“Rule of 3” art iteration

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Mech Retriever Dev Blog

Iterative refinement is a big concept in Agile Development and I’ve thought a lot looking for ways to apply the concept to Art.  Artists already use the concept of drawing a rough sketch, stick figure, or shapes, and then refining it, but it’s not quite as dramatic as iterations in Software Development.

The problem is that Software, properly written and unit-tested, is extremely malleable and can be tweaked or heavily changed endlessly.  On the other hand, redrawing/painting large sections of an artwork can be painful, since there’s no automated shortcuts or refactoring patterns established.

There are a few partial solutions to this–learning to stay loose longer, to render pictures more quickly, to put off details, or some photo-editing in digital canvases if you’re working digitally.  Most of these only apply to a point though.

Lately I’ve been working with “Rule of 3″ sketches as I call them though.  First I draw at least three roughly 1/2″ to 3/4″ thumbnail pose sketches off to the side for an artwork.  Then I pick one I like and draw it larger, like  2” tall.  Then I draw the main figure at whatever normal size in the upper center of the page.  From there, as I want to come up with details like boots, pants, face, anything, I draw at least three thumbnail sketches of different designs for that element.  Then I pick what I like, sometimes mixing or changing the designs, and draw it on the main figure.

It kind of turns the page into a worktable, and it’s like having legos in art.  It’s been leading to better designs and is really fun besides.  If you’re drawing a full scene, you may want to do the sketches on separate pages–or you can edit them out later digitally or by painting over them.

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