Thursday, September 19, 2013
A couple of weeks back, Facebook asked me to create a new set of emoticon stickers for their chat application. Several other of my favorite artists had already contributed so of COURSE I said yes. More like "OMG YES" but let's be professional here. A "yes" will suffice. They pretty much gave me complete freedom to create whatever sticker system I wanted, as long as it was central to one character. I decided to draw a dinosaur, named Mikey.
From pencil to vector to brush pen back to vector, just like Rembrandt.
An earlier concept of Mikey had him with smaller features like eyeballs and arms, and while at a larger scale this design would have been okay, Mikey needed to be optimized so you could read his emotions at like 240 pixels tall. That's pretty small. So, for Mikey's final design, I gave him really big eyeballs and big arms that were a different color to his body. Having different colored arms allowed him to be able to move his arms across his chest and have it not blend into the torso. They don't teach you that in art school. (Actually, they probably do, but for the sake of argument, let's make me look as good as possible here).
Look, I use a computer!
While I did have a system of colors that I thought worked really well, I didn't quite know where to use these colors. I experimented with a lot of different options with Mikey before landing on the final palette. All of his different body parts had to coordinate but also contrast against all of his other body parts so that, no matter what pose I put him in, you could instantly tell what he was doing. It was a bit like Jurassic Park when that cartoon is like "Bingo... DINO DNA!"
It appears as though I drew these with my feet.
Now the real challenge, once the final design was in place, was to have the character emote. Doing really rough thumbnails to quickly get down ideas really helped. Not everything ended up in the final execution, but you want a glut of ideas that you can choose from. This helps take the pressure off and avoids awkward situations where you spend hours screaming at your computer "WELL NOW WHAT, COMPUTER?!"
Wow. That was a really long image. Sorry about that.
Once you get the ball rolling on a few poses, the rest of the series really begins to take shape. It's much quicker to do poses 20-30 than it is to do poses 1-5. Also, the more time you spend with a character, the more you get to know them... what makes "them" "them" so to speak. You begin to picture what they would and would not do and that really helps with creating more ideas for poses and situations.
Spy Hunter anyone?
If you scale this up, it's a guitar. Scale it down and it's a ukulele!
Sure it's only one seat, but it also has a bathroom!
I enjoy drawing "things". Props, vehicles, food etc. Sometimes if I'm stuck trying to come up with an emote for a character, I'll just give them something to hold or something to play with, and an emotion can come out of that. Putting things into a context helps me further the story along. From this series, the TV with the old NES-ish console was my favorite prop. I remember when games really looked like that. Such glorious memories! "Is that a car?" "Is what a car?" "That red rectangle. Is that a car?" "Of course it's a car, you moron."
I'm like Indiana Jones but without any of his looks, knowledge or whip/hat thing.
I'd like to end this post with a bit of personal stuff. Whenever you own your own business, or are freelance or whatever, you sometimes have to work from anywhere. During this particular job, I started work here in my studio in Charlotte, then packed up and headed out to San Francisco and then packed up and headed out to Long Island NY where I wrapped the project up. I think that was about 6000 miles or so.
These weren't ideal working conditions for this project, but everything stayed on schedule and was produced on time. The point being for any young designer/illustrator out there is that you can't let outside circumstances stop you from delivering a job that you've promised to deliver. Just like Indiana Jones. Remember, even if you fall into a pit of snakes and some old dude is like "YOU'D BETTER PICK THE RIGHT CUP", you have to deliver what you promised, when you promised to deliver it.
You can learn more about Facebook stickers here and be sure to download Mikey's series for free!
Wednesday, June 19, 2013
The Charlotte Hornets are coming back. I AM NERDING OUT HERE.
I grew up watching Charlotte Hornets basketball games. They were my TEAM! I loved them all. Zo. Muggsy. Grandmama. Rex. Glen. Dell. ETC ETC. The Hornets simply captured my imagination.
I, like many fans, were heartbroken when they left for New Orleans, and I've tried to make do with the Charlotte Bobcats... but it just wasn't the same. SO when Michael Jordan announced that he was going to rename the team back to the Charlotte Hornets, I think I could have flown to the moon and back! MY HORNETS ARE COMING HOME! BOOM! WHEW! I'm sweaty. Are you sweaty?
Anyway. I wanted to celebrate the return of my Hornets with a little postcard/promo piece. Of all the Charlotte Hornets, who would be more fun to draw than Larry Johnson and Muggsy Bogues?
Larry Johnson could take on the HULK any day.
For this piece, I worked directly within Illustrator. I started off with just shapes. After I had a composition that worked, I began filling in those shapes with color, adding detail as I went. Once I had enough detail, I worked on the background. I wanted this postcard to be bold and simple.
