Mare Internum: A Thrippin’ Process

I read a stupid amount of webcomics, and I have to say without a doubt Der-Shing Helmer is one of the best creators out there. She never compromises on quality in her writing or art (always find it mind-blowing when the creator does both). She’s currently working on the aftermath and rewards for her second super-successful book Kickstater for Mare Internum, one of her current (but close-to-complete) webcomic projects. I can’t wait to have the final book in my hands. Not to mention she’s started her own publishing company! She’s and incredibly hard worker and I see her as a huge inspiration.

I created this piece to enter in a small contest she was running during the Kickstarter campaign, but it was also a way of saying “thank you” for sharing her wonderful work online. I really do recommend you check the webcomic out.

I’m gonna pick apart some process and a little simple symbolism below. Trying to stay spoiler-free is going to be impossible, so fair warning!


First things first, some sketches to get a basic idea down (I had a pretty concrete layout in mind as you can see).

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LEVi, the character depicted, is an AI-enabled subterranean exploratory-robot-turned-extraterrestrial crustacean. I wanted to create a piece that depicted both of these forms layered on top of each other, since the author had their forms be similar in some regards.

Left-hand illustrations credit to Der-Shing Helmer

So as an exploratory robot, it has a headlight of sorts. When their “consciousness” is somehow… transferred into to a Martian crustacean, LEVi’s speech is then depicted in “thrips” in most contexts (also what these little guys are referred by readers and the author of the comic).

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Credit to Der-Shing Helmer

I stayed faithful to the way the author did the hand-written look of SFX for LEVi’s speech, actually tracing over some panels from the comic to get it just right.

I went absolutely nuts-o on the back pattern. I am a HUGE fan of over-embellishment and ornamentation in design and illustration, and this was the perfect opportunity to try something new. It’s meant to be reminiscent of circuitry boards, but leaning organic.

There’s a couple of things hidden in the pattern, the more obvious being a power-up icon near the top. Near the bottom of the third plate, there’s an abstract fish symbol, representing the main character Michael Fisher (sometimes referred to as “Fish” in the comic), who has a close working relationship, friendship, and history with LEVi.

I isolated the patterns above. As I mentioned in my original blog post, I definitely was inspired by and thinking of Carl Sutton’s work when working on these patterns.

Towards the bottom I included the astronomical symbols of Mars (well, kinda) and Earth, with their respective moons in orbit. And around the entire illustration, sonar waves, which seemed thematically appropriate and houses the illustration. The outline of LEVi’s Martian form slightly pulses as well.

Last but not least, I wanted to include the character’s name someplace, but not just straight-up write it, so it’s hidden in the pink ring.

After drawing everything in Illustrator, I went ahead and pulled the pieces over to Photoshop for the animation. I’ve created looping GIFs before, but overall this was more complicated than anything I’d done previously. And even though I kept the color palette limited, the gradual gradients in the background really racked up the colors once the GIF was saved-for-web. Not to mention the wavy-gradient done over the top of the circuitry pattern. Speaking of…

This was a technique I’ve been wanting to try for some time now. I read about it as a good way to do embers in a fire. Basically mask out the areas you’d like to be fading and rolling through different colors, and using a layer of Difference Clouds (!!! who woulda thunk it actually has a practical use) behind the mask to make the gradual changes in value.

The final GIF is in a previous post below, but here’s a quick link. Thanks for reading! I hope it was interesting.

Here’s one final Thrip sketch. Go read Mare Internum!

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Mare Internum

I’ve been spending some of my free time recently on a fan art submission for Mare Internum, a very good, insanely high-quality webcomic. The illustrator/author is running (well, it’s almost over) a Kickstarter for the entire story to be printed. If you submit fan art, you get an extra entry into a side contest for a nice enamel pin of one of the webcomic characters. (More below.)

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It’s been a LONG time since I’ve done any fan art. I also figured it was a good opportunity to up my GIF-making game and try out some new stuff. 🙂 Basic layout was sketched on paper, drawn in Illustrator, then animated in Photoshop. Patterns were inspired by Carl Sutton’s amazing work. I was going for a organic circuitry-board theme.

I just tweeted it at the author! I hope she likes it. I may do a follow-up post about some of the stuff I hid (some obvious, some not-so-obvious).

Update: I created a post about my thoughts and process behind this. Click here!

P2P Conference: Booth Graphics

Recently I got to do some booth graphics at work. I was told it would be back-lit, so I decided to take advantage of that by creating some bokeh graphics (which I posted earlier on Dribbble) with the company colors. I was asked to use previously-created icons along this sides.

The marketing guy at work loved how it turned out, and apparently we were told we had the best booth graphics at the whole event. Here’s a screencap from a video that was taken at the event!

On The Hill

A nonprofit client of mine recently got to go up to D.C. to lobby for their cause, and my project manager and I assisted them with creating some materials for the lunch event. Below are some pictures they sent over!

The client wanted to showcase stories from the people they’re representing, so we worked together to create 15 table tents with stories and different statistics on the back of each. In addition we created a large, clean infographic showing where in the country some of these stories come from, and where they live.

You can see another piece of work I did for a related campaign here on Dribbble (an interactive infographic).

Always great to see your work in the wild!

Shirt Illustration – Lamb’s Family Day

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Fun little illustration project I got to do for an October employee event for Lamb’s Tire & Automotive; employees and their families went out to Six Flags for the day (there’s one more flag on the roller coaster in the background, hah).

Just got sent a shirt today! I’m pretty happy with how it came out. I don’t get to illustrate people very often; I’m going to try and incorporate it more into my personal projects. Originally it was an interracial family, but colors were limited later on in the project. Anyway, the kid got the dad’s nose but the mom’s ears.

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Left was my initial sketch, right was the tighter sketch to send to the client for approval. The Dad got a collared Lamb’s shirt, and the Mom got more hair, hah.

If you want to see it, I included the digital version in a gif on Dribbble!

Austin Monthly Sighting

austin-monthlyI recently created this look for the Agaverama tequila sale at Twin Liquors. Definitely a fun campaign to work on, with the color freedom and subject matter. It was a tiny surreal coming across it in Austin Monthly (I’ll never get used to seeing my work in the wild).

I mocked up a little pin of the agave and put it on Dribbble when I made this ad in July. Then I learned you can’t do gradients on pins. Boooo.

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