It’s always been my experience that you need to promote your business while you’re busy, because if you wait until you’re not busy, you’ll be out of business and you’ll have to eat your own hair or something. My point being, no matter how much client work I have going on, I still like to fit in my own personal promo projects. In this case, I decided to create a series of postcards that would be sent out to new clients and art directors over a period of 6 months.
I choo choo choose YOU vintage railroad playing cards!
Last year I visited Biltmore Estate and found this deck of cards in the gift shop. Each card had it’s own illustration of a classic train and I found all of the various shapes and sizes appealing. I enjoy drawing vehicles but had never attempted to draw a train before.
This is a really long jpeg. Sorry.
While I enjoy drawing vehicles, I enjoy drawing monsters even more. There’s really no wrong way to draw a monster, so it’s fun to put pencil to paper and create appealing shapes and characters without much regard to realism. Because this was a personal project, I’d work on it for awhile, then put it away for awhile. The shots above show just a few of the explorations done over a 6 month span.
I researched all different kinds of trains, train cars, bolts, wheels, gauges, lights, bells… really everything. I found Dropbox to be quite helpful when doing this research because sometimes I did image research while on my iMac, and other times it was on an iPad or iPhone and I could save everything to an organized folder in the cloud.
If I got bored drawing trains, I’d focus on monster studies, and when that would bore me, I’d go back to doing image research/homework. I think keeping these “buckets” to put work into helps stop the old creative block and helps you build confidence that you know what you’re doing (even though you don’t).
At the bottom of this monster-sized jpeg (sorry) you’ll see some color studies. I like ROYGBIV and usually start there, pulling out colors that I think will work well together. I’ll do color studies in Photoshop then pull flat colors into Illustrator for final art. For this train, I figured the caboose HAD to be red, so I started there. I then went back to the front of the train and started with orange, yellow then began on to greens and such. I also used these same colors to build my monsters.
Note the coffee ring on one of my sketches. Oops.
Fancy train clothes!
My original concept involved having fully clothed monsters on the train, each one wearing a specific train outfit specific to their job. What I discovered is that putting clothes on monsters can be difficult, especially when you are dealing with several different kinds of monsters, none of which share a specific body size or scale. Also, there’s so much detail going into the train at this point, having the same level of detail on each monster was going to prove to be too much. So while it was fun to draw and research train uniforms and jobs, I decided not to use it on this piece.
Quite a group of characters.
The shot above shows the final designs for each of the monsters. I derive a lot of my monster ideas from Jim Henson and his artists. I think a good rule of thumb for any fun monster design is “would this look cool on Sesame Street”?
Various color builds. Pencil on the left and vector on the right.
In most cases, I still use pencil and paper to design my characters. I clean them up, scan them into Photoshop, then trace and build their shapes in Illustrator. When I draw, I use two colors of pencil; red and black. My red lines are “thinking lines” and the black lines are for cleaning up. I enjoy drawing this way, and it’s a technique I’ve picked up from watching other artists.
I try to put story and personality in everything.
These are a few of the finished monster designs. While not important to this particular project, I do name each one and create some sort of story to go along, even if it’s just a sentence or two. It helps drive a design so that I don’t end up with 12 monsters that all have the same personality. I may end up using the names and stories later on future projects.
Postcard #1: The Engine. He sure seems happy about his dead-end job.
Postcard #2: The Logging Car. I thought coal would be boring, so I drew logs instead.
Postcard #3: The Passenger Car. R.O.A.R.R. stands for the “Rotten Ogre Apparitional Rail Road”.
Postcard #4: The Tank Car. Not sure what that green sludge is.
Postcard #5: The Circus Car. Why I put a blue Flurpsnoz next to a green Whurppurd is beyond me.
Postcard #6: The Caboose. It’s not very roomy.
It’s always fun creating a world that doesn’t exist. These are some details that I designed to go along with the monster train.
All 6 postcards.
The final execution was to print each train as their own 8.5 x 6 postcard. Each one gets mailed out every 6-8 weeks and the hope is that people are able (and want) to collect all 6. When you do, they form the entire train, in all it’s colorful glory.
If you are interested in owning your own set of 6 monster train postcards, I do have a few sets available for sale over at my shop.
You can also view each illustration larger over on my studio site. Thanks for reading!