Everything looks better in Charlotte Hornets pinstripes.
I tried several color variations, looking for the right amount of contrast to help pop my characters off the page. I really liked the idea of using the pinstripes from the uniform (top left) but ultimately felt like it was too busy. A direction closer to the image in the lower right was where I landed.
I wish my name was Muggsy.
My early version of the postcard featured a Muggsy Bogues that didn't look very Muggsy Bogues-ish, so I reworked some elements to make him more like himself.
The final postcard, mailed out to clients and BFFs
The finished piece, featuring LJ and Muggsy, swarming into battle.
On a more personal note...
Who is that doughy-looking doof in the lower right? HE'S SO HANDSOME.
I have always believed that you support the team in your backyard. Win or lose, it's just what you do. For the past 10 years, my family and I have supported the Bobcats, because they are from Charlotte. We have never been thrilled with the Bobcats name or the branding, but, no matter what, we support Charlotte. The Hornets name belongs in Charlotte. It's part of our history. It's part of our soul. It's just who we are. Having the Hornets name back won't add any more wins or score more points, but my family and I don't care.
The team in our backyard finally has it's identity back, and we're excited to be a part of it. Go Hornets!
Monday, May 13, 2013
Back in late 2012, I had the pleasure of working with McGraw-Hill Education to help develop a series of iOS. Ultimately, the development team took the games in a different direction, meaning most (if not all) of my art was left on the editing floor. Sadface. However, I received the greenlight to share my work, so the post below walks you though some of my process behind the project.
The interface was supplied by the client. I supplied that realistic tiger.
The majority of my responsibilities were to design a series of sprites/characters for each game, as well as background scenes that would fit around an existing interface. The image above shows an example of a finished scene, with the character and controls in place. A scene, like the one our tiger friend is in, can take weeks (even months) of concepts and redesigns. Patience (and coffee) is key.
Workflow from Illustrator. How did people research before the internets?
Whenever I started with a new scene, I always worked on the easiest, or most comfortable portion first, then worked my way out of that. I also pull a lot of reference images, especially when drawing animals. The shot above shows an example of what my Illustrator screen looks like while constructing a scene. I'll usually have tons of reference photos and color swatches and whatever construction lines are needed. In this case, I had a template of what the final interface would look like (see the pink lines) which helped me design the scene around where the buttons would go.
A sample of some final animal designs.
Originally, I wanted the characters to have a lot of detail and roundness (as shown in the chickens above), but due to the volume of animals/props needed throughout the entire series of games, coupled with the production schedule, a simpler execution was needed, so the final designs took on more blocky shapes.
Some key frames for the animals' movements.
I am NO animator. I don't have any animation background and it's a service I don't offer, but sometimes I still have to give the real animators some sort of concept to go on. For each animal, I did a few key frames that gave my idea on how I thought each animal should move.
What's that Van Halen song?
The chicken and the mouse above show my ideas on how I thought they should jump. This is pretty much the extent of my animation ability. So… if you know of someone who's looking to make a major motion picture starring a jumping chicken and a jumping mouse, send them my way.
I'm faxing these designs to NASA as we speak.
That might be the worst-looking robot ever.
Designing animals can be time consuming, so it's nice when a project also has in-organic objects that need to be illustrated. Part of the assignment was to draw space ships, trees, cactuses, robots, musical instruments, and so on and on and on. The images above give an example of some of the objects I produced to exist within the games.
Several final scene designs. Leaving room for various interfaces was tough.
The last part of my responsibilities was to stage my animals/objects in a way that would match the style and also give room for the game buttons/controls. Most of the games needed space above and below, so scenes were designed accordingly (which explains why most of these have big spaces on the top and bottom). It's always a challenge to design a stage that has the same amount of personality as the characters, but also lets those characters stand out.
A couple of examples of scenes with final characters in place.
Designing games is always rewarding, but there's always a tremendous amount of editing, re-working and changing concepts to match the production methods. Even then, there's always the chance that final art won't get produced. But that's the biz, yo!
You can see more examples (and larger images) of my work on this project by visiting my portfolio site. Thanks for reading!
Friday, April 19, 2013
I'm excited to announce a new personal project: Beastly Badges!
Beastly Badges are the best pet monster money can buy! Beastly Badges don't require food, water, shelter or any attention whatsoever! They can fit in your pocket, decorate your book bag, take up room in your hoarder house... whatever you need them for!
Series 1 and 2 contain 10 Beastly Badges. They do not bite. Well, a few of them do.
