All of this talk regarding Super Bowl commercials, namely for cars and lumber and whatnot… And yet not a lot of buzz for SPAM.
It was the commercials for this wonder meat (I have already Trademarked “WonderMeat” for an adult cartoon series, so don’t get any ideas) that got my brain working yesterday. It’s such an underrated cut, you’d become clinically depressed just considering that the following exchange would never take place in some Michelin star restaurant:
“Why, yes... I’d like the Spamderloin. In fact, how about the Filet Spamignon?”
“Would you like that bacon-wrapped?”
“Seems rather redundant, but certainly.”
You’d have to wonder, though, what sort of a meat genius you’d have to be in order to discern the individual cuts of SPAM.
“Dis ‘ere, uh, particular cut is dee, uh, leg of SPAM. Which is, as you know, is remarkably similar to da arm of SPAM, as well as da chuck, loin and flank. Da majestic SPAM, when raised free-range, develops a little more devoisity in its physical appearance, as noted ovah ‘ere, wit dese little caps of gelatin-like substance.”
It has been a while since I posted anything here to really do with the actual drawing of cars… I mean, shit, that is the name of this whole mess, after all. I suppose that I could throw a few doodles into the mix now and then, right?
Going through some of the older sketchbooks and whatnot, I’ve compiled a little peek behind the scenes; the stuff that goes on before the vector and digital voodoo-type sorcery. Let’s start with this piece:
I had wanted to do a cartoon-y piece for a while, and the opportunity presented itself back in ’08-ish, so I went at it with some gusto, and created the ultimate swap meet find moment, with this happy gent scraping his way home with a brutal ’55 Chevy in tow. From markers to the scanned and re-drawn, vector art, you can see the importance of staying as true as possible to the original work. All pen tool… no brushes, auto-trace, meshes or other preset nonsense. It’s all about retaining the original line quality, and saving that hand-drawn looseness, but gaining all of the good things that a vector piece can supply!
I do a lot of t-shirt work, and to be honest, I enjoy it a lot more than the hot rod work, especially as things progress with my neuromuscular condition (more on that soon), and it really gives me a chance to play around in my imagination. There are so many things you can get away with, stretching reality on a graphic, versus having to make things work on the street!
This piece was a fun one in so many ways:
My pal Jon had wanted a cool tee for his shop. He knew he wanted a pinup girl with a retro feel, but wanted to include two of the more well-known cars they’ve painted… However, those cars are decidedly modern Pro-Touring style rides, so the challenge was on to make these elements work. I decided that I’d use the opportunity to include elements from some of my favorite science fiction spacecraft, lending a little bit of a retro/space feel. And what space-age pinup would be complete without a glass dome helmet and a ray gun-turned-paint gun? Naturally. Sketch to color-blocking in marker took what seemed like forever as my hands weren’t cooperating too well at the time, but I had managed to bust this out over a couple of days (from sketch to final vector work):
Speaking of tees and posters, here’s a little one from 2012:
This is a peek at that weird moment where the sketch meets the digital work. For me, this is a bittersweet moment at times, knowing that some elements in the original design will probably change, be it to make things more print-friendly, of due to a client’s request… And some of the really neat little bleeds and whatnot in the marker stage will be lost forever to the super-smoothness of a vector curve. I pay a TON of attention at this stage to keep as much of that hand-hewn character and personality in there!
The completed vector art:
Let’s peek at the rendering side of things with a little ’50 Chevy pickup piece. Starting with a pencil sketch (you can find the whole process on this particular illustration as part of a quick tutorial, if you’d like), I refine it to a point where I feel confident that I have enough information to move into the digital side. This one got a bit carried away, as I was putting that how-to together, and thought I’d have an expanded version for the upcoming book:
Mostly pencils with just a touch of gray marker making its way in, just to nail down the shading.
Once it’s all vector drawn (again, I’m a strictly pen tool kinda guy on these personal pieces, as it’s more about getting m,y own hand and style into the art, versus banging out a piece to feed the kids. After a bunch of hours and hundreds of layers and detailing, we get this:
Sketching on-site is always fun, and this piece was the highlight of a fun weekend, hanging in Burbank. While the plan was to go full digital with this one, I decided that it just had too much going on to lose the feel, and decided that markers just fit the bill, and, well…
…it worked out pretty well! Experimenting sometimes with a technique or style that’s outside of your everyday working methods can often bring exciting results! In this case, I had really intended to keep it looser, and get that cool plein air feel… but in the end, I forced a bit of my tighter rendering style in there. Maybe next time!
