Illustration for That’s Life Magazine

Title: Mortifed
Client: That’s Life Magazine Via The Illustrator’s Agency

This illustration for the Australian publication That’s Life which features readers true life stories and was a fun one to do. It was completed and approved within a few of days of receiving the commission. That’s what I love, fast turnarounds!

The brief on this one, was to show a mother preparing dinner in the kitchen, while at the same time comforting her daughter, who’s just been relating the tale of an embarrassing incident.

The illustration was done in a combination of Adobe Illustrator (Background elements and props), Manga Studio (Initial rough sketch and final character art) and Photoshop (Compositing and colour correction).

Mortified: Illustration for That's Life Magazine

For comparison. Here’s the initial sketch, which as you can see, just required some small changes to the facial expressions.

Mortified: Initial rough sketch

 

Wild West Slush Puppy Mural Illustration for a Netherlands Theme Park

Client: Slagharen Vakantiepark via TheIllustratorsAgency.com

slush-puppy-western-5 I enjoyed working on this mural design project. it’s been a long time since I had the opportunity to work on some licensed properties. It was refreshing not to have to come up with a completely original character for once. Although working on licensed characters has it’s own set of challenges of course, not least of which is keeping the characters on-model.

Sometimes it helps to draw the character and go away and do something else for a few hours . When you come back to it you see it with fresh eyes and any errors suddenly stand out with startling clarity.

Here are some of the rough drafts I went through trying to get Slush Puppy right. Roughs were done in Manga Studio 5 and final design was completed in Adobe Illustrator.

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Logo Design for a Production Company

Here is a logo design I recently completed for Mark “Burroman” Meyers for his new production company.
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Mark Meyers is the Executive Director and Cofounder of the Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue. and has authored a highly successful series of books “Talking With Donkeys”. Mark is an advocate for donkeys and performs public speaking engagements all across the U.S.
Mark, along with the world famous BürroCøllies, travels the country working with Federal, State and Local Law Enforcement Agencies on donkey abuse, neglect and abandonment cases as well as wild burro capture projects. With more than 3,000 rescues to their credit, no one does donkey rescue like this team.

I’m Lovin’ It – Characters in McDonalds

Fast food restaurants and shopping malls are great places to spot real life characters. Here are some people sketches from the McDonalds which is about 20 minutes drive from my house. My cholesterol level is going through the roof and I’m getting fitted for a pacemaker next week but what can I say. Terrible diet equals great sketching opportunities!collage0019

Ralph Fiennes Caricature

I was vaguely aware of Ralph Fiennes role as Voldemort , but it’s only when I really studied his face that I realised how seriously malevolent the guy can look, even without the make up (Even more so maybe). I suppose that’s why he gets cast as the villain as often as he gets the heroic roles.

This caricature was done for the Caricaturama Showdown 3000 Facebook Group. Don’t forget to visit and like my Facebook page.

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Interview for the Man vs Art Podcast

manvsartThis week I’m the featured artist on the hilarious Man vs Art podcast with Raul Aguirre Jr. Raul and I have a great time discussing children’s book illustration, the huge influence of British and American comics, animation and the state of the industry in general. Even my daughter gets in on the act. Plus there’s a special guest appearance by the one and only Alan Moore (O.K not really) but check it out.

A Cartoon Character Goldmine on my Doorstep

In an effort to get away from the computer and my desk and out of the house occasionally, I’ve been getting myself in to the habit of taking my sketchbook with me everywhere I go and I’ve discovered a goldmine of local characters in the process.

sketches003So far the best places I’ve discovered, are the car park of my local convenience store, motels and shopping mall food courts. I’ve really been having a blast, going out in the morning doing maybe 40 minutes of sketches, bringing them home and cleaning them up a little bit in Sketchbook Pro before posting them on Facebook for some instant feedback.

It’s been so much fun that I’m going to make this a regular thing from now on. These are the sketches from my most popular Facebook posts of last month. To get more posts like these in your Facebook or Twitter feed, like me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter.

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Meet the Vampires

A vampire family, welcomes you in to their lovely abode

Do come in. We’re so pleased to eat…er…meet you

My attempts to turn this rough sketch of a vampire family into a finished piece have so far been frustrating and disappointing. I just seem to keep losing the energy that I like about this rough piece. Which is always the thing you have to struggle with of course. Oh well, maybe one day I’ll nail it.

