Thumbnails: An Economic Approach To Design

I did a previous post about how I brainstorm with doodles, and it was such a big hit with all three of my readers that I decided to revisit the topic.

The purpose of thumbnails is to work out ideas in an economical fashion. There’s no point in wasting time with an elaborate drawing, only to find out the composition doesn’t work. So what are the uses of a thumbnail?

Point-Of-View (POV): There are a lot of ways to view a scene, and a lot of different camera angles from which to choose.

If you look at the first thumbnail for the scene above, it was a straight-on POV. We see the same thing on stage, because a live performance pretty much only allows for that perspective. Because artists are not limited to this, it’s sometimes thought too simplistic a POV, but many artists use it successfully. Illustrators like John Bauer or Maurice Sendak pretty much used a straight-on POV, and they produced beautiful scenes. Basically, it’s okay just as long as the individual elements are still composed in an interesting way. In any case, I later used an overhead POV for the page above.

Relationships: Thumbnails can also help you determine relationships. In the scene above, I juxtaposed a close-up of the main character’s large head with little bees. Another effect was to bring the main character’s head through foliage, such that the daylight behind him produces a halo of light, further drawing the viewer’s attention to him. I used this same halo effect below.

Viewer’s Eye Flow: You can use thumbnails to determine how you want the viewer’s eyes to move across an image. In the illustration above, the viewer is first drawn to the main character (halo effect, remember? It says, “Look at ME”). From the starting point of the main character, your eyes drop straight down, working your way to the larger crabs on either side, flowing up the seaweed, back toward the main character. Guiding the viewer’s eyes this way can help them see things in a certain sequence, perhaps from most important element to least important.

Composition: Another principle used above is the rule of thirds. If you slice the image horizontally into thirds, you’ll note the sand occupies the bottom third, while the water fills the rest. This principle is also present in the illustration below. In this case, the image is sliced vertically into thirds, with the main character occupying the far right third, and the bright flamingos occupying the rest.

Another way to slice things up is to divide the image diagonally, and in this case, doing so causes the elements to flow toward our main character. In the scene below, the large branch slices across diagonally. The background tree-line also serve to reinforce that diagonal flow, again leading the viewer’s eye where we want it to go.Below are more thumbnails used to work out composition or character designs. Of course there are many other ways to work out designs, like digitally drawing, slicing, resizing, and moving things around.

Perhaps some of you would like to share different time-saving techniques which economize your workflow?

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Odds & Ends

I always thought Kent Mansley was a great antagonist character in Iron Giant, which is one of my favorite Warner Bros animated films. Anyway, I though he’d make for an interesting Monday morning doodle.

Iron-Giant

Speaking of robots, I recently came across a listing on ebay of the same robot toy I had since I was a wee lad. It was probably the only toy I had kept from my childhood.

robot

Unfortunately, there was a time in life where I needed cash and I trusted a co-worker (whom I hardly knew) to sell it for me. Well, I never saw that co-worker after giving him my robot and I never saw a penny from it. So I lost the coolest toy I had from my childhood and I’ve regretted it. Well, it’s only a dumb toy, so I really don’t regret it that much. But it would have been cool to still have something like that from my childhood. Kind of like when people keep their first teddy bear, only in my case it was a robot whose torso spun around 360 degrees with it’s chest-panels popped open and two laser-gun barrels went in and out, making shooting sounds and blinking lights. Heck, that would be a cool toy today, much less back in the 60’s when this metal toy was made. Here are a few pictures from the ebay listing. Mine was exactly like this one. I can’t believe this thing sells for around $100-300 today, depending on condition.robot guns

 

robot box

Yeah, that “Rotate-O-Matic” isn’t a feature you get on today’s cheap, plastic junk. This baby spins from the hip.

