This is a full page editorial illustration that ended up not getting printed. These things happen. It was for a February issue in theme of Love/Lust.
I had a lot of fun making this image, so I thought I should share this with you here.
Happy Valentine's Day!
You may, or may not know about Sketchtravel. But, let me tell you that this is quite an amazing project that started relatively small, as something fun, and ended up becoming something of a monster-size charity project.
this is the finished poster. Let’s look at the creative process from the beginning….
everything starts kind of like this…. lots of doodles and thumbnails.
Concept started off as drawing a “Maiko” or two. Maiko is a younger version of Geiko (what westerners know as geisha). Both Maikos and Geikos are close to extinct in this 21st century Japan, but in old capital of Kyoto, the culture still exist.
So, this was my initial idea. Dice and I discussed and decided to go with a more contemporary take on Maiko culture. He said he wanted to see more of my “edge”. I was a bit weary at first… but said OK, I will do it.
Second idea. More with edge and tradition mixed with contemporary. Japanese umbrella she is holding makes the shape of Japanese flag: red dot. Cherry flowers, of course, are the symbol of spring. Luckily, the show starts in spring, right around the famous Japanese Cherry Flower season.
This is a typical preparatin stage before moving onto actual inking stage. Add gutter space (in grey) and blow up the sketch to the size I am drawing. For a poster use, I usually go 22″ x 30″. Obviously, it takes multiple print outs from my Epson printer and lots of cutting and taping…
Lightbox saves your time (therefore your life). You can see the traced pencil linse on watercolor paper. this is about the tightest I normally trace. No tracing takes longer than a few minutes. It is more about transferring the sketch composition onto the paper. No more no less. It is my trick to ink fresh lines and not making it look like traced.
Some things cannot use shortcuts. So, I take good old compass to draw out the perfect circle for the umbrella.
Finish figure first, then the rest follows. Face ended up changing a lot from the sketch, but that’s part of the process. Only time I do tight face sketch is when I am doing a portrait.
I initially thought I would finish the drawing much faster, then ended up taking longer, because of large scale, and because of detailed cherry flower drawings.
Yaaay, getting very close to finishing up the drawing. The book on the side was the book I referred to to draw various different types of cherries. Top was very close up, bottom was far away, and petals were drawn on separate paper.
Also, bunch of photos of real Maikos from kyoto, their hair style and accessories were downloaded from the web, as well as the famous five story pagoda, a symbol of Kyoto.
FINITO! (there is a bit of time-consuming process of getting the texture and tone on the finished drawing, which I ask to keep it as ‘secret ingredient’) This gets scanned in tediously in parts. Yes, I do have a large format scanner (Epson Expression 10000XL), but it still takes at least four scans to get everything onto the computer. At least, Photoshop Auto-merge feature works like a dream and saves a lot of time.
Adobe Photoshop CS5.5. I should switch to Ps6…. Wacom Intuos 3 tablet (which died since, and now I am on super shiny Intuos 5). Every coloring process is different, and this is one of the reasons why it is very hard for me to hire a coloring assistant. But most of the coloring starts something like this…
Getting there, but still not many layers. I know, I am a huge fan of masks. It is all about masking and masking and masking stuff….
This is my workspace… I have a large Apple Cinema Display (old one, died once and paid a lot of money to fix) next to the laptop. I don’t own a desktop computer and I never will. (and that keyboard died since then. Now I have a cute code-less.)
Cherry petals are inserted, and the number of layers are doubled. I think I call it done!
Once again, below is the final result, and there is a copy of the backside of the flyer on the bottom, for those of you who are in Japan who are interested in going to the exhibition. I won’t be able to make it to the show, but I am sure it will be super, so enjoy!
I believe many of you who are reading my blog are aspiring illustrators. If you are, here is something you may want to remember, or to work on, if your art school instructors haven’t taught you already: we have to be remembered by something we are good at, so when a prospect client see a topic that need to be illustrated they know who to call.
Most obvious ones prospect clients think of my work are Japanese and/or Chinese themes. I am a Japanese, but I had also studied Cantonese for three years and I have strong interest toward Chinese culture. And people somehow see that in my work. There are other themes like sexy girls, action and sports, comic book look, snow….
And odd one is, which is today’s topic, water and underwater theme.
The illustration here is a project published recently in Scrubs, a magazine for nurses. The article was called Swimming in Fear, about a nurse’s fear of breathlessness in water compared to the pressure of being a nurse. When AD Maxine Davidowitz called me she said it was a perfect assignment for me. Indeed.
Why do I draw a lot of water in my work? The big secret (or not?) is: I have a severe hydrophobia. I can’t swim, and I know I will never learn how to swim.
Water theme that keeps coming back to my works are almost my secret fantasy. One of my favorite movies of all time is The Big Blue. It is my ultimate dream to swim like a fish. (I also have fear of fish, by the way!)
Some process pics here…
1) starting out with lots of idea thumbnails…
2) reference materials…
4) discussion with the AD, and minor adjustment to the sketch
5) let’s draw!
6) go through Photoshop coloring process, and then…. finish! (as you can see, not as many layers for this particular illustration, but lots of layer masks!)
7) how they look on the pages
And…. here are just some examples of how water has been dominating my work (and life!).
how the hell I finished the most complicated illustration ever.
FastCompany is one of my favorite magazines. Once I said that to an illustrator friend, he looked very surprised and asked me why I like reading a business magazine.
Maybe it has something to do with my corporate background (I was in corporate PR for 11 years before I went back to art school). Maybe it is something to do with that I constantly think of myself, a freelance illustrator, as a small business, not more so, but as well as being an 'artist'.
When FastCompany called me for a double page opener, I got really excited. Then I took subway down to their beautiful office in World Trade Center overlooking WTC Memorial for a meeting, and soon realized what I got myself into! It turned out to be, as far as I can remember every editorial job I have done in past ten years, the most complicated piece I would ever end up working on.
I will show you the result first.
The story was about Coursera, an innovative online higher learning which may change the way we think of college education. They wanted a space filled with different students from all over the world listening to a professor talk. Oh boy, what did I get myself into??? But for my favorite magazine, I should just try to do the impossible!
Initial sketch after the meeting. 'it's good, but we want more people fitting into the spread'. Oh boy.
So, here is the revised sketch. We decided to slightly distort the perspective, so students are smaller as they go farther away from the professor. Sketch get approved! Now what? Non stop drawing for days and days.
Here is me drawing. Non stop for days. I have downloaded some college student photos, but I soon ran out of characters, and started filling this out thinking of some of my personality-filled friends and acquaintances.
I cannot thank my studio-neighbor Jungyeon Roh enough. I finished the drawing on Friday, then I had to take off to speak at Illustration Conference ICON7 in Rhode Island. While I was traveling, she helped me as coloring assistant. This was what I asked Jungyeon to do. fill in the basic colors, so I can tweak and fix when I came back on Monday morning.
Here are some details of finish. Every single student here is different. Because I ran out of ideas, I sneak in some people I know, like the red-head beard guy is my current studio-mate Jacob Thomas, and I am the one on the right hand corner with bangs with red polka-dot dress...
Here are some details of finish. Every single student here is different. Because I ran out of ideas, I sneak in some people I know, like the red-head beard guy is my current studio-mate Jacob Thomas, and I am the one on the right hand corner with bangs with red polka-dot dress...
And some Jewish men from neighborhood, as well as my friend Sara Varon's former Olympian boxer husband in du-rag, aged Harry Potter, single mom and maybe even Stefan Bucher makes the cameo.
I cannot believe I finished this! And this is how it looks in the magazine. (They flipped it the other way) What's cool is I subscribe to the iPad version.
To be honest, I am not sure where I had the energy and stamina to start and finish this on time. But, isn't it also what I love about my job?: accomplishing something unknown, scary, and not sure if you are able to do it. Then you just do it, and the satisfaction you get from getting it done!
Last but not least, big thank you to Creative Director Florian Bachleda (who has been extremely nice and supportive since I was just starting out) and Art Director Alice Alves. Thank you for challenging me with creativity.
And here is a little extra: the view of 9-11 Memorial from Fast Company office! Oh wow.
posting on Facebook realtime (and talking to strangers while I work).
One time a friend jokingly said that I have a 'full time position at Facebook'. What she meant was, that I was on it a lot. Yeah, OK, true. Especially when my studio-mates or neighbors are away and I am the only one on the floor. I need some social life.
I have a private page that I only accept people I personally know as 'friends', where I mainly talk about non-work. And, there is this public page where anyone can join and post or comment. Initially I was a bit skeptical. I felt it was a bit too arrogant, or something like that. But the more I do, the more I like it.
I get e-mails from total strangers often. Asking for questions or favors, and sometimes messages can be long and take time to read them all. It can be a bit heavy and charged, and often I don't have enough time to write a nice answer back. So, I put them aside, and end up never having time to write back. But with Facebook, everything is short and quick, and I can jump into conversation short and quick too.
I like watching other artists' process. It is like peeking into the back stage. So, I want to do the same on my page too. However, often, there is non-disclosure agreement, or I have to be careful what I can show and not show because the clients have the first publishing right.
Some clients can be a bit easy on artists though, like DC Comics whom I have been working monthly for close to four years. They usually put the finished art up on the web the day after I submitted it.
So, here came my first experiment to put every step on FB real time, from sketch to the final.
Some of you may have already seen them all, but I thought it was nice to keep the record here. And it was really fun communicating with strangers while I kept working and making progress.
1) July 17 (Tuesday)
sketching Tuesday morning... cover for The Unwritten's latest issue #43. We usually starts earlier in the month, but I was busy as well as the team was at ComiCon the weekend before.
Editor Shelly Bond's memo was: "I think Tom should be on the cover, since we haven't had him in a while, and besides, Tom has a new scruffy look, which is very attractive. But I also would love to see your drawing of unicorn too" .
2) July 20 (Friday)
Sketch got accepted in a day or so. I was finishing up other projects. Starting to ink this one as final.
3) same morning, trace the sketch onto watercolor paper and started penciling. My pencil underdrawings are usually so much looser, but this one is all about his face, so I go into details. Paper is TH Saunders Waterford cold press, pencil for underdrawing is usually HB so it is light and erases easily. (pencil for sketches are usually 3B to get the drawing down quickly)
4) same afternoon around 3PM. This is what I wrote on FB:
Face is pretty much done inking. Now I can take a late lunch break before a conference call at 4PM (with another client).
I usually don't use photos for face, but this is such big part of the image, I decided to downloaded whole bunch of photos of men looking up for reference. Though, it doesn't look like any particular one of the photos at the end. (just small details count, like how the eye balls sits, etc. )
india ink is from Dr. Ph. Martins Black Star Matt. Brush is a Japanese calligraphy brush. (more details on my supplies on FAQ page)
5) July 23 (Monday)
I worked till late on Friday, and took the weekend off to spend with a house-guest from Paris. Back to drawing table again. Close! The hands are of Victorian ladies. Used fantastic Fashion book from Taschen as reference and inspiration to get all the details in. when it is all about simple and graphic composition, balance between bold composition and intricate small details becomes the key. It cannot be too much about the details, or too much just about compositions.
