Starship Doodles

In 2009, TV producer/writer for children’s programming, John Semper, shared an idea with me for a series called “Starship”, which he wrote, based on a concept by Gene Roddenberry.

I designed all sorts of alien characters for a presentation pitch (with the further hope that I could work on the project if it went into production).

In Hollywood, more ideas never see the light of day than actually make it into production (or their progress moves at glacial speed), and this project has proven to be no different. It’s just the nature of the business. Then again, it’s often the nature of life in general.

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Character Design

Because I’m busy, here’s another repost for those who missed it the first time around…

Waaaay back, over a decade past, around the time I created Cozmo, I had created a bunch of other characters that might inhabit Cozmo’s universe. There were robots, animal-like creatures, aliens in costume, and so forth. These were of a whimsical nature, because I had originally intended them for the giftware market, which, at the time, was saturated with “cute” characters. I’ll share more about Cozmo’s beginnings in later posts, but for now I thought I’d share one such character design.

Like Cozmo, this character never saw production. Come to think of it, I never even got around to pitching it, because Cozmo never really ever got off the ground, and there didn’t seem to be any point in trying to pitch more of these characters.

Jump forward to the 2011 Comic Con, where I met Kevin Freeman from Animation Rigs. Animation Rigs produces rigs for animation projects and for students who haven’t the time to model their own characters. Kevin had purchased the license to create a rig of this character. When they had completed modeling the character, they sent me the test video below to show me how it turned out.

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How I Brainstorm With Doodles

For newer readers who missed this the first time around, I thought I’d repost this…

Few illustrations are done without preliminary brainstorming. Some begin as sloppy little doodles done on anything from napkins, to envelopes, to whatever scrap of paper is handy when an idea comes around.

On top is the thumbnail that served as the basis for the final drawing. below that is the final menu page illustration.

Sometimes I’ll spend time on a rough sketch, and other times I just want to come up with some very rough compositional idea, so I’ll noodle around with sloppy little thumbnails. These aren’t the kinds of things many artists want you to see, because they’re not pretty, and, in fact, are embarrassingly bad from a rendering point of view. But their purpose isn’t to look pretty, so don’t judge them too harshly.

Furthermore, when time is critical, I’m even less inclined to draw anything beyond chicken-scratches. Yes, many have been horrified to find, after selecting me to be on their Pictionary team (in hopes that having an artist on their team would ensure a landslide victory), that I draw sloppy little stick figures just like anyone else.

Around the beginning of May of 2012, because the current project at Ayars Animation was a bit ambitious and was taking far longer to finish than we had hoped, Frank Ayars and I discussed the idea of doing smaller projects. I suggested that I take a week or two off so that I might attempt to complete an entire picture book in that time. If you knew me, you’d know that’s pretty ambitious; not because I illustrate slowly, but because I tend to get bogged down in the minutiae of a picture, and I spend far too much time in details that can hardly be appreciated by anyone.

So I decided to do a book with, what would be for me, a rough illustrated style. Basically, this meant I’d do a fast color over an acceptably clean drawing. It’s actually what a lot of printed children’s books already look like, so we’re not talking about rushed or bad art. I just wouldn’t take the time to make it too polished. The irony is, I often tend to refine all the charm out of my looser drawings, so illustrating a book this way could actually render pretty good results.

Overall, I had to come up with a character, write the text, and illustrate it in a format which I could then hand over to Frank Ayars for implementation. I also put together a small pdf with storyboards and instructions on how the app-user interactions might work, how the articulated characters would move, etc. I also had to design any necessary navigation items and such. I think I spent a couple of days just thinking of what to write, bouncing ideas off my wife, and receiving creative input from my oldest daughter.

After that, I began noodling around with the design of the menu page. The thumbnails you see in this post were made while working out a composition for the menu page of the app. I designed the character of Retro loosely off of the two other characters you see here, which I had created around 2000 A.D. (I added “A.D.” so readers don’t confuse it with some other year 2000).  The one character on the left was a character called The Flooglemop, about which I had actually began writing a story way back, as well. I was writing that story all in verse, and I realized how stupid a decision I had made in attempting to write such a long story that way, so it never saw completion. The other character was just a doodle done for fun.

Though the entire book app is done in a very loose style, it actually turned out quite nice. For the record, from the decision to embark on the project to the time I handed off all the completed assets to Frank Ayars, it was about ten days. It was nonstop work, and I felt like I had given birth, only without the resulting stretch marks.

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Derwent Waterbrushes

While watching a video on YouTube recently, I saw someone use a brush-pen filled with water, a tool I’ve never before seen. I’ve been using a Cintiq now for a couple of years and have been out of the loop as far as traditional media goes. However, I thought the waterbrushes looked like fun, so I ordered a pack made by Derwent. It comes with three brushes, each with a different tip shape/size. They arrived in the mail a couple of days ago and I only had a chance to sit down and noodle around with them.

Derwent_Waterbrushes

I have a Sheaffer White Dot Balance fountain pen with a lever-fill, like the kind you used to see in slapstick routines where someone uses a fountain pen to squirt ink into another person’s face. After watching too many Three-Stooges films as a kid, I had to track one of these pens down. Anyway, I like using it to doodle using coffee-brown ink by J.Herbin (the color name is “Cafe Des Iles”).

Waterbrush_Head-doodles

I don’t use these tools for finished work or any of my professional work. It’s just something for fun when I want to noodle around. Combining the water brushes with the ink pen has added another dimension to these doodling excursions. If you haven’t tried it yet, this Derwent pack is very affordable to experiment with and play around.

Anyone else out there using these brushes? If so, how’d you like them?

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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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Getting Ahead

I’ve noted in the past how much I prefer character design to anything else. Actually, the best part of character design are the faces. It’s often what conveys a character’s personality more so than even a costume or wardrobe.

Anyhow, here’s a page of quick head doodles I did just for fun.

Frank_Grauy_Head_Doodles

Anyone out there got a favorite thing you prefer to draw?

Sunday Funnies #4

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Frank_Grau_comic strip Be-Bop #4

Assorted Comic Covers

Frank_Grau_Z2H_01As I mentioned in my last post, I went on to illustrate a few comics for a Canadian company, and here are the covers for a few of them.

This first one was about a cowboy in America who returns home to Ireland and encounters some fairy-world adventure.

Frank_Grau_Z2H_02

 

 

 

 

 

 

I didn’t have a copy of this second cover with the title & text, but I believe it was called “How the West Was Won”, or some such thing.

Frank_Grau_Z2H_03

The last one was my first attempt at something manga-ish, for lack of a better term. It was the style I was asked to work with, though I probably would never do this kind of thing on my own.

The Man With the Bag

Frank_Grau_Slapstix_ornamentGoodness, this day seems to come up so quickly. Well, we’ll keep the tree up through to the new year, and then it’s back to life as usual. I don’t know about you, but this is a nice Christmas. It’s not that there are lots of material gifts or any such thing, but the time spent with family and loved ones is great. I hope you’re all having a very Merry Christmas celebrating the birth of baby Jesus. As for the sketch, well, the clownin’ around never stops.

 

Christmas Clownin’

Yet another clown ornament…

Slapstix_Ornament_by_Frank_Grau