Monday, December 27, 2010

Inception: The Big Under comic book cover contest

Over at DeviantArt, they've held a cool contest to design the cover for the digital comic prequel to the movie. While working on my entry, I saved a few images to put together a little work-in-progress presentation.

The sketch to get the composition down, using some movie stills blown up to ridiculous proportions and some cobbled together fake photos to get good heads and bodies together. Saito is the focus of the story so he's nice and big. And Cobb and Nash are the main players so they are featured over movie characters like Arthur, who is less prominent, and Eames, who isn't present at all. The biker was made with the Pen Tool so he'd be very bold and graphic.

Laying in a cool, textured background with a high-res spray paint brush

Saito and the mysterious woman with the gun mostly finished. I've also added the red rising sun with vector shapes. Used a layer mask and the high-red spray paint brush to give it a distressed, grungy feel as it faded away.

Thought I'd skip ahead to the other faces before finishing Saito. A very rough Cobb and a place holder silhouette of Nash. I decided to add some appropriate Japanese text in the background to strengthen the Japanese theme that this cover should convey and to fill a bit of a hole in the composition. The word is 'dreamer'.

At this point Cobb's face is pretty much done. And I go on to Nash's face. I figured it was much more important to allow enough time to nail the likenesses and then I'd get to their clothes at the end. The clothes will come together much quicker as they don't need to be as detailed and look exactly like the references. This is just a couple minutes of quick, sloppy brush work on Nash's face, how all the faces start out early on. And then details are refined as the brush size decreases and the value range is accentuated. The mysterious woman has been refined a bit.

Unfortunately, I have a habit of not keeping track of my progress very well and we have a big jump here to the finished cover. Nash is finished...well, everyone's finished. Tweaks to the levels to make everyone pop more compared to my flatter, less dynamic ranged original drawings. The mysterious woman has her dress fully rendered now. I've added color via a few overlaying layers. Changed the background a little, created a solid white corner at the bottom that seems to deteriorate and fade as we move diagonally to the northeast. And I fiddled with the text in the upper right a bit, I wanted it to be subtle but not non-existent. Noticeable, but not overpowering.

It was a lot of fun to make, I loved Inception so staying motivated was no problem. And the tight deadline forced me to work fast. And this was the first full illustration I've tried to create in Photoshop as opposed to Painter, so I got to try out some nifty brushes and learn a lot about painting in Adobe's environment. I really liked it and look forward to diving into another painting soon.

To close, here are a few detail shots.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sketchbook - Sometime..I dunno, September-ish

Watched all of "Mad Men" in the last six weeks or so. Incredible show. I was obsessed, so I figured I'd sketch a few characters. Mostly trying to train my eyes and hand to work well together, no grids, minimal training wheels, just trying best as I can to capture the angles and proportions and likenesses freehand. Mostly happy, I think they're recognizable.

On the right is Sookie Stackhouse from "True Blood". Above her, a thumbnail of a painting I may attempt sometime.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Sketchbook - let's say....August 2010

I said I was gonna start a sketchbook, and I have...just haven't been doing a good job of sketching everyday yet.

Here's some skull angles, trying to get some figure drawing basics hammered down, working from the inside out. And Iron Man and my watch since I had my watch and an Iron Man action figure around.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Over 1,000 visits!

In the last couple days, I just surpassed 1,000 visits to this little ol' backwater blog. Not too bad for just having a couple of links out there for people to find. Many thanks to those who linked my blog on their own or mentioned "The Office Strikes Back" on Twitter! I appreciate it.

Now I feel more obligated to actually have more worthwhile posts on here if people are actually gonna be visiting.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

"You tried your best and you failed miserably. The lesson is, never try."

Wise words, Homer.

No sales at Comic-Con. Ahh well, I'm sure at least two, maybe three, people walked by and were mildly amused by the poster.

I've got some ideas on future posters to paint, but I think I'll take a break after all the toiling away on The Office and scrambling to get it ready. I'm going to start keeping a sketchbook regularly, something I should've been doing like...ten years ago. Maybe I'll post up some of my pages occasionally if I should feel so bold.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Beautiful Widgets Weather Pack - Dharma Buttons

As seen a couple of posts ago in my Dharma clock skin, the companion Dharma weather skin is now available for Beautiful Widgets. Since I had the Dharma clock, I felt I needed a LOST weather skin to better pair with it. Something that emulated the style of the Dharma Initiative graphics and logos.

Trying to deliver all the icons for the necessary weather situations was a bit of a challenge when adhering to the two-tone Dharma Initiative style, but I'm pretty satisfied with how they turned out. Let me know if you have any other better ideas for graphics! I love hearing feedback and suggestions.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Office Strikes Back - 7-12-10

Like a print? You can buy one here!

The final(?) post on The Office poster.

After waiting a couple weeks of not hearing anything and thinking I hadn't made the submission deadline or I'd been rejected, I received a confirmation e-mail and all my paperwork yesterday! I'm officially in the Comic-Con art show. Well, officially, technically an authorized and approved potential participant. I still have to receive the print and get it to San Diego and get it on the wall.

