Frank Quitely on Digital Drafting

Last night while I was goofing around Facebook I stumbled across a link my buddy Ben sent to my buddy Dave. I don’t normally click on the conversations of others, but this link in particular dealt with one of my favorite comic illustrators, Frank Quitely (We3, All Star Superman). I was pleasantly surprised to find a 15-minute video (see above) where Quitely explains some of his workflow and processes while showing some behind-the-scenes progress shots on some of his illustrations. All of this was done using his giant Wacom Cintiq and Photoshop.

“Quitely demonstrates how he uses his Cintiq to improve his workflow with traditional media and takes us through some of the preliminary steps in creating a cover for the relaunch of T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents for DC Comics (see the finished version above).”

Man, sure would like to have one of those Cintiq’s. I’m a big dork when it comes to “making of” features so I adequately lost it seeing Quitely fire around a digital format with a tablet. This isn’t just for the comic fans out there, I highly recommend watching the full video to see Frank’s process at work. He shows some super rough sketches and thumbnails right up to the finished drawing and colors. He even sounds like a swell guy.

See the original post here.

Keeping a project notebook

I wrote a post a little while back about the importance of the sketchbook, and how it fits into the creative process. In my experience, that’s where many ideas can be thrown around quickly before moving to the computer.

But for my upcoming t-shirt line I’ve decided to keep a project notebook on hand at all times. My sketchbook isn’t huge but it’s large enough to be a bit cumbersome in terms of portability, so I decided for the first time to keep a little notebook around to jot down ideas whenever they pop into my head. We have all said “Oh, that’s a good idea. Have to remember to write that down.”, and we inevitably forget it 2 minutes later.

This little notebook has been a pretty valuable asset over the past while. Instead of trying to remember all these weird ideas I have, I’ll write it down immediately and maybe doodle a few roughs to keep the idea pure. After that, maybe a week or so later, I’ll look through the idea list and rough up some more completed sketches before scanning and working the design in Illustrator.

It’s a small step in the creative process, but its comforting to know I have a backlog of t-shirt ideas sitting on my coffee table. Incidentally, the notebook I’m using was designed by Joshua Davis and I picked it up at his solo show in Toronto last year.

Create your basic identity guide

If you are anything like me and you have your personal logo for use on your website or whatever, you probably just have one version saved in an AI document. You open it whenever needed and adapt it on the fly to whatever you might be using it for. I did the same thing for years.

However, with the new Signalnoise project I’m working on I realized that wasn’t going to cut it. I will be needing to send my logo to other people for use across a few different mediums, on different colors, using a different colors, etc and I would be spending a lot of time asking these questions and creating the logo per task. That eats up a lot of time, so I spent a little while thinking about my identity and creating different versions for use in these situations, in the form of a basic identity AI document.

Some of you might have learned about Brand Standards Manuals in school, where you create a book of rules and regulations on how the logo will be used. You might not need to do it to that extent for your personal identity, but it’s good general practice to think about these alternate variations of your identity and create them in one document. Not only will it point out problems (like color variations), but it will create a nice accessible library you can grab quickly or send to those who might need it. Think about things like: will you be printing on black or white? Will your logo be 1-color or full color? Will there be a wordmark or just an icon? It’s interesting stuff, and will certainly strengthen your personal identity.

Need a hand? Download the Signalnoise Basic Identity (AI, CS4) and have a look.

Don’t forget your sketchbook

I have talked about my poster process a lot over the past couple of years, and how I always start with the sketchbook, doodling out ideas before moving to the computer to really start constructing things. But outside of that, I’ve been spending very little time drawing. Given that drawing is the reason I became a designer today, its sad to me that I haven’t been giving my sketchbooks the time they deserve.

Shown here are a bunch of scans of past drawings when it was almost a daily ritual in my life, exploring ideas and creating weird characters. Some of these are more recent while others are up to 10 years old.

That being said, my one and only New Years resolution this year was to draw more. Nobody talks about resolutions in June probably because they are forgotten, but I’m bringing it back! One of the goals of the new Signalnoise project I’m working on is that it’s allowing me to get back into my sketchbook, something I’m really happy about. We have to remember our roots, the creative stuff we did when we were young not because it was a job, but because we just enjoyed doing it.

Stay positive

This topic has been talked about during the Signalnoise Broadcasts a bunch of times, but I wanted to take a moment and discuss it more specifically. I’ve fielded a lot of questions about personal artistic growth, advice for young designers, and finding your way in this convoluted industry and I always try to incorporate the idea of staying positive into the replies.

It’s difficult to have fun with your job, job-hunt or school work all the time given the curve balls thrown our way but it’s important to always have something you are looking forward to working on, ie. your own project. In my case, I’ve worked with a variety of companies here in Halifax with ups and downs, but I never stopped working on my own little projects on my own time. I remember many days racing back to my apartment to keep working on that animation, or site, or poster, or drawing. That anticipation made me happy, that was the point.

Trying to stay positive clears your head and reduces personal limitations. In one of his talks, James Cameron said “Don’t put limitations on yourself, other people will do that for you.” Also in Conan O’Brien’s farewell speech on The Tonight Show he commented quite blatantly on this very topic. Check it out:

So stay positive, and keep working on those design and art projects that make you happy. And when the time is right, take a risk to align yourself with that thing you really want to do.

Logos for friends

Since moving to Signalnoise full time, I’ve had a bit of extra time to develop logos for friends. All of the designs seen here were made for good buddies of mine here in Halifax in order to help them develop their various projects and businesses. Being a designer in the group, I feel a bit of responsibility to ensure all my pals look good.

And yes, that guy at the top is indeed a little poop, which was designed for a friend’s website. Then we have the Freshtables logo, the robot is for my pal Ian “Jerko” Cann, my pal Ian Fraser opened a new record store here in Halifax called Obsolete Records, and my buddy Dave is writing and illustrating a graphic novel inspired by ’80s wrestling entitled Slam-a-rama.

And speaking of friends, here’s a couple of them now. Jerko and Ben hanging out in the studio.

Were you encouraged to create?

I was visiting my friends Chris and Sameen last night and the topic of creativity in our younger years came up. This prompted a great discussion about how much we were encouraged as kids to nurture our creative side, whether that was through art classes, school projects, extracurricular activities or whatever we had access to.

It’s very unfortunate that we live in a time where it seems art and music are the first areas that are cut when budgets come down, resulting in fewer creative access points for kids growing up. I graduated from high school in 1995, so I’m a little bit foggy on what exactly is happening in the creative world that encourages kids in elementary, junior high and high schools to keep drawing or painting.

Personally, in elementary school we had an almost weekly art class where we could draw or use the schools’ supplies to make things, which was all kinds of fun. In junior high I had access to a music class, and a monthly art club . . . not exactly an environment that endorsed creative exploration. Then once I reached high school, there was nothing. No music class, no art class or club, just a lot of Friday nights sitting at my drawing table doodling pictures of Superman.

That being said, readers, I’d like to open the floor to you. I know the age ranges and geography of people who read the blog are quite varied, so I would like to pose you a question. Before you entered into any college or anything, were you encouraged to create when you were going through school? Did you have classes available? Were teachers understanding? Did you have friends who were into art as well?

Tell us your story.

Official Classic vectors

The guys over at Official Classic in Budapest have been pumping out some amazing vector works for the past while, all of which are available for purchase and download. I only grabbed a few of their robot images, but don’t be fooled has they have an ever expanding library of top notch stuff, including vehicles, weapons, geometric shapes, gamepads, buildings . . . the list goes on. But I really do enjoy those wacky robots.

Swing over to Official Classic to check out their full excellent library.