Friday, February 12, 2010

The Caucus Race

I posted this image a few days ago on Google Buzz (here)—you may have also heard me mention it on Twitter (@bobjinx). If not, I was recently invited to participate in an Alice in Wonderland-themed group show at the Canteen Gallery up in Ottawa, Canada. The show is called "Two Days Slow" and will be opening on March 4th. So if you're in the neighborhood, mark your calendars. (I unfortunately will be unable to attend).

As promised, here's a bit of process coming your way.

I chose the Caucus Race first on a tip from my wife, and secondly because it seemed like a fun opportunity to create a cast of animal characters. Especially birds, because I like drawing them. The story lists that

"there were a Duck and a Dodo, a Lory and an Eaglet, and several other curious creatures...They were indeed a queer-looking party that assembled on the bank—the birds with draggled feathers, the animals with their fur clinging close to them, and all dripping wet, cross, and uncomfortable."

(A few pages of preparatory pencil sketches.) A handful of these character studies made the final cut. You'll notice a thumbnail in the upper left corner. This was my first idea—to have Alice standing grumpy and wet in the middle of the parade of creatures. I even sketched out various iterations of Alice wringing out her wet hair.

And then there's this.

(I'm not always a focused doodler.)

After some thought, I thought it better to get Alice into the race—as it is described in the story anyway. It seemed like it would make for a more active composition, too. Here's the thumb that launched the image.

From this point, I decided to leap into Flash. I knew that wrangling all these critters into a ring would be a difficult challenge, and I wanted the ability to freely edit, scale, and tweak as needed. Here's my resolved sketch, where I worked out the kinds of animals and how they would all weave together in a circle.

And then it came time to ink.
This was by far the most time-consuming part.

When drawing on the computer, it's easy to fall victim to detail because you can zoom-in indefinitely. In this case, because I new I'd be printing it large, I wanted the characters in the back to be just as rendered as those in the front. The line-weight is thinner to imply depth (heavier in the front), but every character is equally considered from a drawing standpoint.

Underneath my inks, I roughed in a color study (line-layer turned off):

After many hours of coloring, this was my near final output from Flash (everything you see here is created in Flash).

Using watercolor paintings I've scanned, I added an addition layer of texture in Photoshop. It's very subtle, but it's there. I think it helps separate the characters from the background (giving it a look similar to an animation cel). Here's the final again:

With the illustration complete, I had an archival-ink fine-art print made up (an edition of one), and then framed and matted it. The size of the print is 16" x 10" in a slightly larger frame.

I took a few photos before I packed it up.

And now it's on its way to Canada.

If you're in Ottawa and make it to the show at Canteen, let me know! I also sent ten copies of ARGH! along with the framed print, so the gallery will have issues #2-#6 in short supply.

Thanks for reading!


Heeby Jeeby Comix artist (and pal o'mine) David Degrand just posted his "Elongated Alice" illustration over at his blog. It's also the featured image on the Canteen website (GO DAVID!).

Wonderland extraordinaire, Meg Hunt, is not only doing a series of illustrations for the new Picture Book Report blog (view here)...she's also featured in two Alice-themed shows!—one at Canteen (the other at Gallery Nucleus). She uploaded her painting for the Canteen show to Flickr ("A Royal Stroll"), so go check that out, too.

**UPDATE 2** (2-17-10)

Promo image just arrived from Canteen:

Poster art by Casey Weldon.
(click to view large)


DH. said...

HOTT! I love this!

Aeron said...

I love it, the colors are fantastic. All the characters have distinct and amusing looking personalities as well.

Andrea said...

Bob I love this! The color palette is perfect. It would be great of you to talk about your coloring process in Flash in a future post.
Your weird characters are so damn inspiring, especially the wrinkled guys. Man, I'm so happy I found your work.

Chris Houghton said...

INCREDIBLE stuff Bob! Thanks for sharing!

Unknown said...

Beautiful beautiful piece! I'm thinking this is hands down one of your best.

elfelix said...

You are the best!

David said...

Wow, this is great Bob! I concur with everyone else about the colors.

Chris Sabatino said...

What a post! So much great info! Before I even read it, I thought it looked like an animation cell, scanning in the watercolor sounds like an amazing technique. The finished is beautiful, but I also like the design of the first thumbnail with Alice in the middle and a very cool sky. Boy, I wish I could get a print of this. Sounds like a great event, I'll actually be in Montreal in March, but I have no idea if that's near Ottawa!

Bob Flynn said...

I really appreciate the thoughtful comments, everyone. I pour a lot of thought and energy into characters and color, and this piece in particular was a lot of work.

Andrea: I've talked a bit about my coloring process in Flash here. But I didn't get into how I actually go about color (my poor man's theory).

Chris Sabatino: I also like the first thumb, which is why I was compelled so show some of that process. I guess I preferred having Alice amidst the chaos, which is truer to the story. Plus it makes for a fun loop of characters.

I think Ottawa is a 2-hour drive from Montreal.

Because I'll be selling it as an original in the show, this is the only print of this caliber that will be made.

Thanks again, everyone!

damon said...

very cool

David DeGrand said...

Man you really outdid yourself with this piece Bob, it's just a treat to look at all those wacky characters. And the colors, just WOW!! The print looks fantastic! I'll have to talk to you later about where you got it done and how much it ran you, they did a killer job.

I really hope that when they're hanging this show they hang my piece on the opposite side of the gallery from yours, I'm afraid mine looks like child's scribbling in comparison!

Bob Flynn said...

On the contrary, sir. We should have a Heeby Jeeby wall all to ourselves! I'm getting the sense that we might be the only cartoony artists in the show. I just updated the post to link to yours—everyone should note that David's is the artwork featured on the website (score!)—and Meg Hunt's (whose piece is just astounding!).

If anyone is curious, iolabs did the print.

Scott MacDonald said...

Wow! Fantastic Colors and great characters as usual. Looks really nice framed!

Anonymous said...

Whoa, beautiful! Love the process, the pallette, and the crab dude. It's got a great otherworldliness.

bonerack said...

Just thought I'd drop you a line and let you know that I bought this piece from this show. Thank you very very much for it! It'll be a pleasure to look at once I figure out where I am putting it!

Thanks again!

Oh and funny enough, I didn't know you and David are friends because I bought his piece as well.

Bob Flynn said...

Hey, bonerack! Just caught your comment. Thanks for buying mine and David's pieces. Would love to see a picture of the two.