Graphic design is in more than you realize. It takes a designer to build those eye-catching ads, the customized phone cases, and awesome T-shirts. This month, we’re spotlighting an up-and-coming designer and very cool guy, Zach West. Be sure to check out his stuff at zwgfxdesigns!
Media types: Graphic Design, Drawing, Video Editing, Gaming, Social Media
RevPub: What made you want to become a designer, and are there any artists who influence you?
I started designing shortly after I graduated from high school. I discovered gfx forums, which are message boards dedicated to learning to design. When I joined, the community was focused on designing tags/signatures that appear below the user’s post. Some of the designs that people in the community were designing really inspired me to become a designer. They were industry professionals, but if I showed you some of their work, it would blow you away. THE artist who influenced me was a man on the forums named Cleveland Paige aka +mw.pmi. His work was amazing, and I made it my goal to be that good one day.
RevPub: What are your favorite things to design? Is there anything you want to do but haven’t yet?
My favorite things to design are signatures/tags and photo manipulation pieces. The feeling of accomplishment I get when I’ve finished one of those two are greater than the feeling I get from anything else. Plus, they’re just fun to do. As far as doing something I haven’t yet, I really want to get into illustrating something. Drawing and then using a tablet to ink and color the drawing in Illustrator is something I really want to get into.
RevPub: What are the must-have tools you need to draw or design?
For drawing, pencil and paper lol. That’s all I need. For digital designing, besides the computer and software, the pen tool is a must. The pathfinder bar in Illustrator. All the tools have their uses, but those two I use almost always in my designs.
RevPub: If you could design or draw anything for someone, who would it be?
It’s hard to pick one person lol. Probably Lindsey Stirling because she’s so awesome! 🙂
RevPub: You just graduated from college. Any tips for students entering the field?
Design as much high-quality work as possible for your portfolio and design work that you would be required in the design industry. Also, try to get experience anywhere you can!
As an illustrator I’m in the unique position of occasionally being able to give friends some very personal gifts for birthdays and holidays.
While “I made it with my own two widdle hands” might seem a bit juvenile, there really isn’t a better gift I can give than a drawing and all of my closest friends have something I’ve drawn for their walls or offices.
My RevPub co-chair has countless pictures decorating her space, my buddy Mike used to have several originals of characters he’d carry in his massive wallet!
I’m not a portrait artist as such. I did some portraits for money in high school and college but I hate the work. It really stifles my creativity and while my artwork does usually lean on the realistic side, doing an exact copy of something, even of a person, kind of takes the fun imagination out of everything.
Instead I do “insinuations” or “approximations” of people I draw for. Not true portraits, just illustrated versions capturing some essence of their character.
I did this piece a few years ago for my friend Misty’s birthday. Not only did I get to have loads of fun torturing her by not letting her know what I was doing for her, I got to get very creative with the drawing. She loves library work and some of the pictures I saw of her working in the field were of her doing a puppet show for kids. She’s wearing some rain boots (she never gets to wear when it’s raining…) and has a nice stack of books behind her.
This is the most recent one I’ve done for my friend Jessica. Her passion is teaching yoga and she is a superlative Hot Yoga instructor. I started doing little pics (starting with my Turbo Snail) and thought this would be a nice birthday present for her. After some minor Facebook stalking so I could approximate her face (my memory is good but not so good I can draw details from it…I’m not Hannibal Lector…) I came up with this.
I’ve never had someone dislike or respond with anything other than excitement upon receiving one of these as a present. Not everyone can draw, or paint, or write, but everyone has something they can do to let their friends know they’re thinking about them. Be creative for your next presents; modern gifts don’t have to begin and end with the gift card!
This is a new feature I thought up to give reviews of things I just feel like reviewing in a short, sweet way. I started with a great little animated feature I caught on Netflix that seemed to get lost among the big-budget, sequel-happy world of modern cinema.
