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Of course A would be chosen for the final letter! Coupled with the return of Geometric, more messing with shapes beckoned. Wanting to mark the finale in some way, I started off thinking about something suitably jubilant – a geometric firework display, perhaps, or game show glitter…

…but that rather quickly fell by the wayside, as it didn’t come together quick enough. Maybe an upward triangle with sunny colours could be seen as positive enough in its own right? Yes, let’s go with that.

Blending the above developments somehow resulted in this fierce eye creation. A for angry, I suppose! Perhaps he’s miffed that the series is coming to an end? Anyway, it’s something quite peculiar, and it’s geometric. That’s good enough for me.

***

That’s it, then: twenty-six letters and more than 420 developments (!!) later, here we are with our rather repetitive alphabet. Generally, I think the wheel behaved itself. Some themes evaded the flipper, though; I would have liked Gothic and Speccy to come up. I’m alarmed to discover that my name is apparently no longer valid. We’ve skipped, among others, an E, N, and the beloved W. Let’s not joke about the lack of D.

Of course, that’s the very nature of the wheel. Chance. If I’m to do this again, I may only choose the theme at random; at least then there would actually be twenty-six spins! We shall see. But, whether you have a super-exciting wheel to spin or not, I cannot endorse the random element enough; it not only enabled me to create by eliminating the awkward dithering stage altogether, but often demanded fresh approaches or a reconsideration of old ones. Results vary, naturally, buy today’s concluding letterform is a prime example of an aesthetic which probably wouldn’t have happened outside of the series. Prospects abound with challenges like this. Give it a whirl and see how you fare.

Until next time, it’s been fun. Here are the fruits of the last few weeks’ labour:

AtoZ-mechaT7

Another day, another spin. I wanted to make a 3D robotic arm for Mecha, but it quickly dawned on me that this would take a while, probably longer than I had available this evening, so I backtracked to Illustrator. Much fun was had trying to create a kooky, vintage mister roboT, apparently indulging in a spot of robo-yoga:

Affirmative! This friendly character will be taking care of all our chores by the year 2000, you wait and see.

Then, it was just a case of adding colour and texture. I did tone it down somewhat for the final, though. I enjoyed this one! It’s something I’d probably never have considered had I not gone in for this challenge. I’m sure there’s a lesson there somewhere.

AtoZ-FLUID-L-33-02

Fluid once more. Moving on from the last watery excursion, I began thinking about bubbles and wanted to try and make some proper ‘bubble writing’. That didn’t pan out, however, and reaching crisis point, I resorted to Illustrator for some vectors, and certain summer confectionery melting in the heat – when your leisurely indulgence turns into a frantic race against the clock. Sounds familiar! I don’t need that kind of pressure – but this is dangerous ground, I fear, so all I shall say is thank goodness for Calippos.

This was just a bit of fun with the pathfinder tool – which somehow I only found recently – but I ended up running with it. I thought it better to substitute the rather dull L with a more cursive (fluid!) character. Its curves and twists made me think of a Twister lolly, which I haven’t had for ages; that’s where today’s colours came from. I originally had the centre path in green, but thought it looked a bit ‘alien gunk’ – or snotty. You’re welcome.

It’s certainly colourful – and fluid! I hope it’s lolly weather wherever you are this Sunday.

After a simple decision in presentation of some cormorants led to a happy diptych, I began thinking more about composition and relationships. From that came a thirst for something not complacently square or 8×10. It’s something I haven’t really considered for a while.

With being out to sea at the moment – circles portholes, naturally!

Going for something crisper and even less literal, I took to Illustrator and warped some stripes, trying, for now, to stay away from colour.

They turned out rather more marble than crashing waves, didn’t they? It’s been refreshing experimentation nonetheless; certainly it seems potential is there, once the tide turns and I can pinpoint a clearer approach. Hard to starboard, as we of the sea probably don’t say all that much. At least I didn’t mention the Jolly Roger.

 

astroboy-5In a change to the usual – never a bad thing – I was asked by un ami to create a drawing based on the titular character of the Astro Boy manga series, specifically the 2003 incarnation. The series has been around since 1951, with the first TV adaptations coming just over a decade later. Their visual direction embodied the anime aesthetic, and indeed Astro Boy is considered the first of that style to enjoy global success.