6) July 24 (Tuesday)
One week from the sketches got started was the deadline day. I jump started on coloring the night before, and got most of the color scheme and details done. With fresh eyes, more into minor details, then to graphic design laying out all the text and logo. (I have been doing most of designs since issue #28) Color is entirely done on Photoshop CS5.5. Very long and complicated process. I often get asked things like 'how do you color the lines?' or 'how do you put textures?' But really, there is no one simple answer to those questions. Many different ways to color different part of a drawing. Hours and hours, and hours, of work.
7) same day in the afternoon. Tadaaaaaa! It's DONE. I had spent way too much time laying the text out, but finally I was happy. I wanted the text to to sort of flow up the water with the bubbles. Editors let me do a lot smaller title treatment, and the title is fading out...
As you can see, this issue won't come out for a while, but other issues keep coming out every month.
Thanks for reading! And, hey, talk to you on Facebook?
I really enjoyed reading your postings on Drawger (as a lawyer who'd rather be an illustrator it is a nice escape from reality!), but it seems like these days you don't update Drawger very often - I think your most recent post is January 12. The reason I like your postings so much is that you explain how you do things, which is really useful for rank amateurs like myself. I was wondering if you post more regularly on another website? If so, are you able to let me know what that website is?
I saw this e-mail in my inbox this morning when I got to my studio.
Yes, I have just been thinking about updating my Drawger. Actually, for quite a while. Whenever I go on a business trips to different schools, often students or instructors tell me how much they like my posts because they show not just the final piece, but the process where they can learn.
Life is not easy. We never have time. Work load has been a bit of insane status since beginning of this year, second semester in teaching is always more work than the first semester (not sure why, but winter weather adds to it, definitely). Multiple business trips to lecture and teach (because travel is my hobby and reason for me to get outside of NYC), also, getting my website redesigned, by awesome web design studio, but I still have a lot of work to do myself.... yada yada yada... We never have time.
That is true. but the e-mail this morning woke me up. I'VE GOT TO UPDATE MY BLOG RIGHT NOW!
So, before going into the regular routine of a day's work in the studio, I am posting this now. It is for you, Mr. A.C.G.
Since the new Communication Arts Illustration Annual came out, I decided the first post after hiatus is one of the winning piece, which I worked with GQ for their October 2011 issue. AD was Chelsea Cardinal.
The story, titled The Man Who Sailed His House, was an amazing story of survival of one man during Japan's earthquake/tsunami in March 2011. He was washed about 1Km ashore on the roof of his house when he was rescued days later.
Above is the b/w version of the drawing for a double page opener. About 30" x 22". India ink with brush on watercolor paper.
I made three initial rough sketches and sent them to Chelsea. She picked the bottom left, from which I made more fefinied sketch (which is still rather loose).
There are way more than what you see here, but some of the reference materials I had found on various news sites on internet. Really charged photos..., to be honest, it wasn't so fun staring at them for days, although the project itself was fun.
the one in the middle with a man waving his hand is the only photo there was of Hiromitsu, the main character of this story. (And thus I knew why they needed to hire an illustrator for this project).
screenshot of the beginning of long and tedious coloring process on Photoshop CS3 (since then I had switched to CS5.5)
I was quite happy with the color. Very nutral, with only bright thing behing his helmet, which is the same color as the big fire far away.
... then some emergency happens right before the image goes to print. The full article was not available when I finished my illustration. And we found out that there are specific color references clearly written in the final article. So, the color needs to be tweaked around. But it was such last minutes decision, GQ production department had to take care of it.
Below is the final result. Red roof, yellow shoes, white helmet....
There was one more spot illustration in the print version of GQ, which was Hiromitsu's portrait. Also, what was new to me, was that they asked a few more on top for the iPad version of the magazine, some of which are posted below the portrait.
On another note, I will try (TRY!) to post at least one or two process from now on. I will either post other works that got accepted in Communication Arts, or related Japan tsunami piece I recently did for Japan Times.
I don't like it when day light savings time ends, and day gets shorter and shorter. I get the annual winter blues.
Today is Winter Solstice. Yes, the shortest day time of the year. And, there is something to celebrate: Look at the bright side, the day can only get longer from here on!
Well, of course, colder weather awaits in front of us in January and February. But I always feel like today is the day I can exhale and think that the worst has passed.
Have a very Merry Christmas, happy Chanukah, and whatever religious or non religious holiday you are celebrating. And, a happy new year.
See you again in 2012, everyone.
PS: This illustration was originally created for The Atlantic Magazine's Gallery section, published in the middle of the horrible winter last year.
It's December. This is the time of the year when I look back and give the light of the day to the sadly killed jobs for one reason or another. Yap.
This year, it happened in January, and I knew immediately that it was going to be my "killed job of the year"
My first TIME Magazine cover that never was.
When TIME called and asked me to do an illustration, that, by itself, I was really excited. I have worked with TIME in past, but not so often, so phone call from them is always exciting.
I think the good thing was that when they initially said 'half a page or full page" later turned into "maybe possibly cover", then "maybe possibly a cover and interior illo", I didn't take it too seriously.
Oh of course, I did take the job very seriously. But I have worked long enough to know not to keep my hopes too high when I hear something that sounds just too good to be true. (Although, I know Tim and Edel and a few others here on Drawger have done multiple TIME covers in past. For me, it is still a dream. And I am in peace with it. )
When eventually, the magazine has decided to go with a photo for the cover, I wasn't surprised. The photo felt more like TIME to me anyway.
It was a bit sad when eventually neither of my illustrations got published. But hey, the one with the tiger and piano got accepted into both American Illustration and Society of Illustrators annual, and then published in my first monograph (I will talk about this book some other time). I cannot ask for more. Thank you Andree Kahlmorgan and Emily Crawford for giving me an opportunity to work on an image that I am really proud of.
It was an article about tiger mothers. Remember, it was all the rage in early 2011? So, initial cover ideas were on top, drawing actual tiger. Then they asked me to draw the big mother and small daughter, which would look great as photos, but not so interesting as illustrations, I thought.
I found the image on the right on TIME website. Works so much better in photo than illustration, I think.
This was my pitch for the cover, and although killed, I am still very happy with the image. Most of the illustrations I do have a lot of details, but I am a big fan of simple graphic image.
PS: Comments welcomed. But do not write things like "illos are better than photos" kind of stuff, please. Thanks!
Tomorrow evening at The Visual Arts Gallery is an opening for a show The Influentials. It is a show of SVA female alumni and their mentors showing works together side by side. I don't know how I got to invited to be in this show of mainly fine artists, many of them very established, but anyway, I will be showing, together with Thomas Woodruff, who was my undergraduate illustration instructor, then grad school personal advisor, and currently my boss/chair at BFA Illustration program where I have been teaching since 2003.
I wasn't sure what to show at first. I wanted to show something I hadn't shown anywhere, which, in process, is not illustration.
When last severely cold winter was getting started, University of the Arts kindly invited me to participate in the Von Hess Artist Residency, to create a limited edition multi separation offset print with the master printer Amanda D'Amico. Since the print got finished, I was looking for an opportunity to show. So, this will be what I will be showing. Without Amanda's literary 'master' skill, I would have never be able to make this 6 color separation prints. Although the original image was created last year for Blowup show at the Society of Illustrators, this new version is nothing like digital print outs.
Opening reception is tomorrow. (invite on the bottom of this post).
If you have time, or if you are already planning on opening hopping at Chelsea's new gallery season, please schedule a stop at The Visual Arts Gallery.
Big thank you to everyone at the gallery, everyone at UArts, especially Matt and Amanda, and Thomas Woodruff.
These are the six separations. 1)gray 2)blue gray 3)first red 4)second red 5)skin color 6)white dots for flowers
I had no idea any color on Pantone is pretty much be mixed from generic print ink
inks, inks, pretty but stinks.
cleaning the plate before printing
very old fashioned offset printer. It is a machine, but the result depends on how the master printer adjust the machine according to the image as well as the weather of the day and other factors.
color getting printed...
Amanda checking the alignment. Minor adjustments are made often.
final prints finished on the machine.
This is the beauty of the print that never exist in digital output. White dots are printed last with white ink. To make the color crisp, white was printed twice. For 6 color separations, print was pulled 7 times for the result.
I am not at Comic-Con.
Many people asked if I was going, including my DC Comics Vertigo editor Karen Berger, with whom I work monthly on covers for their (ahem, bestselling, woo hoo,) series called The Unwritten.
This year, I received my first (hopefully not last...) nomination for Will Eisner Awards in best cover artist category. I am just happy and honored that enough people thought my work deserved a nomination. I don't want to think about wanting to win, which I may feel, if I was in San Diego.
I rather stay in New York, finish up piled up work before heading out to Italy early next month to teach a week long workshop.
BUT, that does not mean I am not present at Comic-Con.
In fact, I am participating in a one night charity auction event curated by Creterion Collection for Japan earthquake relief. Creterion Collection puts out beautifully packaged collectors edition DVDs with edge, working with many illustrators. I remember dreaming of working with them when I saw a gorgeous package designed by Josh Cochran a few years back.
Eric Skillman of Creterion Collection has curated an auction show of Akira Kurosawa's works interpreted by various illustartors including Josh Cochran and myself. All one of a kind originals. Proceeds will be donated to Japan Society Earthquake Relief Fund.
So, if you are at Comic-Con, head out to San Diego Wine and Culinary Center across the street from San Diego Convention Center. Friday July 22, 7PM to 1AM. And Buy art for a good cause!!
A TRIBUTE TO THE FILMS OF AKIRA KUROSAWA
A benefit for Japan Relief, presented by The Criterion Collection and Tr!ckster Tr!ckster is being held at the San Diego Wine and Culinary Center, 200 Harbor Drive, San Diego. A Tribute to the Films of Akira Kurosawa," is one night only, Friday July 22, 7:00 PM to 1:00 AM.
These are DVD packages I worked with Criterion Collection. The Mikado is an opera-film, and Topsy-Turvyis another film about two men who were behind created the operaMikado. It was fun to work on both covers simultaneously.
Topsy-Turvy, like the title, has the upside down heads of two main characters. It was a tough job to draw both of their portraits on one head and make them look like the actors. Eric helped me a lot with the process. I am happy with the result.
Below are the actors in the film.
my piece is based on Akira Kurosawa's "Donzoko (The Lower Depth)" 11.25' x 14.5" black and red ink on watercolor paper, 2011
Below is the press release
A TRIBUTE TO THE FILMS OF AKIRA KUROSAWA A benefit for Japan Relief, presented by The Criterion Collection and Tr!ckster
TR!CKSTER and The Criterion Collection <http://www.criterion.com/> have joined forces to curate a one-night-only celebration of the works of legendary director Akira Kurosawa. Cited as an inspiration to generations of storytellers, Kurosawa’s films resonate with a singular clarity of vision, and his images last in our minds long after the last frame has played.
This intimate show, curated by Criterion designer Eric Skillman, will feature original pieces by artists from the worlds of comics, animation, and illustration, including: Mike Allred, Scott C., Josh Cochran, Francesco Francavilla, Robert Goodin, Victor Kerlow, Ted Mathot, Scott Morse, ShoMurase, YukoShimizu, Bill Presing, Jim Rugg, Bill Sienkiewicz, and Connor Willumsen. Though the gallery show will be free to enter and enjoy for the general public, all proceeds from sales of these works will be donated to the Japan Society Earthquake Relief Fund. <http://www.japansociety.org/earthquake>
This is a special engagement gallery event, existing for one night only: Friday, July 22, 2011.
