is by your likeness. Well done.
marcellus hall September 18, 2009
i know that dilemma well. it's hard to let a sketch stand on its own while maintaining your usual standards.
Wish September 18, 2009
Always gets me how you manage to get a likeness with objects and paint.
Hanoch Piven September 18, 2009
yup I imagined this happens to many of us! This experience makes me feel I should go back to sending more general sketches. Don't commit to anything too early in the game. Kroninger is right. With Collage you should always leave open options. Thanks for the comments and Happy New Jewish Year!
John Hendrix September 19, 2009
H- what you do is a kind of magic! Houdini caliber hocus-pocus. I have no idea how it works. If you are on one end of the spectrum and, say, Tim O'Brien is the other- my poser portraits fall in the crappy middle. Love seeing this in process.
Scott Bakal September 19, 2009
Hanoc, this is a great post because it is a fear or maybe frustration I think we all have as artists. The sketch somehow being better than the final but then...'it's just the sketch!' There is no need to justify this as 'the sketch'. It is obviously your work and it fits right into your 'finished' work just fine. Great job!
Mark Fisher September 20, 2009
A beauty! The pattern background is perfect.
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