The Evolution of Ideas

My current workload has me running around through various types of media and projects on a daily basis; one day I’m doing cleanup art in Illustrator, the next I’m doing character animation in Photoshop and converting it into Flash, the next I’m doing motion graphics for humorous educational films, and I just picked up a gig doing mockups for web design. All this, needless to say, leaves me with very little time to work on projects of my own design. Not that I’m complaining, I’m doing a lot of (what I’d like to believe) quality work. Everything’s turning out great and I’m getting a lot of practice at stuff that I might not have tried on my own.

Last a few weekends ago I took a little vacation. It was a long train ride, and I don’t do well with sitting still in a seat for 6 hours. Legs need to be stretched occasionally. But while I was traveling, I did a doodle. It wasn’t really anything, just some shapes. But I was looking at these shapes and suddenly an Idea for a short film popped into my head. Fully formed, character designs, backgrounds, specific shots, the works. This happens to me fairly often. “Pearls”, a story that would go on to consume the next year of my life, was a similar experience. The idea just *popped* into existence as soon as the assignment was given.

Character Concept

A rough concept piece for the story in question. It involves mining, and glowy hats.

Not to say that none of these ideas ever need tweaking. I’m not perfect, I’m not a wizard. The majority of Pearls underwent a severe tweaking and retweaking process over the course of 15 months, and even after it was done being written scenes were added in productions to address issues that weren’t clear in the boards. But Crabby’s initial design didn’t change from the first time I drew him. Later attempts at redesigning him were also futile. But Ladycrab’s design changed significantly. Crabapples got a little sharper, but his basic idea was in place. Anyway the point is that everything can be improved. I guess it would be more accurate to state that “frameworks” of ideas pop into my head.

It wasn’t always this way though. In high school I used to draw characters and then build stories off of what they looked like. That’s how my longest-running project (currently on indefinite hiatus) got started. I’ve been rehashing that story since I was in 7th grade. If I can create a cool or compelling design, why shouldn’t I make something that works work for me, instead of trying to cram a character to meet a story?

Well I’ve done that too. I was trying to come up with a project to work on cooperatively with a friend for practice. I had the setting, so I tried to build a character to go in it. The plot came from the combination of those two things.

But I was wondering how my peers come up with ideas. Pretty much all of my friends are currently trying to put personal projects together; working on shorts for their reels. I’m wondering how they get their inspiration. Do you start with one thing and slowly build pieces of a project together until it becomes something whole that you can then mold? Or do you start from scratch, constantly starting over every time an idea falls flat (we all have crap ideas, it’s part of the process). Or are you like me, where things just…


Let me know how inspiration works for you.