Tr!ckster is being held at the San Diego Wine and Culinary Center, which is a venue across the street from the San Diego Convention Center where Comic-Con is being held. Its address is 200 Harbor Drive, San Diego. Our show, "A Tribute to the Films of Akira Kurosawa," is one night only, Friday July 22, 7:00 PM to 1:00 AM.
Weather in New York is finally neither boiling hot or cold. So, come out to SOHO this Saturday afternoon, and buy art for a really good cause.
My good Japanese artist friends who live and work in New York, have spend months organizing this one night charity art show Dear Japan. All the proceeds will go to Japan Society's Japan Earthquake Relief Fund” (David has posted details earlier too).
170 illustrators and fine artists are participating in the show, and most of them are selling art for a fraction of what they normally sell them for. Everything for sale at the show is $200 for less. Yes, even an original Marshall Arisman print!
my piece: Red Dot Meditation black and red ink on watercolor paper 10" x 10" framed
I took time off from jobs yesterday, and created a 10" x 10" drawing using black and red ink. Since it is not for print media, I have decided to make it all about different textures subtleness of which can only be seen if you are looking at it close enough. All the red dots that may seem like a computer generated pattern are drawn by hand using red ink one by one. This drawing is framed and ready to be on your wall. Hope someone can take it back home with him/her on Saturday night.
I have also picked some of my personal favorite from the show. More exciting works can be seen (and purchased) at the show. Hope to see you on Saturday!
Art Connect New York Gallery Space: 491 Broadway, 5th Floor New York, New York 10012
June 4th, 2011, Saturday 4-8 PM
Purchase by cash or checks
Many of my drawings appear on the pages of magazines and newspapers. They get read, and go into recycles in a week, or a month, or in the case of newspapers, in a day at the most.
I am very much in peace with it. In fact, I feel that it keeps the artists humble, and down to earth. There is nothing pretentious about drawings that goes to garbage bin in a day. I like that.
But of course, every once in a while, when some special project comes knocking on the door, and they are beautiful 3D objects. Now, that is nice too. And exciting.
Close to a year ago, I had a chance to create a drawing for 1800 Tequila's limited edition Essential Artists series, in theme of Lucha Libre. If you know me, you know my passion for all things Mexico, so it was a really exciting opportunity for me.
The product finally got the official release on Cinco De Mayo, last week on May 5th, at Hudson Hotel in New York City during a release event that was organized by 1800 Tequila and Vice Magazine. There are five other bottles in this series from different artists in various style..
The Essential Artists 1800 Tequila should soon come out to fine liquor stores near you.
rough pencil sketches to start the project.
sketches for three different bottle ideas. I put them in a drawing of the bottle to show how they may look finished. I liked the other two as well.
final drawing for the bottle. Since the image is printed directly to the back of the glass, I kept the drawing simple, not textures and no shading. Pretty smooth finish. The mask has the design of agave: the plant that tequila is made from.
my bottle in the showcase box at the release party last week.
All the bottle designs in this series. From the left: Gary Baseman, mine, Tes One, Tristan Eaton, Ray Smith and Alex Hank
Some photos from setting up of the party. There was a ring in the center stage where band and actual luchadors played, and blown up huge drawings up on the walls surrounding, with posters made to look like Mexican wrestling posted around the bar area.
There was a huge turnout for the party with a long line of people waiting.
Japanese people take "new year" very seriously and are superstitious about "first" anything to predict how well the year is going to be. For example, "first dream of the year" is believed to be the best if you have dreamt of 1)Mt. Fuji 2)hawk 3)egg plant. Why egg plant? Not sure. But I am not making these up!
In this long, cold and snowy winter in New York, my work day started on January 3, Monday. Sunny. My first job of the year was to walk down to Magnolia Pictures office near my studio for the screening of an epic 2 hour + long new samurai film 13 Assassins directed by Takashi Miike, who is very popular with his horror films such as "Ichi The Killer" and "Audition". The project wa to create a poster. Now, if this 'first job of the year' would predict my 2011, then I have to say I had an amazing start of a year.
On and off for about two month, I worked with Matt Cowal, VP Marketing/Publicity of Magnolia Pictures. I have to say I had such a fun time working on this.
The main actor of the film is Koji Yakusho, who played Miyamoto Musashi in a popular Japanese TV series in the 80s, which I was obsessed as a kid. And I get to draw him! Now, this didn't happen even in my "first dream". My dear friend and illustrator/calligrapher Ai Tatebayashi contributed beautiful lettering for the poster design.
Find more about 13 Assassins and watch the trailer here. 13 Assassins will be released in the theaters next Friday, April 29th.
first set of sketches. They were little bit too 'art house film' approach, which would have worked if the audience was Japanese. We decided to go a bit more 'samurai action film' approach.
The second rounds. Sort of Tadanori Yokoo take on the samurai action approach. We decided to go with the right.
Although Koji Yakusho's face may not be as recognizable here in the States compared to Japan, likeness is important. I got tons of great photo references from the clients. I usually open them up on my large monitor as I draw.
Drawing in progress. paper size is about 22" x 30". Ink on watercolor paper.
then move to coloring on Photoshop. Although colors are relatively limited and simple, it took days and days of separating and adjusting the details and colors. File size can get quite big for poster jobs... I need to buy a new MacBook Pro soon...
Yes I could have done lettering myself, but I also believe in the power of pros. I asked my friend and illustrator/calligrapher Ai Tatebayashi to create those four letters for me. We discussed carefully, the direction of the lettering style, thickness of the lines, etc. She did the perfect job!!
Final poster design.
There are three posters for the film. Hope I get to see mine somewhere... if you do, please take photos for me!
Before we go, let's talk about things that gets me in the 'mood': i.e. Reference materials.
There were of course, a lot more things I had looked at, of course, but these three are staples when I work on samurai theme. From left, Heroes & Ghosts Japanese Prints by Kuniyoshi. I initially bought this book for my first job for Rolling Stone Magazine years ago, and have been heavily referencing since. Center is a book of art by Kawanabe Gyosai. On the right is relatively contemporary Miyata Masayuki's papercut illustrations that accompanied Eight Dogs' Tale by writer Yamada Futaro, which was initially published on Asahi Newspaper in early 80s.
Miyata Masayuki is not well known outside of Japan, but he was a genius. I wanted to share some of the pages from this book.
Many of the jobs I do, it takes hours and hours, sometimes days and days of drawing. It was not my original intention, but during the course of close to 10 years of working, I somehow became known as an illustrator who does detailed works.
Not that I have issues with that, but maybe because of that, I don't get calls to do a lot of New York Times Op-Ed illustrations. A lot of fellow Drawgers work on them on regular basis. But I don't even recall when was the last time I worked with them. (I do work with The New York Times in other sections quite often.)
originally, composition was horizontal. Alexandra sent me a mock dummy (left) and I made two sketches according to the shape (center) as well as one (right) that worked vertically.
They liked the vertical sketch. I drew the final around 2X the print size on watercolor paper using brush and india ink.
Then, digital manipulation of the work. Originally, I was thinking of making the water-line lighter, and add gray scale to the fish. Then after I started playing around, I decided not to do either, but just multiply the same drawings and add very slight effects.
Most of the time when I do digital manipulations, they are things you don't even notice if you only look at the final. I call them 'secret layers', not because they are secret, but because you won't even notice them.
In this case, I blur-ed the water line by manipulating on the computer (right), and the left one is before the blur. Very subtle change, but this layer adds a lot of depth and movement to the image.
final piece. I made many small changes and printed out many times till I was happy with the result.
Today's NY Times. What was really cool surprise was to find my friend Jason Lee's illustration right next to mine (left). Priceless.
When I got a call of approval from Alexandra around 5:30, I decided to pack up my stuff (and my dog) and leave the studio early. Yes, I have other work to take care of, but they can wait. It was just too nice to be inside.
We walked along the Hudson River for about 40 blocks (half of the time, my dob wanted to be carried around. He is a 4 pound dog after all), and enjoyed the Someiyoshino Cherry flowers in full bloom.
Someiyoshino Cherry and Riverside Church tower
He was in happy mood that he does not need to wear sweater to walk outside.
It will be a while till you will start seeing them at subway stations in New York, but I just got my copy of the MTA poster and got excited, so I wanted to share it with you a bit early.
MTA Arts For Transit usually commission around 3 artists a year to create posters. Posters are usually posted around NYC area subway and train stations and stay there for a few month.
I (and often my dog) take subway down to my studio from my home every day. It is very much a part of my life. (always buy 30 day unlimited pass!) So, it was obviously very exciting I was chosen as one of the three for 2011.
The challenge was that the audience is "everyone who uses MTA subways, busses and trains". It is easier to come up with ideas when the audience is narrow and targeted. To make something that is 'for everyone' is so broad, I was at first a bit lost.
Then soon, I organized my idea and decided to work with something that relates strongly to my personal experiences.
I decided that the best way to come up with ideas for sketches was to actually go there and walk around. I took many pictures, most of them from the kids' height, to get the sense of how this place look for children.
As a kid, I lived in a New York suburb for 4 years. My father, who had a job in an office in Pan Am Building (now Met Life Building) which is directly connected with escalators from Grand Central Terminal, commuted on Metro North commuter railroad every day.
Once in a while, my parents took me and my sister to come visit Manhattan on the same train. I clearly remember arriving at Grand Central for the first time, walking into then very dirty but still very stunning main concourse and looking up at a huge ceiling of stars and my jaw just dropped.
It was 1977. Grand Central was beautiful, but dingy. My mother told me to always stay with her while walking through the concourse, and never to use public bathrooms at the station. A lot of the store fronts were closed. There were a few that sold cheap coffee or egg roles. I liked them as a kid. I still think about the egg role treat we ate on the train on the way back to our home in Westchester, and kind of miss it.
Now, I walk into all the fun stores that sell everything from gourmet food to fancy gifts, and I use their clean bathroom. Restored ceiling is bright and shining in my favorite color: teal. But every time I walk back into Grand Central Terminal, I feel like I become the kid in 1977 again.
By the way, the Asian girl on the top of the illustration is me. Of course, me when I was younger.
the accepted sketch is on the right. All my sketches usually starts from very loose composition roughs, like one on the left.
two other variation sketches submitted. On the left is the most 'adult' looking piece with no people. On the right is a kid looking up and imagining, as all the busy people walk her by.
the banner on these sketches are dummy I just took from a previously published poster, just to give a sense of what it would feel like with the complete poster look.
Final poster image.
My friend Ai-chan posing with hot off the press poster. Yes, it is HUGE! Although it does not look that way when you see it at stations near you.
I totally judge books by their covers.
Let's be honest, we all do. I can be categorized as a book-worm, but still I always have piles of unread books sitting around in my apartment, mostly because I couldn't resist buying them for their beautiful covers. To add to this, I have countless design books on book covers, also piling up. I just bought one yesterday, and was drooling on it all last evening. (check this out: The Art of American Book Covers 1875-1930 by Richard Minsky)
Non profit organization National Novel Writing Month encourage people to spend November writing the first draft of a novel. John's idea was to invite 30 designers and illustrators, each create a book cover, start to finish, within 24 hours from the brief.
