Monday, February 27, 2012

Quick Sketches

These are just a few sketches I did while sitting around on the weekend.  They were mostly just for exercise.  Whenever I work on paper, I still use the non-photo blue pencils for layout.  It's my favorite way to sketch.  Even when I work on the tablet, I begin all my sketches with a blue initial sketch.  Old habits die hard, even on new technologies.


CTD Install Illustrations

Here's a new set of installation drawings.  This set is for the CTD, which you may recognize from a few earlier posts.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Poster Designs

This is a set of concepts for the Palouse Choral Society summer concert.  I wouldn't normally be posting these before the event, but none of these designs was selected so I'm probably safe.  The theme, "A Night of Broadway and Opera", features music from classic Broadway and opera shows (making the name particularly germane).

In keeping with the aesthetic of the previous posters, I created a set of silhouette images based on recognizable icons from Broadway and opera: The mask from "The Phantom of the Opera", Brunhilda's helmet from "The Ring Cycle", and Don Quixote's  helmet from "Man of La Mancha".  Then I tried various colors, background elements, and arrangements hoping to hit on something unique that the clients would like.

I was a cartoonist for years.  I tend to infuse most of my work with a little bit of humor because I think it makes most projects more accessible and relatable.  This was, once again, my reasoning for the sunglasses in one of the concepts.  I think there's a perception for some that Broadway and Opera can be stodgy and uptight and my inclusion of humor was an attempt to diffuse this perception.

Here's the thing: No matter how much I'm wedded to the use of humor in commissioned projects, it just isn't always the right approach.  Sometimes it doesn't fit with the context.  Sometimes it doesn't portray the feeling/vibe that clients are looking for (yeah, yeah, preposition). 

I tend to think there's a line of demarcation between illustrators and artists.  I think one of the main differences is that, as an illustrator, I'm hired to produce what clients want.  Artists often (though not always) produce their own art without regard for the purchaser's tastes.  I've made the mistake in the past of thinking of myself as just some kind of image producing machine: Clients feed their ideas in and illustration comes out.  But that's pretty inaccurate.  Divorcing myself from creative license just because I'm an illustrator is foolish.  Clients don't just hire me because I can draw, they also hire me for my sense of design and for my ability to generate concepts.  Often, a client will approach me and say, "Here's what I need, but I don't know how I want it to look yet", and then we work through it together. 

Those other aspects (design sense, ability to generate concepts, artistic insight) are beneficial to clients.  No doubt about it.  But they can also get in the way if I'm wedded to an idea creatively and I'm advocating that idea or concept to a client when they're looking for a different direction.  Recognizing what's going to be the best fit for a client and their project can be tough.  Every project is different.  And, as with this set of concepts, sometimes my creative inclinations lead to concepts that aren't used.  The balance between my own creative impulses and a client's needs on a specific project is one that I'll likely be considering for most of my career.  I can't say that I'm sorry.  It's a great problem to have.

I'd like to be able to give myself advice for the future so that I'd only create concepts the clients love every single time.  But, aside from "Ask lots of questions", I don't think there's a magic bullet.  There will be hits and misses.  But even the misses are fun (there's a Groucho Marx joke in there somewhere).


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

CTD Concept Sketches

Last week (depending on when you're reading this), someone from Decagon Devices asked if I could work up a few sketches on a new hydrology sensor they're developing.  It's called the "CTD", an abbreviation of "Conductivity, Temperature, Depth".  The device gathers data in those categories and is great for monitoring wetlands, surface and groundwater, agricultural settings, and any number of other applications.

Lately, I've been approaching projects of this nature with a new question in addition to the standard questions I ask during the concept phase (audience, context, application, etc.).  The new question is, "How can illustration be used in this context to offer something another medium (like photography or video) can't offer?"

Aside from the typical benefits of using illustration in an advertising/marketing arena (custom material, aesthetic appeal, accessibility, etc.), illustration also provides a means of visualizing ideas and concepts that can't be created through other means (not easily, at any rate).  I like to utilize that advantage whenever possible.

In this case, the simplicity of the CTD's exterior belies its complexity.  With illustration, Decagon can show an audience of potential clients how the design and engineering of this sensor make it uniquely functional and diverse.  This can be accomplished by creating a pull apart image that lists some of its components, their functions, and their benefits.  I also created symbols that correspond to these functions in order to help distill their meaning somewhat and make the diagram more visually appealing.

The next step was to show how the CTD is useful in multiple environments.  Again, asking the question about the advantage of illustration, I realized a cross section of soil beneath the environment being monitored could show what the CTD is actually doing.  I can show what it looks like underground, which I think is pretty cool (and pretty unique to illustration).

I included multiple versions of these concepts in various layouts.  My favorite is probably the vertical wetlands concept, mostly for aesthetic reasons.  The final versions are in the works and I'll post them when they're ready.


Lindy's Sketches

I'm not exactly sure why I didn't post these with the final versions.  Maybe because, according to the thingie that keeps track of the date, I posted the finals on January 1st and I still had holiday brain.  At any rate, here are the initial sketches for the two Lindy's Baseball illustrations.

To be honest, I'm not sure there's much to learn from posting these (in contrast to the rest of this blog which is the epitome of educational material.  I always says a boy can learn more from an illustration blog than he can from any fancy schoo-well-in).  Guess I just like sketches, even when there's not a lot of deviation from the sketch in the final iteration.