Beastly Badges Series 1 and 2 each contain 5, 1.5" buttons that are individually named and numbered. Once each series is sold out, they will NOT be reprinted, so be sure to grab them while you can!
Early sketch of Muck Mouth. He's so handsome.
The size and shape of the Beastly Badges allow me to come up with lots of ideas. "Aren't you just drawing monster faces on circles?" OH, YOU. There are no plans to produce a certain number of these. I'll keep making them as long as people keep buying them. When people stop buying them, I'll collapse into a heap of depression!
"Urpp" is actually short for "Urpphaldudelphiuserton".
SERIES ONE: 01: Toofy 02: Grimey Slimey 03: Muck Mouth 04: Lord Barfington 05: Nervous Nerdly SERIES TWO: 06: Snort 07: Glurp the Indifferent 08: Urpp 09: Caveface 10: Picklenose
Each series comes individually packaged in a monster-safe pouch.
I'M BURIED UNDER THESE
I've had a lot of fun creating these, and I look forward to making many more. The folks at Pure Buttons did a great job of producing all of them, and the quality is top notch. I think you'll be pleased!
Head on over to my Big Cartel store and order Beastly Badges today!
Buy Beastly Badges Series 1 ($4.00 +$3.00 s&h)
Buy Beastly Badges Series 2 ($4.00 +$3.00 s&h)
Buy Beastly Badges Series 1 & 2 ($7.00 +$3.00 s&h)
Good luck and happy collecting!
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
I have now entered the lucrative world of t-shirt design. Yes. I'm finally able to share the best t-shirt I've ever made (since it's the first, it's the best), and for just $20, (the price of 20 $1 bills) you can own one. The "Monstercycle" is a very limited run, since it's my first shirt and it's only available in mens XL and L. Sorry ladies, childs, and Hulk Hogan. If this shirt sells well, many more will be on the way with many more fitting options and such.
Me, starting off in to space, pretending to laugh at something.
The shirt is American Apparel heather black super soft something or other and has been printed with water-based inks for that lived-in feel. My wife is like "ooh, that's soft" so, that's a ringing endorsement.
If you like monsters, motorcycles, shirts, sleeves, neck holes, fabric, gray or impulse buys, then this is the shirt for you.
Head on over to my internetz store and buy yourself a great new t-shirt to impress your friends and business associates!
Tuesday, March 5, 2013
Last week, I had the opportunity to talk with Diane Gibbs on the Design Recharge Show. It was the first time I've ever spoken live about illustration, so I had a lot of fun, and did my best not to ramble (although, once a rambler, always a rambler). She and I talked about topics such as my studio space, where I draw inspiration, business practices and lots of other things. I've included the video here so you can watch it at your leisure.
There were a few areas where I misspoke (it happens when idiots do live shows), and wanted to clear a few things up:
• I mention buying a mailing list from Constant Contact. I actually used Agency Access.
• I discussed the cost of my postcard promo as being between $3-5k to produce. This included printing, list buying and postage. This did not include design time. I believe (knowing what I know now) I could have produced this much cheaper, but wanted to be honest about what I spent.
• There's a part where Diane asks me who my favorite artists are (or who inspires me). I drew a blank, but wanted to pull out a section from my earlier Design Inspiration Blog interview:
Chris Sanders, Adam Koford, Alex Deligiannis, Peter DeSéve, Melanie Matthews, Invisible Creature, Laura Park, Chris Lee, Matt Kaufenberg, Scott Campbell, Scott Chantler, Eddie Pittman, Robot Johnny, Todd Bright, Dustin Harbin... I’m just going to keep naming names until my computer battery dies.... these are just a FEW folks I really dig. I admire people that can flat out draw. Jared Chapman is great. He makes me laugh. No one makes me laugh. His work is great too. I’m lucky enough to have a brother-in-arms, Matt Stevens who is also a brilliant designer/illustrator. I think everyone needs a close friend in the industry that you can commiserate with.
ANYWAY! I had a blast talking with Diane. She has produced an entire series of worthwhile interviews that are available online, so please check that out. Thanks to everyone who tuned it and for all the kind words and great feedback!
Friday, March 1, 2013
The fine folks at CASIS brought me on to work on some character designs for their new CASIS Academy website. I did NOT get to go aboard the space station, but that's cool. Next time, you guys. Anyway, I was tasked with designing a host character, along with a series of characters and assets for their animated, educational videos featured on the site.
Anyone else make robot noises when they draw robots? I can't help it.
The first order of business was to design a host robot character for their educational videos. Above shows some of the early drawings, with the finished design below. I then handed a plan view of the robot off to be 3D modeled into magic.