Hey guys. It’s been a while, and I apologize for that. Today, I’d like to roll out another tutorial, this time, drawing a slick, slammed Fury. This will be an analog (or “traditional”, whichever you prefer) piece, so bust out the pencils, paper, and markers of your choice (I’ll be using Copics, but virtually any marker will do here), and get drawing!
Laying out the guidelines… At this stage, some loose lines to place the key parts of the composition are all that’s needed. Perspective lines give us an idea of where things will be placed, and give a general feel for scale and proportion as well.
I start to tidy-up the car at this point, bringing in a little marker to darken-up the shadow areas, and make permanent those lines I wish to keep:
Blocking-in some gray tones. Just some loose grays to start giving the piece some depth. Key here is deciding which forms will recede in space, and which will be left up front. I also spend a little time defining the car’s shadow:
Cleaning-up some of the stray sketch lines, and adding some color to block in some lighting for later. I like the work to appear translucent, versus having just color planted atop more color (which can get awfully muddy-looking), so a little color washing at this point pays off HUGE later on:
I bring in some color to the car at this stage, tightening-up the shading and lines… While the whole image is loose, I like to have certain areas (like the wheels) show a bunch of detail, to draw the eye in and around the work:
A ton of time spent blocking-in color, and implying some brick on the storefronts. Blending is the key at this stage, and using it in a restrained manner can help to give not only a nice, loose feel, but make the lighting and shadow appear more natural, versus blocked-in and forced. I tend to work from the lightest to darkest areas in stages, moving back over and into those areas that need richer or darker tones:
This is another ‘static’ tutorial, meaning no video. I thought it best to present a few basic tutorials in this way to give you a reference, without any distractions, or need to search for a particular step. This just seems a better way to get you up to speed on the essentials, before we move full-steam into the more advanced tools and techniques. It’s a quick overview, but take your time, and work on controlling every stroke you lay on the page. It’ll pay off in the end.
Salvador Dali once observed that “the true painter must be able patiently to copy a pear while surrounded by rapine and upheaval.” There’s a guy who knew how to put a thought on paper. And you know, it’s not just the turmoil and distractions of daily life that can throw off some artistic concentration, to me, anyway, there’s the constant temptation to get radical with every inch of the paper when drawing, and skim over some little details that could truly test my patience and skill.
Occasionally, the pens take on a life of their own, and the ink and pixels are flowing at an alarming rate, and the piece is getting a smooth, loose look, and all is well… but then something happens.
I just… well… stop.
Not because I’m tired, or unhappy with how things are going or anything like that… I just get drawn into some little detail. There might be a reflection that urges me on, or some tiny curve or indent or character line on whatever I’m drawing that makes me take an almost unholy interest.
…and this is where it all goes haywire.
You see, in my line of work, time is the enemy. There’s never enough of it. You can only create so many pictures in so much time, and time keeps slipping away from you. Oh, sure… you go at the day with the greatest intentions, but by noon, the day’s half gone (or even less on some more marathon days), and you’re three hours deep in rendering headlamps or hair.
Suddenly, the sun’s gone down, the DVD player’s been looping the menu for King Kong’s special features for three hours, the coffee is room temperature, the wife is mad, the kids are sound asleep, the dog is dancing around with crossed legs and floating teeth, and you’re… well, you’re adding digits to some gauge panel on an interior rendering. A detail that almost no-one will ever even see… but, by golly, they need to be there!
What drives me to do this, day in and day out?
Beats the shit out of me. I enjoy hiding the tiniest of details in a piece, and enjoy the heck out of it when anyone finds them or comments on it. But, it’s not about the recognition. For a while, I believed that it was. “Wow, Brian, you’re shouting ‘PLEASE LOVE ME!’ by drawing lug nuts and lamp filaments, you douche.” That wasn’t it, though. It was something else… something, well… More personal.
