“Washing the dust from your soul” – Picasso

“Hands!” Craig says….and then seriously, adds….”300 hours. That’s what it takes. Anyone can draw if they spend 300 hours working to perfect one thing… and hands are the hardest”

I think back to art class at school, flicking through a book on Leonardo Da Vinci… so many of sketches of hands. At the time, I couldn’t work out why he would draw so many hands. I mean, how many variations of fingers and sinews and narrow little muscles can you draw without getting bored and repetitive? Did Leonardo spend 300 hours drawing hands?


Craig Jackson

Da Vinci

Anyway, I’m not palmed off that easily by Craig, the artist/illustrator extraordinaire….taciturn, introverted, creative perfectionist. Taking him to task, I reply,

“No, there is something miraculous about artists…. good artists. They see things and, with magical hands, somehow can recreate the image onto a surface. Not just the image but the emotions it evokes: the wonder, the fear, the confusion, the beauty. It’s not just 300 hours of grinding dedication. They have an ability to see perspectives that the rest of us can see but can’t recreate.” He knows what I mean but is too modest to agree.

All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once you grow up – Picasso

So how does Craig do it?

“I usually start a book with the raw concept…something that bugs me about human nature, and that I feel would be interesting to explore.  I never want to hit people over the head with a smug message, rather wrap it in a humorous situation using quirky characters. But the message is always there.”

“Once the story line is finalised, I create a rough dummy of the book, with the text in place. I then draw some thumbnail sketches that will support it. This is where all the chopping and changing happens.

Village Festival


Van Gogh - Starry Night

Starry Night

Restless Night Final

Restless Night

Night Watch


Bacchanale Swan


I know Craig would squirm at being compared to the great Masters…. and yet perhaps Picasso would applaud.

But I digress.

Craig continues: “Once I’ve had enough with the chopping and changing, I work through the final rough sketches, finalising their content, composition, props, expressions, peripheral characters and so on.

From these, I do my final working drawings. This is probably the hardest stage. Things like continuity are important at this step and there is a finality attached to them. I don’t want to have to make changes after this point.”

To copy others is necessary, but to copy oneself is tragic. – Picasso

Some people think Van Gogh painted so many Cypresses because he was so enamoured with the trees that he just loved copying the same painting over and over.

Couldn’t be further from the truth!

But he was obsessed….obsessed with getting them right, of capturing their soul. “Until now I have not been able to do them as I feel them; the emotions that grip me in front of nature can cause me to lose consciousness”.  He gained his release from his obsessions, his impulses, his conflicts by projecting them onto his canvases…so many of them. Just before his death on 29th July 1890, he stated: “I just can’t get them right….”

Yet now his paintings of Cypresses sell for many millions. Yet not one of them is the same. We believe he did get them right!

I’ve seen Craig draw a certain illustration over and over, each slightly different, until he gets it right.

“Final illustrations are then produced. Any changes required after this means redoing the piece from scratch, which I have done plenty of times.”

“The cover? Even though I have a solid idea of what the cover will be, I do this last as a kind of reward for finishing.”

The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away – Picasso

Restless Night: From first draft to final image

Restless Night 1st Draft
Restless Night 2nd Draft
Restless Night 3rd Draft
Restless Night Final Draft
Restless Night Final
Restless Night Final