Animated Characters for an Ipad Game App

Below is the finished splash page for the Ipad game app Jungle Jim.

The client also needed two animated characters for this game, a Jungle Jim and a Jungle Jane.

To create the animated characters, I had to draw them in a vine-swinging pose and then separate each part out on to it’s own layer, so that the animator could do his bit and move each part, as necessary, to create the swinging motion.

The final image is my rough design for the Jungle Jim character, as he would appear on the splash page for the app. The logo wasn’t used by the client, in the end, although he liked it. He’d already chosen a font that he liked and preferred to stick with it throughout for consistency.

The Jungle Jim game is available to download for free from itunes app store.

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Don’t have a Bearsplosion! Eddie is on Amazon.

bearsplosionEddie The Bad Tempered Teddy Bear My children’s picture book for 2- 4 year olds is now available on Amazon from this link or if you would rather have the EBook version it’s available as a downloadable PDF from my shop for a mere $2.99.

 

It’s already getting some great positive feedback, including the following from Sarah W, a teacher who recently read the book to her class and had this  to say about it.

“You have a hit on your hands! The class loved the story, they were doing “bearsplosions!” playtime AND the little girl I was worried about said two words today! We’re going to do some work on feelings and I think Eddie will be there helping!”

And this review on Amazon
“Great book to teach those terrible two’s about being calm when things frustrate them. Our little one loves it. The illustrations are very good and the story is clear and interesting. We are definitely looking forward to the next “Bearsplosion” chapter!”

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eddie-the-teddy-concept001Check out my other blog posts about Eddie The Bad Tempered Teddy Bear below

Autodesk Sketchbook Ink Review

sbi-logoI’m not a big fan of using the IPad as a drawing tool. It’s the Styluses (Stylii?) that are the problem. I just want a drawing implement with a sharp point (Not a fat cigar-like thing). Despite this, I’m really enjoying using Autodesk Sketchbook Ink. It’s a really simple app, just seven ink brushes and two erasing brushes. It has the ability to create multiple layers. Brush customisability though, is limited to a size slider. Not a problem for me, as the two tapered brushes have exactly the line quality that I favour. It is potentially a major drawback for the user who likes to use a wide variety of brush shapes.

I’ve found myself using SBI primarily as a portable sketching tool recently and although I really only have use for the two tapered brushes, I love the line quality and the fact that there is a kind of simulated pressure sensitivity when using a basic stylus in that drawing the lines faster results in a thinner line. Something about that and the smoothness of the line just suits my drawing style. Sketchbook Ink also has the capability to export png files at a huge 101.5mp.

I don’t love everything about the App however. I like to be able to quickly clear my screen if a drawing isn’t working out. So I would like to see the “erase all” function, which is currently located in the layers submenu, instantly accessible as a top level menu item. I have to tap to open the menu, tap again on the erase button and then tap again in order to close the menu and continue drawing. Having to do that every time really interrupts my workflow, as I tend to clear my screen a lot. I’d also like to be able to increase the size of the brushes much more. A minor gripe, it took me a while to realise that the crosshairs that appear when touching the screen for while are a colour sampler tool it was nice to discover it but I didn’t find any mention of it in the user guide.

Overall I give this App 7 out of 10 for it’s simplicity and quality of line.https://itunes.apple.com/nz/app/sketchbook-ink/id526422908?mt=8

Cartoon Logo Design For an IPad Game App


Video Transcript.Jungle Jim Logo

Hi, It’s Andy here from Zen Grenade graphics. Today I’m going to show you how I made the various elements in Adobe Illustrator that make up this logo that I made for an IPad Game App called “Jungle Jim”.

I’m using Adobe Illustrator CS5 but the general methods that I used should work fine in older and newer versions.

