I’ve struggled with the idea of using dialogue in ‘steps’ for awhile. I’ve used it a couple of times in one panel strips like this one and this one, but it has never felt right for the four panel strip.
So using it the other day was a personal milestone. I hope that it opens up more storytelling opportunities, and it still may, but the strip feels more powerful to me without the dialogue.
And with the added element of the dialogue, it became more difficult to juggle all of the other elements of the strip, especially color.
I published and replaced three versions of the airport strip before finally settling on the final.
Here’s a little of my thoughts behind each version.
The first problem was version one of the strip just felt too crowded. The dad, especially, is too tall, giving the strip a rigidity that feels wrong.
So I went through and reduced the size of all the figures and backgrounds in the panels, giving a little more white space around everything.
It also felt like the big blob of blue on the plane in the final panel diminished the impact of little guy’s ‘I DON’T WANT TO GET ON AN AIRPLANE!’ by being too visually distracting.
Now there’s a little more white space around all the figures, which makes me feel better.
I also decided to remove the color from the chair that the Woman Reading sits on in Panel 3 to better emphasize her.
But even after removing the blue of the airplane in the final panel it still feels too crowded. Now what?
I removed the lines in the background suggesting the doorway to the jetway out to the plane.
I also removed the color from the podium that the ticket handler stands behind, giving more emphasis to her, the dad, and the son.
The final change I made was to panel 1.
Though I really liked the blue and green on the backpack and shoes of Random Traveler #1, I decided to eliminate those colors when I couldn’t find another use for them in any of the remaining panels.
The last minor change was to the Reading Woman’s sweater to brown since that purple wasn’t being used elsewhere either.
(I remember my high school art teacher telling us that if you use a color, always use it twice so that it looks like we did it on purpose.)
I made up a fan shirt in time for the new Star Trek movie that came out a month ago.
I ended up canning this image; or the slogan, anyway. It just felt too insider-ish. First you had to get the reference to Shepard Fairey’s Obama Hope Poster. But even if you got that reference, unless you were a hard core trekkie, you were left scratching your head at the IDIC slogan.
So, instead I went to print with this image, instead.
I wanted to do a Kirk shirt as well, but I didn’t have the right one-word slogan. Yet.
Here’s a look at a sketch done in preparation for my piece for an upcoming art show. Be warned: “Thar’ be crazies on that link!”
The theme I’m participating in is Peanut People; right now the name of my piece is Peanut Gallery. I’m going to draw gobs of characters from fact and fiction.
Here’s a color version of Peanut Spidey.
As always, you can click on the image for a closer look.
The inks are too heavy; too lifeless; no thicks and thins; no line variety in general. (Inks were done in Macromedia Freehand, by the way. I used the variable stroke pen tool. If I had it to do again, I’d use the Bezier pen tool. More control.)
I’m fairly happy with the color job. Also done in Freehand.
Coupla weeks ago. The comic book store; after a few pints. It’s the last place you’d expect an epiphany.
Buddy Don is scoping out the Star Wars action figures; I’m whining about work.
Don picks up an action figure based on the Ralph McQuarrie concept art. The toys themselves look pretty chintsy, but most toys do. The packages, however; loaded with McQuarrie’s artwork, look terrific.
“The trouble with working at a tshirt shop,” I say, “all I ever get to design is tshirts. I don’t get to learn anything else. I’d like to try some package design.”
Don looks at me like I’m an idiot.
“Then design an action figure tshirt,” he says.
Epiphany: I am an idiot.
It’s up to me to learn what I want to learn.
Because I’m an idiot, a week goes by before I realize I need to scrap my idea for the upcoming art show and instead design a package for my Hulk Herocap, (Herocap origin for another day) and enter that in the show.