Since I hadn't heard anything, I'd been kinda lackadaisical about finishing the poster, just taking my time since I no longer had a deadline. So when I received that e-mail I had to scramble and stay up late to put the last of the essential details in there so I could have the print by the end of the week. Luckily, I'd been lackadaisical but not to a ridiculously irresponsible point and I didn't have that much left.

Whoever said, "Art is never finished, only released"...yeah, no truer words, and all that. I could spend forever tweaking elements and perfecting the color layer and going over every character with a fine toothed virtual comb to get more details and make everyone cohesive...but that surprise deadline forced me to buckle down and put one more long night into it, and I think with this last push I crossed a satisfactory enough finish line. I'm pleased with it, but I'm also really sick of it and am looking forward to working on something, ANYTHING, else.

Let's see, since the last post...I redid Michael's arms as the previous ones I had drawn from my imagination and they'd been bugging me basically from the moment I drew them, so I found a reference image and now he has some much better ones. The sky and clouds are new. Pam's hair had a ton of detail added. Some color adjustments here and there, as well as some brightness and contrast to help everyone 'fit together'.

So if you happen to be going to Comic-Con next week, stop by the art show and check it out. And bid on it. Please.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Dharma Initiative skin for Android's Beautiful Widget clock

Quick break from the Office stuff.

For you Android owners out there, in the Android Market there is a great set of widgets called Beautiful Widgets. The centerpiece of this set is a nice, large clock and weather display that's fully and easily customizable and skinnable with a little bit of work, and there are already dozens of clock and weather skins available to download and check out. I highly recommend downloading it, especially since I've made my first clock skin and want everyone to check it out!

Since, as of yet, my dream of having an alarm clock based on the countdown timer seen in the Swan hatch throughout season 2 of "LOST" has yet to be fulfilled, I decided to make a simple skin that I can enjoy on my Droid in the meantime.

Yes, since "LOST" naturally invites scrutiny and nitpicking, the right side of the clock should have black numbers on white tiles, but it wasn't possible given the nature of skinning the existing widget. But I still get a kick out of it, even with this huge inaccuracy.

Here's a handy QR code to quickly get you to Beautiful Widgets in the market. And you can find mine and all other skins by clicking the weather icon, hitting your 'Menu' button and hitting the 'Skins' button that pops up. There's a ton of cool clocks in there.

And if you've already downloaded the skin, please let me know if there are any problems with how the images are laid out on your device. Like I mentioned, I have a Droid, so a couple of the graphics I had to create are for other phones and so I can not test and verify that they came out perfectly.

You can see the weather skin I'm working on as well in the image above, sort of Dharma inspired to go with this clock. It and another version of Dharma-based weather icons will be online soon.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

It's the big one...the 95% finished poster. This is what I sent away with my Comic-Con art show application last week. There's still a couple more passes and lot of little tweaks to be made, but the June 30th deadline was bearing down on me and I had to just get it to a point of completion I was satisfied enough with. I wish I'd been better about snapping some progress shots along the way with Jim and Pam and the building...but oh well, I was concerned with finishing as quickly as possible.

I'm fairly happy with how it's turned out and looking forward to getting the last polishes in there and seeing it printed. This is the most ambitious personal project I've tackled, I had some more involved, labor intensive stuff in school, but this is the biggest project I've attempted since graduating. It felt good to finally see this through to the end.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Office Strikes Back -WIP 6-10-10

Another quick post to catch up on the all the progress shots I've saved thus far.

The creepy, disembodied head of Dwight!

Everything's really coming together now and I can just make out the finish line in the distance. It's exciting being this close to the end. Get Jim and Pam on here, finish the Dunder-Mifflin building, add some cool movie poster-ish 'light ray' effects and get a solid, cohesive layer of color put together and that'll be that!

The Office Strikes Back -WIP 6-8-10

It's been a while.

Didn't take long for me to fail in my goal of a weekly update. Real, paying work and Xbox distracted me for a couple weeks. I've done a lot in the last couple weeks though and am in the home stretch. At this point, I've finished Stanley, Angela, and Ryan. I also drew a new body for Kelly as I wasn't liking both the ladies having the same sort of pose and the crossed arms were much more appropriate with Angela's judgmental expression and nature.

I also went back to an old idea of having the Dunder-Mifflin building in the center of the group and dropping the title graphic. This started off as an Empire Strikes Back spoof and while Jim, Pam and Dwight are still recognizable as references to that poster...overall, I felt it didn't really make sense anymore to actually label it as "The Office Strikes Back", it's become its own beast now.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Office Strikes Back -WIP 5-5-10

Just a quick post this week. I think I've finished updating Kevin and Andy to better gel with the rest of the cast. The main problems were the lack of detail/rough look and they were drawn far too brightly. Tightened up all their features and fixed the brightness and contrast and now they fit in.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Office Strikes Back -WIP 4-28-10

This week, instead of just another progress shot of the whole poster, I thought I'd take snapshots of my progress as I completed Creed. It's always interesting for me to look back and see hoe things evolve and take shape, so I thought it might be interesting for others to see as well.