The first element I’m going to look at is this fern. At first glance it looks like a simple enough shape, I could make the curving stem easily enough with the pen tool but when it comes to making the leaves  they would need  to  follow the curve of the stem and also taper  to the tip evenly. One way would be to create all the leaves individually and rotate and resize each one but that’s going to take quite a bit of tweaking  and is going to be quite time consuming to get just one looking perfect. What if I want to create several slightly different versions in order to add a bit of variety

As is often the case with Illustrator, digging a bit deeper into the sub-menus  and doing a bit of creative thinking can present us with a much quicker way of doing things.

The first thing I did was use the Pen tool to draw the stem which is basically a tall triangular shape

Then I need to draw myself a leaf. I rotate the leaf slightly and copy and paste it, then flip it with the “Reflect” tool and make it into one shape with the unite command on the Pathfinder tool.

The next step is to copy and paste several instances of this combined shape and place them on the stem I want them to be spaced evenly so I’m going to select them all and use the “Align” tool and I used the “Vertical distribute center” command to do this, Now i’m going to group them and Align them with my stem. Once I’ve got everything in line I can select them all and combine them all into one shape.

It’s looking good so far but all the leaves are the same size and I really want them to taper evenly from the bottom up.

So the next step is to create a rectangle roughly the size of my fern graphic and with the Direct Selection Tool , that’s the little white arrow tool, I’m going to select the 2 anchor points at the top and scale them in so that they move together by exactly the same amount , so what you should have now is a tall truncated pyramid shape.

Select this shape and your fern graphic and Align them using the Horizontal Align Center command.

Now for this next step to work properly, the truncated pyramid shape needs to be above the fern in the hierarchy of objects. If it isn’t,  just bring it to the front by clicking on it and going  Object  -> Arrange -> Bring to Front . Now you want to select them both and go Object – > Envelope Distort ->Make with top object and it will squeeze your fern into the shape of the truncated pyramid giving you the tapered effect.

Now that we have our basic fern shape, all we need to do is turn it into a custom brush by dragging it onto the brush menu. We want it to be new Art Brush and we can give it a name if we want to.

Then all we need to do is select the paintbrush tool and paint it on. This might take a few tries to get it looking good and it can get really distorted if you use curving strokes that are too extreme but generally if you use long gently curving strokes it will look fine.

Obviously this general method can be used to create all sorts of graphic elements not just ferns. Try it with decorative patterns or even type, whatever you want.

I hope you found this tutorial useful . If you did it would be great if you’d share it on Facebook or Twitter .

The Jungle Jim game is available to download for free from itunes app store.In the next part of this tutorial I’ll go through how I made the typographical part of the logo. Bye for now

 

Eddie the Bad Tempered Teddy Bear:Final book cover design

I’ve finally finished the children’s book that I’ve written about in my last two posts. Here are the final cover designs together with a sample page. The book will be available for sale on Amazon soon. I’ve decided to publish it under the pen name of Charles Griffiths as there’s already a children’s book author called Andy Griffiths. Why “Charles”? Well, it’s actually my middle name. Don’t tell anyone.

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Children’s book illustration using Adobe Illustrator and Corel Painter

children's book illustration

 

Video Transcript

In my last blog post , I talked about illustrating a children’s book as a personal project that came about when I was entertaining my daughter by doodling a little teddy bear character and just inventing  a story about him. I’m just going to talk a bit more about the process of finishing the illustrations that I started in Adobe Illustrator by taking them into Photoshop and Painter.

I have an Adobe Illustrator Master file containing all the basic vector graphic elements I need for my book illustrations. Each element is grouped separately, so it’s like a big disorganised library file for all the elements I need. It might be a tree, a character a cloud shape it’s all thrown in here.

The workflow I’m using is to copy and paste the elements I need in to different layers in a Photoshop file. Then I’ll reopen that file in Corel Painter and add shading to it with a Chalk brush, what I’m going for here is to take those sharp hard edged vector graphics and give them a much softer look. So here’s the illustrator graphic that I’ve created of the bear chasing a squirrel up a tree. I want the tree, the bear, the squirrel’s tail and the background of the sky and clouds all on different layers. I could just copy and paste directly from Illustrator to Painter, so why bother to add the extra step of Photoshop? The main reason is, I just find it easier to do this step in Photoshop because I know the software so well,  but the other reason is that Photoshop allows you to paste the element in as a vector object which means I can resize each element up or down without any loss of quality before I rasterize it. Only once it’s rasterized does it then become a bitmap which can be edited and painted over.