Mine was on November 29th, I was given three synopsis to choose from. The one I picked wasDia'pire by Michelle Zheng.Story about a pathetic and funny diaper wearing vampire.
It was a no brainer for me to pick this synopsis. This was the funniest. Besides, during the 90s, my religious view was "Anne Rice", for real. Thumbnails, thumbnails, thumbnails.
Pick one of the thumbnails I like the best, blow up to the size I want to draw. Cut watercolor paper to the size, get my ink and brush, then go dive into the drawing. I don't have much time!!!
eerie and funny... that is what I am looking for...
I don't have babies nor particularly into them. What do diapers and diaper pins look like?? Yeah, those authentic cloth diapers, of course!
Know nothing about type. How sad, but true. At least I can tell what looks good. vampire: gothic type, duh.
So, to hide my non-knowledge, I carefully hand draw each type, so it looks better than it actually is.
How ESL of me. Didn't I know that it would never spell "vampia"????. Go back to the drawing table to fix this up.
minor details: the bat drawings in the original drawing were needed to shift, move and flip around, because after the title type was in, they didn't work the way they were originally intended. After a lot of back and forth on where they should be, the final result is as below.
Finished!! All within 24 hours or less. Phew! But I am so nervous if it lives up to all the beautiful 29 other covers other designers have created. Either way, I had FUN!!!
People often ask me: "what was your very favorite assignment?". Now, this one is hard to answer. Every assignment (or at least, most of assignments) is fun in different ways. Sometimes because I love working with that AD, another times because the client let me do whatever I want, or article is interesting, good fee, etc, etc. But I have to admit, every once in a while, there comes a project that I tell my self "Yes! I have been working as an illustrator to get this assignment!".
And, this was one of them.
Rolling Stones came to Japan for the first time, yes, for the first time, in 1989, for Steel Wheels world tour. Japan is known for their strict drug law, therefore, Rolling Stones was banned from entering Japan, for precaution, until then. Did you know that Paul McCartney ended up in Tokyo jail for possession of small amount of marijuana in the early 80s? Paul was allowed back in first time since his arrest on the same year, if I remember correctly.
All the ultra-expensive Rolling Stones tickets got sold out in like 30 minutes. I was so sad, I ended up begging the president of an ad agency I worked with (I was working in a PR department of a big corporation back then) to get the tickets. And then, the first Rolling Stones concert... I was in heaven.
Nicholas Blechman, AD of New York Times Book Review, somehow must have sensed that I am a Rolling Stones fan. I don't know how. But he also knew I am a Keith Richards kind of a girl. (I am, with little skulls here and there...) He said: "I thought you would enjoy drawing all the lines in his face". I did, Nicholas, I did. Thank you.
Keith's autobiography "Life" is now in bookstores near you. Oh I should get a copy too!
As you may be able to tell..., it initially came as a cover gig. Unfortunately my illustration defeated against a photo of younger hotter Keith. But it is OK, ok.
Four ideas were submitted. they went for the most simple idea.
approved sketch is blown up to the size I want to draw, traced into a watercolor paper. Then I use reference photos to get the likeness right in pencil.
Ink drawing in progress. He looks much older in this one, because all the lines in his face are solid. In coloring stage, lines are lightened to various tones.
Nicholas said he has seen many Keith illos in many magazines but a lot of them are not flattering portrait of him. As fans of Keith, we decided the direction is "let's draw him in a way if he sees it it is a flattering portrait of him". I hope I did that right...
On the page of NY Times Book Review, from the last weekend.
Our concept was to create an exhibit of three 'illustrators', to show the power of print, and wanted to share what kind of creative and thinking process go into creating the works.
After a lot of ditched concepts and ideas, multiple meetings (over dinners and lunches), and needless to say, many many hours spent in front of our drawing tables, we are quite happy with the result, but then again, we have to let you the viewers decide themselves. It may not be a typical group show you may have been expected to see, so we are excited and nervous at the same time...
It would be great if you could visit, either at the opening party next week, or while the show is open.
We each created series of new images for the show that were not shown previously, and I am sharing some of my final pieces here. Mine were created using the definition of term 'blow up'.
Blow Up No.3: The Big Bang (original drawing: 22"x 30")
Blow Up No.2: Storm Forming (original drawing: 22"x 30")
Blow Up No.1: The Bubble (original drawing: 22"x 30")
mess on my drawing table...
long long hours of drawing....
In my personal pieces, I figure the composition out as I go. So some parts are completely finished while some are still in rough pencil stage.
I am not posting any photos of the final gallery spaces, because we want that to be a surprise when you come to the gallery. (I may post some photos after the opening party is over). But here are some pictures of work in progress last week.
on the top row from left: entrance area, invite flyer, and Tomer's works n the floor.
on the bottom row: Tomer Hanuka on the left, Sam Weber on the right.
I just got this gorgeously eerie piece from Tomer!
Thank you Anelle, Tim and everyone else at the Society of Illustrators for this opportunity. And last but not least, thank you Mr. David Rhodes for generous support in helping to make this show possible.
I have to confess. I LOVE drawing small details.
Like every single lines in the waves, and those textures in sweaters. And oh, drawing polka dots for hours and hours is just pure meditation I can do non stop forever.
But, it is also true that I tend to get commissioned for complicated images because of this obsession.
In reality, I am a huge graphic design fan, simple and bold posters are my favorite. But I seldom ever asked to do anything simple.
So, when Alissa Levin of Point 5 Design called me for Columbia Journalism Review cover and said “we want something very simple, bold and graphic”, I was like “YESSSSS!”
dummy layout came from the client as a brief for this project
Some jobs come with no brief, and some comes with very detailed one. This project was the latter. The editorial and design teams had gone through long meetings to decide what they wanted to be the cover, so this job came with a detailed mock up dummy.
Type of briefs are definitely case by case, and it is not that one is better than the other. All it matters is that there is trust and good team work between the designers and illustrators.
I gave four sketches according to the brief. Top two are very similar to the brief, and bottom two are 'curb balls'. I try to present some curb balls whenever possible, just to give different prespective.
Woops, busted! No, I don't have an iPhone or a blackberry :-b Phone is something I can make and receive calls, at least for now that's enough...
Drawing in black and white stage. About 22" high. India ink on watercolor paper. When an image is graphic, I try and include an area where things are extremely dense, to balance out. In this case, the waves.
Long long process of figuring out the color... in progress.......
Done!! Although there are many layers on my Photoshop, this one is considered simple, because of the graphic nature of the image. Some of my illustrations have like 50 layers...
I like how images feel a lot different between the cover and inside spread.
July/August issue of Columbia Journalism Review is in newsstands now.
I work with WNYC radio on all day long. At least once a day or two, there is a news about Mexico. Usually it is about drug mafia, kidnapping, or about that notorious law in Arizona..., either case, it is never a good news. It is unfortunate that these are now embedded in the brains of many Americans.
I took a lot of photos I want to share with fellow Drawgers and readers. I love Mexico so much I feel it is my duty to show the positive side of this country to Americans. I think I am making this post into two sections.
To start, I am showing the process of the announcement poster. During last year's visit, I made a fake lucha libre (Mexican wrestling) poster. I wanted this to be something related.
I recently adopted a 5 year old Chihuahua. Well, Chihuahuas are from Mexico... So, this time, theme was to make him into a superhero.
And here it is...
usually my illustrations all starts this loose. one of the thumbnails.
this is the sketch. I didn't need to show the sketch to the client, so I kept this rather loose too.
then, placing the sketch into the dummy layout. The left was the poster for last year, and I used the same banner and flower pattern to keep them as a series.
ink drawing is finished. Late at night... and my model was completely bored...
This was printed as silkscreen poster, so I made the original drawing into three color separations. Needless to say... Mexican flag color scheme.
the silk screen poster is complete! placed onto Amarillo bulletin board.
Here is where the fun starts! Amarillo people went into the night in Xalapa and posted them in the city, a-la- real lucha libre poster style!
My lucha chihuahuas were then turned into a tote bag design (sold out) as well as banner at Amarillo to announce the show.
Well, this is it for now, and I will post some photos from the show and workshop soon.
Thank you for reading!
by the way, I have made the poster into computer wallpaper. It is on my site for free download during the period of the exhibit.
If you are interested, please visit here.
Illustration job does not end when I send out my finals. Actually the real result, or more like the judgment day, comes when I receive the actual printed samples.
Sometimes, what I thought was a nice piece does not print so well. Or, what I felt was so so looks great in print. It is a constant learning lesson as a commercial artist to figure out what works in print and what doesn't. Of course, how well an illustration looks also has a lot to do with how well the whole 'package' is designed.
This project actually didn't have an easy path. It started two summers ago, when Rodrigo contacted me to work together (hell yah I'm a fan). Then, it was on hold when economy went south all of a sudden. Last summer, the project revived with six interior illustrations. And another long one year has passed, and now I am holding the physical book! Happiness is even more.
I put a lot of time, a lot of effort, and a lot of love into this project, and with the great work by Rodrigo and Albert, it looks awesome (At least I think so). I am really really proud, and wanted to share this with you. (Although, I know, you have seen it many times before. But at least you have not seen the interior illustrations though. )
sketches for interior illustrations. Deadline was short, and Albert was "do whatever you want!". (yay.) I think I finished one or two final illustrations a day to meet the deadline. It was just a blast for me though.
This was a story about Hina Dolls for Girls Day (March 3). In Japanese tradition, you take out the dolls only once a year for the holiday. This looks like the doll I grew up with. My mother still have them.
Kappa is a mythical creature believed to live by the streams.
Saigo Takamori is a famous Japanese historic figure everyone is familiar with (in Japan, that is...)
Woman's Body is the only story in this book that takes place in China. Very short but very powerful tale.
Japanese badger looks more like a raccoon. It was believed they perform magic and trick people.
for the main and the longest story The Robbers, the interior illustration was a revival of one of the killed cover ideas. It was nice to be able to finish this idea.
wrap around cover in actual 'package'. 満足。(very satisfied.)
People often ask me if I have time to do some personal work in between illustration jobs. While a lot of my peers have straight answer of 'yes' or 'no', mine's more like, well, in between.
Everyone has different balance of jobs, personal work, and recharging. I draw all the time, so for the last few years, when I am not working, I rather use that time to recharge (=not draw) so I can get inspired so that I can create more in the future.
Then, where doe my personal creative outlet go?
I luckily have a few clients who let me experiment, and create work I would rather be creating during my free time (if I have any). And here it goes back to today's post: Creative director SooJin Buzelli of PLANSPONSOR and PLANADVISER magazines as being the queen of that.
This is the most recent project I just finished for her. Both of the magazines focus on highly specialized and specific financial topics, SooJin knows how to get the best and most creative ideas out of illustrators by providing only the topic (sometimes just the title) of each article. This article's topic: listening and processing different pieces of advise.
three ideas submitted. I liked the top left and the bottom. She seems to always know which one I am most excited about.
b/w drawing with ink on watercolor paper. Rather large, as you can see...
