Let’s talk about project management.

Here at Cranial Island Land, all of us started out as artists working solo. If I wanted to make a drawing of a cactus fighting a squid named Larry, by golly, I had to do the whole thing myself. Look up reference material (real-life cactuses, squids, Larrys), create rough sketches (or scribbles, depending on my age at the time) (23), and figure out my medium of choice.

As beautifully depicted on this mans chest

As beautifully depicted on this mans chest

Then we need to be prepared to put in all the grunt work of actually carrying that drawing across the finish line. Incredibly gratifying, and a testament to our skill in crafting such a wondrous narrative. However, as all of us have found more recently, this doesn’t always fly in the real world. Sometimes, we need help.

screen-shot-2016-12-01-at-1-06-12-pm

Pweez Hewp Me

Not always. There’s that old adage about being able to “accept the things we cannot change” to have the “courage to change the things we can,” and “the wisdom to know the difference, “ which absolutely applies here (and with a bare minimum of squinting). Not all projects that come by our desk are long or complicated ones. Like, say, someone else wants an illustration of a cactus fighting a squid named… Barry.

Lets get to work on that, minions

Lets get to work on that, minions

These are no-brainers. Then, there are the maybes: Someone wants an illustration of cactuses and Barry-squids, but as part of a series of branding elements needed for package/product design. Sure, we can probably scrape together enough workable ideas to drag this project along, but A. it won’t be pretty, and B. chances are good that there’s someone in our network who might know more about package design than we do, who’d C. love to contribute.

Team work makes the dream work

Team work makes the dream work

Which brings us to our main point here: Projects are all about big and bold concepts, and project management is all about bringing those big concepts into some kind of order. And there’s three key parts to making this process as streamlined as possible: Communication, communication, and communication while mainlining coffee. If you’re midway through storyboarding a long sequence where the squid proposes to the cactus, but you realize, Wait, I have no idea what a squid looks like and Oh Dear Lord, I’ve been drawing on the wrong photoshop layer for the last three hours? Tell someone about it.

All I hear is blah blah blah

All I hear is blah blah blah

Please don’t try to fake it. That’s only going to screw things up for the layout artist who has to interpret your bungled chicken scratches, and will likely lead to your grand cinematic undertaking now being about a cactus and a Tasmanian cave spider, and there’s nothing about that name that sounds good.

So how do we avoid this in the first place? Know your teams’ strengths. Also, know their weaknesses. There’s people who love brainstorming, conceptualization, building on ideas, and working very loosely or roughly. Then there’s people who love grinding away at a pretty well-defined narrative, rendering each and every image with care and precision, and poring over each frame multiple times to make sure everything is lining up just so. Life tip: Do not give these people the other’s job. You’ll wind up with an immaculately-crafted painting of a cactus as your sole piece of preproduction work, which will be churned up into about a half-dozen attempts at trying to animate said immaculately-crafted painting (this never works), each of them more frenzied than the last.

red_merle_border_collie_with_double_heterochromia

What do you know, we’re out of time. Have a great December, and tune in next month (next year even!) for the continuation of our series on workflow.

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays!