Let’s take a look at my latest design titled “Spacie.”
On the left you’ll witness the “original” version that I created in September of 2013. On the right is the completely reworked version completed just this week. Quite a difference, eh? That’s what 2 and a half years grinding away at the design axe will do. While the results are dramatic the thought process behind the changes was more simplistic.
Part One: Redesign, Rebuild, Redraw
In between the time the original and the new version was created I had almost completely rebuilt my skills as a digital artist. For example, the 2013 version was initially drawn on InkScape, a freeware vector art program. Not a bad program for beginners despite an odd learning curve and a few missing features. However, the days of coughing up hundreds of dollars for a professional program are over. Adobe offers monthly payment plans and as a result I complete almost all of my artwork via Illustrator now. If you have the means I highly recommend it. (There’s also a Wiacom tablet at play here but we’ll save that for another blog.)
As I’ve lost almost all of my original files for my old designs (some out of carelessness and others for the best) I had to completely redraw the entire design. My only reference was my original submission to Threadless which served as the literal base of the artwork. The spacesuit designs were meant to be simple, borderline stock as I felt the gag worked best when specific details were left out. The spacesuits could be detailed enough to feel “realistic” but without undermining the absurdity of the situation depicted.
Interestingly, the original “gag” of the floating smartphone evolved into a selfie-stick, a device that didn’t catch on yet in 2013. It also shows my lack of smartphone comprehension at the time; who takes selfies using the back cam?
Part Two: Throwing Shade
This may come as a surprise but I have NO idea what I’m doing in terms of shading. Being a self-taught artist I’ve yet to master the “finesse” of accurate lighting effects. My shading style is a mix of R. Crumb-esque hatching and bizarre “jagged edges” that make more sense when completed but look confusing as hell in progress.
Since most of my designs are intended for t-shirt and fabric I’ve developed a love for large areas of dark color. Usually I let the t-shirt color fill these in which keeps the print from looking too faded over time. This also allows for some interesting color variations that allow the potential wearer to feel even more connected to the work (more on that in a bit).
Part Three: The Stars Look Very Different
In a horrible error in judgement, the original version had only a bit of stars, reflected inexplicably in the helmets only. This is SPACE. Space is full of stars, of course, but having a huge block of white stars would’ve cluttered up the design too much. Too many stars and the joke gets obscured but too few and the design feels flat and lifeless.
By coloring the stars a shade of blue they find the perfect spot between beautiful yet easy to ignore. However, one thing the original DID get right was the red accents in the suit. These give the otherwise bland suits a bit of character without clashing too much with the style of the art.
The three main colors in this piece are white, red and cyan. Typical CMYK color schemes are great for multiple background colors. Here are four versions of this design; the only change is the background.
I’m rarely 100% satisfied with my art. That’s not to say that I crank out pieces just to fill in gaps. I would never sell or even show a piece of art if I don’t feel it is a strong work. But it’s important to find a balance between nuanced details, happy accidents and flat-out mistakes.
Who knows? Maybe I’ll revisit this piece yet again in another few years. After all, selfie technology is constantly evolving…