I have a lot of books I use for color references. For this one, I wanted to use old fashioned limited color palette, so I pulled out a Japanese book of old Russian childrens books. Bottom right was my big inspiration for this piece, although the final color scheme is a lot different. By the way, this is one of my favorite books to use for color scheme references.
In case if anyone is interested, the book is called: 幻のロシア絵本 1920-1930年代 publisher:淡交社 ISBN4-473-03166-7 http://bookweb.kinokuniya.co.jp/guest/cgi-bin/wshosea.cgi?W-ISBN=4473031667
screen-shot of Photoshop coloring in progress. Yes, I have added the dot pattern inspired by the Russian illustration.
final illustration, done!! If I have a choice, I rather limit the colors like this every time I work. I am not crazy about coloring in every single space of the drawing. But of course, each illustration is worked on each specific needs.
Final layout. How clever of SooJin to have the type in the same size of the heads continuing onto the right page. So simple. Love it.
Cover of this issue of Planadviser. Each letter has fragment of interior illustration in it. Cute.
No matter how long I have worked in this occupation, I get so excited when a drawing I did is on the cover of The New York Times.
This was the Art and Leisure section from this past Sunday. A fun project about classical music and popular music crossover. Art director was Paul Jean. (Thank you Paul!!)
I have home delivery of Saturday and Sunday Times. It is extra nice to find it right on my door, read it as I sip my morning grapefruit juice..
One of my very first jobs ( I happened to get two illustrations published on the same day, another was Village Voice) was that small spot for Letters page of NYT approximately exactly 8 years ago in 2002. And that was probably when my mother got convinced that I have my mind set on becoming an illustrator in the US. My mother does not know any US publications other than NYT, Time and Newsweek. Being on NYT is like the best present I can give to her.
three sketches were submitted. Paul said "make sketches in any shape, and I will figure out how to lay them out." I approached the story in two ways, goofy and funny approach, and serious one.
screen-shot of my desktop while I work on my final drawings. all the reference photos are opened up so I can make a 'believable image' as possible. It was really fun drawing a fancy lace gloves.
original black and white drawing with ink and brush on paper. Since it was for a cover, I drew rather big... it is about 22 inches high.
coloring on Photoshop....
Paul sent me dummy layout based on my sketch, and while working on the final image, I placed the image to see if the size works fine with the layout.
I listen to WNYC from the moment I wake up in the morning, then stream from internet all day and evening at the studio, then go home and listen to it till I go to bed. Obviously, the big topic now is about the oil spill in Gulf of Mexico.
While I was listening to this horrifying story today, I remembered about this personal piece I created in the fall of 2008, during you-know-when.
It was pitched to a monthly political magazine and rejected for the reason by the time the magazine was out in the newsstand, it is going to be an old news, which I totally understood.
Since then, this finished image has not been seen much other than those kind people who has visited my site.
I dug it out of my external harddrive just now. I feel that "don't drill" is back again (and always will be).
Bye bye winter blues. Hello SPRING! Ah, I have been in such good mood recently. Although I get stuck in my studio and not taking advantage of the weather so much, just by feeling the warm air, blue sky, and flowers, it puts me in a great mood.
If you are visiting New York right now, you are so lucky. It is the time of the year when New York shines like a diamond. You forget everything negative about this city, and just love being here!
I actually created this illustration when the day was getting shorter, weather colder, and feeling the brutal winter coming. It was published in Smith College Alumnae Quarterly in its' winter issue. I waited to post this because the vive of the image is so spring-y.
It accompanied an article about how Smith College has protected, nurtured and provided great education for women written by Catharine A. MacKinnon, from the class of '69.
Client was Ronn Campisi Design, who is always a great supporter of illustration. The cool part of this magazine is that Ronn hired all female illustrators/designers: Jillian Tamaki, Kim DeMarco, and one and only Gail Anderson, to name a few. I was in a great company. Thank you Ronn and thank you Smith College.
First round of sketches that got rejected. I got too fixated on the beautiful gate of Smith College. Freshen up my mind and start over on new round of sketches....
second round of sketches that worked. Ronn's comment was that the flowers protected look weak and sad, so I made minor changes to make the concept more uplifting.
final sketch. Ready to go to the final!
This was my secret weapon. Taschen publishes great resource books, and these Taschen Icon series, I have maybe about 50 books collected over about 10 years, all nicely arranged up on my bookshelf.
black and white drawing, scanned in and ready for coloring.
final layout. I love the pink border and elegant typeface. Thank you Ronn!
These photos I took over last one week mainly near my neighborhood in Morningside Heights other than the one on top left, which is Flatiron Building on 22nd Street. New York City at its' best!!!!!!!!!!
All of a sudden, it is SPRING! And I am loving it. I don't mind cold weather, but having less light makes me feel blue. I am so welcoming the arrival of spring.
But I love snow. And I love drawing snow scenes even more. When I graduated, I had tons of images in my portfolio that had something to do with snow, even till this day, I am 'to call person' when it comes to snowy images. (And I welcome that.)
There were illustrations I had created for Outdoor Life that I have been meaning to post here. Before the calendar changes to April, I have to post this last blizzard image of the season.
The story was about elk hunters gotten stuck in blizzard, a page-turner survival story. Illustrations I created are for double page spread opener and two interior spots. Needless to say, I had so much fun. I felt like I was one of the guys who got stuck in the mountains!
Big thanks to Art Director Jim Walsh of Outodoor Life for this fun project.
two separate compositions were submitted. I was excited about guys having antlers in their backpack, but unfortunately that idea got killed because the group with horses won't carry them on their back. Ah, too bad!
some of the reference materials downloaded from internet. Rather than copying positions or compositions, they were for me to learn what elk hungers look, how they carry their stuff, etc.
People often ask me how I transfer my sketches onto drawing papers. I simply blow up the sketches to the size I want to draw (tape them together) and light-box it onto watercolor papers that are cut into the size.
I do have a drawing table on the side of the computer table, but this image needed a lot of references, therefore, I ended up spreading this 22" x 30" sheet of paper in front of my screen and scroll through references as I drew. Drawing is brush and ink on watercolor paper.
screen shot of Photoshop coloring stage. snow was added as separate drawings. Opacity and size of snowflakes are manipulated to add depth to the space.
Final illustration! the right bottom space is for the type. I forgot to buy this issue, so I should ask the ADs for the layout so I can post that too..
sketches for the spots
spot illustrations were rather simple, but fun. I am liking the final result of glowing tent image.
To have two of my favorite covers out of 33 covers I created monthly, was a good finale for the project. The project that started close to three years ago, recently ended with the magazine redesign as of February issue of this year.
This monthly gig came during their last redesign. Matthew Ball, a Scottish freelance art director and former Rolling Stone AD who I used to work with often, kindly pulled me into this project. What I thought would only last for a short period, ended up as accumulation of 33 images. I think I got some good pieces out of them which lead to some other jobs and projects.
above are two images accepted into The Society of Illustrators advertising and institutional show. They were both created for The Word magazine supplement CD Now Hear This!
Readership of the magazine is mainly young men, so the only art direction they gave me was to have "sexy girl with music instruments". I had a lot of fun with this lighthearted project every month. I think I did pretty much every variation I think of in the theme within that 32 covers. Things do end when they need to end. It was time for a change.
In this occasion, I decided to post some of the covers I was happy with. You can also see cover image archive here.
Big thank you to Matthew Ball, editor Mark Ellen, AD Jonathan Sellers, production editor Mike Johnson, and last but not least Jerry Parkins who made sure my payments don't get delayed every month.
The new The Word looks really good with illustrated covers by André Carrilho. Take a look when you are at (international) newsstands.
I decided to put all the past covers out and take a photo. Wow, I made so many in less than three years...
above are some of my favorite coverss. Many of them ended up reused in different projects later.
We were so used to working together, most of the month, our process got very simple: one sketch, one final. This, of course, does not happen often with other clients.
Great Recession continues. And, every one of us know at least a few close people in our lives who have lost their jobs because of this current economic situation.
This illustration was done for March issue of MORE, a magazine for grown up women with career and family, about this exact topic.
The story is titled: 'Fired at 50'. It focuses on the emotional struggle of women who have lost their long term jobs. It felt so 'real' to me.
March happens to be a transitional month when winter slowly turns into spring. So I decided to use season as metapher of women's emotional struggle.
Claudia Almeida was the Art director.
This has been a long cold winter with a lot of snow for North-Easterners, but we all know spring is right around the corner!
four ideas were submitted.
black and white drawing, ink on watercolor paper.
coloring on Photoshop. Reversing the dark and light was not my initial plan but along the way, I found this solution worked the best. When a new trial works, it is always a nice feeling.
final illustration. snowflakes and cherry petals were separate drawings added as layers on Photoshop. Published in MORE Magazine March issue
Why is snow so pretty when it is falling, but becomes a huge mess right after? Winter feels a lot severe this year, doesn't it?
When trees start to get light green new leaves, and flowers start blooming everywhere, that is my favorite season. I have been dreaming about Spring ever since this long winter started.
When SooJin Buzelli called me forPLANSPONSOR cover with the theme of "the worst is over", this was the idea which came to my mind immediately: my longing for spring...
Process post of this image felt perfectly appropriate today when you cannot walk outside New York City without a good pair of rubber boots.
three ideas submitted. I would have been happy to do the other two as well. I really like drawing plants (and suitcases).
these are my inspirations. bunch of shabby-chic door photos downloaded from internet. Although, I rarely use one specific photo as reference, so the final result was mix and match of them all.
original b/w drawing on watercolor paper. I normally finish everything on the drawing stage, but this one is very much half-done. Soft snow does not need harsh outlines.
final illustration. As you can compare with the original drawing, all the snow is added directly on Photoshop stage. Butterflies were drawn separately as well.
Photoshop progress stage. This illustration had so many layers, I have a lot of folders, and there are some more folders inside folders to have everything organized and so that I can keep track of everything.
Close-up of the trees in original drawig and in final Photoshop file. separate layers of gray-white were added to add depth to snow, and outlines were softened. I even added one more tree behind the third one on the right to give idea of space.
Final cover. Creative Director: SooJin Buzelli. Loving the type treatment woven into the scarves.
By the way, I do draw snow scenes a lot. This goes back to when I was in graduate school and I was getting good at drawing figures but terrible at putting them in environment. Thomas Woodruff, my thesis adviser, gave me an assignment to put people interacting in some kind of environment. I got panic, and drew this (left). It made me realize that drawing snow scene was: 1. Easy 2. Fun. I ended up drawing a whole bunch.
Now, I am proud to say I can put people in any environment. So, thank you Tom.
And this first snow trial eventually got me a gig to do the New York Times Travel Section (AD: Barbara Richer) cover (right), my first big job.
Well, I should probably love snow.
My first environment (=snow) attempt when I was in graduate school (left). And memorable first 'big' gig that brought me (right).
Congratulations again to everyone who’s work is exhibited at the Society of Illustrators Book/Editorial Show, and nice seeing you (those who were there) at the opening party on Friday night. Missed the party? No worries, the exhibit is open to public through February 20th.
I had realized I forgot to post the creative process of the cover for The Beautiful and Grotesque, a collection of short stories by Ryunosuke Akutagawa, one of the most celebrated modern Japanese authors. So, here it is.