The next step is to save my Photoshop file and open it in Painter. I have a palette of custom brushes in Painter but the brush I’m going to use is the default brush called “Blunt Chalk 30” I make a new layer above all the others and this is going to be a white border. Then I’m going to add some shading to the tree. I’ve got the checkbox for “Preserve Transparency” checked and that locks the layer so that only the only the tree can be painted on. Then I’m going to soften the hard edges of those white clouds with the chalk brush, so now I need to turn off the “Preserve transparency” setting  in order to paint around and outside the area of the cloud.

Finally I add some finishing shading  to the bear and the squirrel and I’m pretty much done. Back in Photoshop, the advantage of layers can be seen because I just want to shift some of the elements around slightly.  I prefer to do this in Photoshop because it has an autoselect layer checkbox which makes this part easier. If you’ve never used it, checking the Autoselect layer checkbox allows you to quickly select layers by clicking on the element you want to move rather than having to highlight the layer in the layers palette first, it’s just one of those little time saving things that really adds up over time plus if you’re dealing with lots of layers you don’t have to waste time naming and organising them  and then scrolling through them all to find the one you want. It’s basically a lazy person’s way of doing layer selection  and I make no apology for it. So there we have it, I’m one illustration closer to finishing my children’s book project. If you’d like to know when the book is available either as a digital download or a hard copy please feel free to send me a message. You can contact me via my website www.zengrenade.com or just post a comment on this video.

 

Eddie the bad tempered teddy:Children’s book project

This project got started in the way many children’s book ideas have got started. To keep my 2.5 year old daughter entertained one day, I started doodling a cute little character and began to make up a story about him.

In this case the character was a bad tempered teddy bear called Eddie and his character just seemed to spring into life as I drew him. Here are some of those original doodles. (Colouring added by my daughter Josie.)
teddy001

Half an hour later we were both laughing at Eddie and the story I’d just made up about his poor anger management skills. I now had a simple character design and a basic story outline. I thought, to myself, why not make a children’s book out of this? At the very least it would make a nice present to my daughter. It shouldn’t even take me long if I keep it simple, I reasoned.

Wrong.

I started roughing things out in Sketchbook Pro. SP when used in conjunction with a Wacom Cintiq gives a very natural pencil line quality, I really enjoy using it.
I thought maybe I could do the whole thing in Sketchbook Pro, just using simple pencil strokes and subtle “watercolourey” type colouring, but somehow I just never managed to find a happy balance between my loose and lively roughs and my clean but stiff looking finished drawings. The magic elusive quality that animators call “Appeal” just seemed to drain away every time.

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So I went back to my tool of choice Adobe Illustrator. This was a bit disappointing to me because part of the aim of a personal project I feel should be to experiment with new styles and to do something different. So for now I’ve settled on a compromise which I feel is still somewhat experimental for me but gives a natural look that I’m pretty happy with.

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I’ve taken my original vector artwork as a base and added paint and chalk brush elements on layers with Corel Painter.

The main time-consuming factor has been this whole issue of working out the style. My usual trad animation influenced style is one I’m pretty comfortable with and this differs in that there is minimal linework and flat colours with very simple iconic character designs. This should in theory have made things easier but Ironically, it was this simplification of style that threw up new issues and caused problems. The main one being that when there is no linework, only colour, body parts start to become a confusion of lost edges and the character’s pose starts to become very hard to read. This meant that I needed to go back and make changes to the original character design but I didn’t want to overcomplicate the design and lose the simple cuteness of the character..
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The first thing which goes a long way to address this problem is to always make sure that the pose is readable in silhouette. However, I found that to really solve these reoccurring problems I also had to go back and add some additional elements. I made some variations in the character’s tonal values to break up the big mass of tone. So you can see I’ve put a lighter coloured patch of fur on his stomach, I’ve differentiated the tones between his paws and the rest of his arm. Adding little paw pads makes it clear which way up the paw is actually facing. I added a crease line above his legs so now you can tell where his legs end and his belly starts. I also needed to strategically place a couple of shadows here and there to really make him legible. In the image above I’m still losing the shoulder as it blends into the head but I think I’ve done just enough to make him legible.

