Friday, May 8, 2009

Digital Dilemma

At times, here and elsewhere, I've referred to myself as a proud cartooning dinosaur. I love the process of putting ink on paper; it's hypnotic, entirely absorbing, and feels like "doing art" in a way that sitting at a computer never has for me. If the Comics Police broke down my door, confiscated my brushes and pens, and told me I could only work digitally, I'd probably quit. For me that's the fun part. Without the fun, what's the point?

Understanding how I feel, then, make of this what you will:

That's the not-quite-final draft of the back hard cover ("case") for Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow?, and the first piece of 100% digital art I ever did. To date, it remains the only piece of 100% digital art I've ever done. When you see it in bookstores, the bottom three-fourths of this case will be covered by a paper jacket, and it'll look different. I'll explain why and how.

First, why go digital? I wanted a particular look: no hard lines or outlines, very stylized and geometric, evocative of mid-century Disney designers like Mary Blair and Rolly Crump. Drawing ovals and rectangles--which is pretty much all that image consists of--is right up Photoshop's alley.

Second, I wanted to give Designer Neil something to play with. As I recall, when I first put this together we weren't entirely sure what all would go on the back cover. So I sent Neil a digital file in which the background, Moon, rocket, and each of the four colors of buildings were all on separate "layers." Imagine layers as cutouts or transparencies laid atop one another, with the ability to move, change, or even delete one layer without affecting the others. Again, that's what Photoshop does best.

So I basically sent Neil this layered file and invited him to use the elements however he wanted to make them work as a cover. He darkened the background, slid the rocket up so that its exhaust doesn't intersect the tallest building anymore, changed some proportions, added some words. In Neil's final design, only the Moon and rocket are visible above the paper jacket, with the city emerging when you peek underneath (see my April 28 post). I think it turned out pretty spiffy.

That kind of artistic and practical flexibility would've been a lot harder to pull off if I'd just drawn the thing. In this case, digital was entirely the right tool for the job at hand.

Plus, I enjoyed it. I confess, it was kind of . . . fun.

1 comment:

sligo said...

it is very nice, and what i really like about it (as a traditionally trained illustrator...'cause i'm old...) is the sensibility you brought to a digitally-designed work. the 'spaces' you put into the actual architecture that allows us to see through parts of the buildings to the layers behind allows the entire piece to breathe.