The process started from rough ideas. I gave them four different scenes from the longest story in the book: The Robbers.
I think the only art direction I got is that it is an adult fiction and the cover should not look like a young adult book. I always repeated that in my head while working on ideas as well as coloring process.
They picked one of them, and the next stage was to make the wrap around sketch for the cover.
My secret weapon and amazing reference book for this project: "勇者の装い Samurai Armor Design" from PIE Books of Japan, bought at Kinokuniya Bookstore Bryant Park branch in New York. It is a wonderful coffee table book and makes a great gift too.
As you can see, sketch with gutter space is printed out to the size I would draw, and traced onto watercolor paper using light box. The rest is just tedious drawing process using ink and brush for hours till I am done.
black and white drawing is done. Next step is coloring on Photoshop.
screenshot of Photoshop process. As you can see, I ended up multiplying arrows to give image more depth and contemporary feel to the image.
This is the final wrap around cover image.
There were a few color variations to choose from. I actually liked this fuchsia version too. Intentionally chose the color that is not in traditional Japanese color scheme to give it contemporary feel.
final front cover. I love this unexpectedly contemporary design. I am so happy they didn't take the expected direction of making it look very Japanese. Design: Rodrigo Corral, AD: Albert Tang
I don’t like to regret. So I try not to dwell over things that didn’t work out in past. But there is one incident I cannot get over after many many years: missed a Queen concert, with, yes, a backstage pass.
I grew up with an older sister so when I was in elementary school I was already familiar with such Queen albums as A Night At The Opera and Sheer Heart Attack. Yes, long before the famous News of the World album became the super-mega-hit.
Somehow, my social savvy sister got backstage pass to Queen concert in the 80s and invited me to come with her. I don’t know why I didn’t. I probably was too young and maybe midterm exam was more on my mind than Queen. Stupid me.
My sister came back with tons of photos of Freddie and Roger and rest of the band members eating yakitori in a small restaurant during the after party. And that was the last tour Queen had in Tokyo before Freddie Mercury passed away shortly after.
Illustrators all have our ‘dream job list’. In the beginning, we get excited crossing one out at a time. After a while we realize it is OK not to cross everything out and eventualy forget about the list. But once in a while, out of the blue things on the list come back and surprise us with excitement. Needless to say Freddie Mercury was on the top of my list, but I thought the day would never come because it has been so long since he has left this world.
Siung Tjia, Creative Director of ESPN The Magazine, is a friend, but most of the time we talk about Chinese movies we love and Korean food we want to try for next lunch, so I assume he had no idea about my dream job list when he called me. Well, thank you Siungl! This was such a treat and a PERFECT assignment. And designer was Lou Vega.
The story was about America’s No.1 Stadium Anthem. Of course, it was Queen’s We Will Rock You written by Brian May. The article (and illustration) is in the latest issue of ESPN on newsstand now.
rough layout first, then to a sketch, then to revised sketch with larger crowd and prominent stadium.
For me, Freddie is all about THIS costume. It was long before We Will Rock You, but I had to put him in this outfit. This shocked me when I was about 10 years old...
gathered a lot more reference of Freddie (when he was older). I noticed he holds the microphone in a specific way, so I mimicked that in the final illustration.
black and white drawing before Photoshop stage. Black india ink on watercolor paper. Original size about 18.25" x 22"
final image. I worked extra hard on this (not that I don't work hard on other ones). Ah, flash-back of the missed last concert and Freddie in yakitori restaurant photos while working on this....
details of the crowd. Metallica and Village People also made the list.
final layout. Siung Tjia CD, Lou Vega AD/design. ESPN The Magazine Fan Issue is out now.
You realize you are a 'pro' when a killed job does not hurt your feelings anymore.
Of course, nobody likes rejection and it does need a bit of get used to in the beginning. But in this world jobs get killed all the time; editorial change happens regularly, articles do get canned, ad campaigns that never happened is also quite a common practice…
It’s not you, so hey, let’s not get upset. The only time you should be upset (with yourself) is when a job is get killed because you did a bad job. Let's hope that won't happen..
But then again, there are jobs that get killed that you were pretty happy with, and looking forward for them to be seen by others. Oh craap, it happens.
Since it is the end of a year, I decided to go through all my killed illustrations and find ‘the one’. And here it is: Christian Louboutin fall-winter shoe collection! What a fun subject to illustrate? I had a great time indeed. (Call me a fashion victim, but all my close friends know about my more than 30 pairs of designer boots collection. )
So, I decided to make sure my killed-Louboutins see the light of the day at Drawger. Thank you for looking, friends.
Those were two sketches I submitted. I liked the left one a lot, but it was a bit too 'out there' for the client, which I totally understood. Maybe I should finish this one for myself?
All the shoes were based on actual Louboutin Fall-Winter collection. I had fun illustrating the different materials, and yes, the signature red leather sole!
inspirations, or my 'mood board'. These images are not exactly my references, but important part of a creative process to focus on the ideas and mood of a piece.
I have to be just honest; 2009 was definitely not the best year I had, and work was definitely slower than usual.
But when the most of the world is in recession for over a year and more than 10% unemployment rate, you gotta look at the brighter side of it.
This week when I schlepped my heavy suitcase back from Hong Kong with my head spinning from jetlag, there was a big package waiting for me at my door. SPECTRUM silver medal!!! And look how sci-fi fantasy it looks!
Below are the images that got accepted to SPECTRUM this year starting from the silver medal winning piece in advertising category created for Microsoft as client.
Ok, so this year was not so bad. There were lots of great things to celebrate. What goes down must come up. Economy will soon come floating back up, my dear friends who have lost their jobs will eventually find jobs that are probably even better than the ones they lost.
For now, I wish everyone a wonderful holiday season. And let’s make 2010 even better year than this one!
PS: this won’t be my last post of the year.
SPECTRUM 16 annual just came out. My silver award piece on the right. Gold was also by a Japanese artist, Mr. Ryohei Hase
one of five images created for online ad for Microsoft won this year's silver
another piece from Microsoft advertising series
Sandman issue No.4 cover for DC Vertigo was accepted into comic category
PLANADVISOR piece for CD: SooJin Buzelli, in editorial category
I still dream about my corporate days and wake up completely stressed, although I left there more than 10 years ago. I never leave home without a few Zantac pills in my bag just in case that ulcer I first got during my 9-9 workdays come back and haunt me. (often enough.)
When German magazine Der Spiegel called me, I couldn’t turn down the job although the deadline was extremely short. It was about an over-achieving young career woman's experience of severe nervous breakdown from work and work environment stress. Listening to AD Antje Klein explains the story with her fluent English over the phone, I felt the woman’s pain. I never got to the point of nervous breakdown, but if I stayed? If I never quit and went back to art school? I am not sure.
Other than that I felt personally attached to the story, the idea of Antje “ let’s make her into this superhero character” sounded really fun. I mean, who doesn’t like superheroes? Look at the pile of reference and inspiration books I have in my bookshelf!
obvious reference materials. I have too many superhero books on my bookshelf... ha ha.
three ideas. Bottom two ended up as spot illustrations for the same story.
During coloring stage on Photoshop, I often go back and forth, trials and errors (and at the end, hopefull, always some level of success). In the middle of coloring this main illustration, something was telling me that it was not going the right direction.
Then, I had an “ah~ha!” moment when I made the drawing into negative. Dark story calls for dark color scheme like this.
Something was telling me that the coloring was not going to the right direction....
then... aha moment follows...
Yes, I wrote my very first blackmail. No. Of course not for real! I’m not that kind of a girl.
Sean Johnston of MAXIM Magazine called me for an unusual project. Not illustration. It was already assigned to cool and talented Mr. Eddie Guy. My job here was to fill the opposite page of that illustration. Yes, to design the title page.
The story was about Japanese Yakuza. MAXIM wanted something that looked cool, noir, Japanese, and blackmail-y.
MAXIM November issue. My blackmail next to Eddie Guy's illustration.
To be honest, I got a bit nervous when I got the first call. My close friends know that my secret fantasy is to become a kick ass designer and work at PentaXXXX with my hero PauXX ScXXX. But I honestly don’t know anything about typography. I think I can draw pretty much anything with a brush by now working as an illustrator for years. But hand-written type? Ummm.
But then, why am I an artist if I don’t get to experiment. So, I said: “yes. I. can. “
The difference between illustration and calligraphy is that in illustration you work on one image for a long time in calligraphy you work quickly but may have to do as many till you get 'the one'. (i.e.: same amount of time.)
Soon, the drawing table was completely covered by a mountain of all the failed trials. And a corner of my studio became a make-shift fake-blood-factory. Hours and hours and days of working into it..., yes, I did it! And I am quite proud of my first blackmail.
I don't know how many I wrote... piles and piles of paper on my drawing table.
I made blood on a corner of my studio. Bombay Red ink makes good blood, in case you need to know.
Here is the quick start-to-finish process. My dad would cry if he knew I used Photoshop to make revisions, but it is all about good design, so it is OK, OK. (In Japanese calligraphy, it is a biggest no no to make any revision on the finished piece.)
Big thank you to MAXIM Magazine, Dirk, Sean, Chandra and Billy, who have been supportive of my work over the years at various different magazines.
‘How do professional illustrators come up with ideas?’ I often get asked by students and aspiring illustrators. A lot of them believe we have especially developed brains that when we start thinking of ideas, light bulb just lights up, like one of those old-fashioned cartoon.
Well, that is not true. How we come up with ideas is not so much different from how anyone else would come up with ideas: lots of research and lots of brain-storming. Simple as that.
Recent illustration I did for Fast Company Magazine (October issue) was a story about how to promotea red-carpet event efficiently so more people know about it.
My solution?: research whole bunch of mundane yet ‘loud-speaking’ objects, put them together to come up with a bizarre theater machine that is screaming ‘promotion’. Sometimes, an idea can be as simple as that.
first, think of anything that's related to: 1) red carpet event 2) promote loudly.
then, put them together and think if you can come up with interesting enough visual.
voila! Now you have an illustration. The key to inventing a surrealistic object is that how the things are connected together somehow seems believable.
after the digital coloring. now this weird surreal PR machine is complete.
final layout in the magazine. I drew a long red carpet so they can lay it out the way they like.
Big thank you to Henry Young, Associate Art Director of Fast Company Magazine.
Working as a cover artist for DC Comics Vertigo has been a whole different experience from my regular life as an editorial illustrator. And I am having a lot of fun getting challenge to keep myself stimulated and to try out new things.
For example, I work with editors instead of art directors, but editors in comic books deal with images, so they are sort of in a way in between editors and ADs. Other challenges include: change compositions and color schemes dramatically each issue, and yet keep the mood of the whole series throughout, reinventing characters that are drawn by interior artist and make them similar yet in my way, etc.
The 5th issue of The Unwritten (written by Mike Carey, illustrated by Peter Gross) has just come out in comic book stores this week, and at my studio I am busy working on the 9th cover. (We work way ahead.)
It has been a while since I talked about the first cover, so I wanted to post about the latest issue. (The story of this issue deals with British colonization of India, Moby Dick and Mark Twain.)
First step is thumbnails. I draw lots and lots of rough ideas. I am extremely neurotic about compositions, so I often draw the same idea over and over until I come up with a good composition. Of course, a lot of ideas won’t work and get ditched at this stage. I jot down keywords on the side of the paper which helps brain storming.
