Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Jay Cutler Emotions Guide

Something that came to mind as I was watching last night's Lions vs. Bears Monday Night Football game on ESPN (while simultaneously watching the presidential debate)...

Jay Cutler Illustration by Chris Hsu

Friday, October 19, 2012

"Three Cats and a Rat"

In this month's Appleseeds magazine I was given a fun opportunity to illustrate an old folktale where a swordsman and his friend try to employ cats to catch a pesky rat, though the first two cats turn out to be more high maintenance than they are skilled. The third cat, a plain tabby, uses patience rather than an aggressive approach to finally catch the rodent who upon release promises to never return.

The story mentions a swordsman and the art director suggested maybe a Spaniard, so right off the bat I channelled what I knew of old European painting as inspiration, especially in terms of using dramatic chiaroscuro, multiple figures in complex angled poses, and setting everything in a ambiguous, darkened, rural space. Then from there I tried to combine it all into a more modern palette and look. (AD and Layout: Joshua Banks)

In my first rough sketch for the big splash image, I thought it was important to focus on a high maintenance persian cat and emphasize that by showing the swordsman rushing over with a bowl of milk to appease it. The little blobs up top were supposed to be kittens holding a "Fight of the Century" sign as mentioned in the story, to build up the hype even more. After stepping back and looking at the sketch I felt it just showed a jerk of a cat but didn't tell anything about the relationship between the swordsman and the cat.

I decided I really needed to include a mouse hole to show the reason that the swordsman is cajoling the cat. But at the same time the mouse hole alone wasn't enough to show the gravity of the situation - that was where the friend from the story came in handy. I placed him waiting to pounce by the entrance, thereby suggesting that there was something actually pesky inside that hole that the cat wouldn't even attend to until fully fed. Perfect...except for the fact that the composition became incredibly left-heavy at that point.

With some tweaking of the figure I changed him to better fit my needs there, which were to 1) balance the composition and 2) support the narrative. This arrangement also had a unexpected benefit too, which was how the shape of the cat now looked like it was literally stepping on him, as if he was a slave to that cat. I thought it helped to subconsciously push that idea that this was really one high maintenance animal. Plus I already had a composition comprised of many "U" shapes in varying sizes and curves, so putting the friend in a big "U" helped to hold everything together and perpetuate the rhythm.

chris hsu illustration
Voila! Now I felt like I had a composition of dynamic implied lines and shapes that helped to tell the specific narrative, and I could finally move forward confidently with the rest of the character design, drawing, and painting. Below are the other two smaller illustrated spots that accompanied the story. I already decided early on that the rat was going to appear in both of those, which is why I never included it in the initial sketch for the splash image.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

"The Spider Man"

For this month's issue of FACES magazine the assignment called for two spreads featuring a character named Anansi, a plucky spider from Caribbean folklore whose message in a nutshell is to never give up, even if you think you are small and insignificant. It's a suuuper trippy story that jumps from abstract scene to abstract scene so the concept for the illustration was very open ended. The only guideline I set for myself was to make sure to give it a hint of Caribbean characteristics in terms of character designs and palette. Below are the finals of the two spreads, plus a detail. I took a little inspiration for the ghost fight spread from Disney's Haunted Mansion in Orlando, which being a native Floridian I have ridden many many in my life. I always remembered that part in the ride where a swirl of transparent ghostly figures flies through the air in a big arch...if I remember correctly it's right before the ride car heads down into the cemetery? (AD and Layout: Joshua Banks)

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Google "Tough Mudder" T-Shirts

In a fun little side project, a good friend of mine who is a Music Partner Manager at Google in Mountain View asked me if I could help them out with a little something for their upcoming Tough Mudder outing. If you're not familiar Tough Mudder is one of those obstacle-laden, guaranteed-to-get-you-muddy races held out in the countryside that tests your physical and mental abilities.

So they wanted to go with an Android theme based on a little image of the standard, frontal mascot icon dressed in running gear that another Google designer had done. My task was pretty open ended, so I decided to make it my goal to take that and "bring it to life" somehow in the spirit of the race using only three colors and white.

We ended up going with what we referred to as the "roaring guy" which we felt captured the "Yeahhh! Bring it on!!!!" feeling that people usually have when they first start these races before they find out how challenging "it" actually is. This is an actual photo of the printed product even though it kinda looks like it's photoshopped onto a random T.

The big day has arrived! Here's a contingent of NorCal Google employees sporting the shirts this past weekend. Man, those bright, yellow ochre mountains of California seem like a whole world away from the fall forests of New England...

Here's a great shot of the front and backs of the shirts. From what I heard, a good time was had by all and everyone returned home safe and sound in one very muddy piece.