I should have drawn the guy character with elbows. Oops
These were the characters featured in the CASIS Academy videos. They were designed to be very quick to animate and re-illustrate. The space station waits for no one.
I could make a career drawing beat up clunkers.
These show a sample of some of the spot illustrations used in the videos. The entire series was a lot of fun to work on.
Lots of space stuff!
Check out CASIS Academy now!
Special thanks to Chris Trausch, Demetre Gionis, Jen Meier, and Bruce Nofsinger!
Today marks one year since I've become a full-time, self-employed, nacho-cheesed illustrator. Here's what I've learned:
• You need a workspace. Big or small, you need a stable, consistent place for you to hide and work in.
• If you want to draw storybooks, but your portfolio is full of doorbell packaging, you will continue to do doorbell packaging.
• Under promise and over deliver. Always.
• Get organized, or hire someone who will do the organizing for you. Uncle Sam is effing needy.
• Watch out for people who want to waste your time. Anyone who can't clearly (and briefly) explain their project is wasting your time.
• Find a buddy in a similar situation and commiserate. You'll want someone to share good and bad news with.
• There's always something to work on. If you have nothing to work on, you're doing it wrong.
• Continue to work on personal projects. Have big ones and little ones. Make it your passion, and you'll always have time for them.
• When building relationships, don't always make the conversation/topic about you seeking work. Take time to get to know people.
• Be yourself.
Thursday, January 24, 2013
I recently gave an interview with Jeff Andrews for his Design Inspiration site. I talk a lot about my schooling, favorite artists and Honey Boo Boo. There are a lot of other great illustrators and designers on that site, so it's worth your time to surf through and read about some REAL professionals. Peace out, you guys.
Check out Design Inspiration here, and read my interview over yonder!
Wednesday, January 23, 2013
48 PAGES OF THINGS AND SUCH. ON SALE NOW!
I draw a lot of silly things. Silly things that aren't really tied to any project or any one idea. If you're like me, after a while you end up with a stack of silly drawings that get stuffed into a drawer and never get seen again.
I have lots of silly drawings that just lay around collecting Cheetos dust.
I try and post images on Instagram and Twitter but other than that, these drawings don't exist anywhere else. SO, I decided to gather up some of the better drawings from the past year or so, and put them into a book.
Drawing monsters is fun. You can't screw up a monster drawing.
This book won't have any kind of a narrative or storytelling. I'm certainly interested in doing books like that, but never having produced a real book before I felt I needed to start with a much smaller production, just to get the ball rolling. Gotta crawl before you can kickbox a panda bear.
I draw myself a lot. It's an ego thing, but making fun of myself is my favorite thing to do.
I spent some time going through my archives (a pile of papers in the corner with a dirty sock mixed in) and selected drawings that I really liked, scanned them, and edited them together with other drawings that I felt worked well together.
I decided to work in black and white because that helped to add consistency to the entire book. Plus, some drawings were done on different colors of paper, and I wanted everything to appear on the same background. I did leave most of the drawings in their original state, that is to say, they are drawings and not finished art. There are smudges and poorly drawn areas that were erased and other imperfections... but it's a sketchbook, so it's cool. Right?
I like drawing in red and black. Red for thinking lines. Black for finishing lines.
Occasionally, I'm asked why I draw in black and red, and what kind of pencils I use. I am not some pencil connoisseur. I just draw with what I like to draw with. I draw with Faber-Castell Polychromos pencils. I also use standard bristol paper for most drawings. Basic stuff to be honest.
The reason I use red lines and black lines is that red lines, for me, mean exploration. Ever done a drawing that you know you made a mistake in, but hate to erase the line, because it's so final? Well, drawing in red lines helps me avoid that mental mistake. A red line is not final and therefore can be changed again and again. Once I'm done drawing in red, I go back with black and clean things up. The result is a really warm drawing that I find appealing. So, that's why I use red and black pencils.
Shot of some of the book dummies I made. Dummies makin' dummies, yo!
NOW, GOING BACK TO THE BOOK...
Sketchbookery Volume 1 is a collection of silly drawings, doodles and other nonsense that are found in my sketchbooks, scraps of paper, and what have you. Over 100 original pieces of original art that will make you question my professionalism. The book is 48 pages long, just long enough to enjoy a cup of coffee over. Trust me. I timed it.
Below are some examples of Sketchbookery pages:
The book measures 8.5 x 5.5 folded, and is jam-packed with as many drawings as I could fit. More drawings equals a better book, right? Sigh. ANYWAY...
Sketchbookery Volume 1 is now on sale. I hope you'll enjoy it and I appreciate you reading this post! I mean, seriously, aren't you impressed that I could talk up a lame sketchbook? Indeed!