I recently completed a spot illustration for Becky Farnham at AtBuffalo magazine and thought it might be fun to show the process behind the finished piece. The illustration accompanies a recurring feature: an unofficial (and fairly whimsical) poll of 100 UB students. The question for this issue: If you could go forward or backward in time, what would you do? The results were pretty evenly split, which got me thinking that it might be fun to show the same person encountering himself as he uses a time machine to travel to the past and to the future at once. I was reminded of a Warner Brothers cartoon I saw years ago, which featured two sheepdogs passing each other coming to and from work, and of the Marx Brothers "mirror scene" from Duck Soup- for some reason I find the idea of symmetry and mimicry inherently funny and appealing.
The first step is to get the idea out of my head and onto paper- I start with a very loose sketch, a doodle, really, which shows the basic concept. This is an in-house sketch; simply a reminder of the idea- it's not meant to be seen by anyone but me (and, of course, my loyal blog readers). The time machine is inspired by one described in a science fiction story I read as a boy- a gleaming metal ring.
The next step is a refined sketch in which I figure out the placement and proportion of the characters and the level of detail. This spot runs very small, so I try to keep the detail to a minimum. As for costumes, I'm a great believer in cartoon cliche: I put the"past" guy in a Fred Flintstone leopard-skin tunic and the "future" guy in a gleaming white uniform. Just for fun, and to play up the contrast/symmetry, I add a club and a raygun. This revised sketch is scanned and sent to the client, and fingers are crossed.
I get lucky once again- the client approves the sketch, so I open the the scan in Illustrator and begin "inking" using the pen tool.
Once the illustration is digitally inked, I open it in Photoshop and airbrush in color and shading, and use the eraser tool to "fade" the characters as they step through the ring, suggesting that they're emerging from another era. Done!