How to: Gamerbot

Every drawing I do begins with a rough sketch. This helps me visualize the image I have rattling around in my head. One of the nice things about using Procreate on the iPad is that I can cut up the sketch and reposition elements until I’m satisfied with the overall composition of the figure—Note the ‘break’ in the sketch on the left arm just above the blaster. I enlarged and repositioned the blaster to move it away from the robot’s leg. I used this cut and paste process to get exactly the arm and leg position I wanted.

Once I’m satisfied with the scribbles, I’ll adjust the opacity of the sketch to about 40% and begin drawing the final line on a new layer. Depending on how polished you want the line to look, you can choose a pencil, pen, or brush to draw the line. For these robot drawings, I’m using a technical pen setting with customized stroke properties to draw the final line.

Beginning the final line art

Beginning the final line art

I’ll redraw the entire figure with a thin black line, then go back over the line drawing with a thicker technical pen setting to give the line a little more depth and character, as shown below on the left. Note that I take full advantage of the layers in Procreate to draw parts of the robot—arms, legs, torso, and head are drawn on different layers just in case I want to make additional positioning adjustments. The closer you get to the finished piece, the harder it becomes to make changes.

Tip: The more organized you are with your process (layering, file management, etc) the more likely you will be able to avoid headaches when your client comes back to you with changes.

The next step is to colorize the robot. I’ll collapse the line art, move it to the top of the layer palette, then start coloring, again taking full advantage of layers to add color below the line art.

My final step in Procreate is to model the lights and darks as shown in the third image below.

Depending on the size of your files in Procreate, you may need to export staged PSDs to your desktop or laptop and composite them in Photoshop. I do this with nearly all of my illustrations. Once I have all the pieces in Photoshop, I’ll apply the modeling layers and adjust the layer settings to blend the darks and lights and apply filters where needed.

It’s worth noting that I don’t spend too much time worrying about how perfectly the lights and darks fall on the figure. I choose an angle, then estimate where I want them to fall and adjust based on how I want the overall feel of the character to be represented. As long as you have a basic understanding of how light and shadow fall on simple objects like spheres, squares, and triangles, you can have a little fun with your own creations without worrying about perfection.

Final Gamerbot

Finally, I’ll add visual character like scuffs and scratches to the metal and special effects such as lightning using Photoshop.

Gamerbot

I recently completed another robot for my client, F5, for an upcoming report. This robot is based on the increasing number of web attacks perpetrated by teenage hackers, hence the inclusion of game consoles and controllers.

Gamerbot

Thingbot Family Portrait

"Gone Phishing"

Recently completed cover illustration for F5Labs.

How-To: Lawrenceburg Poster


"The show is a mash-up of Star Wars and The Dukes of Hazzard (imagine if Luke was a farmer, Han was a trucker, Vader was a mean old sheriff, and the Death Star was a Wal-Mart.) I want to recreate the composition of classic Star Wars [poster] but with a bunch of hillbillies and stock cars. So, of course, I thought of you."

The Deck

After a short email exchange to verify dates and details, I asked if it would be possible to have resource photos taken showing the cast posing in costume to aid the illustration effort. The most difficult part of the project would be rendering the cast. To my delight, I received an exhaustive deck describing in detail what each character should look like, including cast photos and props. I used additional resource photos I found online to help flesh out the figures. 

Step 1: Character Drawings & Line Art

The Lawrenceburg poster was meant to mimic the classic Star Wars poster art (shown left).

I started by drawing each of the characters individually on the iPad using Procreate. Once I had the line drawings completed, I imported the individual files into Photoshop to composite the group.

I spent a couple hours tweaking the composition. When I was satisfied with the character placement, I exported a JPG of the group layout and imported that file back into Procreate to add the objects and background art. 

Final Line Art Composite

Step 2: Modeling

I used an old comic book art technique to model this illustration. Instead of painting each character individually based on a predetermined color palette, I used a variety of different brushes to model the entire illustration in black and grey tones beginning with flat color, then gradually added tonal areas and spot airbrushing to round out the figures and objects. Final stage of the modeling involved painting the dark background "halo". 

There are two benefits to modeling in black and white: 1) it saves time and 2) it provides a global base of color that helps tie together the entire illustration — You will note that I shifted the color palette of the art to purple to begin adding color. I chose an earthy orange to ground the image and provide a perfect complement to the purple. We aren't in space, after all. 

Step 3: Adding Color

With the modeling completed, adding color was a fast process. I added flat color to the figures and objects on sub layers like a coloring book.

You'll note in the colorized image (left) just how little color is needed to flesh out the characters. The modeled layer does most of the heavy-lifting. And the entire color palette can be changed in minutes. 

The challenge with this piece was planning the various stages of the illustration. I shifted between Procreate on the iPad and Photoshop saving numerous stages of the drawing in Procreate then exporting and compositing the individual files in Photoshop — This process is a consequence of the limitations of the iPad's processing power. That being said, the vast majority of the work was done in Procreate with finishing touches in Photoshop.

My client requested a handful of minor changes which were fairly simple to make due to how effectively I staged the process.

Can you spot the changes?

Eighty-six hours later ...

"Lawrenceburg" 2018 

**Special thanks to my friend and Dad's Garage ensemble and board member, Travis Sharp, for his assistance in putting the deck together and for thinking of me. 

