Reference and image research.
I usually save the sharing of my creative process for my tutorial site www.IllustrationClass.com, but it's been a while since I posted any like that over here so I decided to take you all through a recent custom tattoo design I created.
Michael Gano had seen some of my previous tribal tattoo designs as well as some of my most recent artwork and requested his own custom tattoo design based on an Armadillo.
Last time I drew an Armadillo was around 1988 or so, and it was done in a very graphic Santa Fe style so I did some simple research to get reference. Like I tell my students:
"You may know what an Armadillo looks like in general but you'll be able to draw it better if you reference the real thing."
I forgot how cool looking these varmints are. They're like a cross between a Rhino and a Rat on steroids.
Thumb nailing out a rough.
All good things digital start in analog form. At least for me they do.
At this point I'm not too worried about specific detail, I'm just trying to get the idea out of my head and on to the paper. I'm balancing out the composition and figuring out how things relate to one another in a general.
An Armadillos form is simple and not very complex and that made the design of this tattoo difficult. The client also requested a circular tattoo which added to the design challenge as well.
I prefer to draw out my ideas completely so I know what to expect moving to digital. This prevents any guess work as I build my art in vector form. This of course isn't an iron clad rule but tends to be true more times then not for me.
All the creative heavy lifting IMO, is done prior to digitally building it.
Working digitally has many fringe benefits. One of best ones is symmetrical designs. You only have to do half the work and still get all the fun. Just copy, paste and flip!
Scanned refined drawing.
At this point I need to run my design by the client for approval. So I scan it in and use Photoshop to copy and clone the missing content. I also clean up any other detail I may spot at this stage too. This takes all of about ten minutes or so.
Client comp image.
After mocking up the comp image from my scan I decide to push the tail more literal in it's appearance and I add indentations on the Armadillos back to represent the various plates.
I didn't really care for the look of the tail at this point but it was good enough for the comp and I'll finesse it so it looks better once it gets approved by my client.
Vector building starts.
As I say in my "Illustrative Design Presentation" you have to be a "Bezier Curve Jedi Master." It does help if you have ADD tendencies though.
Vector shapes completed.
Why do I use "Pink" lines to build my shapes? Because I've been doing it this way for like 18 years now and it makes perfect sense to me. So no wise cracks. No, really I'm sensitive on this issue and you don't want to make me cry.
Note how I simplified the tail detail.
Final artwork completed.
I tried several different approaches when integrating the indentations on the Armadillos back until I arrived at this solution. Over all I'm happy with the results and so was my client.
Tattoo in context.
The reason my client wanted the circular motif was due to the final tattoo's placement on his shoulder. I like the fact it's not an immediate read, it's a slow reveal which is kind of cool.
If you'd like to see the artwork a little larger I played around with it using a texture here.
I hope Michael enjoys this tattoo design and I thank him for letting me use his body as my canvas.
FYI: For information about my stock tribal designs or to have me create a custom tribal design for you visit VonsterTattoos.com.