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Not a pretty picture

Here’s an original drawing by me, Don Moyer. I call it Stinky Don. It’s a drawing of me that I thought I might use in the book Stay Home: The Ugly Truth About Space Travel. It was intended for the page that talks about the problem of maintaining hygiene on a long voyage. But, this drawing isn’t part of the finished book.

Why? First, I had second thoughts about making a cameo appearance. Instead, I started to warm to the idea that all the roles in the book should be played by aliens. It’s funnier.

The first alien (see drawings below) I auditioned was stinky but cheerful and his shirt was too clean. He was rejected too. The final character is perfect. So he’s in the book.


There are dozens of fine drawings created for the Stay Home book but never used. Let's look at some reasons why.

Here’s my process. First, I write the book. Then, I decide what kind of drawing is needed on each page. I sketch in pencil. Next, I ink that drawing with my brush pen and add details, textures, and shading. Then, some refinements with white paint. Next, I scan the drawing to make an electronic file I can digitally paste into the corresponding book page.

At this point, I often realize the drawing is imperfect. While it may be a perfectly lovely drawing, it isn’t quite right for the idea on that page. The spacesuit needs to look more itchy or the meteors more menacing—whatever. I need a new drawing. Sadly, for some pages, I might find myself re-drawing pictures three or even four times. For example, the drawings below were all prepared for the page that talks about the discomforts of your spacesuit. Seventy-five percent are rejects.



Finally, after the drawing is complete, I sometimes see that the whole page is wrong and needs to be replaced by a new idea altogether. That means I need a new drawing.

Let’s face it, for me, illustrating a book isn’t so much a pure, invigorating dash toward the goal as much as a graceless, clumsy staggering toward a goal that may move. But I get there eventually.

Any time you see artwork you like—illustrations, painting, music, literature, architecture— it’s probably safe to assume that somewhere there’s a huge pile of rejects. That’s the nature of the creative process. I suspect that’s the nature of life too.

Don Moyer
Pittsburgh, November 15, 2017

1 Response


March 12, 2018

Sad, but true!
I’m suffering with the same syndrome as I type this, taking a break during the design process of something I’m excited about doing, yet, in the shadows lurks the “design monster”, the one that tends to show up unannounced, after friends, relatives and others see your design project and ask you when you’ll be “done” and tell you that it looks great, (but still throw in their 2 cents suggestions) and remind you that it “doesn’t have to be perfect”.

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