Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Introduction & Creating the Children of Perseus Logo

Today is my first real journal entry। That means that I will for the first time impart to you readers out there (and I thank each and every one of you) information about my creative endeavors, including Children of Perseus, my comic book series। Of course, I will include general thoughts and observations about these endeavors. This may include stories from my past. I may even be so daring as to impart to you readers my hopes and dreams for myself and my family. For the time being that family includes my very beautiful wife Ilona, and my mother-in-law Galina. Ilona is from Russia, and the story of how we met is a good one, and I will tell this story soon. I also have my three older brothers and my mother. The oldest brother is Milton, followed by David and Steven and Your's Truly, Barry. My father's name was Jerry, and he passed away in '92, but he is still an important influence on all of us. Carol is my mother. Sometimes she seems like everyone's mother, and I mean that entirely as a compliment. On the other hand, my mother-in-law is also everyone's mother, and I mean that...not entirely as a compliment, though we are good friends, and we get along very well. Suffice it to say that we are a very close unit with many stories to tell--and many to keep within the family.

Ilona and Your's Truly

I'll get to Children of Perseus in a minute...

Although I have many nicknames from my wife, the one that gets the most use is BB ("bee-bee"). No one remembers how I got this nickname. My theory is that when Ilona first arrived in the US, I had a business partner who called me B, and BB is just a version of this. Although Ilona doesn't remember how she arrived at my nickname, she does not accept this theory. I also had an email address that began BBarry66. I theorize that BB could come from that. Although Ilona doesn't remember how she arrived at my nickname, she does not accept this theory either . The only thing that is certain, is that when you get a new nickname later on in life (I was about 33 when it became official), the level of entertainment this provides your long-time friends is staggering. Indeed, they will gleefully ignore your given name, the name they had been using to address you for thirty three years, and take great care to finish their sentences thusly:

"Would you like some coffee, BB?", or, "Would you like to go see a movie, BB?" Let's face it, friendship means that they must. You can't go from being Barry for so many years to BB without anyone noticing. I'm now 41, and for my friends, the delightful thrill of "BB" is still as fresh as a daisy. Friends will also make full use of a new nickname at the beginning of a sentence:

"BB, have some wine." or, "BB, how did you get to be such a BB?" Enough prattle.

Notice that I said "creative endeavors" above. In fact, I am a professional illustrator, but unfortunately for me, this often has little to do with what I consider a true creative process. Oh, I suppose one can come up with a logo or a cartoon character by using creativity. But in truth, it's amazing how little one actually creates when doing work which pays bills or puts food on the table. Instead of responding to the world around you by imparting some form of truth on a sheet of paper, canvas or clay, one finds oneself doing "knock-offs", that is, copies of other people's ideas, which were also knock-offs, that sold lots of units at retail. Or, one finds oneself taking orders from "art directors" who often have marketing degrees but little or no artistic training. All of this I'm ok with, because as I mentioned, it puts food on the table, and even a house over my head, once Ilona and I decide where we want to live. As well, I like most of the people I've worked with. I was raised to be polite and studious, and I credit that with enabling me to work from home, which I love. Everyone I know who doesn't work from home admires this arrangement. A little of what I do for a living is also creative, but only a little. My comic book Children of Perseus however, is entirely creative, and I love love love creating it. It is my own personal CREATIVE business endeavor, which is far along in being created but is not yet published. I listen only to the ideas in my head and those of my brother Steven. We are responding to our own thoughts about war, hate, love, mysticism, politics, science, beauty and on and on... I'm thinking about what's going on around me and I'm trying to decipher some meaning. I'm using all of my abilities, and I'm not not exactly sure where it's going, with the feeling that if I did, the end result would not be as successful.

The logo itself is a perfect example of what I'm talking about. For those of you interested in how I created it, please read on. Otherwise, just scroll down until you get to the next section, where I will talk more about the characters in the book.