I was deriving a HUGE amount of satisfaction for the challenge of it all. It became a game with me. How far could I take a piece? What miniscule, insignificant detail could I make look cool, without attracting too much attention to it… Yet, if it went missing, would leave everything out of balance and unfinished-looking?
Again, on the flip-side, it’s this obsessive attention to detail that costs the extra hours… but, in the light of perceived value, I’m throwing in some hefty bonus features, and that, in some warped way, makes the cold meals and other, assorted lost time well worth it.
I mean, it’s fun to see a cool picture, but if you dig a bit deeper, does it still hold up, or is it a lot of smoke and mirrors? To me, it’s far more entertaining to see the little stuff that makes it all look, in the case of cars, anyway, put together.
One of the greatest bits of knowledge I was ever taught was to observe.
Not to simply look at a subject that I’d be drawing, or even to study the nuances, angles, curves and so-on… but to pay attention to where it existed in nature (or within its plane of view), and, most importantly, how it interacted with the forms and objects around it. Precisely how it played off of the things around it. That little nugget of know-how permanently warped my sense of drawing, painting, artistic creation… even how I listened to music. It was the equivalent of telling an OCD-afflicted person to watch out for cracks in the sidewalk when walking on the wrong side of the street. I latched onto the idea, and never have been able to let go. For better or worse, it’s part of me.
It has its advantages:
I mean, man… it’s those little things, those weird, small details that bring a drawing up from just a few lines to some cohesive design… that’s fun to look at.
OK, so what’s the point here? To note how much crap I can pack into a sheet of paper that’s pretending to be a car? Sure. I mean, no… it’s a bit bigger than that.
I’ve been slowly making time to create some tutorials on drawing cars, and while handling the basics is cool, and probably the most logical place to start, I was noticing something… well… missing (see s trend here?). I took a step back, and realized that what was missing:
I mean, sure, you can teach someone to draw, or to paint, or to use software… but it’s those little life experiences that make it come together. Teaching someone to observe, and then to apply what they’ve seen, what they’ve witnessed in some way… that, my friend, is the shiznit. The part when it all comes together, and someone begins to develop a unique style, versus simply mimicking another, or rote-learning some pen strokes.
With that in mind, I started to re-teach my kids to draw. To listen to music, watch film, read… and, even better, to create with an emphasis on the harmony of what they are doing and the things that are going on around them and their work. Hell, I’d be stoked if they mowed the lawn in interesting patterns and cut the wife’s plants into topiaries resembling mythical creatures locked in battle over the weeds they strategically left behind. Then again, perhaps I’m reading a bit deep into things here.
I want my work to be a constantly evolving entity… To be a little more than the sum of its parts. And, perhaps more importantly, to pass that idea forward in the tutorials, and inspire someone to push themselves in the same way… How cool would it be to not only push an artist in their art, but have that very act come back and do likewise?
I really want to see my art pack even more detail. If there’s any truth to the old saying that the devil’s in the details, then I want my work to become some sort of twisted, demonic state of Mardi Gras, complete with a never-ending exchange of cool visuals for strings of “wow, I never noticed that before!”.
Here’s hoping I can finish up some tutorials, perhaps inspire a budding artist or two, and who knows… get to bed before dawn, or eat a warm meal sometime soon…
I’m asked quite often how I create a drawing or rendering… what the technique is, what tools I use, and so-on… But the most common question and comment seems to fall back on “What programs do you use? How can I get my work to look like yours?” There’s a simple reply to that:
The secret isn’t in software. It’s in the sketches that come well before that stage. I was taught early on that observational drawing is the greatest skill any designer or artist can have, and I took that to heart. I took a number of life drawing classes, and sketched a LOT as a kid, and later in life. Developing this skill makes any software use in your tool set that much more fun and effective. The sketches you lay down before hitting the digital side will have a profound effect on what your artwork looks like in the end.
After many, many emails, phone calls and requests on the Facebook Fan Page, I’m putting a few “overview” tutorials up here, just to give a sneak-peek at the full-tilt versions that I’ll be releasing soon. Again, these are by no means full-on, “learn-to-draw” lessons, but a glimpse into my process, and a means to show the basic skills you’ll get to grips with prior to moving on with the more advanced techniques that I’ll be sharing. (This is a sample of the “static” tutorials. Video and audio-enhanced versions to follow.)
