I’ve covered this topic before. Its importance cannot be overstated.
It bears going over once again as following direction can be the difference in success or failure in the freelance business.
Taking direction is perhaps the single most important skill any digital artist can master and it’s a skill that is appreciated by most employers.
Taking direction sometimes isn’t as simple as it sounds. Getting on the same page when you aren’t in the same room or even in the same country as the rest of the team can be problematic. This is particularly true in the early stages of a project when conceptual work rules the day with lots of verbal input versus visual.
The directions you are given may seem simple enough and you pour your heart and soul into it only to find out you were in a different book altogether… let alone a different page from the concept your client or boss had in mind.
This happens. Don’t take it personally and don’t melt down as there is nothing to meltdown over at this point. The purpose of early work is to find the path everyone else is on.
The first thing you do is own up to your mistake and change course. With professional feedback, you find out where you went wrong and what you can do to correct the situation.
Both things are important because you were wrong and must make major revisions.
Now let’s say you are one of those that gets on the same page easily but likes to show your bosses what you can do with all those stored up skills that are just bursting at the seams to get out.
You can fluff this, massage that and generally put your stamp on the project… right?
Unless you were hired to guide the project, you need to put all those notions of “improving the script/direction” aside to focus on producing solid work based on ideas and concepts provided to you.
It’s not your baby. It belongs to someone else. You must help them achieve their vision with your skills and the combined skills of every artist or grunt on the production team.
This also exposes another problem.
That ugly monster we all love to hate and hate to love. Without continuity the production is nothing. When the cogs in the machine start inserting their own cogs or taking out cogs that are supposed to be there you lose continuity.
The project loses cohesiveness and starts to fall apart. This effects morale which effects creativity which effects final production.
Taking direction doesn’t just mean listening or following orders. It means trying as best as humanly possible to get into the mind of the person giving the direction. To try to see what they see or feel the emotion they have for the project.
Look at it from their point of view. Compare your mental images to previous work you’ve done together to get a sense of where to start or what direction to head.
Show your progress to make sure you are staying on course or catch a mistake early. More importantly, pay attention to feedback, negative or positive.
Taking direction involves drilling down through instructions to get to the to mechanics of a task. Then focusing on that task to mold it to the director’s vision. It involves almost religious devotion to following orders, both written and spoken.
M.D. McCallum, aka WarLord, is an international award-winning commercial graphics artist, 3D animator, published author, project director, and webmaster with a freelance career that spans over 20 years. Now retired, M.D. is currently working part-time on writing and select character development projects. You can learn more about MD on his website.