Drawing Board

Hipster-Free Singles Club: East Meets West

In mid-April, Z. from Hipster, Please! twittered that he was looking for artists to do some album covers for him. I volunteered my services, and boy did I have no idea what I was getting into.

Turns out Z. has been planning to release a series of downloadable singles, featuring recent or upcoming works by two of his favorite artists along with a mash-up of those songs by a third artist. He wanted me to provide the art for his inaugural release, since it would have would have an East-meets-West flavor. And the artists involved would be Hidari and I Fight Dragons, whose songs would be remixed by Snake Eyes. Talk about pressure. Who wants to be the weak link in that chain?

6-Up Ideas

These are the original concept sketches I wound up presenting to Z. I actually doodled about twice as many ideas as you see here, but I wound up discarding a lot of them for feeling like warmed-over Mangajin covers — ukiyo-e-style kabuki actors in sharp business suits, that sort of thing. So from left to right we have:

  • the "Clash of the Titans" cover, with image fragments depicting each of the bands
  • hot dog sushi
  • a cowboys and a ninja teaming up like buddy cops
  • a samurai and a knight teaming up to fight a two-headed Eastern/Western dragon
  • a salaryman wearing a Kamen Rider-esque helmet (hey, I never said I discarded all of those warmed-over ideas)
  • a dragon and a robot sharing a milkshake (Z.'s original cover idea)

Whittling these down was actually fairly easy. I think my lack of enthusiasm for the shared milkshake concept might have been obvious, the cowbys/ninja team-up didn't really set anyone's world on fire, and the samurai/knight team-up was too similar in tone to another project Z. is working on. I went back and refined the three remaining cover concepts so we could present them to the bands.

3-Up Ideas

These are the refined sketches we presented to the bands. The Kamen Rider salary was almost immediately nixed for feeling like a warmed-over Mangajin cover, and the hot dog sushi felt like it was maybe a tad too sedate. On the other hand, everyone loved the "Clash of the Titans" cover. Go figure — the first idea I had turns out to be the one everyone liked. I started working that up.

cover pencils

Here are the rough pencils we. You can see it's more or less identical to what I presented in the last stage, though I've completely redesigned the robot. I was worried that the toy robot from the previous stages was neither particularly Japanese or particularly Hidari-esque, so I ditched it for a Mazinger-style samurai robot. Cool beans. No one had any further adjustments at this stage so it was time to start inking.

(Bonus factoid: the Muppetlike dude in the lower right-hand corner is actually based on the storm drains on the corner near my office.)

color guide

Here's the color guide. Things are pulling together nicely. If you can tell, I actually wound up shifting Snake Eyes up a smidgeon to give the cover a nice arc. I also ditched the record from the original thumbnails because I thought it was cluttering things up.

final cover

And here's the final cover with crazy color holds, overlaid textures and other assorted awesomeness. The record's back — everyone missed it so back in it went, though adjusting the logo to fit and still be legible was a real pain. Coloring the samurai robot was also a real pain, just because I got a bit nuts and filled in too many blacks at the inking stage. Coloring the barbarian and dragon, though, was serious fun.

Anyway, enough of my nattering — you were just looking at the pretty pictures anyway. The single is freely downloadable over at Hipster, Please! And do check out everything else these bands have done, because it's all awesome. I'm not kidding.

Comments (2)

  1. Jason Robb (06/25/2009)

    Wow, this is a great post! Awesome to see how the work evolved and your thoughts behind the process.

    When you say "coloring in the..." what tools were you actually using? You talk about what you're thinking theoretically, but I'm curious of how you practically did this.

    Feel free to email me when/if you comment on this. Thanks, and keep it up!

  2. Dave White (06/25/2009)

    Jason, thanks for the kind words. I mostly used Photoshop, save for a brief excursion into Manga Studio to generate the halftone pattern behind the giant robot.

    After scanning my inked drawing, I duplicated the linework onto a separate layer and locked the transparency so I could produce the color holds quickly and efficiently. Under that I created a separate layer for the flat color areas, which was primarily used for making selections later on so I didn't color outside the lines. Over top of that layer (but beneath the color holds) is a separate layer for the modeling, which was done with irregularly-shaped brushes with the random sizing, shaping and spacing options turned up to introduce some random elements into the process. Over top of everything there's a grunge texture overlay to give everything that creamy yellow color and the slightly worn texture.

    Other than that, I'm not sure there's anything particularly unique about my process, though if you have any specific questions I'll be glad to answer them.

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