The series is set in the now not-so-distant universe of 2043, where robots and humans coexist. Astro himself is an android, equipped with immense powers and unmatched intelligence. Devotedly modelled by Dr. Tenma after his late son, he was initially shut down during development, after the doctor noted the ill treatment superceded robots received, drawing parallels to his initial loss. When Tenma later disappears, Astro is discovered by another professor, who revives him and attempts to gift him a normal robotic existence. Beside a no-nonsense career fighting off rogue robots and humans, Astro must also try to find out the truth about his elusive father. Compelling stuff.

Naturally, it was the aforementioned arsenal of powers that formed the basis of the drawing. Astro packs a cannon in one arm, a super-powerful beam in the other, and soars into the sky with the help of rocket booster boots. All that impressive stuff, but can he put some trousers on…?

The character drawing itself was a fairly simple vector process, completed in Illustrator and then taken into Photoshop for shading and then experimentation of backgrounds. Some were geared to a more simple end, others a more in-depth attempt at reflecting the universe. In fact, the second piece you see above makes nifty reuse of a skyline created for a redux of the legendary Blockbusters title sequence, one of my first ventures into animation. An interesting result came of it, but I think the understated variations come off far better.

This process meant that what was a single drawing mutated into several! Photoshop’s often-ominous filters came in very handy here, with cutout effects and motion blurs giving a suitable backdrop for the art direction – I particularly like the results seen below.

The impact of Astro’s artillery also prompted some fun with lighting, too, giving some pleasing variety across the developments. I don’t think my Astros can quite tangle with the beauty of his anime counterpart, but nevertheless they came out better than expected.

Having not done a vector character since Sonic’s Grounder back in April, this was a welcome revisit. As always, it was heartening to do it for someone else, and to respond to a completely new world. ‘Twas a good few days!

supersw-1We’re frantically picking up some items for tonight’s Doodlewash Dinner offering. But the big question lingers on our minds.

Can we find all the items on Dale’s Shopping List?

I’m sure anybody subjected to Supermarket Sweep with Dale Winton will still to this day have visions ingrained in the memory – visions of pastel sweaters, cheesy grins and curious inflatables. As you’d never have guessed, the format was poached from the US, and ran from 1993 to 2001 – who knew it lasted that long? – occupying a mid-morning slot on ITV. With the transmission as it was, my memories are sparse; I remember it solely as a ‘treat’ for being ill and out of school.

In the show, teams of two would tackle various puzzles – usually simple word games – in a bid to earn extra time and track down the items that Dale is looking for – the lazy sod can’t go find them himself.

That comprises round one; from round two, it’s unadulterated mayhem… by which I mean, even worse than your local supermarket on a weekend morning. The Big Sweep essentially sees the teams race off like lunatics, trying to fill their trolleys. A lot of things will get thrown around or broken in this round – tsk, such a waste. And how exciting it is to see expert shoppers filling their vehicle with turkeys – turkey-shaped emblems of greed. It’s here where the giant inflatables I’ve tried to recreate make an appearance, boasting cash prizes. The exciting bit is at the end of the round, where contestants peel off the ‘bonus’ tag and try to feign their joy at its underwhelming value. Was it really worth ramming that poor woman?

The team who have done the most expensive shop then progress to the denouement, the Super Sweep, which is rather like a miniature, sixty-second version of  Treasure Hunt; a trail of clue to clue, item to item, crash to crash. If they get to the last item they find the cash – a cool two grand. If they lose, they get to keep the cash won previously. And that’s basically it, excepting one or two corny catchphrases from our Dale in his farewell.

It’s probably best left in those weird mornings where I was removed from routine and wondering what my friends were up to. However, the idea of a real-life sweep often strikes tempting… goodness, that’d be a birthday party and a half.  But not the show. I could never survive the sweaters, nor the smiling.

Next time you’re at the checkout and hear the beep, think of the fun you could be having thank God you’re not on Supermarket Sweep!

grounder-1cIt’s been quite some time since I did any vectors, and indeed as virtually all (if not totally all) of my past efforts with paths have been of a Sonic the Hedgehog bent, I thought to carry on the tradition and revisit surely one of the best villains in the entire franchise: Grounder. Such acclaim should not be taken as if Grounder is a calculating, monstrous beast. He isn’t. He is quite adorable though, don’t you think?

Although created by Robotnik in the very first episode of the Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog cartoon series – which I used to adore as a child, and would get up at six o’clock on Saturday mornings to watch on Channel 4 – to work alongside fellow henchman, Scratch (a giant robot chicken, natch) the mid-90s cartoon series is not his debut. Grounder is actually inspired by a robot villain that appears in 1992’s Sonic 2, patrolling (and destroying) parts of the Aquatic Ruin Zone. The original Grounders were quite menacing in appearance – not nearly adorable or amusing.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2

Grounder in Sonic 2, before he became cute.

