Indiana Jones and the Office Party




(Indiana Jones is copyright © Paramount Pictures. All rights reserved.)

I stopped doing “realistic” illustration a few years ago and focus primarily on illustrating in a very cartoony style. I enjoy it more, it’s what I’m best at, and it’s much faster which means I can usually earn more per hour. I still do life drawings and portrait studies in my sketchbooks but rarely for clients.

Every once in a while I make an exception.

Last October I was hired by Fig Street Marketing to work on a project for a large corporate client in the computer industry (not sure if I can share the company’s name so I won’t, but it’s one you would recognize). Apparently every year this client hosts a big corporate event themed after a Hollywood franchise. Last year they did James Bond, this year it was Indiana Jones. The client rented the “Indiana Jones Adventure” ride at Disneyland as their locale and hired Fig Street to develop the theme. They even put together a short video spoofing the Indy movies. Fig Street filmed executives dressed as Indiana Jones characters and then digitally inserted them into actual footage from the films.

To decorate the event they produced a giant mural and life-size cardboard standees depicting some of the executives dressed in Indy garb (great for gag photos). My friend Charlie Griak was hired to illustrate the mural and I was hired to illustrate the standees. The male executives were dressed as Indy or as Indy’s father. For the female executives I was asked to invent characters wearing safari-style costumes circa 1930. For reference I was provided with a couple of head shots of each executive and a few clips of the green screen footage. The rest I culled from DVD stills of the movies.

Because the artwork was going to be blown up eight feet tall working in Photoshop would have made the files about a zillion megabytes each, way too large to be practical. So I did the illustrations as vector art in Illustrator. It was a fun project and I was pleased with how it turned out. Soon the client will be sending me pictures from the event. If I get their permission I’ll post those photos as well.

Charlie’s mural really looked fantastic. If and when he posts it online I’ll be sure to link to it.

UPDATE: Here’s two of the final standees sent to me by the client. The photos were taken by the printer. Unfortunately the motorcycle standee was packed up before they could photograph it.



Indiana Jones and the Sketchbook of Doom

Lately I’ve been blessed with gobs of freelance work, but one of the downsides is that I’m so busy cranking out work for clients that my sketchbook has been gathering dust.

Not a good thing.

A sketchbook is an important part of any artist’s development, no matter how busy or successful he/she gets. The sketchbook is the one place where you can really let loose, try new things, experiment, and (most importantly) make lots and lots of bad drawings.

When I say “bad drawings” I don’t mean getting lazy or not caring about your work. I mean bad in a good way. For most artists the temptation is to try and fill your sketchbook with beautiful artwork, but that can be a mistake. If your drawings are all wonderful, it means you are only drawing things you’ve already mastered. And that means you aren’t improving, growing, and pushing yourself to get better. It just means you are going back and forth along a well-worn rut. The day you stop doing bad drawings is the day you stop challenging yourself, and as a result you stop growing and improving.

And if you aren’t growing, you start sliding backwards. There is no middle ground.

Most of the work I do for clients is very cartoony, which is loose and fun and has no rules. Some people think that cartooning is really just sophisticated doodling, and I suppose for some artists it is. The way my brain works, I have to first study something and understand how it works in the real world before I can effectively simplify it into an appealing cartoon design. So I don’t use my sketchbook much to practice cartooning. I try to fill the pages with realistic and semi-realistic subject matter (portraits, caricatures, life drawing, clothing studies, etc.) The better I get at drawing realistically, the better I get at cartooning. As the old saying goes, you have to understand the rules before you can break them.

Recently I took my sketchbook with me on a vacation to a lake cabin in Wisconsin. I also brought along a fun book called The Complete Making of Indiana Jones ( link). It’s a thick paperback full of behind-the-scenes photos and stories from all four Indiana Jones films. These sketches were done from that book. These are clearly not my best sketches, but I learned a lot doing them so they have value. I experimented a bit with different mediums, brushed up on some anatomy and cloth, and was once again reminded that Harrison Ford has a really hard face to draw (especially the young Harrison). There’s a reason there aren’t too many caricatures of him floating around out there.

Someday, if I get the courage, I’ll post some of my really bad sketchbook drawings. But you get the idea.

Now get out there and fill up that sketchbook!