My favorite part of the process is once a character is pretty much done and it just needs some fiddling and tweaks here and there to perfect the likeness or make the values pop. I enjoy meticulously combing over the drawing and making brush strokes that are mostly imperceptible. My least favorite part, by far, is starting a new person's portrait. Every time, even though I've finished five of them now, there's a moment of terror where I'm sure I won't be able to do it again. It's intimidating starting again from scratch with a blank shape that needs to be molded into a realistic depiction. I'm trying to remedy this by forcing myself to work faster and more boldly as to not allow too much doubt to creep in. Better to just slap some paint down in broad strokes and keep up the pace then being nervous and allowing myself to procrastinate.

It's worked pretty well thus far, Creed came together rather quickly. I may make another pass over him tomorrow with fresh eyes, but I'm fairly content with how he looks now.

So the first frame is the quick, rough pass just to get an idea of placement of features and general idea of the broad values. The next is where details start to take shape. It's important to get the facial features honed in accurately early on or it'll be a pain to fix later, and even though I tried to consider this, I still had some issues and things needed to be slid around or squished and stretched a bit, as you can see in the jump to the third and to the fourth frame. At the third frame, this is the point where I start to relax and am confident things will turn out okay. And the last frames are mostly just sweetening, by sharpening details and increasing contrast in places and what not. I didn't capture any progress on the suit, unfortunately, as I did it rather quickly one evening and didn't think to pause and snap a pic.

So one more down. Even if this might not be interesting to most people, I think I'll be grateful that I have this graphic, regarding my fear of starting new people, to easily remind me how rudimentary these all once began and what they can become.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Office Strikes Back -WIP 4-20-10

Bit of a gap between progress pictures, as I hadn't really conceived of this blog until earlier this month. My intentions now, though, are to post at least weekly updates on my current projects. Michael's done, Kelly's done, Toby was just finished last night. Also, for the first time I saved a picture with the color layers visible. I paint in greyscale and add the color afterwards in separate layers, I don't know if that technique is frowned upon and seen as a crutch, but I'm still getting used to painting directly with colors and I'm more comfortable for the time being with this method. The colors aren't final, there's a lot about them I don't like, but I like being able to check the colors as I work to make sure the values I've laid down are working.

Here's another shot of the sketch layer hidden and the black background in place. You can see the Creed placeholder in between Toby and Kevin, I'm starting on him tonight.

Unfortunately, while it was a good thing, being away from the drawing for so long also meant I didn't fall back into the exact same groove, style wise. And now Kevin and Andy look a bit different than everyone else and they'll need another pass to tighten up their looks to match my currently desired level of detail.

Since coming back to "The Office Strikes Back" last month, I thought about starting up this blog and I also decided that my goal would be to finish this poster up in time for the art show and auction at the San Diego Comic-Con in July. I'm still excited and self-motivated to work on the poster, but having a deadline looming will certainly help keep my nose to the grindstone.

The Office Strikes Back -WIP 4-03-10

Over the course of the next week, I scoured for some more perfect screengrabs. At first, I was afraid adding too many characters would over-complicate and muddy up the composition, but I threw that idea out the window and decided to include as many people as possible. After the addition of each new character, the more interesting the picture got, and the more excited I got. It was starting to feel like a real poster.

Sorry Oscar, Phyllis, and Meredith. Also sorry Jan and Darryl. And Erin. There were some tough cuts made, but this group seemed like the quintessential crew from the best era of the show. At this point, I think Michael was 90% done and I was just starting on Kelly.

The Office Strikes Back -WIP 3-28-10

All righty, the first featured painting! I started this over a year ago and finally decided to go back and finish it. One night in November of '08, I think I might've seen the Empire Strikes Back poster in some shape or form and thought replacing Han and Leia with Jim and Pam from The Office and having Dwight looming in the background in place of Darth Vader seemed like a funny idea. So I started gathering screencaps I liked and sketching out the composition. I worked on it for about a week, finished Andy and Kevin and started Michael and then, as I do with a lot of my projects, thought that I was an idiot for ever thinking this was funny and it'd probably be best to have my hands chopped off to spare the small group of people who might see this or any other moronic scribblings the awkward feelings of embarrassment and pity. I have to work fast or this is what typically happens to projects, so larger, more complex drawings like this are always scary.

But on March 28, 2010, after not touching the file for nearly a year and a half, I got a notion to do some more work in Corel Painter and thought it'd be good to go back and finish this one up. This was the progress and layout as of that date.

It's often a very good thing to step back from your work for sometime, looking at it again with fresh eyes and different mindset the flaws will jump out. Upon loading up the image, all I could think of was how boring it seemed. The Office has a great ensemble and all I put on there was five measly characters? That wouldn't do. I was enthusiastic to rejigger the composition and was excited about the project as a whole again. It's good to step away and come back, it was funny again.

Hello, this is my blog

This blog will be part portfolio, part behind the scenes look at the ring-a-ding life of a freelance graphic designer and wannabe illustrator, and part virtual taskmaster to keep me motivated and working. I may get into the full intentions of starting up a blog later, when it might be worthwhile and reach more eyeballs, but for now I just want to get it up and running and get some pictures in it.