Four sketches are submitted. I am often unsure if any of them would work, and get nervous until my editor Pornsake Pichetshote calls me back. (Yes! My editor still makes phone calls!!)
Some references and inspirations downloaded from internet. It is important for me to really ‘feel’ the environment I am drawing. So, the photos of Indian jungles are not just for reference, but also to help me getting into the mood of the far away place I have never been.
I usually like to draw an illustration in one-shot, but in this image, it made sense to divide into four parts.
Back by popular demand, screen shot of all my Photoshop layers.
This illustration is in three parts. Background, the English man, and...
… the whale eye layer-set finishes the image. Small bubbles were drawn separately as well, so the image is consisting of total of 5 separate drawings put together on Photoshop.
All the five covers published so far. Thanks to the fantastic team of Mike, Peter and Pornsak, and everyone else who’s involved in The Unwritten, the series is doing well, and the first two issues got completely sold out and went into the second printing. Yay.
I will try and post processes of some of the older covers as well.
The idea of “golf” still have that old-fashioned feel.You know, rich executives, exclusive and conservative...But under Creative Director Ken DeLago, the art department at Golf Digest has been successfully reinventing that old-school idea.
When Associate AD Marne Mayer called me for a portrait of a young Swedish golfer Anna Nordqvist, she made it clear: “ Let’s do a portrait that would surprise the traditional readership!” Her request was to “draw Anna as a Viking queen”.
“You mean, metaphorically or literary?”
“Well, it can be either way. Have fun!”
So, I ended up coming up with an idea of making this illustration almost like a fantasy book cover, really over the top. Only that she is holding a golf driver, not a sword.
Have fun, right? I was a sci-fi/fantasy geek back in my tween days.
And, OK, back to school special!
For all the illustration majors starting school in a few weeks, more detailed creative process on this post....
Process starts from thumbnails. Lots of them. Good drawings only come from lots of bad drawings, kids. Draw, draw, draw.
I usually draw thumbnails with pencil on photo-copy paper. (very easy to organize and file away the sketch piles after each job is done). No eraser while doing roughs. Art students, eraser is your enemy. Eraser makes your drawing meek. Throw away your erasers before the school starts!
Don’t forget the reference materials! Never copy one single picture is a rule. All the photos are copyrighted to someone, just like your drawing/painting is copyrighted to you. These are some of the photos I downloaded online. Viking museum snapshots to geek costume-play (!!!) to the illustration star of Scandinavia Kay Nielsen’s work…
By the way, these are maybe 1/5~1/10 of all the reference materials I have gathered from different sources. The more, the better understanding you get of the subject matter you are illustrating. (All photos are copyrighted to the original creators. Thank you.)
Two sketches were submitted. Let’s always give options to the client (and to your teachers, especially!)
By the way, I DO know that the real Viking helmets don’t have horns. But we decided to add them anyway to make the concept more clear to American audience. (Eraser is acceptable here.)
Then, to the drawing table. Dr. Ph. Martin’s Black Star is the ink of my choice. Japanese calligraphy brush on watercolor paper. Drawing is about 13”x17.5”. My drawings are really loose, so I usually draw around the double the printing size or bigger.
*(By the way, I added this part later) I just found out that Kinokuniya Bookstore in New York carries decent number of various Japanese calligraphy brushes, and they actually carry the one I use. For those who are interested in trying them out.)
Drawing gets scanned in and next step is the Photoshop coloring. I seldom fix my drawing on the computer, but of course there are exceptions.
I open up the references (the magazine sent them to me) and really nail her likeness by very minor rescaling and moving of the facial parts. I call this process “plastic surgery” (always works!). Also softened some of the lines on her face to enhance her soft, young and fair feature.
(By the way, the cute wallpaper on my computer was made by one of my Venetian student Michele. It is his beloved pug. Cute, eh?)
OK, yes, ‘back to school special’… !
Here are all the layers involved in coloring this illustration (which I normally don't show). About 25 layers here; which are not as many as my illustrations usually have. This is a rather simple composition, so I was able to keep my layer count low. I think my average is about 50 layers. (I know. Some of my friends call me crazy.)
There are lots of 'secret layers' that are so slight viewers won't even notice. But those are the ones that make the final image work. Final layered PSD file size here is about 700MB, which is also smaller than my avarage of about 1GB.
Final illustration: my 'faux Viking fantasy book cover'. Yay.
Magazine page layout. September issue of Golf Digest is in newsstand now. Thank you Ken and Marne. And, all the art students, welcome back to school! Another year of productivity to come.
Drawing nightmares is tricky.
It is easy to draw a nightmare you had last night, but when it comes to drawing the bigger ‘idea’ of nightmares, all of a sudden, it is not that visual.
Besides, there is this iconic nightmare painting already exist by the master of the genre: Fuselli (please see below).
When Ronn Campisi, an AD who works with multiple publications around Boston area, called me for an assignment on this topic for Bostonia Magazine (alumni magazine of Boston University), it was a bit of struggle at first. After getting rid of really cliché ideas that initially came and went in my head, I settled with two rather simple ideas of drawing the gloominess of the experience of nightmares rather than trying to illustrate too literary.And, I tried to stay away from Fuselli imagery as much as possible. We were pretty happy with the final result. This illustration got accepted into this year's Communicaton Arts illustration annual, which was a nice surprise at the end. Thank you Ronn and CA!
The ultimate icon of nightmare images by Fuselli
two sketches. I could have done either one of them, but the bottom one probably had a better composition.
drawing as it was scanned in. Black india ink on watercolor paper.
Then using Photoshop I tediously cut out the swirl part to pop it up more from the rest of the drawing.
This is the final colored version.
Bostonia Magazine page layout. Ronn did an amazing job, and the illustration got accepted into this year's Communication Arts illustration annual. Thank you Ronn!
“Reality check: things are not looking so great when you wake up.”
This was the line I received from AD SooJin Buzelli to come up with this illustration for PLANADVISER Magazine.
What I love about working with SooJin (as all the fellow Drawgers know) is that she knows the illustrators do our best job when we have the biggest freedom.
Well, to be honest, I thought maybe this idea was a bit too out-there, but she didn’t seem to mind it!
By the way, side track... I am still learning how to be a better blogger... I have only posted one (ONE!) post last month.. I am trying to be better at posting from now on...
Two sketches submitted. I really didn’t mind working on either one. The other one may have been fun too.
Next is the drawing stage. India ink with Japanese calligraphy brush on watercolor paper. Original image size is about 17" x 22". Yes, I draw quite large... The left is the original drawing as it was scanned in. The right is after the basic Photoshop value tweak before proceeding to the actual coloring stage, which is a time consuming process, but necessary to make the colors work well in the final.
SooJin only asks revisions if it is absolutely necessary. The very small, but very effective revision she wanted was to drop the blue color of the ocean into the kid’s eyes, so they pop more. Totally worked. Thank you SooJin.
I added the golden leaves for compositional purposes, and also to enhance the concept.
final cover. I love how the type is doing hide-and-seek in between the waves.
Brooklyn-based boxer John Douglas posing cool in The Gap shirt.
OK, so I have to be absolutely honest. I do NOT wear t-shirts. They look horrible on me. Over the years, many t-shirt design gigs came and went without fruitful results. It probably has something to do with my t-shirt illiteracy.
But that does not mean I don’t like t-shirts on other people. In fact, they look great on almost everyone, well, other than me.
The Gap (PRODUCT)RED was patient enough to work with such a person like me to come out with my first (I hope it is not going to be the last!) four designs this season.
I cannot explain my excitement seeing people looking great in them, especially knowing that the proceeds will help women and children affected by AIDS in Africa.
Thank you, thank you and thank you, for those who bought, and those great design and technical team at The Gap who transformed my digital files into awesome shirts.
top row from left: Yausi Mora and Emilia Casana in Puebla, Mexico, Yuki Ikezi from Santa Clara, California.
second row: Juan Carlos Vazquez Padilla in Acapulco, Mexico, John Douglas in Brooklyn, NY, Jack Tse in New York. third row: Michael Thorner from Toronto, Canada. Bottom row: Sam Gorrie in Las Vegas, Nevada, Aida Aguilera Rocha from Xalapa, Mexico
There are four designs in total. All of them in women's sizes and right two are also available in men's sizes. Top left was original image created for this project, and the other three are pre-existing images adjusted for the shirts.
There is only one shirt that was created originally for the project (fortune cookie). Yes. But that does not mean I didn't squeeze my t-shirt-dummy-brain to come up with various ideas. In fact, I think some of them are not at all bad although they were not made into the production.
Anyone interested in realizing them into final products? Well, contact me and let me know. We can discuss!
Read more about (PRODUCT)RED, how it helps Africa, and to purchase shirts here.
I have to say, it is a different kind of excitement I feel when I see my work on wearable objects and displayed in stores like this!!
I dreamed of becoming a comic artist when I was child. Just like any other Japanese kid growing up in economic growth of 1960s and 70s. It was the first golden age of manga and anime: Astro Boy, Cyborg 009, Galaxy Express 999…. When I was in college, I even drew my first (and the last) 40 page comic (note: I was a business major, not art) which made me realize I was not a story-teller and comics were probably not my calling. I stopped reading comics and dreaming of one day creating one.
About 20 years since then, I am back to comics. But completely in a new way.
I love challenge. I love working on different projects and push myself to a new direction. Working on covers for new DC Vertigo series The Unwritten is a perfect way to revisit my childhood dream.
Luckly I was able to team up with the best of the best, and the nicest of the nicest (writer: Mike Carey, artist: Peter Gross, editor: Pornsak Pichetshote). Story is extremely well written, intelligent, interesting, also a really good page turner. I just heard that the first issue completely sold out in just ten days after initial release. Wow!
PS: If anyone is interested, I will be at MoCCA Festival's DC Vertigo booth signing the covers this Saturday from 1-2PM.
One of the challenges of being comic cover artist is to recreate and re-interpret the story and the character without too far removed from the original. Bottom row is the main character Tommy drawn by Peter. Top row is variations of Tommy drawn by me. He has long sideburns and chooses bowling shirts as everyday fashion.
It took a while to warm up to the new series. It is always difficult on the first few issues when I am not used to the story and characters are not developed fully yet. First 4 sketches were OK, but not great...
the first first cover. Both the editors and I were not feeling it... So we decided to ditch it and start from scratch.
more sketches that didn't fly... But looking back, I do like some of them a lot.
finally, everyone agreed on the bottom left one.
The first step of final illustration is to draw with india ink (Dr. Ph. Martin's Black Star) with Japanese calligraphy brush.
In this case, drawings were in three separate sections: main drawing, letter layer and a book. They are scanned in and put together on Adobe Photoshop.
PS (June 6, 2009):
Thank you for those who stopped by to MoCCA DC Vertigo Booth today. Here are some photos. Right is with my editor Pornsak Pichetshote and long-time friend and an amazing colorist Jose Villarrubia.
According to BLENDER Magazine, the first creator of hip-hop “mama” song was Mr.T. Treat Your Mother Right. This image was commissioned for May issue just in time for Mother’s Day.
