Thursday, July 26, 2012

Bosco & Bruno

Found this in my archive backup drive, circa 2003. This is a good example to always jot your ideas down on paper, even if you don't use that idea for years.

These were two character design sketches of a bear (Bruno) and squirrel (Bosco) I intended to use to make an online web animation. I say "intended" because it would take months of work for me to make an 8-minute quality cartoon by myself. I never found that time. It's still one of my favorite concepts, which is a small tale about a Bronx Zoo bear who thinks he's a squirrel living in NYC's Central Park and his manipulative squirrel friend who uses the bear to his advantage. (I always imagined the squirrel's voice being played by Joe Pesci.)

But instead of simply letting this concept float away, I created this character set to hopefully one day go back and do something with it. I still have the entire cartoon story in my head. (I also have a written first draft of the animation, just in case my memory starts slippin'.)

Sadly, I didn't always take the time to draw or write down the inspirations when I was younger. So many ideas just tend to float away, never to return. Not saying they are all great ideas, but you never know how a small idea many eventually turn into a more significant concept. So, Tip o' the Day for you future artisans out there, when you do get bouts of inspiration, crazy dreams or an "idea-burp" in yer head . . . Write/draw them down.
You won't regret doing so . . .

Here's a link to a small animation loop I created using the squirrel character Bosco: LINK

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Timmons and the Lumpy Bumpy Monster

Doing some backups, I stumbled across a group of pages from around 1997 which were on one of my old archive drives.

NOTE: Several years prior to this story, I tried to do another children's book.
After my uncle passed away from his bout with Leukemia, he became the inspiration to my first children's book idea, Bobby's Biggest Bubble. I poured all my time into making that story get published back in 1994. But after years of receiving rejection notices, I told myself that I would one day go back and do that book again. (But that's another story.)

Jumping forward to 1997: At the time, I kept on creating more stories in my head. The story ideas came fast, but developing the characters that would fit into those tales took a long time.

Page three of Timmons and the Lumpy Bumpy Monster

Above is one of the first pages my story about a boy named Timmons, his pet hamster Hairy and the magical monster that was in his bedroom closet. I worked on this for years as a side project in my spare time. I also wanted to generate a series of stories to go with these characters, so I wrote ten stories; creating fuller and deeper personalities and background history.
Original pencil sketch
Digitally Inked and Color Testing

For years I kept working on these characters, mostly on my train rides to and from work in NYC, drawing hundreds of sketches, fleshing the major characters out until it they had the right look I wanted. Once I knew these were the characters for my story - I started sketching pages for the first book. It was a slow process, but I felt the changing and development of the characters and story were improving. Taking time developing these characters over the year seemed to be a good idea . . .

That was until Pixar came out with Monsters Inc. in 2001, my concept of a monster that used transportation doorways was now part of a major successful film. If I did my book and showed it to the publishers in 2001, they would say I was copying the Pixar's film. Even though my monster and stories were totally different, too much of the story was parallel with Monsters Inc. This truly deflated my motivation to go forward . . . because this wasn't the first time I had similar concepts prior to Pixar releases. (see Home of the Brave  for another example and I will tell of my 3rd Pixar conflict in a near future posting.)
Fast forwarding to today, I've my first kid's book on the way this year. Special thanks to all the great people who helped with the KickStarter Project.

It feels like my stories will finally have a chance to be made. Enough years have now passed that I don't think my story would be directly tied to the Monsters Inc. concept anymore.  The chance for Timmons and the Lumpy Bumpy Monster to see print seems better and better . . . 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Design Process for Company Logo (Part3)

6. Fine tuning 

The client had liked the direction the logo was heading and decided the highlighted hydrant with the dog hugging was the best, but she didn't want the dog hugging the hydrant. Instead, she wanted the dog facing forward -- so two more versions were created.

Her choice was to go with the left version with the sitting dog, but she also liked the blue spot background of the right design. She also liked the more rigid typeface the word "BIG CITY" was using in the 2nd image. Her last request was to try and give the dog a little more character.  

7. Print-out Variants 

The follow-up was the sheet below, showing the key design in 3 different printing formats for her to print in many mediums. Also included is an image showing several more design elements like adding spots to the dog, a blue cityscape to the background and changing the typeface of the words "BIG CITY".