On another note, the last day of the Comic Con was today (well, yesterday, if you’re reading this on Monday morning when this post goes up). I only decided to attend the Con on preview night this year. The only thing I picked up while I was there was Mark Schultz’s “Storms At Sea”, an illustrated book which I’ve been waiting for him to complete for the last half-dozen years or so. I was surprised to find that the art was just pencil renderings because these renderings were labeled as “studies” in his other sketchbooks. I suspect he decided it would take too long to actually finish these in ink and just decided to release the book with the graphite renderings. I’m happy to say that I’m not disappointed because Mark’s graphite studies are quite elaborate, and I tend to enjoy them just as much as the inked versions.

storms-at-sea

The text in the book wasn’t much of a real story, but was actually a sort of convoluted sci-fi history of earth, which I found to be a mixed bag of one-world/Illuminati-type conspiracy theories, darwinism, and anthropogenic-global-warming propaganda. I was hoping for a real detective adventure, which I’m sure Mark could have written had he wanted. Instead I think he chose to go into this kind of narrative as an excuse to draw all the cool things he did, which I think is okay if that’s the only way we could have gotten all of this great artwork. If you haven’t seen Mark’s work, this would be a great book to introduce you to his art.

Incidentally, every time I see a sailing ship in that position which you can see on the cover illustration above of “Storms At Sea”, I tend to suspect the artist was inspired by Howard Pyle’s 1905 painting, “Attack on a galleon”, which was also borrowed by Gustaf Tenggren and Frank Frazetta for their respective works. At least Mark Schultz is in good company. You can see Pyle’s painting below as well as those he inspired.

An Attack on a galleonPyle_1905

You can see how Tenggren loosely borrowed the same general wave pattern in the water as well, while Frazetta stayed pretty true to the rear view of the ship (I’m sure there’s some proper nautical term for that part of the ship, but it’s late and I’m currently too lazy to look it up). I always enjoy spotting these kinds of inspired details.

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Cozmo

Here’s a detail from Ayars Animation’s Cozmo app. Every time I open the app and go to this page, I remember how much work it involved; not just because of the illustrating, but because it had to be done in, like, a bazillion layers in order to facilitate the animating and interactive elements (and if you’ve tinkered with the app, you’d have an idea of what I mean).

Screen Shot 2015-06-15 at 9.55.52 AM

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Tasty Morsel

As usual, I’m exercising my enjoyment of creating characters, so I did this for this Monday morning post. Enjoy!

Frank_Grau_Dragon-Mouse

Here’s a colored sketch I did for today’s post. There’s something fun about imagining tense moments in a story. This isn’t from an actual story, but that doesn’t really matter to me. Not knowing what’s going on can just make a scene all the more interesting for me.

snow-chase

Ayars Animation’s 3,2,1 Blast Off! Number Book

Get it HERE!

Comic Con 2013 Update

Iron ManOne of the perks of being a professional illustrator is getting complimentary 4.5-day passes to the San Diego Comic Con. I’m also usually able to take a guest for free, but they limited the amount of guest passes they were issuing this year. If you didn’t register within the first few hours, you were out of luck.iron man gray

Hooters

In recent years, the parking situation has been improved by the pre-selling of parking passes. This has eliminated having to arrive unnecessarily early in order to snag a spot at the convention center or at the Hilton, next door. It has also eliminated the traffic congestion in front of the convention center, since those without parking passes don’t bother to drive up to the building.

Preview night was incredibly swamped, but Thursday was a little lighter — not because there were fewer attendees, but because many were attending panels or waiting in lines upstairs or outside. This is not to say Thursday’s floor traffic was light — if you’re demophobic, you still wouldn’t have lasted two seconds. I also noticed fewer people in costumes. I suspect many attendees were saving their costumes for the weekend. I really didn’t get any great pics, but hopefully the ones posted here will suffice.

weirdo

There’s really no one I desired to see so badly that I was willing to endure spending all of my time in long, sweaty lines, so I pretty much avoided the panel discussions altogether. I’m mostly interested in walking the floor and seeing what’s new, and maybe purchasing an art book or two. I can pretty much cover the floor and see everything I want to see on Preview Night and Thursday, so I don’t make the fullest use of my 4-day pass. Oh, well. I figure I’m helping other attendees by eliminating one more body from the overcrowded aisles. Besides, you can learn a lot just by talking to folks at the booths on the floor.