That said, let’s draw a deuce three window, shall we? (these images are saved from my time on Dave Lane’s project, which went on to win the 2011 Goodguys Street Rod of the Year award, Dave’s THIRD, BTW!) The ’32 is an iconic design, to say the least, and one of the most popular hot rod platforms of all time, and certainly one to pop-up time and again if you begin a career as a hot rod artist or custom car designer. Besides, it’s a fun car to render, with a great variety of planes and shapes to capture your attention and time on, and a great way to hone your shading and highlighting skills!
Let’s start with the standard box method. We know that a three-window will have a top, the main body, and some fenders, so a typical two-box, profile view will do great for this exercise. Let’s get the roof pillars in the correct locations, with reference to the length of the body, taking into consideration how long the hood is, and how short the deck appears.
Simple? Yep. The idea here is to break even the most complex of shapes into their most rudimentary forms. In “art-speak”, we’d call these primatives. Your goal here is nothing more than figuring out where the car will exist on paper, and then plotting the main shapes, placing them in the proper proportion. I use a straight edge for this on occasion, as shown here, simply because the sketching will get a bit messy moving forward, and if I build on a clean, solid foundation, I can be certain that I’ll keep that in mind when finishing everything.
From here, let’s throw in some guide lines to act as landmarks. We’ll get an idea of where the windows, doors, hood and wheels will go. Keep it gestural and loose, and simply mark the areas that these elements will live in the drawing. Too much detail here will cost time, and lead us to re-working if the placement is off even just a bit. Let’s start tightening the sketch up, once we are sure of where we’re placing things… Use your landmarks to judge where lines will be places, like the belt line, window reveals and so-on:
With the general guides in place, let’s figure out where those windows and other elements will appear, always keeping it light and paying close attention to the proper proportions, so that our rendering will look right:
Doesn’t look like much here… but as we continue to add the windows and door lines, it’ll all come into view, and you’ll be thankful that you gave yourself some sort of guidance:
I’ve begun to throw in some curves, keeping it all freehand. As we begin to tighten things up, reach for your French Curves, which will be tremendously helpful in laying out the guides…
…not to mention using a circle template to rough-in the wheels. Pay close attention here to the scale of the wheels. I often place a center line in, just to help envision the stance. As you can see, I adjusted this one a bit, getting that front end nice and low, almost menacing! I’ve even thrown some thought the way of the door handle and belt line at this stage. I’ll lower that hood just a touch… The importance of sketching comes to light! Better to see it off just a hair at an early stage, versus re-drawing the whole thing later on.
Let’s start to darken-in and clean up the lines that we KNOW we’re keeping…
At this point, I often throw in a shadow. It grounds the drawing for me, and helps later on as I add shading. My reason for this is balance, pure and simple. I want to keep the dark areas visually equal with lighter areas, and use those dark fills to balance-out openings like windows, negative space and so on.
PCK TIP: Remember, it’s not just a sketch, it’s a composition unto itself. Many times, a rendering will help to sell the job. The better the drawing looks, the more excited the client will be. Capitalize on that energy all the way through.
I’m going to throw in some wheels now, just because. As they’re wires, well, I have some work ahead… so I’ll figure out the basic lacing pattern, and give myself a road map to follow when I get to tightening things up later on. I’ll thank me then… By the way, notice my draw-erase-redraw on that rear wheel. Ick.
Let’s darken that shadow a bit, and start cleaning up those stray guidelines and original sketch marks… We don’t want to trap an unused line under anything, and ruin a clean look, or even worse, confuse ourselves moving forward.
We’ll begin figuring out our shading at this point, as well. Throw a few guides in, indicating where the shadows, highlights, and even some hot spots will go. As always, go loose, and remember to use your observational and reference materials… keep it real, but feel free to add your own artistic spin to it.
A good starting point, for me anyway, is along the side flanks of the car. Find the largest surface area that would reflect something back, and start planning just how light and shade will work off of that. In this case, we have the hood sides, doors and rear quarter panels, and they’re relatively flat, yet have a slight bow from front to back (with the apex of that curve just about in the middle of the door), and everything curves ever-so-slightly from grille shell to trunk. Try to mimic the look of a slight arc to give the car some realistic dimension.