I start to take a closer look at the construction of boxes. I make a trip to Wal-Mart and pick up a Spider-Man Mighty Muggs. (The colors on the Mighty Muggs boxes are appealing; if a little flat. I love the top panel, with the close up of Spidey’s Eyes, but overall, the boxes are a little boring. Why have a static image of the exact same thing that’s in the box? The box design should be more than appealing; it should be exciting. But the packages do feel very solid, not at all flimsy, which I like.)
I do a little package design research online: to try and learn techniques for cutting the boxes so i get a nice smooth line; if I have to worry about the ink bleeding, where I can get a plastic mold insert to secure my Herocap in the middle of the box. I find a couple of interesting sites: The Dieline and Package Design Magazine, but I find little on the nuts and bolts of making your own boxes.
I am on my own.
I start drawing up templates for the box on graph paper.
You saw some of the artwork for the Hulk box last week.
I learn a lot from the box of a Dashboard Monk that Don’s brother Les gave me.
I learn even more from finally putting together a mock up of my own box.
Here’s the artwork. If you take a closer look ( by clicking on it), you can see that I don’t have flaps on the side panels, and you can see that I ran out of room on my graph paper; so I didn’t have a back panel, which was going to be fine, because I would cut it out when I cut out the cardboard backer.
Only, when I cut out the panel, I cut it out an inch shorter than it needs to be; so I end up with a, what, parallelogram? With the front panel one inch wider than the back panel.
After I put it all together, I color in Spidey’s mask with a magic marker so that it’s brighter. The cross shape is the graph paper glued onto a cardboard backer. What you can’t see is the giant glue glob resulting from my clumsiness. What you can see is that the box is just too big for the Hulk Herocap prototype. Don’t worry, I will be making up a Spidey Herocap.
The cardboard interior felt dark, so I added a sheet of paper to brighten things up:
You can see here where I had to trim the top of the box to run (semi) flush with the side panels.
I kind of like the box shape. I think I’m going to use it; just flip it around so that the small panel is in front…Failure is the perfect teacher and I learn a lot.
Design a smaller box. Set up a cutting and gluing station separate from your drawing table. Be sure of measurements.
Ooh, all of you lucky dogs out there are getting a sneak peek!
I’ve been working on (well, not so much working on as, mostly thinking about) a new big project for the art show coming up June 7th.
Here’s a first glimpse at HERO CAPS…the future of uncollectable collectibles.
Don’t tell anyone, but this is a glimpse at the artwork for the limited edition ultra-rare Hulk Box. Just one of a kind. It won’t be like any other Hero Caps box!
If you look close in the upper right hand corner of the picture you can see I’ve started working on the real Hero Caps boxes. The Hulk Box was just a crazy idea….ooh, inside, I was going to have a puny Bruce Banner Cap, but it would be even cooler to have a Hulk Brain! Wonder where I could get one…
After taking a look at this artwork, I know that this is just a rough draft. The Hulk just doesn’t look ANGRY enough to me…he looks more confused, or astonished…
You can click on the picture for a closer look, you know, if you’d like.
Oh, and if you’re wondering why it is you’ve never heard of a Hero Cap, it’s because I invented it! My buddy Ryan came up with the name, and my pal Donnie (of penguin fame) helped shape the first Hero Cap with a precision-dependent heating system.
Boy, I can’t wait till I’m all done creating them. They’re the perfect collectible for keeping in the box!
I had every intention of going to bed early tonight, but I don’t want to miss posting, particularly if I don’t have a good excuse, so I’ve been busy constructing today’s post about the process of putting together a tshirt design for one of my best friends. His birthday is coming up.
Process fascinates me; I love to know how it is that people work; so here is how I work. Sometimes. Other times I work quite differently.
My friend Binh mentioned a line he had heard recently; one of those bits of wisdom that gets tossed around, and he said he’d like a tshirt made out of it. I jotted it down on a handy napkin, doodled an accompanying sketch and it never got any farther than that.
