Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Return of SuperSimonSundays!!!

After a long summer of endless hours in a horizontal position on the couch in the back room, Playstation controller firmly affixed to both hands, Super Si returns to school, to his Grade 11 Entrepreneurship Class, to bring you...

Le Cat Machine!
written and illustrated by Simon Peng
© 2010 SuperSi Enterprises (Patent pending)

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The cat died!

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What to do...?

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Recycle it?

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Hide it under a cardboard box...?

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Stash it in the neighbour's mailbox?

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Make an attractive hand-crafted dead cat head pendant???

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Introducing "Le Cat Machine!" (plugs into any standard home outlet)

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Simply take your dead stinking cat and place it on the handy conveyor belt...

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Press the start button...

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... and voilà! A tasty burger!

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"Le Cat Machine" - for all your dead cat needs - only $49.00!

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(plus shipping and handling)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Promotional Illustrations

I've been an instructor in the Graphic Design program at Mohawk College since January, 2010.  Check out the full program description here.

This semester I'm teaching a course called "Promotional Illustrations," something I'm very familiar with.

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Dermabond promotional colouring book

Doing illustrations - both concept and finished art - related to the promotion of products or services has always been a major component of my work.

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Coke contest counter card

For the benefit of my class ( and for anyone else who might be interested ) I thought I'd show a few of the projects that have passed across my drawing board in the last 20 years.

Promotional Concept Illustrations


As a storyboard/concept/layout artist, I'm often called upon to draw up ideas generated by art directors at marketing and promotions companies.  Now, unlike the assignments my students are working on,  I can't take any credit for coming up with these concepts.  The ADs who hired me did the (often clever, sometimes not) thinking and called upon me to visualize what their concept would look like for the purpose of presenting it to their client.

Sometimes the artwork is about as close to utilitarian as you can imagine.  These drawings for a South Park poster dump bin...

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... and for a video store end-aisle merchandiser...

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... are intended to do nothing more than explain to the video chain store's executives what their store would look like with South Park merchandise in it.

Yes, business people are sometime so visually inept that they need something this obvious to 'get it'!

Here's another concept illustration for an in-store promotion -- this time for Absolut Mango Vodka.  Here the promo concept is much more clever:  the AD proposes that the grocery store chain replace their regular hanging weigh scales near the fresh fruit section (where the mangos would be kept, right?) with weigh scales shaped like a silhouette of an Absolut Vodka bottle.  Clever.

Absolute.GroceryStore

And to compliment the promotion, he devised an oversized plastic "dome" shaped like an Absolute bottle to be placed over the mangos, with an oval 'doorway' cut into it so you can reach in and grab a mango.  Nice!

Because this was ( as usual ) needed at double-quick speed, I used some found photography as a background element for the drawing.  You wouldn't be able to do this if you were producing finished art for publication, but in the hyper-fast paced world of advertising presentation art, you use whatever trick will get a decent looking visual to the client meeting on deadline!

Below, a few fun Absolut Mango promo items the AD asked me to visualize for him:  a shrink-wrapped mango pit ready for planting (instructions on the mango tree-shaped hang tag), a mango-shaped bar coaster, and a couple of those little gel caps you put in water that grow something after 24 hours, in this case, a mango tree or an actual mango.

Absolute.PromoItems
All these items would have been branded with Absolut Mango Vodka logos before being presented at the client meeting, of course.

Next up, a couple of promotional merchandise ideas for the launch of the Porche Cayenne.  The keychain in the shape of a cayenne pepper seems like a natural...

Porche. PromoKeychain.Bib

... but what's with the bib?  The AD's idea was to suggest that, once you get a look at the new Porche Cayenne, you won't be able to stop drooling (the merch would be personalized with the dealer's name, in this case, Pfaff Porche in Woodbridge, Ontario).

Below, some promo merch concepts for Molson's.  This stuff wasn't even for public consumption - this promo was intended for a weekend getaway at a Mexican resort for beer reps!
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(Incidentally, I was also commissioned to design the little devil mascot that appeared throughout this promo)

And finally, some drawings for a promo "event marketing" concept:  a mobile Carlberg beer garden.

