WIRED Memes: Illustration Roughs

This spot illustration appeared in the April 2012 issue of WIRED accompanying a piece about memes by Mary K. Choi. While browsing through my old files, I found a few roughs from the project and figured the process was interesting enough to post about.

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I don't draw in my sketchbook as often as I should. Over the last couple of years it has mostly worked as a scratchpad that sits on my desk while working on the computer or loose paper. WIRED briefs always had a fairly short turnaround too, so sketchbook work was particularly minimal. Here it looks like I've written a couple of lists while reading the rough draft, sketched out some cats (probably while drawing the final artwork) and called it a day.

That's not to say I don't plan and develop ideas, it's just that my thinking tends to live in text files and doodles on my phone or computer. This isn't as romantic as carrying around a collection of beautiful or fascinating things, but it works for me. I don't like people to see my ugly and embarrassing sketchbook. It's not one for Pinterest.

After I've bashed together 4 or 5 ideas in my head, I'll usually grab a pen and a pile of thin white card and start scribbling down thumbnails. I use the card because it's dead easy to scan and colour.

10 minutes per rough with little or no pencil work is plenty. If a particular idea starts to come together nicely, I'll maybe take a second or third attempt. If it doesn't do much for me (like the exploding Mentos + Cola drawing above), I'll quickly throw some colour on it anyway on the chance that it'll spark the art director's imagination*.

I try to send over a variety of different ideas. I'm not precious about any of them and stress that they can be used as starting points for different approaches. Maybe they can be tweaked, added-to or combined to get something better. Maybe they need to be thrown out entirely. That's ok.

I like how this guy turned out. I want to punch him.

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Cats? Hmm.

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A big pile of memes? Maybe, but it's unclear what the hell they're supposed to be, even if I added a bunch more and tidied everything up in the final artwork. How about combining this idea with the cats-in-a-trashcan above...

galletly-roughs-memes-catpile.jpg

Now we're cooking.

I was fairly confident that this was the best idea when I sent everything over to WIRED. They agreed. My feedback was to stress that the character was swamped with memes (in this case Lolcats) and had given up hope.

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In the final drawing I moved the character down inside the pile and gave him a wee 'surrender' flag. After colouring, the art director asked me to add a little 'LOL' up top to hammer the message home.

The process behind the Memes illustration is fairly typical for me. Some are easier - going straight from scribble to final artwork, some are harder - endless roughs, final artwork scrapped by an editor at the last minute. Still better than having a proper job, though.

 

* Beware! This is a dumb idea. I do this because I'm not smart and want to look like I've done a whole bunch of work. Clients will often pick a rough you hate and you'll have a miserable time with the final drawing.