Friday, March 25, 2011

Penguins That Aren't In Pittsburgh

Once again I had the pleasure of putting an ad graphic together for a chain of grocery stores in the Midwest. Two years ago it was a bicycling panda, last year it was a family of picnicking cows. This year I got to work on this clan of penguins enjoying the winter weather. Below are my work-in-progress steps.

The art director gave me a little sketch of what she wanted, as well as the proposed layout of the ad copy. Frankly, I love it when art directors know exactly what they want. There's no time wasted on guessing or trial and error. So I was able to jump right in and sketch out a rough using the dummy ad copy as a compositional guide.

After getting the go-ahead from the a.d., I start by laying in background color in Photoshop. I'm just blocking in base colors at this point. The sky is a blue-to-black gradient. And knowing I want sort of a retro, 70s Christmas Card-feel to this thing, I use the pen tool to create some swirly stylized gusts of wind in the background.

Next I use a soft-edged brush to paint in all that snow on the pine trees. It's a huge time-suck, and maybe there's a faster way of doing it, but I like taking my time on it and making it look just right. And though the ground cover will be mostly obscured by the ad copy, I didn't want to just phone it in. So after brushing in some blue shadows with a textured brush, I also throw a crisp, glistening snow texture on top of it for an extra-chilly feel.

Now onto the wind gusts. Plain white swirls against the sky look awful, of course. So my plan is to use a crunchy, crinkly texture to mask out some of the swirls. I ended up using some sort of rough rock texture to give the swirls an icy, wintry feel. But it needed more. So I drew a classic six-pointed snowflake with a hard, round brush, saved the drawing as a brush itself, and then carefully placed the snowflakes in the sky to look as if they're being carried along by the frigid gusts of wind. I guess I could do more to push the retro feel, but I really like it at this point. So now I move on to the characters.

This illustration was done, at size, 24-inches across. It had to be big because it was going to be blown up to banner size in some stores. But it was also used in point-of-purchase displays and posters. Since there would be different layouts, the art director asked me to keep the penguin family on separate layers for maximum editability (is that a word?). So here's a breakdown of the character illustration.

1) Pencil sketch, scanned into Photoshop and tweaked for contrast.

2) I Inked the characters in Adobe Illustrator.

3) Back in Photoshop I block in the base colors.

4) With various brushes I paint in highlights and shadows. Then the characters get dropped into the snowy background. And it looks like I already have my Christmas card image for this year. -v

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