I had this idea of creating this cool sci-fi style landscape where people in crazy suits built video game landscapes one pixel at a time. They would have these cool pixel filled backpacks that would filter to a gun where they would fire pixels into shapes. Kind of like the the slime proton packs in Ghostbuster 2. So I felt it’d be a great opportunity to display some of my digital painting skills I had been cultivating on other projects.
I did the below sketch of the cover, the client liked it and all was right with the world.
Initial concept sketch.
Concept sketch for the characters’ suits.
But when I went worked this sketch further it looked terrible. There was too much detail, not enough focus. I tried a bunch of stuff and it all looked terrible. The biggest concern was it looked busy and there wasn’t type on top of it yet. I naturally want to make most illustrations have a narrative focus. However I forgot that Magazine covers should be more of a hero shot with a singular focus with room for article titles and what not. The busy “narrative” cover can be made to work…however on this project i couldn’t get there.
So I did something I never do on projects. With a week left I threw away the abomination I was working on and started over. I stayed up all night recomposing the concept into more of a hero shot with a giant character manipulating pixels. It is a big gamble ( and a bad idea) to pull this kind of a switcheroo on a client and thankfully the people at Game Dave Mag were super supportive.
However I felt strongly that the illustration needed to go a different way. Also when I went to redraw the composition the hero drawing came together really fast. If you try and force out a drawing people can usually tell ( at least subconsciously). So if a drawing happens with ease I find it gets a more pleasing response. With that in mind I decided to go for it.
Below was the image I sent to them (along with a long apologetic explanation).
I used renders from he free program Google Sketch-UP for the pixels and little islands. I assembled a bunch of them than exported them into Photoshop for digital painting passes.
Below is the final cover without magazine elements.
Usually I am an obnoxious ass when it comes to self promotion. However, I have kept this illustration under my hat for a while. I really liked the way it came out, and it’s one of my more finished digital pieces. But it doesn’t fit into my usual illustration work. I think my biggest problem as an illustrator is that I like to jump around stylistically. This works when doing web projects or even concept work, where different approaches are needed. However my illustration work suffers a bit from shifting styles. If you held Winterbottom up to this you wouldn’t know this was me. Even friends who have known my work for years had no idea I did this. Although I kind of like that reaction, it isn’t doing me any favors in brand identification.
So I guess I felt this was too much of a jump to cram down people’s throats via my website. However a friend of mine sent me this yesterday from GDC so I figured it was a good time to talk about it.
They are all staring into my soul wondering why I ignored them.
Looking back it reminds me of Minecraft creations. If I had done it later I might have pushed the pixels into shapes aspect more.
It was a great learning experience to say the least and I am happy Game Dev magazine gave me the opportunity.