Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Story Of Belle & Wissell Story Kit

Carmela and I worked with the good folks at the Belle & Wissell to develop a "Story Kit" and window display to promote their Georgetown studio. The limited edition kit (250 sets) contains artifacts and story parts that, pieced together, explain how the characters Belle and Mr.Wissell met and began their adventures in time travel. The cryptic nature of this promotional package adds an element of mystery to the fragmented yet compelling storyline that Carmela devised. Exploration of the contents of the kit provides key details, yet allows the reader to fill in story gaps with their imagination. 
As a bonus, each kit contains a pair of authentic vintage Korean War-era goggles, complete with interchangeable colored lenses - just like the kind Mr. Wissell wears!

The final illustrations were created after a fairly lengthy exploration and development process. I used Belle as a barometer for the illustration style, and created numerous versions of her before Gabe and I settled on her final design, a hybrid of a couple of different sketches.

The whimsical, loose line work of these illustrations allowed a lot of playfulness and required less calculation than some styles I've worked with. A series of four plates were included in the Story Kit:

You can see more images of the kit and order your own here.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Suki The Very Loud Bunny concepting

Right now I'm working on developing a new book with Carmela about a noisy bunny named Suki. In these initial studies I've departed from the soft charcoal textures of the Ella books in favor of more detailed line work and watercolor washes.

The image above is of The Burrows, home to Suki and her siblings. Below Suki narrowly escapes capture by two very strange looking bunnies.

The reception from the publishing community to these drawings so far has been positive but cautious. Straying from an established brand represents extra risk, so I'm trying make sure these illustrations stand on their own merits. Next I plan on developing an alternate set of tests employing a more Ella-esque style. As an illustrator I want to stretch, but there's a potential marketing component here that shouldn't be ignored.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Backyardigans Space Adventure

This was a game produced by Smashing Ideas for Nick's Noggin website. It's pretty typical of the kind of children's content I get to work on at SI. Nick is one of my favorite clients to work with, they have great properties and they're usually very accommodating creatively. 

The challenge with this project was adapting the 2D illustration and design capabilities of Flash to the rich 3D artwork of the Backyardigans TV show. 

I decided to use Flash to create the game logo and user interface elements, but I decided to play with e-on Software's Vue 5 to see if I could produce some decent 3D environmental artwork. The characters were re-rendered in Flash by studio animator Laura Tulio in order to animate as 2D artwork. 

In the game, users progress from level to level by unlocking planets.

The most complex 3D scene I attempted was the creation of an alien village as the Backyardigan's final "payoff" destination. 

In addition to the 3D environments I created a series of vector spot illustrations in Flash that were associated with the spelling words in the game. I used photo references for most of the spots, which helped me nail certain details that I sometimes find difficult to re-create from memory.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Alien All-Stars

For the past 3 years or so I've been helping develop Alien All-Stars with Derek Munson, author of the award-winning children's book Enemy Pie. Designed for 6-12 year old boys, the property mixes science fiction with sports and galactic weirdness with humor, along with an occasional dose of gross. The first offering of the property will be a series of trading cards released in 2009 with a support website. The initial site will be expanded into a virtual community as the AAS universe grows.

My character designs for Alien All-Stars are influenced by, among other things, Alex Toth's Space Ghost, Pixar's The Incredibles and Odd Rods. The first piece I completed for the project was a promotional "Souvenir Guide" for potential investors. The logo calligraphy was hand-drawn, then warped using Adobe Illustrator. All of the final cover artwork was rendered in Adobe Flash, based on original concept sketches created by myself and Jason Medisky, another contributor to the project.

Once I finished the guide I began producing artwork for the initial 48-card series. Most of my cards use the same flat "cartoon" style I used for the guide. There are two other contributing illustrators on the project, Chad Otis and Monte Michaelis.

With a few of the cards, I've experimented with a more painterly style using Corel Painter.

I helped create the design template for the cards, but Chad did most of the heavy lifting.
Here's what the flip side of the player cards look like.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Ella Sets Sail

Released in May of 2008, Ella Sets Sail is the fourth and final installment in the Ella The Elephant series that Carmela and I created for Arthur A. Levine Books. Here are a few of my favorite illustrations from it...

In this scene, good ol' Belinda is causing trouble for Ella once again. This time she's borrowed Ella's lucky hat, only to lose it to a strong gust of wind. Run, Ella, run!

Ella, Frankie, Tiki and Lola amuse themselves in the House of Mirrors.

Ella runs into a cranky Mr. Pelican. She really must have bananas between her ears!

That hat sure looks familiar!