We can do that by bringing the line of our shadow/reflection up just a touch on the ends, and allow it to drop a bit through the door. Remember, we’re aiming for visual excitement here, so allow your lines to be loose and have character.
Don’t go overboard here… we only need a few basic lines to indicate where our shadows and highlights will fall. I’ve moved mine a couple of times here, seeking to not only render the panels in a realistic fashion, but taking a small amount of artistic license to help balance the composition. I’m seeking to make the coupe look low and aggressive, and that means drawing the eye a bit higher on the body to emphasize the car’s proximity to the pavement… Raising the eye will only serve to make it appear even lower… and when drawing a sinister hot rod, it’s a damned good thing… Make it look sneaky!
It’s a lot to think about, but try to keep an idea in your head of where the drawing is going, and what you hope to convey through the drawing. I try to set the tone, to give voice to the personality of the car. Your job, as an artist, is to stir an emotion through your pictures. Always think of ways to do that!
Once we have the guides, let’s fill-in, very lightly, where our shaded areas will be… play with different pressures and strokes here, and work up tonal values gradually. A light hand, again, will pay off tremendously later on. Give thought, too, to the final color that your rendering will be. Darker colors can benefit from using more light or white space (to mimic reflections), and lighter colors can benefit from a little more darkness. Yellows (where we’re headed here) can be a bit trickier, and require a bit more thought, especially with regard to how light disperses in the pigment, and how reflections will scatter… MUCH more on that in upcoming tutorials… For now, let’s allow our reference materials and observational skills guide us.
Keep things loose but controlled at this stage. We’re thinking about where light is hitting and shadows are formed, but, at the same time, we want to keep a fluid, organic look to it. Too mechanical, and the drawing will processed and cold… too loose, and things will start to look very sloppy. We want it to look almost natural. Keep your strokes consistent.
Ready for color? Let’s lightly add just a touch of yellow here… if for no other reason than it looking cool. Seriously, though, this will give us an idea of how successful (or not) our shading efforts have been. I start by blowing-in some hue, whether I’m working in analog (like in this example, with pencils, paper, etc) or digital (in Adobe Illustrator, 99.9997% of the time) to get a feel for how to proceed.
If you’re working on paper, grab your airbrush, and thin-down some color. Hit the image with just a light, translucent coat. We don’t want to bury anything, just get the color showing over our shading efforts. If you’re afraid to mess with your sketch, grab some vellum, and paint on that, OVER your sketch, much as you’d use layers in Illustrator or Photoshop or Painter. Choose a hue that’s close to your final color choice… I usually work a shade or two lighter at this stage, painting it like a candy color. It will add tremendous depth later on.
Once we’re happy with the shading and color test, we’ll start blowing in some saturated toners… play in ALL areas of the car, and give everything some thought… Where can we use this base color? In the glass? Hell yes, The wheels? Definitely. In the shadow? Why not?
PCK TIP: a touch of a warm color on the outlying areas will help to blend the shadow to the fore- and background, and look more realistic!
While we’re here, let’s follow my usual plan, and darken-up any lines or blacks… We don’t want to do this last, as it will leave our work looking sloppy, and force an air of “overworked” and “afterthought” all over. Not a good thing. Work tight, but nimble.
PCK TIP: Always, ALWAYS give some thought to line weight.
Alter you line widths to simulate where the eye will be drawn back, to mimic what areas will be closer to the eye and so-on. If you’re new to drawing, please have a look at my primer on line weight. It’s loaded with tips on effectively using different widths and strokes of the hand to not only create the illusion of space, but to add visual excitement to your renderings. One stroke can draw attention to a particular detail, or guide the eye around the piece… and, in many cases, help it to “pop” off of the page! Have fun with this, and go at it with a plan. Give the drawing a nice visual rhythm, keeping the viewer entertained, but not confused.
