Angry … Cows?

A friend challenged me to an exercise in creative concept art – draw some Angry Birds (yes, as in the game). But make them cows. Angry cows.

To meet the brief, I took a look at the original Angry Birds characters. The main thing you’ll notice about these characters is how very simple each design is, in terms of outline (most are based on a circle) and basic body features. The other thing you will notice is how unique each character is and, therefore, how easy each is to distinguish from the other characters, even in tiny, screen form. Angry Birds characters differ markedly in one or more of the following:

  • size – from the tiny Blue Bird to the Chubby White Bird and Big Red Bird.
  • shape – many of the characters are based on a round body model, but some are egg-shaped or even triangular, with differing tail or crest configurations that make them recognisable even in silhouette form.
  • colour – aside from Red Bird and Big Red Bird, all of the characters are swiftly recognisable by their colours, which is essential on a tiny game screen.
  • personalities – even though most of the birds are, as advertised, angry to be sure, there are also ones that look worried and determined and even a bit crazy.

The following character sheet was my take on the brief:

angrycows-angrybirds-colour

Here, I have gone with different colours, shapes (while most are modeled on the circle, a couple have been modeled on the inverted triangle and on the trapezium), sizes and outlines in order to make each character distinct. I have also varied the personalities, from the angry red bull and crazy orange bull to the suspicious yellow pineapple-esque cow, sad blue Ankole-Watusi and sleepy Highland Cow.

Note – for extra cowish brownie points, I also looked up breeds of cow, searching for unique types that I could include as characters. The first two cows are Highland Cattle – these have wide horns and amazing, long fringes that make for interesting character opportunities. The central, blue cow is modeled on the Ankole-Watusi (these are incredible looking cattle – definitely worth Googling). The black and white cow is based on the Holstein-Friesian – the classic, spotted dairy cow. The pineapple cow … was not based on a real cow breed (sorry about that).

Below are the characters in silhouette.

Walt Disney animation (particularly in the early days – Donald, Goofy, Mickey Mouse etc.) designed their characters based around the principle that they should be unique enough to be easily recognisable in silhouette form. Thus, you can recognise Mickey by his ears (the distinct shape that is, even now, the Disney logo), Goofy by his teeth and hat and stance and Pluto by his narrow ears and whip tail and the bump on his head (as distinct from the shapes of other canine characters). The same holds true for character design (especially casts of characters) today.

angrycows-shapes

Note – the twin cows (the green one and the black-and-white) have the same silhouette. If I drew these again, I would place the bangle on the opposite foot of one to make them unique in silhouette.

Enjoy.

If you want to catch more of my art, please check out my Flickr portfolio.

If you like my stuff and would like to hire me on a freelance basis for concept or commercial or book cover or book interior art, please check out my contact page.

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Art Underground April Edition.

Here are the pictures I drew during Art Underground’s one year anniversary on April 10th! A marvellous night with a packed house and the most wonderful music and art. The headline act was the incredible Mahesh from Tapestries of Sound whose voice is so rich and beautiful it teleports your mind to another world. He plays a drone instrument called the tanpura. The feature artist, Brent Joly, from Canberra, exhibited his gorgeous artwork.

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artundergroundapril8As always, the lovely Lauren Harvey and Arrin Chapman kept everything running smoothly.

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artundergroundapril4An image inspired by Arrin’s poem in which a young man chasing his labrador puppy through a mall is offered potpourri in a miniature pillow which he doesn’t actually want. Because, you know … poetry. 🙂

artundergroundapril6Another image inspired by a line from one of the poems. “A blind boy sings of green fields he will never see.”

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People in the crowd and on stage.

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Be Professional, Artist.

This page follows on from a recent post I wrote about behaving professionally as a wannabe writer and most of the general stuff (like not being a dick, not bad-mouthing other professionals and being appropriate when attempting to approach and contact your heroes and so forth) applies here as well.

Note that the artistry I am referring to in this post pertains mainly to the artwork used in books – both cover art and interior art – but many of the points are applicable to other forms of commissioned artwork as well.

Cover art for In Fabula-divino - edited by Nicole Murphy

Cover art for In Fabula-divino – Nicole Murphy (editor). Available on Amazon.

Agree to do what you say you will.

