James OBrien
June 2010
Cycling print update

Inked some line work for my cycling print. I plan to have a pattern in the background, Van Gogh energy suggesting smoke, heat, fire. This is the first look in that direction along with more resolved line work for the face.

Cycling print

Here's a project I'm currently working on, a screen print for an upcoming exhibit.
I’m trying out a pre-sale model using Kickstarter to fund the project, details here.
Project backers get a signed edition of the final screen print and, with a larger pledge, can get their name embedded within the art work, ala Hirschfeld’s “Nina.”
Above is the image so far. This shows preliminary hand lettering placement, still waffling over what top word to use; Psycho, Savage, Monster

Above are the initial steps into Photoshop where I’ll design the print. I first refined the sketch a bit, enlarging the front wheel, adjusting the road, other little tweaks. Then I chose a background color starting point, a warm red, suggesting heat, anger, blood. The next step will be to define the edges and add one or two more colors to the palette. I will also be refining the face with ink line work as well as other details. Not sure about the road, think I prefer the severe straight-edged version over the s-curve. The lettering has not worked its way into the composition yet.
Following are the preliminary sketches with notes:
I may look at adjusting the face and lettering but this first step was to get the arrangement of the body and bike within the format. This bike is very simplified intentionally to place more focus on the face of the rider but could use some corrections and details here and there. The word “Savage” may change, looking for a word that sounds well spoken with “Cycling” and suggests a fierce, focused, beast-like energy and attitude.
This version is a refinement of the next two sketches. The word “Savage” replaced the word “Psycho.”
This is the second version of the sketch where I corrected the handlebars.
This is the first version of the sketch with flat handlebars since I used my commuter bike for the reference. I tried bending my hands around the outside of the handlebars to suggest the lower position and angle that would occur with track style handlebars.
These are the thumbnail sketches. They began with a rough placement of the cyclist and bike within the format (top middle) which I refined a bit (middle right) and then tried adding more detail without using reference (bottom right) followed by a more finalized sketch (left two sketches) using reference photos.
These reference photos were taken by my daughter in our back alley, showing me as a ferocious cyclist. I didn’t realize she was taking the two pictures of me giving her some direction.

I’m working on a series of fingerspelling images. This is the letter “N” I drew at church as a quick reference drawing for the project. I wanted to add some hand lettering and “Luke” came from today’s lectionary (I know, begins with an “L” but I didn’t hear any interesting “N” words and couldn’t remember the sign for “L”). A couple of things I’ve learned about fingerspelling…
  • bridges sign language and spoken language to represent words that have no corresponding sign1
  • can be one-handed or two handed1
  • a person fluent in sign language reads fingerspelling by looking at the speller’s face rather than their hands, reading what is being fingerspelled through their peripheral vision1
More to come…
Mr. Ted

I created this piece for the University of Minnesota’s Alumni magazine’s summer issue for a short story about the manager of a fast-food restaurant, Mr. Ted.
I started out thumbnailing quick concepts about grease and the deep-fryer and grill, and since the story was also about two of Mr. Ted’s workers, I worked up some ideas about them. My first thoughts were about the environment, the grease and heat, along with character studies of the workers and Mr. Ted. The story was a mix of humor and melancholy; Mr. Ted was trapped in his career choice and his two young workers at first saw Mr. Ted’s life as humorous and made light of it but eventually gained respect for him.
The client wanted the image to focus on Mr. Ted rather than the two workers so I sketched some variations of him at the grill with drops and flames (top two rows of thumbnails). The drops pattern serves as a symbol of the environment and the mood; grease, rain, tears, sweat.
The final direction was to combine the background of drops with patty shapes at the bottom, no smoke or flames, so a combination of the third and fourth sketches in the top row. Another request was to change the “RB” (the name of the restaurant) to Mr. Ted.

When I begin to work on the final art in Photoshop, my first step is to combine the sketch with a ground color along with a second color and texture. This gives me an initial impression of the value design, how the figure elements and ground elements relate, and how the texture is working with the design.
I cleaned up the rough sketch with some simple pencil line. I then used this pencil line as a reference for the final line work.

I used two methods for the final line work; the first was with a Pentel Brush Pen (top) and the second was with a Wacom tablet using the Blob Brush tool in Illustrator (bottom). I preferred the cleaner quality of the digital line in some areas and the thicker rougher quality of the brush pen line in other areas, sometimes combining the two styles of line and then adding and subtracting with the Pencil and Eraser tools.

I knew the hand was a mess so I took some quick reference photos and used them to correct it and then made the additional line work with my brush pen (I redrew this later for one of my sketchbook exchange images).

On a top layer, I make a white frame that I use for cropping. This white frame layer allows me to see the image against white rather than against the window edges and allows me to include bleed if needed.

I had initially set the darkest value as the background with the drops pattern being one of two middle values, but I decided to make the background a middle value so that the drops could be both lighter (the lighter middle value) and darker (the darkest value) than the background to create a back-and-forth visual movement. I also varied the sizes of the drops to further emphasize this effect.

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