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The idea here is that you put a bar in a trailer and pull it to various festivals and outdoor events.  Everything folds right out and - voila! - instant bar!

(Again, keep in mind that these illustrations would have been branded with Carlsberg logos before the agency showed them to the client.  The reason you don't see that in these drawings is because the art director said he'd take care of it in-house)

Carlsberg02.sm

Also, remember that all of the drawings above are "concept drawings" only - never to be published - only for client meeting presentation, and thus not required to be finished to the same degree as artwork that would actually be viewed by the consumer market.

Some examples of the promotional illustrations I've done that were ultimately printed are coming up just below...

Promotional Finished Art Illustrations


Flyers, coupons, P.O.P. material, promo t-shirts; they all need visuals to help the client promote their goods or services.  Sometimes those visuals are photography or graphics ( like logos and such ) - but in many cases the ideal visual will be an illustration.  Over the years I've done more promotional illustrations than I can possibly recall.

Below, an illustration for Heinz ketchup that was used for an in-store backer card, if I remember correctly.  From the looks of that cartridge Mario is holding, many of you who were avid gamers while growing up will appreciate that this piece was done a loooong time ago!  Unfortunately I rarely get printed samples from my clients once I've delivered the art so I don't have any type elements to remind me what the heck this was for.  A contest to win a free Super Mario game, I think...

Mario-Heintz.POP

Here's another backer card, this time for a Nestle's Quik promo where you got a free glass with purchase (the glass would have had some Quik Bunny artwork on it before this went to the printer)...

Quik.HeaderCard

This is a good example of the important role illustration can play in the promotion of a product.  Even though photography could have been used for the image of the clear glasses in the bunny's hands, the client wanted to retain an element of "illustrative realism" to connect the glass more effectively with the bunny.

And yet another Nestle's Quik promotion:  three on-pack Quik Bunny comics I produced for a marketing and promotions company back in the 1990s.

Quik.PromoComic

These were digest-sized comics/activity booklets shrink-wrapped right onto boxes of Nestle's Quik chocolate powder ("Collect all three!")

Promotional comics have been popular for most of the last hundred years - and over the last twenty years, I've done quite a few for advertising clients and charitable organizations.

Poptech.PromoComic


The example above is unique in my portfolio because it wasn't done for the consumer market.  This comic was done for a cardboard engineering and manufacturing company and sent out as a "business-to-business" promotion.

Similarly, the mouse pad below was created for a pharmaceutical company and used as a "B-2-B" promotional item.

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Here's another backer card that was used for an in-store display, this time for Lay's.

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And at last, a printed sample!  A tent card for Campbell's Soup with all the type elements in place.

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Incidentally, I also did the character design for these veggies, which were turned into plush toys for the purpose of the promotion.

And finally, one of the most unique promo's I've ever had the privilege of working on:  a limited edition Kokanee beer snowboard that was given away as the prize in a promotional contest.

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The bottom...

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...and the top.


Hope you enjoyed these examples  and I hope they gave you some ideas for your assignments.  Feel free to leave comments or ask questions!





Saturday, September 04, 2010

10 Years Ago, Right Now: My Pokémon Adventure

Ten years ago right now I was in the middle of drawing a huge series of Pokémon storybook illustrations. My Pokémon adventure had begun about a year earlier with a ton of black and white line drawings for Golden Books' colouring book division.

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Those of you who, like me, had young kids at the time ( or maybe were young kids at the time! ) will probably remember what a massive pop culture presence Pokémon had for a few years around the turn of the millennium. Starting with the cards ( which were quickly banned at my - and many others - kids' school), the weekday afternoon animated tv show and, in pretty short order, a feature length animated movie (and sequel).

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All of this meant that a huge amount of artwork had to be generated and Nintendo's animation studio, OLM, Inc., simply couldn't keep up with the demand from all the world-wide licensees. When Golden Books needed several hundred pages of b/w line art for their Pokémon colouring book series and wanted them tailored to their specific editorial directions, Nintendo relented and allowed (apparently for the first time) some outside artists to test for the project. Five of those tested were deemed acceptable. I was one of them.

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This is only a tiny fraction of the total number of pages I had to crank out - and I mean at speed! I think I did 40 pages over a weekend on one occasion...