I got some useful advice from Bobby Chiu on the use of social media, and other artists helped with info about self-publishing and other subjects. It’s also fun talking to well-known artists and discussing their work with them.Nautilus helmet

star wars

Being a freelance artist in the digital age, I often work for people and companies who live far away, or with whom I’ve otherwise never met in person. A couple of years ago, I got to meet some people from a Canadian company for whom I had worked. At last year’s Con, I got to hook up with a friend with whom I’ve worked, but whom I’ve never met in person. This year, I got to meet other people with whom I’m currently working on a project for Roddenberry Entertainment. I don’t post my picture on Facebook, so one particular friend didn’t even know what I looked like. I had the advantage on him, because I knew what he looked like from his FB account. So it was interesting meeting him face-to-face for the first time.the hulk

lou ferrigno

comic booths

The Con floor was dominated by large entertainment companies as usual (which is why this is less of a comic convention than a pop-culture convention). Such booths dominate considerable floor space and yet seem to have the least amount of content. You might find a film company hogging up twenty spaces with a giant display, just to promote a single film or television series. Even video-game companies covered lots of real-estate for a single title. I tend to enjoy the smaller booths occupied by artists who are trying to promote their work, or book dealers.

Comic Con 2013boba fettlego

walking dead jailwalking dead cageBromadam hughsoompa loompabatgirl robingaslamp qtrdraculacomic con 00

My must-visit booths are Bud Plant Books, Vanguard Publishing, and Flesk Publishing (and Stuart NG, if I have the extra cash). These booths usually carry any books which fit my interests.

Bud Plant’s booth isn’t nearly the size it used to be, due to the nature of the book market and the fact that Amazon is killing small, independent dealers. However, he seems to be surviving, so that was a positive sign. For those interested in art books, I would encourage you to support independent dealers like Bud Plant. His prices are not always as competitive as Amazon (for the same reasons most dealers can’t compete with Amazon’s prices). However, he often carries specialty items not found on Amazon, or he has relationships with the artists which allows him to offer signed editions and signed bookplates, for the collectors among you who want something more than what Amazon can offer. Stuart NG carries specialty import items and harder to find OOP book as well.

I only bought a couple of books this year. My bookshelves at home are literally overflowing, so I don’t know where I’m going to cram two more books. I also took a serious look at the Cintiq 22 HD Touch at the Wacom booth, and I’m considering ordering one. If you’re interested in getting a slight discount, drop me an email and I’ll share the promo code for their show special (it’s only $100 off, but a buck is a buck, so if you want to buy now, I’ll share the info). 

I had skipped breakfast and lunch on Thursday, so by the end of the day I was pretty hungry, and my feet were killing me. I, along with a bazillion other Con attendees, wandered across the street from the Con and had dinner at the Gaslamp Quarter, where the surrounding building were covered with the usual film ads.

spiderman hard rockelectro hard rock

After filling up on fish & chips I made the drive home, a couple of hours north of San Diego (living within driving distance saves me the cost of an airline ticket and hotel). When I arrived, I didn’t bother to go through my bag of goodies or unpacking. I pretty much just hugged my family whom I missed, and which I hit the sheets and passed out.

So how about yourself? Anyone already home from the Con, or have big plans to attend this weekend?

Sunday Funnies #1

I haven’t posted these here yet, so I figure I’ll do so for the uninitiated…

Frank_Grau_Be-Bop

Lil’ Shamus

Image

Frank_Grau

Plane Doodle

This is just a doodle I did on the plane while returning from a business trip to Chicago. I didn’t really finish it, but then again, I was just wasting time.

Sketch by Frank Grau