Dec 4, 2008

We're all Blobs!

Cover illustration. View artwork larger by clicking image.

I had mentioned in my previous post that I was hired by Peachpit to illustrate the cover of "Real World Adobe Illustrator CS4" the new book by Mordy Golding.

I've done artwork for other book covers but this one was a unique challenge for me.

Instead of an illustration playing off a story line or plot it had to relay the attributes and features of software. Pass covers of the same line of books have been excellent but tended to be more literal in terms of the visuals. A request by this publisher was for a more simplified, less complex approach yet still show seemingly complex attributes and features.

Needless to say I was really intimidated by this project.

Original concept Sketch.

At first I had sketched out ideas showing the two sides of a user. Artistic and production but the ideas were looking too forced and too complex as well. I thought to myself "Think non-literal, abstract but conceptual." in other words I compounded my intimidation. LOL

The big new feature in CS4 is a tool called the "Blob Brush." This was the one thing tripping me up conceptually. To be completely frank I'll almost never use the tool myself. It kind of contradicts my whole creative process. I don't create on the fly on my machine, I think through what I want to design or illustrate out side the box, I draw it manually (Analog if you will) and then when I move to the computer I build that idea. That said I'm sure I'll use it for something but like the gradient mesh tool it'll most often sit unused and jealous of the pen tool getting all my attention.

So I struggled with how to work it into my cover concept. Then it hit me. What if I showed characters and they were blobs themselves? Four characters playing off of CMYK. So I sketched out the above idea. I liked it, it was different, untraditional and abstract. I mocked it up and sent it off to the client expecting to get a response like "What is this #$@!" or "Are you sure you know how to draw?" etc. Instead I got a "We love it!"

Detail of final artwork. View artwork larger by clicking image.

Illustration Psycho Babble
So you may be wondering what it all means? Well below is a list that explains the meaning I was pouring into each of the elements. Not everything has a distinct 1 to 1 relation to reality but most of it does.

- Blob Figures: They represent the variety of users via CMYK. After all no one person is the same and we all like to work our own way creatively speaking even though we may all use the same common tools.

- Large Blob Icons: The "Blob" brush icon is self explanatory. The new "Gradient" control feature is shown at the top middle of the illustration. The new "Appearance" panel allows you control what you want to see with one click.

- Mini Blob Icons: The "Flame" represents inspiration. The "Hammer" represents building. The "Magnifying Glass" represents exploration. The "Registration Mark" represents production.

- Stream and Blob Heads: This represents our creative minds and the subsequent creative process that flows through our ideas as we create our artwork. The vector lines of course represent the core tools to do this. The pixelated cursor denotes the software.

- Tabbed Pages: A new feature in CS4 is tabbed pages and this represents that feature.

- PDA: The Magenta blob figure flows through the PDA and becomes RGB content. This represents the CS4 work flow that allows you to create content in Illustrator and then port it out to work on mobile devices. I purposely made the device generic. I don't think there is anything that actually looks like that?

- Background Dots: CS4 is still the industry standard app for producing print content so this gives a nod towards that foundational truth and anchors everything else together.

- Blurred Nebulous Shape: The blurred cloud floating through the bottom half of the background doesn't represent anything. I just though it looked cool. What?

Ironic But Funny
So this book is all about CS4 so of course I used CS4 to create it. When I went to deliver the art to the publisher though it turns out they only have CS3. No one bothered to inform me of that until after the fact. DOH!

No worries because Mordy Golding informed me that if you save out a CS4 to a CS3 .eps format it will place into a CS3 app and retain all the information. You just won't be able to edit it unless you have CS4. Problem solved.

In any regard it was a fun project to work on and if you want a great resource for learning CS4 I highly recommend "Real World Adobe Illustrator CS4" by Mordy Golding.


LaurenMarie - Creative Curio said...

Wow, Von! I love the cover! It's colorful and eye-catching, the characters are fun and it's not a "typical" vector illustration (course, none of your stuff is). It makes me want to learn more about Illy so I can create illustrations like that. You did a great job illustrating the different features of Illy CS4, and it fits with the Peach Pit style, too.

I can't imagine you being intimidated by a project, though. You're such an amazing illustrator. :)

If I had to pick something that, imho, might be improved upon, I would say the bottom of the Blobs could use more attention. Two are almost exactly the same and two are totally different. I see in the original sketch you had three of them with folders around their necks (?), but then in the final, one has a portable media device (not an iPod, but sorta). Nice addition, along with the RGB streams. I bet there's something else that could've been added to at least one of the folder guys. The tops are so interesting! What do you think?

Vonster said...

Turn around was pretty quick on this. That combined with the fact they really stressed simplified for the content.

I tried to off-set the Magenta blob by adding conceptual acne to the Cyan and Yellow. LOL


Eric Granata said...

I really appreciate the amount of meaning and symbolism that you put into your work and thank you for explaining it. Very fun!

Randy Hill said...

It's beautiful and makes my head hurt. I like how you worked in your flames.