My Creative Process

Boy in the Woods, watercolor by John Lechner

I was invited by illustrator Amanda Erb to join an author/illustrator blog tour, where people talk about their creative process, then pass it along to a few more folks. You can read Amanda’s post here to learn about her own process. And now, I’ll tell you a bit about mine.

What am I working on currently?

That depends on what day it is, or what time. My scattered brain is currently pushing along a middle-grade novel, an interactive story, a short animated film, and a weekly webcomic. Those are my active projects — if you add the ones on the back burner, I’ve got many stories at various stages, as well as ideas for films and interactive projects that I can’t figure out what to do with right now (I really could use an agent, but that’s another story.)

Here is what’s on my drawing board right now, some early concept art for my new animated film. I can’t say more about it just yet, but details will be coming soon.

Concept art by John Lechner

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I don’t think my work is particularly different, I write about universal themes and my work has a strong connection to nature, but many artists can say this. I think it can be counterproductive to dwell on how “different” your work is, it’s best just to keep moving forward on your own creative journey.  The most important distinguishing feature about anyone’s work is that it’s theirs, it comes from their own creative spirit. I write for myself, and my art is an attempt to express the ideas inside of me.

Here is a shadow puppet show I created last year, based on one of my unpublished fables:

Shadow Puppets by John Lechner

Why do I write and illustrate what I do?

There aren’t many ways to ways to answer this question, either you write for personal expression, or you write because it’s your job. Or both. I do have a full-time job at FableVision Studios where I draw and animate, and that is one part of my work. But I also create stories and pictures and films and songs and puppet shows because I love to do it, and I need to do it.

Ink and watercolor by John Lechner

How does my creative process work?

Nearly everything starts with an idea that I put down in my notebook — a paragraph, a sketch, a fragment. I’ll write as much as necessary to get the idea down. If it has potential, I’ll start a first draft in another notebook. If that goes well, I’ll type the next revision on the computer, then continue revising indefinitely.

Sticky Burr sketches

My art process is the same: initial idea, rough draft, then more rough drafts until it’s solid enough to do final artwork. With a picture book, the text and picture drafts happen alongside each other, each given its own focused attention while always keeping an eye on the other, until they finally come together in their finished forms.

Painting by John Lechner

For my webcomic, after working out the ideas in my notebook, I draw the lines on paper, first with pencil and then a brush with ink. This is scanned into the computer and colored in Photoshop, see below.

Sticky Burr comic process

All this is the physical process, the tangible work that can be seen. What’s more mysterious is the mental process, how an idea takes shape. I think both of these processes happen simultaneously, in parallel, sometimes even at odds with one another. How often are we frustrated that the work on paper doesn’t measure up to what we see in our head? Or how often are we surprised when a happy accident takes an idea in a new direction? The internal and external process are both important, and when they work together the results are magical. That’s why we create.

All this thinking about process has given me some new theories about how creative projects develop, but I’ll save that for another post. Many thanks to Amanda Erb for tagging me in her own process post, I hope you enjoyed reading mine!

And now…

I’d like to pass the paintbrush over to two talented artists, who will write about their own creative process next week.

Book by Lisa HorstmanLisa Horstman is an author, illustrator, designer and sculptor who makes amazing images combining puppets with digital backgrounds. Her new book coming out this fall is called Sabrina, about the misadventures of a flying squirrel. Here is her website, and I encourage you to check out her blog when her post is up.

 

Art by Jessica LopezJessica M. Lopez is an illustrator who creates beautiful ink and watercolor images inspired by fairy tales and nature. She also has two pet geckos, and is an all-around cool person. You can see more of her artwork at her website, and read her own process post next week at her blog.

 

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3 Responses to My Creative Process

  1. Jodie Wilson says:

    Great work John !! Keep it up !!

  2. Amy Conley says:

    Thanks, John. Great photos of your work, also!

  3. NL Lumiere says:

    Lovely post. I agree about the mental process involved in creating. It’s so interesting to see how the finished art differs from the mental concept, sometimes better, sometimes not.
    I just love to see paints and brushes and color pans and all the mixing and color tests and rough sketches; all the work that goes into preparing art work.