I think that was about two years ago. Here’s the napkin:
About five months ago, I found the napkin and decided it was time to get something concrete down. My initial thought was the text would be very polished; very solid and the worm would be done a little looser; sketchier… maybe show the worm without the hook, and suggest his ultimate fate with an image of a hook on the back….
That would be the front of the shirt…this would be the back…
I thought I was off to a good start, but I wasn’t wowed… And was it necessary to split the design into a front and back? If someone just read the front, or just read the back, would it make sense to them? I couldn’t justify splitting the design into two separate images, so I decided to combine them; toying with the idea that the worm would make a great visual substitute for the “I” in life. I’m now a little sickened by my attempt to be so clever.
I’m also not thrilled with the the fact that the horizontal line has no other purpose in the design other than to divide the text.
I reluctantly eliminate the hook, enthusiastically eliminate the horizontal line and eliminate a color. The design works; but it’s not wowing me, and I also miss the implied messiness that the brown brought to the image. So decide to bring it back as the shirt color. I needlessly add white to the design. The results are ugly.
So ugly in fact that I give up. For a day. Then, while at work, it occurs to me that the earth worm needs dirt to wiggle in.
Unfortunately, the dirt is the only part of the design that I like, now. In fact, I have grown to hate my thick-lined poorly drawn worm.
I decide to get reference.
Here is the uninspired result that reference brings. Inexplicably, I have made the worm navy and my dirt has disappeared…
At this point, I like the font for the word life, but hate how spread out and open it looks around the circle. The worm is almost interesting at this point, but the colors aren’t working for me. Everything looks so blah on a white shirt, and while the bottom line of text wrapping around the circle is nice, it really makes the the second half of the line seem like it’s just dangling out in the middle of nowhere. And I still miss the messiness of the dirt.
I abandon the design, and it’s a good thing I do, because I’m about to make a huge leap and the only way I could make that leap; a leap that is both forward and back at the same time; is with time away from the design. I’m lucky, there’s no deadline on this job. Time is a luxuy I can afford.
So, one night, on the way home from soccer, it hits me. It hits me not quite fully formed; but close.
The backwards leap I’ve made is to the chocolate shirts, and one color. I’ve brought back the dirt and added a distress layer to messy things up a little. I’ve flipped the direction that the worm is facing; giving some much needed contrast to the orderliness of the my font choice for the word Life.
I’ve now broken up the sentence into four distinct sections. Life is big and bold, so the eye heads there first, then follows the curve of handscrawled text to the head of the worm; where we begin to read left to right again. The smaller words TO and A are smaller than the word WORM, and so I make them physically smaller. The word DIGGING is more active and descriptive than the rest of the words on its line; so it too gets to be physically larger.
The hand-scrawled quality of the last line provides emphasis, much in the way that italics do in the body of a sentence.
Everything is really working for me now; so I further refine the design.
I eliminate the dirt from the design, deciding that the distress is messy enough, though I raise the distress above the last line of text so that it doesn’t lose any emphasis.
I pull the worm in closer to the word life, giving the design an almost “R” shape. It’s much more visually interesting than the previous arc-shaped incarnation. Because the worm is now overlapping some text, I outline it in shirt color to add separation.
I wrap the text around the worm-shape…it’s not perfect, but I think it still reads. Another weak point is the new area of trapped negative space between the LI in life and the body of the worm. I try to fill it as best I can with “to” and “a.” It is almost successful, and I enlarge the word worm, but, man, that’s a big comma. The last lines remain virtually unchanged.
The “finished” product is by no means brilliant, but I really think it’s working. The distress and the worm itself give a contrast in texture to the bold block letters. The handwritten text provides emphasis. The eye gets pulled all around the design, but I don’t think it is ever confusing. It reads; and has an interesting shape.
But maybe your analysis will be different?
Well, this post went on much longer than I thought it would, but its been fun writing about how this design came together (or not, if you disagree); I don’t get to delve much into thought process at work; so this has been an interesting exercise.
If you’ve stayed with me this long, thanks for your time.