Bullet Point Review: Turbo (2013)
Premise: A snail name Theo (aka Turbo) is addicted to speed and racing despite his being, ya know, a snail and wants to enter the Indy 500.
o Theo (Turbo): Main character/Racing Snail (Neverending Story shout out)
o Chet: Theo’s disapproving Brother
o Tito: Snail-racing taco vender at Van Nuys, CA mini-mall “Starlight Plaza” who finds Turbo. They work together to achieve their dreams.
o Whiplash, Smoove Groove, Skid Mark, Burn, and White Shadow: Starlight Plaza racing snails. Whiplash is voice by Samuel L. Jackson and Smoove Groove Snoop Dogg, which means this movie has both a Samuel L. Snail and a Snoop Snail)
o Paz, Kim Ly, Bobby: Starlight Plaza venders who sponsor Turbo in the Indy 500.
o Evil Mower: Turbo’s first racing opponent.
o Guy Gagne: Turbo’s REAL racing opponent and Indy 500 Champ.
o Crows: They eat snails…a lot…
o Mother Nature: Made Turbo a snail and thus…not very fast…
Conflict: Turbo’s addiction to racing affects his job, his relationship with his brother, and dominates his life.
Twist: Turbo accidentally Bruce Banners himself with NO2 and gains super-speed! Stan Lee would’ve been proud.
Moment I was Hooked: Somewhere around the line “You’re trashtalk is needlessly complicated!” delivered as only Sam Jackson can…
Journey: Turbo finds his speed; finds his dreams; and finds that, maybe like Dorothy, he had what he needed all along.
Surprisingly…: This movie has a kick ass soundtrack. Good licensed and original music.
Most Relatable When…: Turbo becomes popular by going “viral” from a kid’s random video, including a catchy remix version. It felt like it could happen because it’s happened oh so many times in the past with oh so many cats…
Final Thoughts: I’ve been on a bit of an animated feature kick. Mostly because they are a lot of them on Netflix. I’ve always liked snails so this one called to me. I didn’t have high hopes due to some of the kids’ movies of recent vintage (i.e. Kung Fu Panda…) but was surprised by how much I enjoyed this. Ryan Reynolds, though I’m not usually a fan of his live acting, turns out to be a great voice actor, the supporting cast is also excellent, the story is solid (though cartoonishly fantastical), and the message truly inspiring. Very creative, great fun, and better than most “serious” movies I’ve seen recently.
Though I consider myself an illustrator, I haven’t done a large, finished piece (foreground, mid-ground, background) in years…maybe a decade or more. So it was interesting to capture the process on digital camera, which I don’t think existed in a decent consumer form the last time I did one!
This is the earliest design; I sketched it on a piece of printer paper while waiting for something at work to finish. The design is very rudimentary. The dais looks more “chair” like, and the axe is on the wrong side (I picture Malvin entering left and seeing Kharn on the right for some reason) so Gorechild should be left rather than right in the frame as he sees the weapon before he sees The Betrayer. I was also drawing from memory and messed up Kharn’s helmet design.
The original pencils just for putting in placement. His helmet in the story is said to be in the sand at his feet, so the one thing I consciously altered from the terrific narrative description was to put it on a level of the stone dais, purely for composition purposes.
I stood on the shoulders of Black Library giants to design Kharn’s armor and wargear for this piece. It was fun to put my own touches, like the way the skulls are attached to his armor backpack.
I added some extra battle damage to Kharn’s helmet, just because it was interesting to draw.
The skulls appear as mentioned in the drama: two on the left, four on the right; one with shrapnel in the cheek, one with chain weapon damage on the forehead.
I added the manacles described in the story as being large enough to restrain a large beast or being of great strength. I put in dark tunnels behind Kharn based on the dungeons beneath the Flavian Amphitheater.
Before I started shading I thought it would be easy, just walls and stones. But then I decided to shade every stone essentially individually and it took much longer than I intended…
For so many reasons I’m lucky to have Raven. One of the lesser reasons is she inks for me in our comics! I had to darken the graphite before shading (I drew in 4H). I hate this process because it’s essentially drawing the same image TWICE but worth it to get the desired result.