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If I remember correctly, I think I got a hundred dollars a page, which was, at that point in my career, the cheapest I'd ever worked.

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But work is work and I figured I'd make it up on volume.

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Besides, my sons were at that age where Pokémon was HUGE in their lives... and who doesn't want their kids to be impressed with what they do for a living?

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It was a chance to be a "cool" dad... and for them to be able to say to their friends at school, "My dad draws Pokémon." This scored them a lot of cool points of their own, I don't mind telling you.

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After the colouring book series I guess I must have proved myself -- because another licensee was given my name by Nintendo as a reliable supplier. This time they wanted full colour art instead of just black and white line. But I was sort of disappointed to find out I wouldn't be drawing any character artwork. They would be picking up existing character images from OLM and dropping them on new backgrounds - mazes - created by me.

PokeMaze

I know some people will be interested in seeing the layouts so I've included a couple here.

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This way you can sort of see the 'before' and 'after'.

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I realize these are pretty hard to see here on the blog but if you click on them you'll be able to view a MUCH larger version.

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Frankly, this was not one of the most exciting projects I've ever worked on. I had to devise the mazes based on the client's directions... so for instance, for the sake of the story line, this one had to be constructed out of sleeping Beedrills. Its was tough as hell trying to make the maze work - make it look good as an image and make it logistically navigable. It was tedious and time consuming and there was enough editorial interference to make the whole thing thoroughly aggravating.

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Happily, some spreads where much more straightforward, however...

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... and I'm pretty happy to see them again after all these years. They work visually and I can see that the reader would understand where all the pathways are without any confusion.

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A very important component of landing this project: the client insisted I do my best to mimic as closely as possible the painting style of the animated tv show backgrounds. That challenge became a big part of what I found most satisfying about the work of doing these pieces. Luckily I was able to find a few untranslated full colour Pokémon manga paperbacks in Chinatown in Toronto. The art in each panel was essentially a frame grab shot very clearly from the animation art. I also spent a lot of time making and studying the backgrounds from screen captures I shot straight off the tv. Remember - this was ten years ago - no dvds yet! I had to freeze-frame VHS tapes of the show and shoot the tv screen with my digital camera! That was a long, tedious and often unsatisfactory process - but it was the only way to get semi-accurate reference.

Below, one of my favourites of the bunch.

MazePg10-11

There are several more spreads... unfortunately (as mentioned in my previous post) a lot of my old artwork is lost forever; locked away on decade-old gradually deteriorating CDs. I was only able to get my computer to read about half of the files on the disc I stored these images on.

Next, I think, was the spiral bound "Worlds of Adventure" story/activity book from Reader's Digest Children's Publishing.

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When my U.S. rep called to tell me I'd been offered this assignment I was pretty stoked. At last I was going to get to do some full colour Pokémon art, including characters.

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This is again some of the stuff that I can't recover from the back-up CD... so I scanned a few pages out of the printed book.

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I can't tell you how happy I was to finally be doing what I consider some 'real' illustration for Pokémon...

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... unfortunately, the timing of the project was less than ideal ( isn't it always? ) and I ended up having to juggle several deadlines at once. Thank goodness I had, at that time, my buddies Ben Shannon and Steve Murray were working for me in my studio. Ben and Steve were just fresh-faced kids, recently graduated from my old amla mater, Sheridan College, and had become a fixture in my Toronto studio, assisting me on all kinds of commercial art projects.

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These two pieces, above and below, are from a bunch that Ben and Steve did when they took over the project half-way through. They did a fantastic job on these illustrations - and saved my butt on the deadline!

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And then came the assignment I'd been waiting for: Pokémon was at that time so wildly popular that Reader's Digest Children's Publishing soon came back with an assignment for two full colour storybooks! Each one would contain about a dozen large, elaborate double page spread illustrations and spots. They would be published world-wide in a bunch of different languages.

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The pay was not too bad: around $800 per spread, if I remember correctly. The catch: the deadline was horrendously short. I'd have to produce all of the art for both books in just a couple of months. Based on my calculations, I'd have to work from the moment I woke up in the morning until I went to sleep at night, seven days a week, to get everything done on time.