To make sure that this was the image the client wanted, I created one more sheet of variations. The goal here was to throw many different colors, size alterations and detail changes to make sure that the client was going to stay with her final choice.

8. Approval 

The client was happy with the new element changes -- all but the spot around the dog's eye (which did seem a bit too much). Below is the logo that was given approval.

Unfortunately, like many websites after 9-11, the site never took off that year. I know from my current job that the pet business has been starting to grow again, particularly in the clothing for smaller dogs. I think this website's concept could do very well today - even in a bad economy.

I hope you enjoyed this step-by-step process.
My advice to new designers: be patient with your client and listen to what they say. If you don't agree with the client, try to explain your concept with logic - but always allow the customer to have the last word. Lastly, when designing logos, make sure you simplify as much as possible. The most famous logos are usually the most simplistic; so don't over color, over-shadow or use multiple colors gradients when trying to make a strong logo.

Keep it simple and clean.

Design Process for Company Logo (Part2)

continued . . .

4. Revision (Typeface Logo)

I could sense the client was starting to have doubts about the direction of the design.
So trying to keep the design process moving, I put aside the graphics and focused on typefaces for the logo. Allowing her to see her company name in various typefaces could inspire a better direction. The focus here was to keep "small dog" in lower case and "BIG CITY" in upper case lettering. She really liked that concept for the typeface.

5. Revision (Graphics)

The next few days talking with her, I tried to convince her that the hydrant concept, (my personal favorite) was the stronger design in my opinion. At first she was negative of having a fire hydrant, something dogs urinate on, be the focal point to her company logo.
I tried to point out that a fire hydrant is one of the most popular icons (next to a bone) that you could have for representing dogs. But to me, not only does a red fire hydrant represent dogs - but also cities and urban communities. She liked that angle . . . so I began creating variations to the hydrant/dog theme.

After sending her the Hydrant theme samples, her response was now excited; She now felt like the direction was exactly what she wanted.

More to follow . . . 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Design Process for Company Logo (Part1)

The next few posts will be dedicated to showing a sample of my design process for making a company logo.

According to my records, this work was done in 2001, a little over a month after 9-11. The contract was to create a new logo/mascot for a new website. The site's goal was to sell pet items for tiny dogs that lived in larger cities like New York City. The entire process took 1 month to complete. This is not the full record of the work, but I'll try to focus on the main points and show the development as the project moved along.

1: Character Development 

I asked the client what type of dog she wanted to represent her company. She wanted it to be instantly recognizable as a dog - so this eliminated any exotic featured small dogs like a chihuahua whose features may not be immediately seen as a cartoon dog. It was agreed that a beagle Snoopy-like dog would work best.
I sent her several sketches of cartoon dogs, from various levels of comically exaggerated features -- to a very toned down character.

Her response was that she wanted fewer details to the dog. The character should be very minimal in design - yet unique enough not to be confused with any other dog character.

2: Concept Sketches 

I then sent a page of rough concept sketches showing the simplified dog character doing various things related to cities. She liked the idea of seeing a city outside the window. She favored the version with the side view of the dog - wanting to see his face.

3: Color Comps 

The following images were tightening up and colored including a couple of font/logos.

She felt the dog looked too rigid and angular. She was also starting to feel that maybe this wasn't the look she wanted. I sent her these follow-up colored comps making small adjustments and softening the dog a bit.

More of the design process to follow tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Kid's Book Process

Below is an example of my process for doing the pages for my Children's Book, Bobby's Biggest Bubble. I'm finding this method to be much more time consuming than expected -- mostly because the files are getting so huge, which slows down the computer's response.

I've been placing every character and it's coloring on separate layers; this was the plan so that I'd have files that would be easy to adjust for an animated eBook version of the story. But when setting the artwork for 11.25" by 8.75" at 300dpi - every time I create a layer, the more memory is consumed. The more memory consumed, the slower the response and adjustments become -- until I'm waiting 5-10 seconds to backup and make a correction. It may not sound like much, but when something pauses the flow of creativity . . . it becomes a tedious and aggravating process.

