This post is mostly about how the creative process works. I was going to write about linear perspective too- perhaps another post. I think its true that most people misunderstand how creatives work, hopefully this post helps demystify the magic of creating something out of nothing. If I'm honest, this is the way I've always worked- it's always been this way, intuitive I guess. I've also seen this process and principle taught at tertiary level. I'm not sure if it's said implicitly or implied but iteration is always the key to conceptual development or any other illustration, design or art. Conceptual illustration tends to use iteration at a faster pace, trying not to linger on the details early on. This is the process I live by, whether I'm working on a design, illustration or concept art. My early sketches can't be interpreted by anyone but me so people don't often see them- they're thinking images in which I'm ironing out angles, shapes - compositional stuff. It's fast paced and many times ugly. The more I need to figure out- the 'uglier' the early sketches are. At times I have a clearer beginning idea for whatever reason so the thumbs will look nicer earlier on, because some basics are already sorted I can then I give more to artistic expression and other skill sets. I'm constantly trying to make this gap smaller, I want to get to the point where I have a clear composition or some solid elements to work with so I try produce as many thumbs as possible to iron out issues. Bottom right you'll see these rough sketches, almost doodles in nature. They're for me only, I'll never show these to clients.
Stage two is the point where clients begin seeing my work. They're still rough compositional thumbs but they have enough information to help me decide whether I want to take the image further or not. I choose from the first stage rough thumbs and begin expanding, I'm no longer working from nothing now- I have created my own reference points. The two images at the bottom on the right are expanded thumbs. Thumbs at this stage don't have to be as detailed as these two are but they can be. Out of dozens of 'first pass' rough thumbs I choose only a few which best fit my needs and expand them- meaning I redraw them as fast as I can with as much extra detail as I can on each iteration. Layer upon layer upon layer until I'm happy that I have enough information to use the sketch as reference for the final illustration or perhaps all the client wants are looser conceptual designs then I might not redraw and polish the image but rather take it to the point where the piece communicates enough information to be used as a concept asset. Usually there is a line, or point where the 'sketch' is abandoned and you switch into rendering. It's important to understand that 'sketch' and 'rendering' differ and the difference is in your approach- the difference between using predominately line or shape, tone and colour.
For those of us who create for a living hopefully this will help grow your own process or in the very least ring true. We're all refining and learning even after years of working professionally- so if you feel you have something to add to this topic please feel free to comment and add your viewpoint.