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Monday, June 6, 2011

2,000 Animals and the dangerous and thrilling life of an Illustrator

24"x36" illustrations for use as posters, print ads, inserts, and maybe more, we'll see. Done through Leo Burnett in Toronto for Procter & Gamble for their product, Bounce Dryer Bar. I believe these only printed in Canada so far. This the most massive advertising project I might ever work on in terms of sheer work. There are at least 2000 cats, rabbits, and dogs here. You can see them much larger on my blog:

Napoleon cat a la David, mime cat, japanese lucky cat, many more

Back-story: Part of this was completed while I was living in Tokyo, Japan during the earthquake/nuclear disaster. The street swayed back and forth like I was standing on a waterbed. The buildings were flopping back and forth like they were made out of jello. Breakable things were falling and breaking in peoples houses. I had to run back upstairs after the huge quake and continue working, side-stepping all the broken dishes and glasses, I had no time to clean up hazardous glass. I ran to the bathroom (what we deemed to be the safest place in our tiny tokyo apartment) with my laptop many times that day when a big aftershock started in order to keep working. Constant aftershocks prompted me to disassemble all tall and heavy things in my room because they might violently collapse in an aftershock and kill me. Things like bookshelves are the number one danger in your house. This project literally could have killed me. The exciting life of an illustrator right?

Eventually after the radiation scare got bigger and all the foreigners I knew were leaving Japan i decided there is something going on here and maybe i should get out too. So on came the triumvirate of stress of moving my whole life out of a country, the biggest ad project i'll ever work on, and the stress of aftershocks and radiation. Also the fact that our building was so old (like from the 50s, for japan that's old) that it was slated to be destroyed at the end of the month was super un-comforting. Sure it took 1 historic quake, but could it take all the aftershocks? I had no time for any of this, i had over 2,000 animals to draw, get approved, color, and more, in 10 days! My visa was going to be up soon so i had to totally move out of Japan which made time insanely tight and I had to make up for the time lost doing all the things you have to do when you move to your 3rd country in 3 years.

What followed was a week of 16 hr working days and 5 hrs of sleep a night, while holed up at my friends house in Seoul, South Korea on the US army base Embassy housing. It was a life saving decision in many ways. His house was stocked with American food like burritos and cheese and soda. There are no earthquakes in Korea. He had a new 21 inch imac which is way bigger and way more powerful than my macbook. Would I have been able to even do these huge 24"x36" posters on my 15 inch macbookpro that is 3 years old? Maybe, but i have my doubts because it took 8 minutes each time to save even on his new imac. Its a gamble to not save, and a gamble to save. If you save every 10 minutes like you should you lose half an hour every hour just saving! Those are long 8 minutes, pacing back and forth, ferociously nibbling on food and coffee using those 8 minutes to eat for the first time all day. and we all know what happens if you don't save.

This is a new product that you put in the dryer with your clothes to make them softer and pet hair won't stick to them. The Agency's concept was to have a bone/carrot/bird next to the product box with the animals trying to get the bone/carrot/bird, but they can't because they are being repeled by the product, whose tagline is, "helps repel pet hair". All the animals had to be unique and doing something interesting to either get to the carrot/bone/bird or training/planning on how to get to it or being repeled/scared/angry at the product. I didn't want it to be too cartoony and I wanted it to be in my style somehow and the agency agreed. In the end drawing 2000 anthropromorthic animals will kill your style and your wrist so things ended up being more cartoony that I would have liked. I usually use photo reference for most things but there was no time to find reference for 2000 different faces, and poses that are impossible for animals to do physically so i slowly learned how to draw each species and then eventually was able to draw them quickly and decently from my head. It took a huge amount of time to think of the ideas and write them down in words on paper, and then a long time to sketch them out, and then get them approved for final drawings. Eventually they let me just do final drawings and most final drawings got approved. Notable drawings that i had to erase were animals with swords/knives/bombs and an infantry of rabbits about to charge to the center. that stung. But for the most part everything got approved. It would have been a disaster if i had to keep erasing random rejected poses because all these animals are custom fit together like tetris pieces. coloring took forever too. you get delerious after coloring these 16 hrs a day. Also having the power of photoshop to keep changing colors after working til 8 am can make you crazy too. I did the rounded type and the straight type and their standard box and their taller package. I gave them flat color finals. Finally after a few months I can show you the final Illustrations that they tweaked. They added shading to the animals so it looks like the box is radiating light. They added some kind of texture with a photoshop brush and tweaked some colors here and there. They went with the staight type and standard box. There are probably other changes that i could find if i studied these for hours. Overall I am Ok with what the agency did with these and think they might have made them better. They didn't ask me to do these changes but if they did I could have done them better, and then immediately died. Good thing they left themselves a lot of buffer time because i'm sure it took a long time to do the tweaks that they did, regardless of how you feel about the tweaks. I'm concered that when these are seen at 24"x36" the photoshop brush texture they added will be glaringly obvious. Now that it's all over I can't believe that I created these. Too bad I cant put larger jpegs on the web so you can examine all the animals. The largest will allow is 1024 pixels. You can see these at that size on my blog:

buff muscle rabbit and girlfriend, skinny dorky rabbit and dorky girlfriend testing muscles, karate chop, lots more.

b!tch slap rabbit, rabbit on IV, whip rabbit, rabbit toss, much more.

these are the flat color versions i sent before they agency added their shading. If i had done it, it would have looked better but taken a really long time and cost me my life.

a parting shot of all 3 side by side. I'm ok with not drawing rabbits, cats, or dogs for a while.

taking down the big hulking bookshelf that did not have earthquake brackets installed like i always meant to do. My nerves were shot after so many aftershocks and looking up at this wondering if the earth was going to violently slam it down on me so i had to take this down.

one of my roommates sleep under his desk at night for days.

stores cleared out of bread and milk and stuff after the quake

the airport was like a refugee zone. all the foreigners were trying to get out. That line goes on forever. it took 2 hours on that line to check in and everyone was super p!ssed and scared and stressed and flights got bumped and double bumped. I hadn't slept in 2 days because my airline ticket got messed up by the Tokyo travel company that was surely experiencing the craziest time in their history so i stayed up all night working expecting to sleep on the plane only to find that I can't fly until the next day. I finally made it to Korea, got the project done after a lot of blood, sweat, and dementia, and have a good story to tell now.


pw! said...

AMAZING! i know you went through a lot here, but what a blast to look at, these came out wonderful! my kind of art: the kind that demands you look at it for a long long time

Victo Ngai said...

OMFG! You are crazy. Love all the fun details you sneaked in-I can stare at each poster forever. I am really really fu*king jealous of this job haha!
I didn't know you were still in Japan during the quake, thought you went to Spain at that point already. Glad you are alright!