Shown above are stages #2-4
Sketching is stage #1 and Shading/Highlighting is stage #5

So now, I've been making adjustments and eliminating layers.I'm forfeiting the convenience of layers for animating the book -- but I need to get the book done first and hopefully keep my sanity for a bit longer . . . 

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Daily Quick Sketch: Lil' Fish

Lil' Fish

Below is a little sketch I did while testing Illustrator as a inking program. I generally use ArtRage Pro for my black pen lines. I find the control and flexible of the line weight to be far better than any other program I use. But ArtRage is a bitmap program and I wanted to see how a vector program would handle the line work.
So I'm testing it in Illustrator CS6.

The Pros: Drawing in vector form allows more control of adjusting line thickness. The instant color fill of areas makes coloring way more cleaner, easier and faster.

The Cons: the touch response of the pen on the stylus isn't as smooth as I would like, and I find the interface of Illustrator still lacks the ease of selecting specific parts of an image.

Daily Quick Sketch: Shark Dance

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Side-by-side Corrections

Below are pencil sketches for the Raphael image I made recently.
I wanted to post these two sketches side-by-side to show how I struggled with his left leg. The pose seemed to work in my head - but when placed on paper, the angle of his leg and foot just didn't work at all. 

Pencil sketches of Raphael showing changes

Maybe I needed to enlarge the foot to give it a better perspective + depth -- or -- drop the leg lower away from the body. After reworking that foot several times, I decided that angle weakened the overall composition; so the whole left leg was changed and balanced out with the right leg.

Surprisingly, doing this made me see how far off I drew the center of his belt's knot. The belt was also corrected. Overall, the pose is not as dynamic as I wanted it to be, but at least now the leg is not a disturbing distortion.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Home of the Brave: Comic Strip

Long ago, in a age without stylus tablets or Photoshop, I had a comic strip which was printed monthly in a fanzine. I belonged to a online service called Q-link, which I was able to dial-up on my Commodore 128 for $.06/minute. (That's right, I had a 128k computer and spent about $60-$75 a month for an extremely slow 300 baud service. If any of this is not making sense to you - look it up on Google!!)

A strip from The Home of the Brave circa 1985

On Q-Link, I joined a forum of comic book people. The forum had collectively made their own comic book stories and images, which were gathered by the forum leader. He would then make photo copies, staple the pages together and mail them out to all members. This was the only way to share our works with each other ( and far more cheaper then downloading our works for $.06/minute.)

My contribution was doing 5 comic strips a month, based on my dysfunctional superhero family called, "The Home of the Brave". The star was Ollie, a teen who wins multi-millions in a lottery (by mistake) and decides to become a superhero. He is trained by his "Gramps", who lives in their attic and is thought to be insane ( but the truth is, he was the WW2 super-spy he claims to be.) The rest of the cast is rounded out: a sweet oblivious mother, a doubting curmudgeonly father, an insane candy store lady, a master disguise sidekick dog name Roger and reluctant frightened sidekick cat named Mew.

Very rare colored version of my comic strip (This one was my favorite of the bunch)

The fanzine lasted over 2 years (and later several pages of the strip were reprinted and revamped for a local paper called The Spa Times.) I tried to submit my work to various newspaper syndicates, all which said my work was good but the topic was too specific for the market . . . that people in general wouldn't have an interest in a superhero family. (Well over a decade later, Pixar's The Incredibles would prove those syndicate people to be very wrong.)

A sample of the 5-strip monthly format which lasted over 2 years in Comix Fanzine
These were the very first 5 strips of the series
Oh, and for those who don't know who Johnny Carson was . . .

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Raphael of the TMNT

Several weeks ago, I did a Donatello image which seemed to get the most attention/traffic over everything else I have drawn during my digital painting exercises.
So, I did another turtle . . . this time it's Raphael.

Eventually, I will do the other two TMNTs and then compile all four images into one.

The original pencil sketch

Wednesday, July 4, 2012


One of my oldest characters done in digital pastels.
I really like the texture and look of pastels for a kid's book. I know a story I have written that deals with food characters that I will do next year . . . I believe this is the style I will use for that story.

Monday, July 2, 2012

5-minute Sketch

Quick 5 minute warm-up sketch of a kitten.
Playing around with the nature brushes for the background.
The entire image was done on the Wacom Cintiq stylus.