Having gone well off of the beaten path again lately, I thought it would be nice to revisit the original theme of this blog for a bit, and look behind the scenes of some renderings. What do you say?
A peek at the process:
Starting with the tried-and-true box method to nail perspective and proportions, I sketch the essential shapes and components (taking time to design a wheel, too!), and then scan the sketch, and begin the heavy lifting in Illustrator. Around forty-nine layers in total, this one is relatively straightforward, with only minor custom changes, allowing for a little more time to play in the details.
No presets, meshes or brushes, just paths and pen tool. There’s a lot to be said for using the basic tools, and I find it to be a very Zen experience; it becomes the art of massaging your brain while working. It can get tedious, but the key is in finding a rhythm, wherein you can alternate between left and right brain, solving little design and engineering issues as you make everything look “right” or “cool.”
My goal is a smooth, clean piece which retains some of the raw lines, but with a heavy focus on getting the little stuff in all of the right places:
Speaking of playing in the details, lets’ take a peek at the hundreds of paths that sometimes need to be squeezed into a fraction of an inch with some custom ‘Cuda tail lamps. In this case, we were looking at creating the concept art to show the customer what ’71 Charger lamps would look like in his ’70 ‘Cuda (see here for more on that!):
From paths upon paths to a detailed illustration:
A behind-the-scenes look at the rendering for the project, working from a loose box guide to sketch, and then into Illustrator for around forty hours of pen tool work, this time strictly using the mouse as my hands weren’t cooperating:
One more piece for this installment, and a rendering that was a big challenge and a ton of fun at the same time, as it required creating something that didn’t yet exist, and finding a way to create a unique spin on the classic belly tank-based land speed car:
Working with just the basic plan, it was a matter of packaging everything neatly and orderly, and then making the aesthetic work. Starting with the tried-and-true box method, I git the perspective working in my favor, and worked to get the parts and pieces that my client wanted showing, and then built upon that foundation once the loos sketch was scanned and in Illustrator. The post work in Photoshop brings the whole thing to life, and it took lot of restraint to avoid losing the original hand-drawn feel. I think it worked out in the end:
Over the past few months, I’ve been plotting and planning a video tutorial series, and getting that rolling. Wanting to make it as in-depth and as close to real-time as possible, it’s become a monster indeed.
The plan has been simple: Show the workflow, the art, the technique an all of the warts and whatnots that go into creating a rendering or illustration the “Problem Child Kustoms Way.” Suffice to say, it’s been a ton of work thus far, but very rewarding and eye-opening for me, both from a technical standpoint and as an artist. I’ve realized many key things about my work, as well as just how often I let a few f-bombs fly. Crazy how that can go.
I thought that it might be fun to show a few in-the-moment screen grabs from a couple of pieces here, as they represent a lot of what goes into these works. There’s a ton of hidden stuff and work involved in making vector art look like, well, not vector art. Not that the purpose of my technique or approach begins and ends with that in any respect… I enjoy the fact that I can use a program like Adobe Illustrator to continue creating, even after my hands have given out as they have. It’s a mater of holding on to the style I had developed before going digital, and the incredible tools afforded by the software to push it that next step. A melding of man, will and machine… Funny how those can come together so organically, while often being thought of as being so different.
Some pieces like this big rig tend to get very involved. While working on a segment highlighting graphics and paint, this particular illustration spent a ton of time under the microscope, not only for its very involved process, but because I had to make vector paths appear more like candy paint, with all sorts of transparent and translucent qualities, reflecting and refracting light. Fun times…
…and how it all comes together:
I had taken some time as well to show how to create realistic reflections using only the pen tool in Illustrator, which offers a lot of control when altering reality just a bit:
And, of course, rendering from paper and pencil all the way through to digital:
…covering glass, paint, shading and more using only the pen tool in Illustrator (no gradient meshes, brushes or presets… Just hands-on dirty work).
Look for more soon, and be sure to check out my website at www.problemchildkustoms.com for more tutorials and sneak peeks. Thanks for looking in, and feel free to hit me with any questions, comments, suggestions…
It’s been a while since we’ve touched upon the actual theme of this blog, that being the drawing of hot rods and all…
That in mind, I thought that you may enjoy a peek at a current project, which is nearing completion after a few years on the board and in the shop. It’s a full-custom 1970 ‘Cuda, and I literally threw everything I had at this one, working with a very skilled builder who shared my vision, and really made it a fun and collaborative project to play a part on.
Why is is that every time an automaker re-designs a particular model, or brings back a nearly-forgotten nameplate, or even mid-cycle facelifts a car, that the very first fucking thing I have to read is every self-important know-it-all posting that they should have made it look like the 1961 model? SERIOUSLY?!
Here’s a quick thought, you morons: Not every car has to look JUST FUCKING LIKE THE ORIGINAL MODEL. Tastes and design requirements change. You wouldn’t sell a whole lot of Cadillacs today with giant fins or 150-lbs of trim on the flanks. Oh, you can bet your ass that there would be a half-dozen greaseball mooks on the East coast putting in advance orders (“Hey Joey… weez kin paint ‘Teen Angel’ on da continental kit! An’ I gots you some new fuzzy dice, bro!”), but following that, it would have no place in the modern day.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for brand and model continuity, and a little nod to tradition is outstanding. Hell, I bought my Challenger based on that. Then again, that car was done RIGHT. It’s not a cartoon-ish caricature of the original like a certain Camaro. On the other hand, would I have been even remotely interested in the car had it looked like the ’78-83 models? Probably not. It’s about instilling some heritage, and knowing how that will work with the current (and future) brand direction.
