It is said that no idea comes out fully formed, and I think most of us will agree with that. Be it a character design or a gripping narrative, the first iteration is unlikely to be the best. This seems natural as you can build on your previous mistakes, but is there more to it than that? Why can we see an image so clearly in our minds, but need it to be refined once we start actually creating?
Perhaps the most obvious reason is that our ability to manifest our ideas is subject to reality but the ideas themselves are not. Drawing that perfect girl laying amongst perfect flowers is easily enough imagined but actually putting down the lines and shading is a bit more demanding of a skill. This kind of obstacle is ever present for most artists, as we all try to get better. However, what happens when your skill reaches a satisfactory point, but the pictures in your head just don’t seem to show up on the page?
What I am about to share is merely speculation, but consider this. I don’t think the images we imagine are as vivid as we think them to be. For example picture a hub cap of glistening chrome. Can you see its silver shimmers? Most of us can. Ok, now what is it reflecting? If you thought of a reflective surface without thinking of what it is reflecting, then you don’t have anything resembling a real image in your mind. What you have is the idea of a mirror shine, and some expectation of what it should look like. What you have isn’t an image, it’s a feeling.
When we go to bring our ideas into reality the little nitpicks that we didn’t imagine come to haunt our work. Think of a pretty girl and her knees are unlikely to be a detailed focus of your mental image. This can lead to several details being neglected or even clashing with your original vision.
How do we get around this? Well there is the simple method of practice and iteration. You need to know what you are creating and how to fix any problems that arise (or at least hide them). Create. Edit. Create again. It’s a tried and true method.
Practice may make perfect, but we still need to keep in mind the little details that escape our imagination when we set our pen to the page. The feeling may inspire but the execution cares about the technical side. Composition especially can suffer without an understanding of the material.
To this end it’s important to memorise places you know you tend to overlook in the concept or drafting phase. Iteration is good, even necessary, but you still want to work efficiently. The best answer to this is to learn how to get the most out of your initial drafting phase and not cling too closely to any conflicting ideas. It may sound basic but I would bet nearly everyone forgets this at some point. I know I do.