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I have a writer friend who says that our digital way of writing will lead to people in the future thinking that our writing pops out fully formed because we don’t save printed copies of our rough drafts. The same could be said for digital art, so I thought I’d show you my process for designing a sign.

My husband got a grant to purchase a sign for The Soul Patch Community Garden he founded three years ago. All the produce from the garden gets donated to the Morrison County Food Shelf.

We had this image in mind of either a cartoon tomato or carrot with a soul patch, one of those tiny chin patches of beard that some men favor.

Here is my first attempt at a tomato with a soul patch:

First draft, tomato with soul patch, June 27, 2011.

First draft, tomato with soul patch, June 27, 2011.

It is all sorts of dreadful, with the eyes and mouth being particularly scary. As I was drawing the soul patch, I realized that I didn’t know what a proper one looked like, so I did research on Google Images before I started the second draft. (Turns out that soul patches can be different shapes and sizes.)

Draft two, tomato with soul patch, June 27, 2011.

Draft two, tomato with soul patch, June 27, 2011.

I started both of these drafts in pencil before using Sharpie markers on them. I was more pleased with this draft than the first, although I wasn’t sure what I was going to color and what I was going to leave traced in black, so I asked Eldest Son. He said that I should make several tracings and color them different ways. Smart boy. This is my original for tracing the other versions.

Draft 3, tomato with soul patch, June 27, 2011.

Draft three, tomato with soul patch, June 27, 2011.

Here’s my first shot at coloring in the draft. I adjusted the tomato leaf hair on the right side while I was tracing this version. Note that I have fully colored in the lips. Eldest Son didn’t like that. He had another suggestion for me, which I took and used for the final version.

Final version, tomato with soul patch, June 27, 2011.

Final version, tomato with soul patch, June 27, 2011.

Everything is colored the same as version three, except the upper lip, which has now become an open mouth. I like the tomato dude much better now. He may undergo one more revision after this. His red outline might need to be thicker in order to work with the sign.

Whoa! Hold the phone!

As I was writing this, Eldest Son came up and looked at my final tomato inserted into the sign and he thought it needed a heavier red outline. He started helping me mess with the image in PhotoShop and then Hubby came home and watched as we adjusted the image and I inserted it into the sign.

Here’s the first sign:

The Soul Patch Community Garden sign, version one, June 27, 2011.

The Soul Patch Community Garden sign, version one, June 27, 2011.

And here’s the final version of the sign, complete with the ripe tomato dude:

The Soul Patch Community Garden sign, final version (I think!), June 27, 2011.

The Soul Patch Community Garden sign, final version (I think!), June 27, 2011.

As you can see, the artistic process is not instantaneous.