Thursday, September 19, 2013

Bingo... DINO DNA!


A couple of weeks back, Facebook asked me to create a new set of emoticon stickers for their Facebook Messenger app. 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!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Building Blocks


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.

building_blocks_04 building_blocks_03

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.

building_blocks_07 building_blocks_08 building_blocks_09

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

Beastly Badges Series 1 & 2


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'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!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Casis Academy


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.

casis_03 copy

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!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Help Ink Poster


Back in October of 2012, Drew Carson over at Help Ink asked if I'd like to participate in creating a poster for the Help Ink store. Several talented and notable artists have already participated, and so I felt it was a good opportunity to be counted among them (like inviting the weird, nerdy kid to the cool kid lunch table). Drew said I was able to create anything I wanted to, so I decided to draw monsters.


I love big creepy vehicles like these. The Ford "Murder Wagon".

This past summer, I helped move my sister and brother-in-law to Rochester, NY. When we got to their new neighborhood, I spotted this beauty. It's a 1974 Ford Econoline E-300 Camper Special. I'm sure it's filled with cats. I thought it would be great for use in an illustration, so I took a picture of it. Filed it away in my basement of dreams.


Red lines are my "thinking" lines. Black lines are my "finished" lines.

The thumbnail in the upper-left shows the original sketch that I put together to get the idea down. I wanted a camper full of monsters, as if they were going on vacation or something. After the initial comp, I did more monster studies to help finalize the design for each creature. The final drawing on the right shows the finished concept.

Once I was pleased with the pencil drawing, I wanted to "ink" it in Illustrator. This was a pretty large illustration (11 x 17-ish) so instead of scanning in the art piece by piece, I was lazy and just used my iPhone. It's actually high-enough resolution to where it works, especially if you're just tracing something. I've also used my iSight camera in the past, when I was SUPER lazy... and made it work.


Color can be really tricky to get right. I always feel like an idiot when selecting colors.

While I redrew the art in vector, I also took time to explore a range of color studies. I originally wanted something super-colorful (that's a technical term) but wanted to stay true to the 1970s and landed on orange, brown and blue. Not a sophisticated palette by any means, but then again, it's a camper full of monsters. Eat it Pacosso DaVinchy.




That gray line around the bottom two images is my Illustrator window. Oops.
These show some details of the finished illustration, completed using Illustrator. I worked to make my lines a bit inconsistent, so the final drawing wouldn't be so clean, so to speak.



I think traveling is important for anyone, even if it's just a day trip somewhere. Things and stuff are cool for sure, but for me, traveling and experiencing things with my family is the ultimate investment. So, for my Help Ink poster, I chose the theme of "See the World" and I recommend you do the same!

You can buy your own copy of my "See the World" poster at Help Ink NOW. A portion of each sale goes to a charity of your choosing, so it's a really neat idea. Junk up your walls with my art and do something good for someone at the same time! This is the future, folks!

Get your "See the World" poster now!