Recently I had an assignment to do a Wonder Woman commission for a fan and the job should have been pretty simple: A standing figure with a bit of background behind it. You're looking at two hours work at the most. However, about halfway through the first drawing, I was unhappy with both the pose and the facial expression, so I started a second version.
This one went very well in the pencilling stage, but when I started inking it, I was again dissatisfied with what was happening. But I did finish the drawing and then went back and finished inking the first drawing, which I then liked better than the second.
The next day I looked at them both and decided I could do better, so I sat down and knocked out the third version in a little over an hour. That's the one I was happiest with. I also kept that one and gave my client the choice of either of the first two. All three were completely acceptable as commissions, but if you don't satisfy yourself as an artist, the work gets pretty dull.
In my first version I threw in a bunch of Robert Fawcett studio junk, just because I find doing studies of that stuff an interested excercise. I also tried to keep the piece fairly monochromatic. But somehow the finished version never really got a great reaction from me emotionally.
A few weeks later, Annie showed me another photo display with some great jungle foliage and really interesting building....the perfect backdrop for another stab at Lady Gaga. This time I added a bunch of my favorite models to surround her. The results were worth all the extra effort for me.
One of the problems of working on tight deadlines where there are a myriad of drawings to continually produce, is that we tend to accept a lot of compromises in the work out of necessity. If you want to continue to be a success as what you do, you really have to find the time to push yourself as an artist outside the workplace. The truth is, your employers are for the most part NOT interested in you getting any better as an artist; they want you to either sell products or produce mass quantities of work at minimum prices. The struggle to rise above the mediocre is a journey you really have to take by yourself.
(And just a word about a real talent who worked for Marvel named Ed Hannigan. He must have produced hundreds of cover idea roughs that were sent onto the artists to finish them. I remember a number of that I took to a finish...including this one. A great designer and storyteller.)
And lastly another commission.