Thursday, September 19, 2013
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!