What perhaps caps off Grounder’s affability is his ineptitude. Built to supposedly be a super robot, Grounder is markedly slow-witted and gullible. A shame really, as he apparently has every weapon, tool and item conceivable inside that turquoise chassis, which he can brandish at will as the situation demands. He even has a telephone in his gut somewhere, which he can reach in and pick up to receive a bollocking from Robotnik when the latest scheme ends in utter failure with (the hugely, infuriatingly irritating) Sonic getting away unharmed.

This being said, there was one particular episode where Grounder mistakenly had a ‘genius chip’ inserted into his brain and, as you’d expect, became super smart, even overruling Robotnik himself. He spoke with uncharacteristic eloquence and kitted himself out in a monocle, mortar board and smoking jacket. This served only to make him more endearing. I believe he lost it clashing with Scratch, where even his genius couldn’t have predicted that he would come to help defeat Sonic.

normal_GroundGenius_146

Grounder the Genius – surely one of the best characters ever created.

I feel the rest of Grounder’s involvement in any of the wafer-thin plots of these, by and large, pretty terrible cartoons could be summed up with ‘spectacular failure’. The good guys never go down. Loss and being somehow smashed to smithereens may have been a given, but the watchword of ‘The World’s Largest Paperweight’ was perseverance –  he never stopped trying, bless him. And have I mentioned he’s adorable?

TAILS-1A

It’s been quite some time since I made any vector art, so I thought I would see to fixing that this evening, especially as I never really have been that skilled in the practice. With it being the season of comfort and familiarity, I fell back on not Saint Nick (besides, I’ve already drawn him!) but Miles ‘Tails’ Prower, the airborne sidekick to Sonic the Hedgehog.

real-vector

Real deal versus my vector

Reaching the final piece took a lot longer than I expected, and indeed it probably took longer than you think looking at it… pushing two hours, actually – which perplexes when I think of what I’ve proven I can draw in that time.

I always preferred Tails to Sonic in both games and the TV spin-offs. Especially in the TV series. Sonic was such a contemptible brat in those shows, with his unapologetic arrogance and a line of catchphrases and slogans that even I found to be corny. He only made you root for Long John Baldry’s Robotnik even more. But indeed, pff, Sonic is fast. Big deal. Tails can fly. Who wouldn’t want that ability? I would always play as just him in the games.

At least, where that was possible. Tails made his debut in Sonic 2, which was released in 1992 on the Master System and Mega Drive consoles. The 8-bit version is not a watered-down port,but a wholly different game – while Tails is all over the box art and in-game graphics, to my heartbreak he is not actually a playable character. The opening sequence shows Tails being kidnapped by Robotnik, and of course, as Sonic, you must rescue him. This is achieved by collecting the Chaos Emeralds that are hidden within each zone – if you get to the end (bloody unlikely – this game is pure evil) with all of the Emeralds (even more unlikely) then you face off against Robotnik for one last (evil) battle to win back your vulpine companion.

(I’ve no doubt the real story is that Tails as a playable character was dropped due to time constraints, and they had to hobble together said storyline to make it work.)

If, however, you don’t collect them all, the game ends a zone early and you get a long and melancholic tune of the credit sequence, played out over Sonic running seemingly endlessly across a landscape. Then, he grinds to a halt and looks up:

son2no-11

Tails in the sky? Is Tails in heaven? HAS TAILS BEEN KILLED BY ROBOTNIK? Christ, this used to make me feel so awful, and it was definitely an impetus to never miss a bloody Emerald ever again. It was also a reason I steered clear of this game as a child; I didn’t want Tails’ death on my conscience.

Then, later I found that, on the good ending, the same thing happens… only with both Sonic and Tails in the sky. To be honest, I find this a little confusing. Why are their ghostly countenances in the sky a good thing, and if it is a good thing, why is Tails there whether we rescued him or not? Am I missing something? Be a dear and help me out here.

cez

Like the Crystal Dome, only eggier.

Looking at the game with a (barely) more mature eye and noticing different things, I rather like the simplicity of the level cards that pop up before each Act, with the quintessential Sonic landscape passing through the lettering. So, while hanging around and irritating Illustrator, I made an entire alphabet of such a design:

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sonic2-font-GO

Play Sonic 2 on the Master System, and you’ll be seeing this screen a lot. With its mocking abruptness and sinister 8-bit musical accompaniment, I used to run and hide at this point. I’m not sure what I was expecting to happen.