There are several advantages to working in Adobe illustrator. There’s the issue of resolution independence and also the ability to build up a “library” of reuseable and movable elements. For instance. If I create a library with a small number of trees. By flipping and resizing them, I can quickly make a forest scene . I always create illustrations now with this library approach in mind so for instance it may not be necessary to create a whole tree or other element of an illustration but I do anyway as I may be able to reuse it in a different context.

I’m about three quarters of the way to finishing the book now and I’m not sure what I’ll do with it once it’s done. I may use an on demand printing service to get a copy for my daughter and I’m also looking into the whole digital publishing thing right now, so we’ll see.

Space Trash: Deathtrip010

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Creating a cartoon dog character in Sketchbook Pro and Adobe Illustrator

This video illustrates the 3 stages that I go through when creating a finished cartoon character design in this case a friendly dog character based on my client’s black and white Border Collie. The 3 stages are loose sketch in Sketchbook Pro, tight sketch using construction and colouring in Adobe Illustrator.

Space Trash: Deathtrip009

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Space Trash: Deathtrip008

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Drawing a Pterodactyl cartoon character in Sketchbook Pro x 8 speed

This video shows me in the process of creating a colour comp of a Pterodactyl character for a client, false starts and all. The video is speeded up for clarity and you also get to see the final coloured version at the end.

Space Trash: Deathtrip007

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Designing a cave girl pinup girl for a T-Shirt

In my latest YouTube video I go through my process of creating this piece of pinup style art for a Zazzle Tshirt. In order to do this I start off by sketching in Sketchbook Pro and refine it, then bring it into Illustrator for digital inking and flat colouring and finally some digital painting in Photoshop. cavegirl

Space Trash: Deathtrip006

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Space Trash: Deathtrip005

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Here it is Deathtrip part five. Could it be that Jorz and Krell’s money worries are over? Well, maybe but their real troubles are only just about to begin.

There’s a lot of decision making that goes into producing a comic, character design, writing, panel layout, composition colour palette, or whether to even use colour at all. Initially the whole thing was going to be in black and white.

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12-panel-grid

12 panel grid allows for flexibility of formatting

I liked the stark simplicity of it but then soon realised that adding a few grey tones gave me some more design options and finally I gave in and decided to go with colour which provide even more design options but requires a lot more decision making of course.

I’ve used a flexible 12 panel grid layout which may never use all 12 panels at once but allows me to format the comic in different ways. i.e. I could divide up the comic into 4 separate newspaper format strips or as 2 half-page strips which seems to work well for the webcomics format and should I ever print it like a traditional comic book. I can stack the strips as a standard sized comic page as above.

 

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Putting the comic in this flexible format creates other issues with regard to the writing and pacing of the story. If it’s going to work there has to be some kind of cliffhanger or gag at least every half page and where possible on every quarter page. Phew, like I said there’s a lot of stuff to think about.

Finally, here are some of the rough thumbnails I produced for this particular page. I’m currently using Sketchbook Pro with a Wacom Cintiq for the roughs and Adobe Illustrator for the final pages.

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Tooniversity at The Quarry

Due to popular demand, I ended up doing two cartooning workshops back to back at The Quarry Arts Centre in Whangarei on Monday this week. Thanks to everyone attended. There are clearly some great budding cartoonists out there. We covered a lot of topics in 2.5 hours which included using basic shapes to construct different characters, creating dynamic poses and even down to some of the finer points of proportion and anatomy.

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I got some great feedback afterwards, including this awesome video from one highly talented young lady.

Thanks also to all the friendly helpful staff and artists in residence at The Quarry.

I hope to do some more workshops here in the near future anyone interested in attending future workshops, or in hosting one please contact me via my contact form or add your name to my newsletter mailing list on the home page.

Space Trash: New Webcomic

I’ve been posting stuff about it for a while now and here it finally is. My webcomic Space Trash. I’m not going to attempt to commit to a regular update schedule on this as it’s a labour of love and paid work will always take precedence. So if you want to follow the adventures of Jorz and Krell as and when they appear just subscribe to the Space Trash rss feed to receive update notifications. For the feed for all blog updates go here

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