When it was announced that my friends Kenneth and Elaine were having a baby, I was overjoyed. Bringing a baby into this world takes guts and determination, and it is always exciting to see a couple go on the road. They nicknamed the little fetus Monkey. That’s where I come in.
Kenneth, after slinging my ass out of the Textpattern fire on more than one occasion (I’m a cartoonist dammit, not a developer), asked if I could do an illustration for them of Monkey, or more literally, a monkey in baby attire. That bastard, he knows that no cartoonist on the planet can resist drawing a monkey… I set to work promptly.
Several weeks (months?!?) later Kenneth mentioned on iChat off-handedly that the Monkey was kicking the living hell out of Elaine, and I suddenly realized that I had drawn no monkey. I was a welcher. So I quickly drew this sketch (on the left) in 3 minutes on a Post-It note and sent it to them (“See? I AM working!).
Well, they liked it, but not enough (ungrateful bastards). They wanted their monkey to be more kung-fu, since it was such a kicker. I conceded to that change, because drawing monkeys in kung fu poses are, again, irresistible to draw. Damn their eyes. So, I whipped out a much less guilty sketch (seen here on the right), with the monkey doing more of a Muy Thai thing, but he was kicking, dammit, and that is all that mattered. I had been watching Ong-Bak so Thai kickboxing had been on the brain for awhile.
They finally liked it! I set upon finishing the sketch immediately (two weeks later). My first step was to get a more finished image. I imported the sketch into a Template layer in an Illustrator CS document and used the Wacom tablet to draw right over. I believe I used a default 3pt brush. Most times, I’m able to get enough line weight variation from that one brush, so I use it quite a bit. Another note, I always start the basic linework in black. I don’t have to, and most often I change the color later to match the color scheme. I just start out that way for some reason.
After the linework is done, I decided to tackle the non-monkey colors first, because really, how hard is variations of poop brown. I decided to run with a light blue, since I kind of like the idea of using orange for lettering later on, and I thought that orange would go well with poopy colors. The light blue would compliment the orange and pop off the monkey. So I chose a light blue with a bright saturation and went to town on the bonnet, then switched the value down for the diaper, clothespin and eyes. I almost never use pure white for eyes anymore. When I was in high school we had to paint a self-portrait, and I while the rest of the painting was decent, I made my eyes pure white. It still creeps the living hell out of anyone who sees it, like the eyes are following you around the room.
Next came choosing some brown. Brown is hard to work with in general, I think, but it is an under-utilized color that you can make sing with some patience. That was very Bob Ross of me, so moving on. I chose this latte color for the skin. I should mention that I keep all of my colors on a separate layer. It just makes it easier for me if I want to change something later on. Also, I lay down the color with the brush tool again. It would probably save resources to use the Pen tool and make shapes, but something about having the Wacom tablet in your lap makes me want to color the piece like it’s a coloring book.
Finally, it is poop brown time! I just laid it all down, going over some of what I did on the previous layer’s latte skin color so I could make it look like hair (somewhat – I wanted to keep it smooth too). I’m feeling pretty good about where this is headed, and again, if I don’t think a color is working anymore, I can go and change it on its own layer quickly. I get very impatient around this time because now it almost looks like the piece is finished, but there is so much more to do!
Now it is time for some type! I wanted to do a quirky little sound effect for the monkey kick, and I always think literal sound effects are comic gold, like PUNCH!, HEADBUTT!, or POOPING!. I typed out the word KICK! on a separate layer and set the font to the wonderful Blambot font Badaboom. I use this font quite a bit for sound effects in my comics.
The important thing to remember about comic-type sound effects is to not just rotate some words around the page. You have to give it some life. I spend just as much time with my sound effects as I do on some of the characters I draw! All I did here was distort the type with a Warp filter. There is absolutely nothing scientific about this at all. Your distortion may depend on the font or the effect. For this effect, I wanted it to feel like a sound wave almost, hence the kind of bubbling outward effect on the type.
Voila! I now have a working draft of the monkey. I skipped a couple steps in between here, but they aren’t that important. All I did was set the sound effect font to orange, bumped the stroke up to 20pt then copied and pasted it in front of itself. Then I simply gave it a light yellow stroke at 1pt and filled it with a yellow-orange. The starburst is even easier than that. If you want more instruction on the type, I recommend checking out Comicraft’s book, Comic Book Lettering: The Comicraft Way.
I sent this version off to the Loves for approval. They like everything but the face; it was too mean for them. I was able to change that quickly in Illustrator by just deleting those lines and redrawing them:
They liked this one right away. Job almost done! I had a few things left I wanted to tweak. Remember how I mentioned that I often change my first lines from black? I went ahead and changed them to a very dark brown, so it would still frame the monkey but incorporate and support the color scheme better. I then took that dark brown, made it a Fill color and opened a new layer. Selecting the pen tool, I quickly banged out a bunch of shapes towards the back of the monkey, then selected them all and set their transparency to Color Burn 20% – which gives it a nice sense of depth and shading:
I sent it off and got an email back minutes later from a very happy Kenneth. I went to bed satisfied. Everything said this piece took me about an hour to an hour and a half. I love fun little jobs like this.
Our story doesn’t end there however! Kenneth emailed me the next day wondering if I could change the type from KICK! to The Loves (bastards!). No problem. Remember, the type is all on a separate layer, and you can still edit your type even once it has been run through a Warp filter! I quickly changed the type and added another type block with the word “THE” and rotated it to fit right above the letter L’s ascender cap:
There you go! My little contribution to the Loves wrapped up in a smallish tutorial of sorts. Let me know if you have any questions – comments are open.
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