Consider the return of the Thunderbird in 2000. Holy moly… what a catastrophe. That whole retro-design phase ruined it for a lot of cars, not to mention design enthusiasts. Back to the Challenger, what if, in 1970, we weren’t offered a fresh take on the Pony Car concept, but rather a 1937 Dodge coupe-looking thing with a wing on the back and a dual-snorkel hood? Would have failed, and gone down as a styling flop. This would have happened because people used to celebrate design and inventiveness. Perhaps this explains why every TV show is the same regurgitated bullshit, and why reruns of said shows sell like hotcakes. Originality just ain’t what it used to be.
Nostalgia can be a great thing, just keep it the fuck away from the new car-buying public in general.
Having a nice conversation last evening with a friend of mine, and the topic naturally turned to creative endeavors. I shared with him with my plans to write a book of palindromes, tentatively titled Never Odd or Even which would have the increased difficulty of not only starting/ending each line using a word featuring an umlaut (and, as we’re using diaereses in place of the tittles, the subject will be “surgically-enhanced titties”) but structuring the rhyme scheme around a parametric form (something based loosely on an exponential Diophantine equation), and thus arriving at a sort of hierarchy within the prose (by employing Roth’s theorem to find the consecutive pairs of smooth numbers – in this case, lines that go together – and thus arriving at some use for Størmer’s procedure and Pokemon-ing the fuck out of it by finding them all), and giving the work an entirely different meaning if you read it straight through OR solved said equation. I’ll keep you abreast of my progress, should you be interested. Or happen to have some really strong cough syrup to, you know, kick things off.
Anyway, the topic turned to making furniture, and following a lengthy discussion on the merits of using poplar or oak for the framing, we had both noted that this can become expensive over time, and add a lot of weight if one weren’t too careful in he design phase. Following much discussion, I had suggested a cheaper alternative that would allow for mass production AND neat-o instructions featuring stick figures. “After all,” I postulated, “press board has worked out well for the Swedes.”
Now, several hours following his hanging-up on me, I have yet to find out if the press board tree can even grow stateside. I believe that the fruit of the tree, a small meatball-like orb, can cause a reaction in some woodland fauna, unless of course the soil has been detartrated.
When discussing back yard landscaping, the majority of homeowners are likely to gravitate toward the classics, like a pool, or a built-in barbecue island, or perhaps a kitschy little Tiki Lounge feel. While a safe bet, any of those can still be polarizing when it’s time to sell.
This whole “home as investment/future resale value” thing in mind, we’ve opted for something a bit more unique:
Simulated landscaping (fiberglass trees, sculpted rock formations, full backdrops and lighting). Handcrafted by Hollywood set masters, it covers the electric over hydraulic lift helipad which lowers into a semi-finished underground lair.
The plan here is to market the house to a despot or super villain, as those cats have some serious buying power, and it’s usually in the form of piles of cash, or pallets of gold bars… or even German Bearer Bonds in a handy, portable canvas bag. In the listing, we’ll appeal to their inner sense of pride in evil-doing. We do this by describing the helipad and covert underground access and addressing the lack of a pool as not being so much a missing amenity, but an expansion opportunity as the neighbors are lily-livered at best, and already have a well-maintained pool. Taking over the surrounding properties would provide all sorts of additional buildings for use in crafting a compound, versus settling for a measly “hideout” like those lesser villains.
We’ll slide this gem into the ad as well: “Privacy is a must for any rogue dictator-to-be, and this property backs to a tree-lined greenbelt, providing not only sight-lines, but the potential to be easily converted and utilized as a spacious killing field, should your newest citizens attempt some coup or other nonsense.”
Design is sexy. Really, it is. It’s the foreplay of a build. There’s still some courtship happening, and everybody is excited to be on board. You go into it thinking that it’s going to be everything you’ve heard it can be (the good parts, anyway), and can’t wait to show your stuff.
The process of design, however, is very UN-sexy to say the least. And the necessary evil of selling design – that creeping reality of design – can prove downright repulsive. Hot rod design is like a strange or taboo sexual fetish. This weird fringe interest that you see sometimes in public when it sells a magazine, or promotes a project just enough to score the builder sponsorship for parts, but never really can wrap your head around just what it does behind closed doors.
That being said, working as a a hot rod designer is like having to force your creative soul out on stage to perform that strange, ritualistic fetish fantasy act for some self-absorbed, ego-maniacal, overgrown man-child seeking to show just how big his dick is to the other deviants he keeps close (and locked in perpetual competition with); and finding out midway through that it’s a snuff film.
– excerpt from my forthcoming book I Left My Name Off of the Cover Just to Keep Things Consistent With The Other Projects I’ve Worked On – Drawing Cars for Disappointment and No Profit: Introduction to a Career