Imagination in the Illusion Woods is an illustration I rendered for one of my best friends’ son, Parker. His 4th Birthday was coming up and though I haven’t had the chance to visit with him often, since I live on the other side of the country, I suppose I made an impression on him. His awesome and dedicated mother, Katie asked if I would be interested in sketching up something for his birthday. Normally I quite enjoy giving the gift of art, but it hadn’t occurred to me to draw something for someone so young before, even though I recall staring for hours at a painting in our living room since I was about three or four years old myself. So the answer of course, was a resounding yes.
I knew last time I visited young Parker he really liked robots, and this year it seems he is taken by the idea of space travel. Something tells me he’s taking after his father, who is a software engineer. Robots and Rockets set me off on a visual quest to inspire the boundless imagination of this engineer in the making.
After a bit of thought I felt that a young person building a rocket, while a giant robot helped him as a building and launch support stand would be a fun visual to explore. It has deep seeded illusion to a father helping a son with something like a Lego construction set. I went to work on my composition hoping to get a slightly Duck Tales style fun feel about the project. I was worried that robots of any kind could easily appear scary and cold to a young person. This is one of the reasons I eventually gave the Robot very human like cartoon eyes, in hopes of translating a sense of joy and innocence instead of something less warm and joyful.
It was only in the last hour or so of the illustration work that I realized how many memories I had fused subconsciously into the image. Brandon and I had be friends since the 7th grade, and we started our friendship by making games in a Hypercard class. We would brainstorm ideas and game flow, then Brandon would take up the programming side of things while I would see to the visuals of the project. In all those years not much has changed in this regard.
It occurred to me that the large robot resembled one we had imagined and placed into a custom level for the Doom game back when we were kids. Proto-X stood almost three stories tall and resided in a large chamber of a castle that was situated in what we called the Illusion Wood. The woods were named thus due to our over zealous placement of tree sprites in the courtyard leading up to the castle. The Doom engine wouldn’t render them all, so they would appear and disappear seemingly at random. Our young selves recognized this as not a problem or bug to fix, but rather a very cleaver game mechanic.
Like the ‘bug’ we mentioned above, the very large robot would often times glitch out of the castle in it’s fervent pursuit of the player. Enraging the giant and drawing him out of his containment chamber was the pinnacle of achievement as we played through our constructed castle. Proto-X to me, was always a tragic enemy in the game, it wasn’t his fault his creator gave him life and then trapped him to his dark chamber within a dank and lonely castle. He was none too happy at the trespassers fumbling about in his home, as uninviting as it was.
My illustration started out as rocket and robot to spark the imagination of a friend’s young son. What it became was a representation of the relationship that Brandon and myself enjoyed, and the deepest of hopes that Parker will too share in similar joyous adventures and special moments.
Here’s to you, Parker. Imagine, Invent, Innovate – This is best done with friends.
Here’s a speed painting of the work, coupled with music composed by Parker’s father for a game we called Yetric.