Monday, November 15, 2010
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•Eyerus + Visual Communication Studio (the agency)
With a tongue-in-cheek nod to Drew Struzan's Smokey and the Bandit II movie poster, create an illustration reflecting the chaos and craziness of the upcoming 4th season of the FUEL TV show, The Adventures of Danny and the Dingo.
Create something wild and wacky, with as many visual detours as possible, and a Burt Reynolds/Dom DeLuise-ish movie poster vibe. The 2 main characters would take center stage while the chaos and mini story lines that succumb to the gravitational pull of a Danny and the Dingo experience orbit about their feet.
I began by screening some episodes from the show, which stars Danny Kass, 2-time Olympic snowboarding medalist, and Australian snowboarding personality, The Dingo. This helped me get a feel for the show and its characters.
When taking on a job, I like to learn as much as possible about every component, so I feel confident speaking on its behalf -- which is what I'm entrusted to do, in a way.
This project took some initial sketching to find its concept. It started out with more of a Cannonball Run II nod, with the craziness bursting out at the viewer.
The client opted to go the Smokey and the Bandit II route, instead. They liked the storytelling potential of smaller elements swirling around large main characters.
This season takes place, largely, in the snowy climes of places like Alaska and Switzerland. So that sort of scenery needed to form the basis of the illustration's landscape -- setting the tone.
Snowboarders, snowmobilers, wakeboarders, heli-boarders, dogsledders, goat-milkers, fishing-boat-gun-shooters, trophy-truckers, RV-riders, Euro-sports-car-drivers, lederhosen-clad dudes, German-beer-maid gals, police and rescue vehicles, and any other crazy folks we could think of needed to feel welcome in this illustration.
Taking a respectful cue from Mr. Struzan's aforementioned poster, I set out to glean from its humor and general idea.
This type of assignment is a good exercise for illustration students to understand what makes an illustration work. There are a lot of decisions that went in to the making of Drew Struzan's poster, from the placement of the vehicles and the value composition within that swirl of vehicles, to the large figure poses, to the cloud composition, to the color of Bandit's jacket.
We tried a few options with the guys in center stage, but they didn't seem to quite cut it.
In what I'm claiming as about a 3rd degree of separation to extra-coolness, Danny and the Dingo were called to a house in Los Angeles for a quick photo shoot just for this project. I was poised at my computer, on-call for when the agency received the photos and sent them to me. I would plug them into the layout and shoot it back for final approval. Upon approval, I would immediately turn my attention to the final, as our deadline was rapidly approaching.
It happened, I did it, and we got it...approval, that is.
If you are an illustration student, you've probably heard over and over -- there's no substitute for good reference. It's true. Listen to your professor, especially, if you're trying to work realistically. Bad reference will sink your ship, and quickly.
With the help of my intern, Andrew, I tracked down reference for the background: clouds, Swiss Alps, Alaskan fishing boat, Brandenburg Gate/Berlin Wall, Swiss airport, Berlin Tower, wakeboarders, snowboarders, snowmobilers, and dogsledders. I also researched the snowy ground for something non-descript, yet definitely snowy.
Then, it was time for my camera to come out of its bag.
Since this is such an unusual giant's-view perspective, I wanted to make sure the vehicles and people looked correct. So, I shot 'em.
I scoured the toy shops for scale vehicles of all sorts and set them up at the perspective of the illustration, shooting them group-by-group, lit from upper left, on a sheet of white foam core until I had what I needed.
Then, I needed to contact some models to pose as the characters at the guys' feet.
It was a race against the clock, at this point, and Briana (a lovely Southwest Missouri model) and her husband, Daniel, came through for me on short notice and knocked it out of the park. They completely embraced the humor and tongue-in-cheek undertone. Their participation, in my view, solidified this illustration. Look closely to see all the terrific roles they played. My sincere thanks to them for their perfect participation in this project.
Cool blues would have to rule the landscape. But, then what?
Too much color amongst the cars, below, would be too chaotic and distracting. I kept it somewhat muted, with a few flashes of light on the U.S., Swiss, and German police cars.
Why is Bandit's jacket red?
The rest of the Smokey and the Bandit II poster has very muted tones and colors. The red jacket leads the viewer's eye toward the main character and creates, arguably, the primary area of visual interest. Cover up that jacket with brown and the color composition becomes very blah. The red makes it work. And, there's just enough of it below to harmonize it with the color palette.
So, that's what I needed to do, too.
Thank you Mr. Struzan for the lesson.
This was a very complex and involved project, but also very rewarding. The folks at Eyerus are an illustrator's dream with which to work. I'm very grateful to them for the opportunity to help with this very cool assignment.
This ad can be seen in the December 2010 issue of Transworld Snowboarding Magazine (on newsstands as I write). And, the 4th season of The Adventures of Danny and the Dingo debuts Tuesday November 16 on FUEL TV.
Allan Burch is an award-winning illustrator and portrait artist, providing solutions for editorial, book, advertising, and institutional projects.
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