Feb 5, 2009

The Method to My Madness


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.

The Client

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.

The Challenge

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.


Refined drawing.

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.

The Presentation


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.

The Build


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.

The Reveal


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.

17 comments:

Kristy Fletcher said...

Von, you are the coolest :) Thanks for another look into your process. Very inspiring!

RobMc said...

killer. That makes a great tattoo.

Pocza said...

As a tattoo collector myself, I think the tribal style is perfect for that. I started getting tribal stuff, but am now getting more old school stuff. THe thing that will be interesting is how the prefect lines will be drawn on skin. And assuming the tattoo guy lays in the black nice and solid, this will kill!

Thanks as ever for the process!

Freddy Gipson said...

Great tattoo, the tribal style armadillo is quite stellar.

Aaron Riddle said...

Just discovered your blog today. You do fantastic work. Consider me a new reader!

Michael Gano said...

Back from the tattoo parlor and survived! Really happy with this design and how it translated to the actual tattoo.

Thanks again Von!!

Creative Crafter UK said...

Fantastic design - thanks for the insight into how you work. Very informative and very inspiring as always. I like the way you don't see it at first and then the armadillo appears.

(Pink lines...there's nothing wrong with that, if it works for you!)

Brilliant!

elf said...

very good job! beautyfull tattoo tatu! (?= excuse my english please!!)

Autumn Del Rio said...

That looks awesome. Fantastic job.

Steffi said...

I found your blog through a link today and I have to say I am totally blown away, incredible work!
Great to see your process and especially the vector outlines, too!

Mau Fontinele said...

Dear Glitschka, its design is inspiring. I am designer and my work is much identifies with his. Congratulations Master!

Mau Fontinele
Brazil Artist

Mike said...

Using magenta/pink is a simple answer for me, really. When tracing, 99% of the scans I am working with are either A) Black or B) Not Magenta. By drawing my and your lines in a bright, clear, contrasting color, it makes it super easy to make sure that the curves are flowing smoothly and following the original image accurately.

Nice to know someone else is on board with this.

[rich] said...

Very Cool :-)

Lindsey Kellis said...

Rat on Steroid.. ha. You crack me up.

Texasdream said...

Beautiful! I love the fact that the client was inspired by the great Texas Armadillo and even more amazing you made something so cute and well lets face it gosh darn ugly into a masterpiece. I love it!

Fred Fomm said...

Oddly enough, in Portuguese 'armadillo' translates as tatu, which is the same word for 'tattoo' [from tatuagem]

XCELLENT design BTW, mate.

Kell said...

I have an armadillo collection - and came across this tattoo photo... It's just the coolest thing I've ever seen!