Once we have the tone figured out, and those areas we want dark and saturated looking right, we’ll bust out the white. The idea here is to slowly, ever-so-carefully build up highlights, Keep your technique loose but controlled. We want the highlights to scatter a bit… no harsh edges just yet. The white will also act to blend any “sketchy-looking shaded areas. It’s a great two-for-one bonus step. Allow the light to look as though it’s dispersed through many layers of paint… Think “candy” at this point, and you’ll do fine! Again, we’re building in layers, as mentioned earlier. We want some depth in our rendering, not some flat doodle!
As always, I suggest some use of a complementary color. We’ll drop in some purple for visual pop, and get just a bit of drama and spice in there… A touch in the shadows, as well as into the yellow hue will help to define the shading, and create some… wait for it… depth! It contrasts beautifully with those greens in the glass, and can add some great taste in chrome. Don’t be afraid to experiement with this. After all, it’s art, and you can have a few freedoms, creating and tweaking realities to suit the look you’re creating.
PCK TIP: Build your complementary colors up in the same way you’ve been building the body base color. This will keep everything looking uniform. Again, a little depth here goes a long way later on for visual appeal. Keep it tight in this stage. Sloppiness kills a great piece.
From here, we’ll concentrate on tightening up the little details, and throw in some blues and purples to get that pop and dimension… Not to mention some green in the glass (it’s my trademark touch, and looks “right”, so why fight it?).
PCK TIP: When rendering any reflective surface, try to use a slightly cooler color. Think in terms of blues and some greens. This will read, to the viewer, as having a slightly smoother and colder feel, just as glass or chrome does in the real world. I tend to work a lot with classic cars, and many of these came from the factory with a slight green/blue tint to the glass. In my mind, it just looks right, and offers just one more place in your rendering to play with reflections, as blues and greens can often reflect light and objects around your subject in a different way than the paint would. We’ll cover this in a much more in-depth way in the near future, but for now, I just wanted to explain why I did that in this and many of my other drawings. Observe how glass reflects its surroundings in the real world, and draw it!
At this stage, keep everything clean, and make sure that all edges are sharp, and that any guides or original sketch lines are gone. Play with detailing, and use some pure white to create hot spots, and draw attention to some areas. As always, just HAVE FUN in there. Let it build, and you’ll enjoy the realism and artistic look that your work will pack.
Whatever you do, though, do NOT over-work an area at this stage. Trying to correct a piece that wasn’t right four steps ago will just look ugly. It’s the equivalent of piling white-out on your term paper… it’s an afterthought and looks as such. If you find that one of these “mistakes” is too noticeable, work an area around it with a little highlight or a hot spot to draw the eye away. Chances are, you’re the only one who will see it anyway.
Finally, we’ll blow in some toners and shades of the body color, as well as just a hint or purple to create a background texture (I know… “wow, Brian… splatters… who’d have thought?” but it’s my work, my trademark thing… I enjoy it.), which is a major tutorial coming soon. Give your rendering a place to “live” on the paper. As tempting as it may be, keep it fairly toned-down. Granted, I go a bit crazy with it sometimes, but each piece has its reasons, and this one is begging for it…
Thanks again for looking in, and following along! Please let your friends know if you found this useful, and be sure to share your work and progress, as well!
Let’s go over a few points one more time, just for good measure:
Keep your drawing clean. Erase stray and guide lines as you go. You don’t want to trap a line under some ink, as it will show up at the wrong time, and be almost, if not impossible to remove. Work from observation. As you walk from the parking lot to your job, the supermarket, wherever, pay attention to how light reflects and plays on different cars, surfaces, colors… Get an idea of what shapes and panel contours pick up the most reflected light from the ground, adjacent panels or other objects around the vehicle. Get to know what looks warm and what looks cold, and what colors are in play to make that happen.
Always give your work some CHARACTER! Play with line weights and vary the strokes and directions of your strokes to make things come alive! Above all, just have some fun. Don’t forget the FUN. If little details start to become tedious, you’re either tired, or over-working (and over-thinking) them. Step back, take a break, or simply move on to something looser in the drawing to freshen-up your attitude. It’ll happen from time to time, and on a last-minute deadline rush, well, it happens even more often. Just roll through it!
Catch you soon, and keep an eye out for the next installment… and check out my companion tutorials on our Facebook Fan Page! Thanks for reading along, and feel free to leave a comment or questions below…