This is common courtesy and also good business. If you say you can deliver a piece of art by a certain date, then you need to deliver. This is especially important on the artwork side of book creation because art takes time to create and tweak and if you bail at the last minute, the publisher may not easily find someone who can fill your shoes at a pinch or who has the perfect piece of original artwork on hand and ready to go.

If at all possible, submit your artwork in under the time allowed – so long as doing so has not been achieved through a drop in quality. Publishing is all about deadlines and time is money. Getting projects completed allows a publishing house or editor to move onto the next money-making thing more swiftly, so they like it if you can have your work submitted ahead of schedule. It also gives them and you more time to make edits. It also means that they have a piece of cover art available on hand to get the early promotions-work rolling.

Do your best work every time.

Any book that manages to make it through to publication does so after a whole lot of work and collaboration has taken place by a whole lot of passionate people (not just the author/s and/or editor/s who wrote the book, but literary agents and the staff of the publishing house as well – editors and subeditors, as well as marketing, publicity and finance folks). All involved have a vested interest and pride and, in the case of the publishing house, money, in the outcome of the book, so it is very important that the book be given the best chance it can of being noticed in the marketplace and one way it can do that is by having a really good, eye-catching cover.

A good cover may not necessarily ‘sell’ a book (though I have personally bought books based on their cover art), but it will make a potential buyer pause to pick it up and browse it – which is the first crucial step a book needs to overcome on the path to being bought.

Be prepared to decline work.

Because it is so crucial that cover art be delivered on time and that it be the best piece of work possible to promote the book, you should be prepared to be honest and decline an offer of work if:

You think there’s a high chance you won’t make deadline

or

You’ve read the brief and do not think you are going to be able to do justice to what is being asked.

One thing I’d like to say about this second point, however, is not to mistake “inability to do the job” with “fear of failure”. Artistry often co-exists with a good dollop of self-doubt, which can only be overcome by having a go.

If you honestly can’t do the job (you don’t have the requisite gear, you truly don’t think you can create what they’re asking for in a weekend), that’s one thing, but don’t turn work down purely for a lack of confidence or because “you’ve never drawn a camel before” (or whatever it is they’ve asked for). Quite a few of my art commissions have started out with me having no idea how I was ever going to meet the brief and ended with a product the client has been happy with.

Once you start to mull over the brief, particularly if you’ve read the novel or anthology the cover or artwork is intended for, ideas and images will begin to form.

Read the brief carefully.

The brief tells you what the client wants you to create and what the artwork is intended for.

The cover art might not be solely intended as a printed-book cover, but also as an e-book cover (e-books are generally displayed in online shops as small thumbnails and, therefore, the simpler and more eye-catching covers tend to work better) and even a Facebook banner. This is important to know because printed covers are generally presented in CMYK format, whereas covers to be displayed on the internet (e-books and banners) are generally formatted as RGB.

Sometimes the publisher will be very specific about what he or she wants on the cover. Respect that, but trust your instincts as an artist and be willing to offer suggestions of your own (if your suggestions aren’t taken, however, don’t be offended – just move on and deliver what the publisher has asked for).

Technical things you really want to know before you start:

  • Dimensions – how big the cover is to be, including the dimensions of any bleeds. You do need to know the dimensions for e-book covers – e-book sellers (e.g. Amazon, Smashwords) often have strict specifications for the dimensions of e-book covers, as well as the minimum dpi resolution needed and the sizes of image files accepted.
  • If you are to meant to design the spine and back cover as well (this may not be needed if the book is to be e-book only). If you are doing front and back covers, don’t forget to include the width of the book’s spine. If this is not known, find out the maximum it is likely to be and give yourself the extra room (you can always take a little away later)
  • Whether the art is to be CMYK or RGB or greyscale (black and white – often used in interiors).
  • Image resolution in dpi
  • If the image is to be photographic or non-photographic (some publishers opt for a photographic style, while others prefer original drawn/painted or purely digitally-designed art).
  • If you are going to be doing the type-setting as well – placing the titles, author/editor names and blurb – and the publisher’s specifications for that (e.g. font, colour).

So as to not lose the effect of both artwork and type, always be sure to set places in the artwork for titles and author/editor names to fit, which won’t obstruct the visibility of important elements of the art.

Have a portfolio of your work.

Having a portfolio of your work is a good way to show prospective clients and publishers what you can do. Sites like Flickr! and Tumblr and Deviant Art are good places to get your art out there without fees.

You can visit my portfolio on Flickr at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/117588964@N07/