RCHRD’S GLSSS ND TH WRRNG NGHBRS is an entertaining eBook written by new authors Julie and Luca Harper, mostly about Giant Spider Crabs, Greater Bulldog Bats, Green Iguanas, maths, music, timekeeping and vowels!
I was asked to provide a cover design, including a full series logotype and hand lettering, plus a few mono interior illustrations (three shown below) for the book, which at times proved to be more challenging and time intensive than I had envisaged.
The mono illustrations were completed in Illustrator using the pressure sensitive blob brush, and were created as loosely sketched pieces, capturing some of the energy found in the written style of the book. The main characters themselves proved to be somewhat hard to successfully define and capture accurately, and we went through a number of iterations and revisions before I produced the simple character sketches for protagonists Nigel Le Nez, and Madame La Bouche.
These hand drawn pencil sketches then became desired final art, with colour added (as seen above) to match the cover formatting. This wasn’t planned, and it introduced a number of design issues to solve, as the two standing characters dramatically altered the spacing and balance of all the cover elements, which required an intensive rethink of the layout to retain a reasonable design structure.
Ultimately the client was happy – which is all that really matters – and the book moved on into the final production stage. It is now available to purchase from Amazon for Kindle, or the Kindle Reader App, and can be downloaded HERE. So, if you know someone who would like to read a fast paced rollicking story for 7-10 year olds, then I can fully recommend the eBook as a highly entertaining reading experience. And, don’t worry, the vowels are supposed to be left out!
This is a very old illustration that I had left unfinished for many years – now finally completed, and still retaining the original pencil sketch that I rather liked way back then. The manga influence is obvious in both the character design and the final colouring, something that I was keen to explore as I developed my style and approach, specifically regarding digital illustration, during that period of time.
A very quick brush pen sketch on Canson Mi-Teintes pastel paper, scanned into Photoshop and digitally coloured with a watercolour brush. I’m thinking that she may be a paranormal investigator, clairvoyant or something similar; dealing with the mystery and unknowns of unexplained and spiritual matters.
From the wild northern regions they came – determined men with empty hearts and pure uncontrolled fire in their hateful eyes. They flowed unhindered into the settled central areas of Quahnarren like a breaking wave eagerly seeking the shoreline, intent only on reaching its destination without hesitation or pause. Their tumultuous wailing attack cries struck a cold paralyzing fear into all peaceful inhabitants south of their homelands, and they created confusion and disharmony amongst normally calm men, who dishearteningly understood that they had neither the strength, nor will, to halt the plundering advancements of the accurately labeled Northern Scourge.
Their raids had quickly become more numerous, more murderous and increasingly uncontrollable. No longer content to just take what they desired, whole villages were now burned to the ground, simply in spite, for sport, and to feed a destructive longing. These men of immoral and vicious temperament were also acquiring a fondness for taking gruesome souvenirs, and reveled in the violence and chaotic mayhem created during their southern incursions.
Chief tormenter amongst them was their unscrupulous leader, Buhldaag – a fearless and driven character, who commanded a horde of easily fooled lesser men, deceitfully misled to serve his own egotistical madness.
• • •
A new piece for my Tales of Quahnarren illustrated short story collection. This black & white character illustration was completed in Painter 12, using a smeary palette knife in a similar style to The Dreamer.
Over the years I’ve sketched quite a few anime and manga inspired characters and illustrations, but haven’t progressed too many beyond the initial drawing stage. For this piece I had the idea to present the character within the page structure of a comic or visual novel design, featuring three panels and thought boxes to explain the unspoken narrative.
My original pencil sketch was redrawn in Photoshop, with flat and gradient colours, multiple layer overlays, and areas of texture added to create the finished piece.
Evolution of an illustrative logo
Monkeys – who doesn’t love them?! I know I do, so let’s put a spotlight on the creative process for the creation of the final logo design for Little Monkey Ceramic Art. This identity was a bit cheeky – going via two completely different concepts before landing on it’s feet with a strong third idea.
Little Monkey Ceramic Art offers children, of all ages, the opportunity to paint a range of ceramics in a fun and welcoming atmosphere and then take home the finished results for all to see. The brief required a logo that conveyed the spirit of the ‘workshop’ style business idea and had a bright, unique appearance. Of consideration, as ever, was how and where the logo would be printed (a variety of print techniques, physical items and possible surfaces) and the client also was keen to adapt the character into other poses as a marketing and promotion strategy.
My thoughts were to attempt to make this sit somewhere between my usual corporate style of identity design (less is more!) and a more detailed and playful look. Thankfully the client provided some wonderful character sketches (below) which gave me a great visual reference point to start from:
I still love the little guy on the left – very cute. My initial idea was to pull everything together into a base shape or frame to make a unified and contained logo. This meant it wouldn’t be easy to show the full monkey, rather the focus would be on the head and arms. Something like this …
I was looking to use the tail somehow as a framing device and was wanting to incorporate individuality with chunky, playful hand lettering, which would craftily fit into the slightly awkward spacing this arrangement would create.
In the background (green) is the general shape of an artist’s painting palette and I’ve extended the tail fully under the body. This provided more of an integrated concept, but didn’t hit the spot. Further ideas and discussion with the client refined the overall direction and in particular, the ‘feel’ the monkey needed – something much softer, cuter, less organised and logo-like. I pretend now that I can’t see the eyes. They simply don’t work and combined with the mouth shape, create an unfriendly appearance.
One idea that surfaced at this point was to sit the monkey in a cup and have him painting it himself – the logo mirroring the activities of the participants:
The original logo was a vector design completed in FreeHand – now Photoshop was the required software, which met the need of a softer technique for both the outlines and the colouring.
The missing left arm was considered to be a bit odd and a few facial features still weren’t sitting in proportion as was desired. A few tweaks were tried, but overall the idea wasn’t progressing or coming together in a pleasing way.
One of the notable aspects of the original ideas provided by the client was the relationship between the shape and proportions of the top part of the head and the mouth/face area. Neither seemed particularly right or wrong – just gave the monkey a slightly different age or appeal. I was always very aware of not designing a character that felt too close to any existing design we were aware of and was also thinking more about the use of the monkey in other poses. I felt that a style made of more basic shapes would likely solve some of the problems to this point and give the flexibility to construct the different options with relative ease. With client agreement for something a bit more ‘cartoony’ it was onto the next round of sketches.
These take the hanging monkey concept towards a more logical arrangement and the only real detail in the character is very minimal. This approach retains the hand lettering and places the monkey in a more natural and playful pose. Note how I’ve shifted the tail to the right side to better balance with the weight of the capitals in the title.
The version above was created in Photoshop and to me now seemed a lot closer to the desired spirit and visual direction. Eureka! – the client was happy too!!
I could see a few errors, especially with the lettering, which required some balancing adjustments to give it clearer readability and an improved rhythm. The main title needed a little bit of work, but the main culprit was with ‘ceramic art’ which featured too many enclosed forms to print well. I also fixed a few small facial imperfections and shifted the top spiky part of his hair to break the line of the arcing paintbrush. The client then asked for me to put back in most of the imperfections! – something I was happy to do. (I kept all the lettering alts regardless)
As the logo now featured just solid colour it was back to FreeHand to create a final vector:
Monkey done!!! Time now for a banana or three I think …