Lawrenceburg Poster >>

At Blackhat2018

Every year, thousands of technically inclined minds descend on Las Vegas for Blackhat - the largest hacker conference in the world. I was there to support the team at F5Labs and check out how my artwork separated F5 Networks from the myriad of boring booth designs. 

Lawrenceburg Poster

When you receive an inquiry asking if you'd be interested in creating a Star Wars / Dukes of Hazzard mashup based on the original Star Wars poster for a renowned neighborhood theatre, the answer is an unequivocal "yes".

I created the poster art for an upcoming production of "Lawrenceburg" at Dad's Garage Theatre in Atlanta. The show runs from Sept. 7 through Oct. 13, 2018.

"Lawrenceburg" 2018 artwork

F5Labs Protecting Applications Report: Version 3

After three solid months of production, hundreds of hours, and many bleary-eyed nights this project can be unveiled. 


Original "Stack"

Project Stats

  • 2 complete cover concepts and illustrations (version 2)
  • 3 design layouts
  • 7 full page illustrations
  • 18 spot illustrations
  • 6 icons 
  • 4 page variations for stack 
  • 2 color variations
  • 16x9 web image
  • prepping dozens of artwork/files
  • many dozens of rounds of revisions for all of the above

Application Security Tiers and Attackers

Chapter & Section Artwork 

Introduction Layout and Design 

Application Protection Report Cover Art

Application Protection Report Cover Art

The full report is available for download at F5.com >>

F5Labs Protecting Applications Report: Version 2

Sooner or later, if you create commercial art, you'll have your best work rejected by committee. It's part of the job. This is one of those projects. I'll be going back to the drawing board, but I wanted to share this work as is.  

I'm very proud of this solution – It represents some of the smartest conceptual work I've ever done.


The Project

I was tasked with "updating" the following graphic. This graphic is the foundational concept behind my client's entire business. In other words, it's been used to sell their services for years. 

Application Security Tiers

At first glance, there seems to be a lot of information being presented. What you don't see is any real clue describing what's happening. Without the assistance of paragraphs of text or a salesperson, the viewer is left to their own devices to derive any meaning.

The application "stack" is represented by icons that tell the viewer very little. And the accompanying text identifiers are equally amorphous.

You'll also note a variety of graphic elements that are meant to clue the viewer in to a larger idea, but all of these elements largely fail to create a cohesive visual narrative for anyone trying to decipher the graphic.  


My Solution

The solution I arrived at solves these issues — I created visual metaphors that accurately depict what literally happens at each tier. The simplicity of the imagery and design affords a viewer with no prior knowledge of the basic concepts a means of "creating" a narrative for themselves without the help of accompanying text. 

The "isometric" grid underlying this illustration helps create a plane for the tiers. I added flags at each level to help draw the users eye through the entire illustration. Once the basic art was created, I made a few slight adjustments to accommodate the text for the next two graphics. 

Application Security Tiers Revisited

Application Security Tiers Revisited

After

Before

In layout

Overall, this is a highly successful piece. That it was a casualty of "committee" is just a consequence of opinion. It happens. 

Stay tuned for the next version. 

How was it created?: Craft CMS 3 Installer

Process is everything, even when drawing digitally. The Craft 3 Installer illustration was drawn entirely on an iPad using the Apple Pencil in Procreate

Procreate on iPad w/Apple Pencil

Pencil sketch

I plotted the general concept/layout by blocking in shapes on tracing paper using a fat blue marker. Once I had the general idea down, I took a photo of the page, imported it into Procreate and began drawing the individual shapes. 

In Procreate, I worked at approximately 2.5X the size of the final illustration to make sure the resolution would hold up for retina displays —This illustration measures: 28" x 14". 

Blocked in shapes for layout and detailed pencil sketching on tracing paper

Progress views

The following samples show the illustration in various stages of completion. One of the tradeoffs for the portability of the iPad as a drawing studio is layering. When I drew this piece, layers were limited to 15. In total, this illustration comprised at least 100 layers. In order to finish the illustration, I had to draw a quadrant, duplicate the file, collapse the previously drawn layers and start a new file with a fresh set of layers. In all, I saved out the file six times. The fourth image shows the variable content box and the dotted line — I pulled the illustration in to Adobe Illustrator to create the line, then in Procreate shifted around the individual images to accommodate the variable content area and the dotted line. Final tweaks to object placement were made in Photoshop.

I saved each version as a PSD and exported each to Dropbox or Airdropped the files for safe keeping and/or import into Adobe products. 

The finished illustration

Final illustration 

Working with the iPad

The iPad is a marvelous drawing tool. But it does lack some of the drawing power of a Cintiq or tablet-based computer. No, the iPad doesn't offer you the ability to work directly in Photoshop or Illustrator. And you shouldn't care. End of story. You'll figure out a process that works for you. No other drawing tool can match the feel of drawing that the iPad offers. And no other tablet is anywhere near as portable. 

Tips

  • Get a simple foldable stand (don't draw on a flat surface) you can easily carry with you. There are dozens of options. I'm using the Steklo stand and cut down the prongs that hold the iPad using a Dremel tool. 
  • Buy a finger cushion. The one you see on my pencil is by Ergo. Thank me later. 
  • Get a matte screen protector — the slight texture will provide enough resistance that it will feel like you are drawing on paper. 
  • I also use an artist's glove to help prevent goobering up the drawing surface — you can make one yourself. I'm lazy.