It was my first collaboration with BLENDER. I have worked with CD: Dirk Barnett and his talented creative team in past (RIP Premier), and have always loved the smart editorial design they come up with, so I was psyched.
Well, you know the rest of the story. It became my last job with BLENDER, and their final issue was April. Mr. T never ended up seeing the light of the day. So, at least he gets to be posted here in Drawger.
Happy Mother’s Day everyone.
AD: Robert Vargas. Thank you for this gig. And, you guys paid me so quickly.
two quick sketches and a dummy layout. I love when ADs send me layouts. It is nice to see how your work get applied to the page.
BLENDER, you were a cool magazine. Rest in peace...
“We want you to design diapers.” When the e-mail came in, I thought it was a joke. Or, at least a mistaken identity. Apparently, the original designer of Hello Kitty has the same name, and I often get e-mails from people who get us mixed up. After writing back politely to make this clear, they wrote back immediately and said “no”. The e-mail was intended to be sent to me. This is how I ended up designing diapers which is coming out in Sweden next week from Libero, one of the biggest baby product manufacturers in Europe.
I am not a big fan for “cute and colorful things for kids” mentality. I did not grow up with lots of Sanrio characters, and children’s books I adored as a child were not what you see in bookstores now a days.
The client obviously has seen my site and know I do a lot of powerful women theme, funny sex illustrations and all the other not-so-kids-friendly stuff.
final products. There are five designs, images on both front and back of the diapers.
Libero, apparently, is known for its’ unconventional, edgy, and experimental concepts and designs. Like fashion houses, they have Spring-Summer and Fall-Winter collections where they put out limited edition products. Looking at their past designs were fun: drawing of big gold bling on the back, character designed poo and pee drawn in sweet way, things like that. OK, I can do this!
Their spring collection this year is “Save The Tigers”. Rather than having cute character of tigers, they decided to go traditional and Asian. Perfect for me.
You can see their funny commercial and other things on libero.se
Big thank you to the nicest people at ad agency Forsman & Bodenfors and filmmaker Anders Hallberg who kindly filmed “making of” video.
Some of the sketches. Quickly done with pencil on paper, and color was added on photoshop.
ha ha ha. These were killed versions. They are supposed to be Japanese maple leaves, and they do actually look that way, but of course, they didn't want take that risk, and I understand. I changed them to more puffy red leaves.
A lot of the world famous classics won’t work if there were cell phones or characters knew how to text message. Casablanca or Romeo and Juliet would have had happy endings. If Joseph had a cell phone there was no Judaism. It sounds like a joke, but these technologies forever changed how the writers would create stories.
This was the article I illustrated for the last Sunday’s The New York Times Week In Review. It was a little goofy illustration. Not an epic kind of work. But I had a lot of fun.
All my illustrator peers know about this, but in case the readers here are aspiring illustrators or art students, I will explain a bit how it works with a job like this.
For a newspaper illustration, we usually have less than a day from start to finish. Yap. In this particular case AD Aviva Michaelov called me the evening before it was due on Thursday for Friday end of the day deadline, but I was working on another deadline for Friday so I asked if it is OK to send the sketches on Friday AM.
I try to give at least two ideas to pick from. I actually liked the right one, because you can do so much more with layout.
References I downloaded from internet. I used the top right for reference of the pose, and faces and costumes from that famous film (remember Olivia Hussey??), Romeo's hair style from bottom two paintings, etc. Mix and match!
After my other deadline wad done on Friday morning, I spent about 1 hour coming up with ideas. Sketches are rough, but everyone knows it has a tight deadline, so it is OK. I got an approval by early PM, worked on drawing and coloring for the rest of the afternoon. There was a minor revision, but everything was done by 7PM. There are two versions of finals: b/w to be printed in the actual paper, and color to be used on the web.
This is the original b/w drawing with ink on watercolor paper, without any computer coloring or editing.
And this is the final b/w image for print. Bubbles were drawn separately and added. Also some harsh blacks were toned down so Romeo and Juliet are separated more into two figures.
Finally the color version used only for website. We found out that the print was in b/w before I started coloring, so I made two versions. It was not too much more work, and I don't love the way color image prints as b/w. So, it worked out for both parties.
By the way, if anyone is interested, you can actually visit (what is supposed to be) Juliet’s house in Verona, Italy. Balcony was later added to make it look more authentic, but still fun to see where Juliet lived. Besides, Verona is a stunningly beautiful walled city with lots of fabulous wine bars and real Roman coliseum!
This is a view of Verona from the top of the coliseum. It is not the most common tourist destinations, but it definitely worth a trip. (No, I did not go there for a research of this job.I wish.)
this is the poster. A3 size, three color separation silk screen
Day light savings time has started, but it feels like there is no end to New York winter. I am flying out to Mexico tomorrow. To Xalapa, a town I have never heard of, but looked really nice on limited information I got from internet search. Amarillo Centro de Diseño, a design organization located in this town had invited me to have a talk and a show for Mexican illustrators and designers. If anyone who is reading this happened to be near by, please come by. Here is the info.
Amarillo asked me to create a poster to announce the talk. I wanted to make “Japan meets Mexico” theme, but wanted to avoid the common stereotypes. So, no sombrero, no cactus, no pyramid, no tacos and, sorry Marcos, No Chihuahuas. At the end I decided to go with, one of my Mexican obsessions: Lucha Libre. Amarillo means yellow in Spanish, so it totally looks like that’s my figher name, or something. Let’s leave it as that.
Posters are currently being printed one by one by hands of silk-screeners of Xalapa. I am very excited.
I will be back on Monday. I will let you know how it went.
I downloaded bunch of Lucha Libre images for references and inspirations. Yes, including Nacho Libre poster!
Here is the pencil rough poster idea I created before proceeding to the next step.
If you stare at this image for about 10 seconds, you are supposed to see the three color separation process I made for the silk screeners.
Amarillo space getting ready for the show. I get to see this space tomorrow. Beautiful tile work!
Donato Giancola announcing the award. You can watch the video on Spectrum site.
I just found out I have received a silver medal from SPECTRUM 16. Yes, that SPECTRUM, where sci-fi and fantasy artists are awarded. Yeah! Is it for real????????
When you see my work, you probably don’t think about this genre, I know. But, I have to comfess, I was a huge sci-fi fantasy geek in middle school drooling over Frazetta, Boris and Jeffrey Jones, reading Moorcock and C.L. Moore. This is something I wish I can go back in time and tell the 14 year old me! Thank you thank you thank you judges.
This job was done about a year ago for Microsoft’s website UltimatePC (site is now gone). Microsoft hired multiple artists; photographers, illustrators and animators to create work using PC (instead of MAC which we are more used to) to promote the high graphic performance of PC.
This is the site UltimatePC which unfortunately not around anymore. This site had some fun works by Photographers and animators as well.
This is Falcon! Red and shiny! And I became bilingual at shortcut keys, which I am really proud.
I was given the top of the line machine Falcon custom colored to my taste (red of course) with all the software pre-installed. Their request was to create a series of five images or more. I asked them what they were looking for. They said “your personal work”. They didn’t even bother to look at my sketches. Well, I sent some to them anyway, and all they said was “they look great”.
Under current economic crisis, this sounds unreal, like a voice from heaven. Yes, I did it myself, but it still doesn’t sound real to me. Probably one of the best jobs I have ever given. I guess, we do our best work when we are trusted and given total freedom.
These are the sketches I sent to my client. Now I look at them, one of them I didn't even create at the end, and the award winning piece doesn't even have sketches...
this is the drawing before I colored it. Matt Rota helped me a lot with this process. He colored the base for the finished images as I was still working on other images.
These are other images in this series.
Thank you Microsoft for this awesome project, Pamela Esposito for getting me this gig, Matt Rota for helping me with complicated coloring process.
"What do we sacrifice for homeland security?"
That was the topic thrown at me from a team of curators for an exhibition called Embedded Art – Art in the Name of Security –.
Show is now going on across the pond in Berlin, Germany up to late March. Main part of this show consists of site specific installations, but also as a side project, multiple graphic designers were invited to create posters in the same theme.
I came up with an idea in two color schemes, after a long period of communicating back and forth with the curators, and some help and advise from artist friends.
I actually personally liked the black version better, but at the end, the curators went with the red one for the practical reason of adding type to the finished poster.
Most of us, illustrators, are used to seeing our work in magazines, newspapers, on book covers, etc... a lot smaller scale. It was a refreshing experience to see these photos of my work in a larger scale. A friend just sent them to me from Berlin. Curators decided to put the posters together, so they make illusion of never ending line of everyone watching everyone.
And here are some sketches. Some worked, some didn't. Also interestingly, some would have worked in editorial context or domestic use, but once the context was taken out of publications and/or the border of the US, all of a sudden some started having different meanings which made them not work. It was definitely an interesting topic to work with. I am fully aware that some of the sketches here are not good at all. But hey, I have no secret. I wanted to show them anyway, just to share especially with aspiring illustrators. Yes we do sometimes come up with really bad ideas first to reach good ideas at the end. Fair?
And, here are the last narrowed down ideas. One became the poster, and the other one, which curators told me "too poetic for the poster" (I totally agree) but I still liked a lot, ended up getting published in The Atlantic later. Happy endings for both of my favorites!
Last but not least, thank you Moritz and everyone who was ivolved in the show, my good friend Harri for introducing my work to them, and Jason of The Atlantic for accepting the raining bonsai to his magazine.
Yesterday's NY TImes Book Review (AD: Nicholas Blechman) cover featuring 6 different portraits of Lincoln drawn by 6 different illustrators, and 2 more in interior spread, all with the same two color scheme.
Participating illustrators were: on cover clockwise from top left: Ward Schumaker, myself, Brian Rea, Seth, Seymour Chwast, Christoph Niemann.On the interior spread, Mchael Cho (left) and another Ward Schumaker.
And here are my original drawing (left) and final image.As you can see, I gave Abe a bit of "plastic surgery" making him smile a bit and changed the eyes to look more like himself. I usually don't do much of plastic surgery on Photoshop, but it sometimes happens when I am working on portrait and trying to nail it.
chew on this, and support next generation of creative minds
at first, you don't notice the thousand nipples...
I heard on the news recently that people feel most happy and fulfilled not by monetary insentives, but by rewarding feelings we get from doing something for others, regardless of our income level, type of jobs, race, age, etc. I love the fact we artists can contrubute our artwork, and go way beyond what we could have contributed in money. Sticky, a creative agency in Chicago and Retail Advertising & Marketing Association came up with a very creative idea to raise scholarship fund for students at Columbus College of Art and Design in Ohio.
Four artists, including myself was invited to design gum packages based on the stories Sticky has created. 12 packs of gum in a carton is sold for $25, which will fund Randy Curtis Memorial Award.
My image is based on a trippy story about a third nipple escaping a girl's body, travels across the continent and go surfing. ( Yes, you read it right. ) Because the story was so out there, and the package features a surfer on the wave of thousand nipples, the gum got rejected from production at the last minutes.
But of course, it is the bunch of creative minds who are working on this project, they ended up managing to produce this gum, as a "banned and limited edition". If you are interested, you can also buy this gum, chew on this, all for a good cause.
Here are two sketches I initially submitted. We ended up going with more subtle one, which, we think we made the right decision.