T-shirt design is for an Air Force BMT Flight, and dedicated to my wife . Training Instructor and bulldog transformer characters prepare to ROLL OUT (or perhaps flight out?)! Having very little communication with the client meant that I would have to rely on well thought out assumptions more than anything. The original request was a transformers version of a Training Instructor with a Pit-bull on a chain leash.
My initial thought on the request was “why illustrate a Pit bull when the Flight was named the Bulldogs? So I made the immediate decision to replace character. The chain leash concept seemed like interesting at first, perhaps pushing the image to a rougher and more aggressive edge. The reality though, was quite different. When I illustrated the chain in all my drafts it communicated subjugation of the honored pet, rather than team work and a partnership. So that too was modified out of the original request.
I started the design by creating individual sketches for the more organic counterparts of the characters. I drew these independently of each other and then began to work them as a composition. I went through several compositions to establish poses that communicated confidence and strength.
You can see my final organic draft of the characters set within my T-Shirt design space. I worked out the title, frame, and required information separately after I had only a vague idea of what would be in the center. I simply knew I had to have an interesting and pragmatic frame for the characters knowing that some T-Shirt processes are less flexible that others.
I have been using hand draw pencil media more recently and decided that I enjoyed the experience. It is quite different than working within digital means. Anyone will tell you that digital is the most flexible mode to work in, but they will also tell you that traditional practice is important for self improvement.
The difference of pencil is that you are more encouraged to pay attention to what you are doing due to it being more difficult to rework. It is less fluid and therefor requires a mindset of forethought more than the digital realm. Your options are limited, you can’t just splash some color in, transform this and resize that. These limitations enable you to have a more focus mindset.
Also, an interesting property in growing your skill through pencil drawing is iteration, pure and simple. Since you can’t use and abuse your transform tool at every turn you will find yourself redrawing things to get them right, and placed where you want them. What great practice! You are iterating constantly and getting better while focused on a task.
This iteration also allows you to open up to new poses and different problem solving situations. Since you would be redrawing something anyway, why not angle the subject bit more naturally while your at it? With the transform tool you will find that you are taking the laziest way out, most of the time. IE: ‘how can I transform/rotate this and force it to look right because I don’t want to spend the time to redraw it?’
I owe a lot of this process to the notes given by amazing and renowned artist Freddie E Williams II in his his book ‘The DC Comics Guide to Digitally Drawing Comics”. His tips on drafts, pencil and digital workflow, as well as the digital inking process were very helpful. The resulting contour drawing is a testament to how well and thought out the process he shares in his book truly is.
I hadn’t attempted many Transformers images in my time, so the book, “You Can Draw Transformers” (illustrated by Guido Guidi and scribed by Simon Furman) was a huge help. I actually picked up the book years ago because it was an impressive at-a-glace of all the important skills of an illustrator. It takes an especially solid structural approach on these fundamentals for obvious reasons.
Overall this project was rewarding as I was able to deliver a motivational project to the service members that sacrifice their time and freedoms everyday to ensure that we are safe and continue to pursue artistic ventures just as these. I remember my time in the Marine Corps and how much imagery can motivate and help create a greater sense of esprit décor.