If you think Twitter is just for micro-bitching… umm, micro-blogging, you’re wrong. It can be used for real business too.
That’s how the November 2011 cover began: with a short tweet from Halifax Magazine Art Director Jay Hiltz:
@that_jay_guy Jay Hiltz
Call for vector illustrators for @HalifaxMagazine cover. Are u good? Interested? Send me your online link: firstname.lastname@example.org
At the time, I was in a bit of an employment quiet time: my ten years with a high tech video surveillance firm was drawing to a close, and my teaching at NSCC had yet to ramp up to a significant level. Other jobs and projects loomed on the horizon, but I figured I had a bit of time to throw into a new project, so I hit the reply button… which I immediately cancelled, as I suddenly realized Jay was looking for email responses. Hey, it was late.
After I had shown Jay a few samples of my work, I was given the go-ahead to create a few mocks, rough sketches of some ideas that could eventually become cover artwork. The theme had to do with the future of transportation in Halifax, but little else was known. Jay and I decided to go for a clean, almost retro-art deco look, something that might have looked a home on a 1950’s billboard. Although I was a fan of the art style, I must confess that I didn’t have a lot of experience in creating full pieces of that nature, certainly nothing recently; most of my vector illustration work over the last while had been more technical than artistic.
Still, I decided to push ahead; after all, who wants to be stuck in a nice, safe creative niche, right? So, I fired up Photoshop (yes, Photoshop… even though the final would be vector, for quick and dirty work, Photoshop can be faster for quick creation) and began a mixed process of reference research and design development.
Jay and I tossed several ideas back and forth, but we both wanted something that said “neo-retro-art-deco-futurism” – yeah, right… looking back, I might as well have said “kitchen sink”. So, I pulled out the iPad, fired up a sketching app (ArtStudio for iPad) and started sketching and came up with a couple of new ideas:
The perspectives certainly gave me the ability to show a futuristic city, but such would require a lot of detail, and available time was starting to disappear; things were suddenly getting busier. A narrowing of the focus would be required, so I took another crack at it, this time with the knowledge that the article was going to deal with Metro Transit in the future:
The last one used elements from the previous mocks and narrowed the focus down to something that I had time to produce, and would also quickly pull the reader into the story. The only problem was the angle. I needed some reference shots of downtown to convey the buildings, so on a very balmy Thanksgiving Monday, I headed downtown and stomped around for a couple hours – from Purdy’s Wharf, almost to Pier 21 – taking shots of buildings, docks and just about everything but the attractions. The cruise ship tourists must have thought I was a little out of it! I even stopped at the Africville Park to take a few shots of the bridge – just in case – and eventually used the images in a contribution to the StarShips Start Here website.
Finally, the last mock was approved and the work began. Of course, that’s when I realized that several other projects were looming and I had very little time left… uh oh!
Hey… nothing like pressure to get the creative juices flowing!
I decided to use the new Perspective Grid Tools in Adobe Illustrator CS5.1 to replicate the angles of the mock. Although I had played with the tools before, this would be the first big test of them. Once I figured out what I wanted, I created several flat 2D elements that would later be placed on the Perspective Grid; buildings were first:
Then came the bus. I looked at several bus references, from the local and modern Metro Transit buses, to more sleek European and Japanese models. I also looked at some bullet train images, and decided to go with a practical, simple, yet streamlined design (admittedly, partially due to expediency). I then created the bus design in 2D as well, and added the appropriate and familiar markings… with a few minor variances, which would only be minimally visible in the final version.
Eventually, I merged the elements together on the perspective grid, and added the roads, bridge, the spotlights, etc. I decided early on to disregard some aspects of reality (such as the location of the buildings in regards to the harbour) in favour of artistic impressions – it wasn’t meant to be a reality shot anyway. If that had been desired, a photographic cover would have been fine.
I’m happy with the finished project… although I wish I’d had a little more time to add more elements and play with some subtle touches, or perhaps make a few tweaks or get creative with some stylized appearances, the overall design would not have varied that much. I just hope that folks like the results and enjoy the article!
For those who are interested, here’s the un-titled artwork: