New Media – Lemorris Harris
Lemorris Harris takes us from pencil sketch to finished artwork using Illustrator and Photoshop with his “How-To” called “Don’s Land Cruiser”.
See more of Lemorris’s artwork at his web site:
Zero 7 … especially the song Somersault
Don is a former co-worker and good friend. His wife Mel is a current co-worker and a good friend as well. For years Don had wanted me to draw his Land Cruiser. He went as far as to go to ebay and bid on hard to find VW parts he knew I wanted so he could trade. The evil hands of time brought forth the demon of inevitable change and Don ended up taking another job. I was sad.
Things took a turn for the better when Don’s wife Mel approached me about drawing Don’s Land Cruiser as a special Christmas gift for him. I knew it would be a challenge as his vehicle has a lot of individual personality as do most extremely loved vehicles. I accepted the commission and went online immediately to find reference. It became clear that finding reference that would be suitable would be next to impossible. I needed pictures of Don’s Land Cruiser in order to draw Don’s Land Cruiser.
Mel and I hatched a scheme and executed it to perfection. Mel called Don over to our office. Once he arrived she pretended to need to show him something somewhere. I was in “stealth mode” at the front counter and pulled one of those cool Magic Johnson spin moves as Don and Mel walked past me. While Mel had Don on the snipe hunt I ran outside and took about 30 pictures of his Land Cruiser.
A few things struck me right away. I could tell he loved the vehicle. It was a little rough around the edges. His license plate was kinda crooked. He had some age spots on it. The winch had seen some use. This wasn’t your average never see the offroad…offroad vehicle. He had missing wheel parts and yet you could tell from one glance that he loved this truck.
What follows is a series of screen captures and explanations so you can see the things I was working on and you can read some of the thoughts that were going through my head.
Stage 1: The pencil work.
I sifted through my pictures and finally settled on a shot I thought would work for me. I took into consideration the angle and the point of view. I knew I wanted a little lower point of view because I felt like I wanted this piece to seem larger than life to a certain degree. I also had taken several shots of the wheels and suspension bits because I thought it might be important to know what was going on under there. Many times in the past I have just made “shadow” my friend and taken “artistic license” and buried everything I could in darkness so I wouldn’t have to draw all the detail. I decided early on that this piece would not go that route. I stepped up to the plate…check swing strike 1 on my first sketch. Tip foul, strike 2 on the second sketch. Then…with ice water in my veins…I leaned forward and……….. got hit by the third pitch so I got to first base.
Stage 2: The Illustrator work.
Next I put the scanned pencil work in Illustrator. I made the layer a template layer and began the tedious process of redrawing the entire sketch. This is always the hardest part and by the time it’s done I find that I don’t like myself much. I start to believe that if I was in school with myself I would lock myself in a locker. Sometimes art hurts on the inside.
In this step you can see how I duplicated the main elliptical shape and just kinda set it to the side. Since a lot of the inner wheel is based off the same elliptical degree this piece becomes a very valuable piece in “time-saving” land. I also started working on the tire tread. I found out that street rubber is much easy to draw, however if you skip the 4×4 tread on the 4×4, then you’re doing yourself and your customer a dis-service.
Here you can see the finished Illustrator work. The blue lines will be black in the final drawing and the red lines indicate hilite and shadow areas. Normally at this point there is a big sigh of relief followed by a jumping up into a hip gyrating-fingers pointing at monitor-neck wiggling-scrunchy face-trash talking dance sequence which is of course followed up by uncontrollable sobbing and thumb sucking in the fetal position. Like I said before. The detail in this piece was extremely rewarding.
These 2 captures show the individual files I save of each layer by itself with the lines turned black. Now I need to add a note here as I found out that sometimes art has a sense of humor…a cruel cruel sense of humor. I normally make my lines .5 points think in most spots with the main contour line being 1.5 points thick and selected lines being 1 point thick. I’ve found in the past that when I do that I end up with small gaps between color when I render. that being the case I thought I would out-smart myself and make the inner lines .3 points thick…should work right?…..right?
Stage 3: The Photoshop work.
Here you can see I brought over my lineart files on separate Photoshop spot color channels and started to render the truck. I like to start with the hardest part first and in general for me that is always the tires and rims. Tires and rims make the car in my opinion. All the age and character in Don’s Land cruiser can be seen in his wheels and tires.
It was at this early stage that I immediately regretted my decision to make my Illustrator line .3 point. In photoshop I make selections in the open spaces between lines then I expand them by 1 or 2 pixels so the black line will trap the color. It’s like a coloring book. Anyway as soon as I made selections in the spaces the .3 point outlines when converted lose a little of their thickness sorta. This created tiny gaps in some lines so when I selected the spaces between the lines my selection kept escaping! Then I had to zoom way in and physically draw over the line where the gap was.
What does all that mean?
Let me see if I can explain it another way…..I MESSED UP!
Actually I found a decent solution. I selected everything on the lineart channels and filled them black a couple of few times. This seemed to thicken them a little. I still had some escapees, but it got better. Next time I will be a little more careful and make sure I don’t have to go there.
Here’s the finished wheels. At this point I was re-energized. This vehicle was unique for me for several reasons. One was that for the first time I based the rims on a warm grey instead of a cool grey. I wasn’t sure it would fly but it ended up being the perfect choice for achieving the aged rugged look I was after. I rendered the tires with my usual Pantone 430 base color with black airbrushed over it. At this point I did another little gyrate hip dance thing, but not much because I had to keep working.
It was at this stage that I finally started to see what the land Cruiser was going to be. I continued to use the warm greys with a few shades of brown and some rich reds. I was pleased with how the rusty look on the springs came out and there’s a shape just under the driver side headlight that I fell in love with.
I forgot to mention the winch. That was fun. That little bit of yellow really set things off. In this stage the grill started to come around and I made an executive decision about the lights. I was thinking about adding the lines to give them a more realistic lens type of effect but it seemed like it needed a couple of things that were not “real”. Some “graphics”….I decided to let them fly simple and add more later if I felt they needed it.
Here you can see I decided I needed to see more of this thing so I rendered in some of the body touches. In the past I waited to add my whites but I was chompin at the bit and I just had to know. When I dropped those little tiny hot white spots on the hood I did another dance thing. The music was slow, it was a Zero 7 song so I looked kinda silly but I didn’t care that much.
I went back in and finished up the lights and once again I felt they were fine without the lens look. I also crawled up the windshield a bit. At this point I was “full on” and it was really coming together pretty fast for me. I was pretty sure I could finish it in a couple of hours and It was sorta late so I went to bed and got up at 4 a.m. to knock out the last part.
Well my “couple of hours” started at 4 a.m. and ended about 10 a.m. In between my car started running with 1 of my carbs wide open so it sounded like I was doin 70 miles per hour at every stop light. Even Mistie’s breaking didn’t get me too down though. I finished this piece. I decided to use a cool grey on the seats. You can see what a different look you get with warm and cool greys by looking at the seats and the rims. Both have black tones airbrushed over them but they take on completely different characteristics.
I was never really sure what was under the seat but I think I captured it pretty well. The fire extinguisher was another favorite of mine. By adjusting the percentages on the reds and shading with slightly different tones I was able to render it so you know what it is right away.
Here is the design as printed and framed for my friend Don. To date this is the most detailed piece I have ever done. It was challenging and I learned an awful lot. I know that Don won’t see this page until Christmas Day and I’m sitting here smiling as I type because I know if he’s 1/10th as pleased as I am, he’s going to be incredibly pleased.
I want to thank Mel for giving me shot with this one and for understanding how much it meant to me.