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The Guardians

The Guardians, 2017

The Guardians, 2017

In my off hours I spend a good amount of time experimenting with illustration: subject matter, techniques, and styles. I like to supplement client work and UI design with concept art and illustration. Fortunately, this has also enabled me to incorporate more unique imagery into a number of design projects, when the tone of the project calls for it.

The Guardians was a piece I created to challenge my personal process. It was easy enough to follow a methodology at work, where I had 8 hours every day. But when I got home I was racing—and rushing—against the clock, and tripping all over myself.

Deciding on concept

Deciding on concept

Firstly, I often didn't have much of an idea of what I was making, or would often just pick the first idea and run with it. Turning a doodle into a finished piece has rarely worked out, so I spent a night or so exploring my options before committing to one.

The concept was "trans-dimensional treasure hunter sneaks past temple guardians". Exploration yielded a "fruit kingdom", and turned "guardian" into "warden" into "ranger" and finally into "Rower Ranger". Dumb!

I used these cues to fuel some quick research and reference gathering.

Finding a good shot

Finding a good shot

Once I had a concept, I explored some ways of framing a shot. The goal was to separate design from execution. I wanted to have a plan—to know precisely what needed to be made—before I really sat down and started making it. It also gave me smaller checkpoints, which gave me targets to hit even if the project took weeks, which it did. 

Creating a protagonist

Creating a protagonist

Designs for (unused) Peach Guardian

Designs for (unused) Peach Guardian

The scene included a protagonist, and multiple antagonists, so I worked to clarify their designs a little. It was easy to assume the picture in my head would be clear enough, but I wanted to push past the impulse to settle and explore better options.

Value and color exercises

Value and color exercises

I picked from the original shot sketches and started experimenting with composition, value, and color, using some photos for inspiration. Once I had a clean sketch, I got to work, making sure to save the effects and low-relief detail for very last.

If the image below looks finished, refresh to see the process GIF play through:

Start to finish on the final (gif)

Start to finish on the final (gif)