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To make matters even more trying, we had just bought a new house and were in the middle of moving. Two second floor bedrooms were being renovated into a studio for me, as I had recently given up my space in Toronto.

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On top of those stresses was the worry of taking myself out of the loop for a couple of months. I wouldn't be able to do work for any other clients who called. When you're a freelancer you always worry about that: if you're not available for a client's project and they have to go elsewhere, they may not be back!

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In the end, I decided it was just too good a project to pass up. Thus began my real Pokémon adventure - one where I literally ate, breathed and slept nothing but Pokémon 7 days a week for all of September and October of 2000. It was the weirdest form of sensory deprivation I've ever experienced.

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And because I needed every waking moment to get all this artwork done, not only did I not leave the house for two months... I didn't even live in my house.

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You see, when we bought our new house, the closing dates hadn't lined up with when we would have to vacate our old house - there was a three month gap between the two closings. So that summer my wife and kids and I had been living with my amazing, generous in-laws.

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They own a very large house, and with their own kids all long grown up and moved away, they were able to accommodate all of us PLUS allow me to use a spare bedroom as a working studio. So when Wendy and the boys moved into our new house at the beginning of that September, and while my new studio was still being renovated, I stayed back on the other side of town in my in-laws' spare bedroom and slaved away at these drawings!

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I'll tell you... it was very odd. Wendy and the boys living across town in our new house and me living at my in-laws so I would be able to spend all of every day working on Pokémon. On the weekends my wife and kids would come over and hang out so we could at least be near each other... while I continued to slave away on Pokémon!

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It was a bit like being in jail -- albeit the most comfortable jail you could ever hope for (my mother-in-law is an excellent cook).

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When I finally finished "Ash's Battle" I had to dive right back in and get started on "Orange Island Adventures".

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I felt like I imagine one feels half way through a marathon. You're half way done... but there's a tough slog ahead and you're no longer fresh and energized. You know the second half will be even harder.

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So my routine continued. Get up, eat a bite for breakfast, shower and get to work. Lunch in front of the computer... a quick break for dinner, then work until ten or so at night. Half an hour of television with the in-laws, then off to bed so you can do it again the next day.

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And the next day...

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... and the next day.

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(I was only able to rescue a partially completed file from the CD for this illustration)

I'll always remember this one incident as I neared the end of completing the illos for the second book: Wendy had come over with the kids as usual for Sunday dinner... and I felt confident enough that I was going to make the deadline that I agreed to go with her and the boys for a nice afternoon drive in the country. This was the first time I'd left the house in nearly two months. I remember riding in the car and thinking, "something seems different." The world looked... not quite right.

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Then I realized it was that I hadn't seen anything far off in the distance in nearly two months. I'd been so intensely focused on getting the job done, keeping such absurdly long work hours, that I'd literally not seen anything beyond my four walls for most of the previous eight weeks! Its like I'd been living in a cave...

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And then it was over, and I moved myself and my studio home - to the newly renovated studio space on the second floor of our new house. Things seemed to quiet down in Pokémon country. With the move to the new house I moved on to other clients again.

This last batch was from another colouring book , done a year or so later and featuring a bunch of second generation Pokémon characters. By this point my kids had sorta lost interest in Pokémon so I wasn't being as well informed about who this new owl-like protagonist was.

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My kids were always a good barometer of kid kulture in those days and I think they accurately reflected what was a waning interest in Pokémon in general.

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I never heard from Golden Books or any other licensee about doing any more Pokémon artwork.

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Its too bad the Pokémon gravy train had to come to a stop... but that's how these pop culture phenomenons go.

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One thing that working on Pokémon taught me was an appreciation the limitless potential for creating interesting character designs. Not that I designed any of what I was working on, but I still marvel at how the designers at Nintendo/Creatures/Game Freak had to come up with hundreds of new characters at a time. Some of them were really neat!

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And that was the end of my Pokémon adventure. The journey lasted about three years all together, I guess. There were some pretty big bumps in the road. But looking back at it, ten years ago from right now, it really was quite a big adventure and I'm glad I took it.

PokeOS Last Page

I've never really told anyone about it all. I hope you enjoyed the story and, of course, the art!

* My Pokémon art set on Flickr