I accidentally over-shaded the left tunnel and made it seem too short. It took some correcting to get it closer to right. I added the close foreground of silhouetted scattered remains based on the description in the drama. I left it vague but clear enough to be picked out if closely analyzed.
It’s actually at this phase I start to get excited about a composition. The background is essentially one, which means I can start the character!
My Original Illustration inspired by a scene from Chosen of Khorne.
I have to admit that Games Workshop, though they get a lot of stick from forums, has made a great game and created a terrific universe with some wonderful characters. When I first got into the Warhammer world I purchased a lot of used books, old codexes, whatever I could get my hands on to learn more about it and immerse myself completely in the grim darkness of the far future.
During my hunts for anything narrative 40k I could find I came across Gav Thorpe’s Raven’s Flight and regular readers of RevPub might guess why I decided to get that one! That one audio drama, read wonderfully by Toby Longworth, got me hooked on the Black Library audio drama/audio novel series. I’ve got almost all the ones I could find and have a few favorites. Raven’s Flight remains on my top list because of its terrific narrative and the rousing action sequence when Corax charges the Iron Warriors. The Garro series is also a superlative series and Mission Purge was a nice surprise and a great Deathwatch story. Recently there have been some terrific Horus Heresy dramas (Censureis excellent, as was the short Warmaster) as well as some good additions to the Space Marine Battles series (Veil of Darkness’ first person narration is wonderful).
My favorite and the one I’ve listened to the most, however, is Anthony Reynolds’ Chosen of Khorne.In the 40k universe I am a staunch, staunch loyalist (For the Emperor!), which is why it speaks volumes to both the writing and performance this drama, one that is centered wholly on traitor Chaos Space Marine characters, that this one is my favorite. Of all the dramas I’ve heard I don’t think I’ve heard any of them with as vivid imagery and as clear a narrative as this Chosen of Khorne. Not only is the story very tightly written and the settings so clear, but the action set-pieces wonderfully well-described and easy to picture. Not only that but the story arc of the narrative’s star, Kharn the Betrayer, is remarkably well done and, despite my pro-imperium stance I found myself cheering for him as the story went on.
The hands-down star of Chosen of Khorne, after the writing, is Chris Fairbanks as Kharn the Betrayer. Fairbanks’ performance is ferocious and subtle. His Kharn isn’t a wild, bloody brute but a smoldering killer slowly building to a burning crescendo. I first heard Fairbanks’ Kharn in The Butcher’s Nails before I knew anything about the character, but Chosen of Khorne had me running to the game store to pick up a Kharn model that day. Fairbanks’ performance is so good I was even cheering for him over my own chapter master, Azrael, in The Trials of Azrael.
One image in this audio drama has always stood out for me, so much so that, despite years of not drawing large, finished pieces I had to get the image of it down in graphite.
When Malvin Bitterspear first enters Kharn’s lair beneath the arena the setting is described as a gladiatorial dungeon. Kharn is said to be “slouched on the dais like an arrogant warrior king upon his throne” with Gorechild nearby and his collection of skulls laid out before him. I couldn’t get the image out of my head, and so interpreted it as best as I could.
My Kharn differs from the official Games Workshop/Forge World Kharn in that I gave him hair. I’m actually a little tired of bald Space Marines and Fairbanks’ accent for Kharn reminds me of a more-intense, brutal Bela Lugosi so I gave him a bit of a 1930s Dracula-style cut. Not only that but it went well with the description in the drama as his face being long and noble.
I relied heavily on the Warlords of the Dark Millennium to do Kharn’s wargear, taking my favorite aspects from previous interpretations and including them in the design.
One of the most fascinating parts of Reynold’s writing of Chosen of Khorne was Kharn’s outward demeanor compared to the raging inferno within. He gives the character amazing depth and provides clear motivation for his actions, something very few narratives do well. Because of his description and his actions, I tried to give Kharn a look of impassive malevolence, outwardly calm but promising rage.
