As you may or may not know, I’ve been drawing since 2007. I ditched my first career and taught myself in the ways of being a comic artist. Along the way, I’ve also honed some skills in doing illustrations as well. I’ve done various types of illustrations for clients, but this article will focus on my latest job, one of my biggest to date. And it all started with an old drawing I did in 2008. Here’s my story.
I am a NASCAR fan. Save your jokes, I’ve heard them all. I follow the Caterpillar Racing Team in particular as CAT has a history in my family, and I also have done a lot of video production for them in my first career. In 2008, I did a stylized drawing of the #22 Caterpillar race car (shown at left). I drew the car in my attempt to emulate the style of Dave Deal, famed car illustrator of the ‘60s and ‘70s. He’s most known for his model designs he did for Revell in 1970 and 1971. Anyway, I did the best I could, but I was still in my infancy as an artist.
Fast-forward to 2015. Civic Entertainment Group, an Ad agency in New York owned by Ryan Seacrest, has NBC Sports as one of their clients. NBC Sports signed a 10-year deal with NASCAR to broadcast races. This agency needed a couple cartoons drawn to be used in large, 6-foot by 6-foot standees, with holes cut out for people to stick their heads into and be part of the cartoon. They Googled “NASCAR cartoon” and my NASCAR drawing from 2008 came up fourth in their image search. They had found me. They loved the style and wanted me to draw these illustrations for them.
Here’s the important part: I had put my copyright and website URL on the image. This is SO crucial as without that, they would have never known who the artist was, which was me! They emailed me, then we chatted on the phone and the next thing I knew, I was drawing these two illustrations for NBC Sports and NASCAR. The criteria were, one, could I draw a NASCAR car, and two, could I also draw a “sexy chick” per the wording from NBC. Well, the answer was a resounding “yes” to both of those. And, as a big NASCAR fan, I knew a lot about the sport and was able to use that in my designs.
NBC Sports liked what I did for the first two illustrations so much that they asked if I could come up with a design for a standee for a “You Must Be This Tall” type sign. I came up with three sketches and BOOM! I was hired AGAIN to do this third drawing. I was very happy, to say the least, and very busy for about two weeks straight.
I have to tip my hat to Manga Studio EX5 for handling these large image requirements. The images had to be 72 inches square at 200DPI for printing. MS5 handled it like a champ. In short, my process was to draw three concept sketches for the client. After that, I took the one they picked and drew a more finalized pencil drawing of the illustration. After that was approved, I then inked the drawing using a Vector Layer in MS5. This is important, for if you want to re-size the image, inking it on a Vector layer is the only way to keep it clean. I then added flattened colors the way I normally do. The last step was to add simple cell-shading. The Agency provided me with all logos and text required and I added those in using Photoshop. Here’s the three illustrations I did.
Once it was all approved, I flattened the entire file in Photoshop, converted it to CMYK, and then created a print-ready PDF. The most time I spent was making sure all the intersection points of my inks were clean. Vector lines can “lock” in MS5 and that’s a huge help, but it is still a hand-drawn illustration for the most part and there were areas that needed to be cleaned up. Being able to edit your lines in Vector mode was a life-saver too. As a comic artist, I rarely use Vector, so it was good practice to use the Vector tools.
It was a well-paying contract and the Agency contacts involved were just great to work with; true professionals with a sense of humor. That’s a good combination. On top of that, the exposure for this work is going to be phenomenal as these illustrations will be at all NASCAR Sprint Cup races between July 4th and the end of the season! That is invaluable as well.
The trick is to now turn this into more work. Of course with the Ad Agency itself, but with other similar clients as well. That is what we call networking. It takes time to build a network, and after 8 years, mine is finally growing. All of that because of a silly little drawing I did in 2008 on a whim. Not bad. So never discount your old work; someone may be looking for that style right now!