The first thing I did was come up with a bunch of sketches. I won't post these, only the one I liked the best. A sketch is a visual idea. In the very early stages it is called a thumbnail. This is further along than a thumbnail, but it's not the detail of what could be called a study. A study would have all of the forms (and light and shadow, depending on the image) broken down into very nearly the exact form that the final piece will contain.

In this case, I don't need a very exact study. I have the luxury of a computer to scan the image and then solidify the forms and shapes of the logo on the fly, using a program called Adobe Illustrator. Illustrator uses vectors, or editable points. Illustrator also has something called Bézier curves.

Bézier curves are widely used in computer graphics to model smooth forms. The points/vectors of a Bézier can be graphically displayed and used to manipulate the curve intuitively.

Bézier curves were widely publicised in 1962 by the French engineer Pierre Bézier, who used them to design automobile bodies. The curves were first developed in 1959 by Paul de Casteljau using de Casteljau's algorithm, a numerically stable method to evaluate Bézier curves.

I am not a mathematician, so this is the best I can do to describe this process:

I place my drawing into the computer as a template, and I redraw it in a very exact way with the computer. The final result will be lines and shapes that I can color, resize and print.

I have started here to narrow down the shapes exactly as I want them to look. You can see that I have colored some of the shapes black, just to get a better idea of how the final logo will look.

The computer allows me to instantly duplicate forms. You can see here that the "e" is much the same as the "r", with some extra vectors attached. A word mark, or word driven logo generally has consistent forms throughout. These forms should convey something about the subject they represent. If I were simply drawing an e and an r, I would be representing the sounds that an e or an r make. I am not. Instead, I am conveying those sounds, but I am also trying to convey something that is futuristic, and something narrative or dramatic, as opposed to something corporate or charitable or any other characterization. I'm also trying to convey energy at the nanoscale (billionths of an inch). This is really impossible, but it's fun trying.

At this point things are slowly coming together. I'm trying to make the letters fit together neatly, while then going ahead and adding swoops of energy. I have "knocked out" (not to be confused with knocked-off) the shapes of the letters from the energy shape, like a hole-punch punching a perfect circle through a sheet of paper. This makes the letter forms more dramatic, and lets them feel as much like abstract shapes as they do like letters.

I looked at other logos and type to get some ideas. This is entirely permissible, and fits firmly into the creative process. In fact, it is required. When you find a logo in a book or a magazine, and it looks something like what you want, and you therefore redraw it almost exactly as you saw it, it's called copying, or "knocking off". When you refer to more than one logo, and you take some of their core shapes and re-apply them by redrawing them in a way that is specific to the descriptive task at hand, it's called creating a logo. There is no such thing as a logo devoid of historical context. All typefaces and logos are based on traditions of visual communication. Those traditions are usually identifiable and somewhat known to the general public. When we look at other logos, we remind ourselves, and become fully abreast of those traditions (well, maybe not fully, but you get the point).
Here I am diverted for an hour or two on a possible shape or pattern to put on the left near the letter P, but alas, these forms don't seem to be working. It's just too busy and confusing.

At this stage, everything is about balance and edge quality. The energy in the back shape has a wavy or swirling edge. In contrast, the letters have a somewhat static edge. There must be a proper balance of moving energy, solidity, and readability. There must also be a proper space between the forms, which is pleasing to the eye, but yet in some areas disrupts the eye just enough to create drama or tension, but not confusion. I always think of Michaelangelo's God Creating Adam in the Sistene Chapel, with the hand of God reaching out to Adam's hand but not quite touching it. This may seem like a leap for a reference to you non-artists out there, but I assure you it's not.

Slowly I tinker away, manipulating forms, honing and re-honing.

Eventually, I tighten the atom-like shapes on the left near the letter P. It is right about this time that I realized that the edge quality of the energy in the background isn't working, because it's looking too organic, like blood or some other fluid. I want it to read something like an explosion, and I want the edge of the background shape to vary from the edge of the letters just a little.

That's better. I've also unified the color gradient a little, but this is not the final color. This color will change to match the color illustration of each cover of Children of Perseus.