Anthony Reynolds’ story mixed with the magnificent performance by Chris Fairbank really provided me with great inspiration. This illustration was amazing to work on, and I hope it lives up to what the writer and performer had in mind when they made Chosen of Khorne!
What is the riddle of steel? The 1982 film asked this question in some of its first spoken dialogue, in 2011 it is asked in the forge, in both films it is posed by Conan’s father.
In 2011 the answer is given in the same scene “fire and ice” provides the strength of steel. Meaning of course that as heated/quenched steel is best tempered, a spirit that consists of equal parts furious passion and level-headed temperance is indomitable. A fine lesson for the young Conan, but one he has trouble mastering throughout the film.
In the 1982 film the answer is provided but never written down on a piece of paper, tied to a rock, and thrown at the audience’s collective forehead so the audience must interpret the answer, and not everyone’s is guaranteed to be the exactly same.
Conan’s original solution is to rely on the strength of steel. He blunders from place to place, hacking and slashing, until he comes face-to-face with Doom, whose legion of followers catches him easily and Thulsa Doom provides him another answer: flesh is stronger. Steel is fine, but with his horde of fervent acolytes succumbing to his false prophet-eering, some willing to turn on and murder their own parents, Doom can overcome steel. Was that the answer then? If so Conan and the world were doomed. But that wasn’t the answer either. During the last battle with Doom’s lieutenants Valeria keeps her promise, that not even death could stop her from fighting by his side, and aids Conan when he most needs it. Then, renewed with strength, Conan rises to his feet, shatters his opponent’s sword, his father’s sword, and destroys the High Priest of Set, a man bigger, stronger, filled with faith in a false prophet, and with steel forged by the very man who provided Conan the riddle. Then looking at the shattered sword, he crosses his weapons in his battle-pit salute and bows his head to the Valeria’s funerary altar. This battle was for her, and she gave him the answer at last: steel is weak, flesh is weak, but the strength of true belief and true purpose can overcome greater steel, greater strength, and any false beliefs no matter how powerful in the brutal world of Hyboria.
Conan then takes his father’s broken sword and kills Thulsa Doom and burns his temple to ash; neither taking his place as a new demagogue nor slaughtering his followers. It is at this point that James Earl Jones suggests Conan becomes a hero. By destroying the cult of Set and Doom he does something “for the whole world” not just himself. For the betterment of everyone, not just for his own revenge. Meaning there is a progression of the character, from wrathful to heroic. And doing it all not as a “chosen one” but just driven by his own will. Not a god nor a giant. Just a man. Finding the answer to his riddle.
Where does this leave forging a narrative in modern filmmaking? Without sounding as old-mannish as shouting “things were better when…” I would like to at least silently mouth it. Mostly because this trend has exploded into all forms of media; popular books, movies, music, video games; a trend where the narrative is so simple and closed it leaves no room to grow and has been dropped to the lowest common denominator. Plots now have to be obvious, spelled out, and blatant. Scenes have to be short, colorful, and loud. Characters have to be broad and exaggerated. Nothing can be implied in a character’s personality or purpose; it must be shown in excruciating detail (lengthy sequences of flashbacks, voice-overs, and “childhood” scenes instead of effective montaging done in older films) or spoken in needless expositionary dialogue. To quote the Robot Devil from Futurama, “Your lyrics lack subtlety! You can’t just have your characters announce how they feel! That makes me feel angry!” So why do the various industries want to remove all nuance and just have their characters simply announce how they feel? The answer is simple: it’s easier and they have very low opinions of us…
This is definitely not an indictment to say “all new movies bad, all older movies good” but there is something to the reduction in intricacy of a lot of newer media. I for one would like to see less hand-holding and provide room to let the audience divine its own answers or at least take the narrative training wheels off.
I never again want to have a roadmap explaining all the stops during a tale of high adventure!