Cartooning Dean Bridgers (Part 2 of 2)


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A note for those who came in late: if you haven’t yet read yesterday’s blog post, you may want to scroll downward and do so before jumping into this one.

Normally, when I’m called upon to draw a cartoon rendition of someone I don’t know, as was the case with Dr. Bridgers once I began working on cover art for his book, I’ll want to see as many images of my subject as possible. I’ll want photos taken from an assortment of angles, under varied lighting conditions. Photos that show the person’s face expressing a whole range of moods.

Contemplating these photographs will help me imagine him or her in three dimensions, and the chances are lessened that I’ll be misled about the subject’s overall personality by one single instance of deceptive lighting or an expression reflective of one day’s atypical attitude.

Finding such a slew of contrasting photos can be easy when you’re drawing a national celebrity who shows up in the pages of People regularly. Unfortunately, Dr. Bridgers didn’t fall into that category and time was too short for me to do extensive digging for photo reference. All I had to go on when I began the project was a small photograph that had appeared in the Fall 2006 issue of UAB Public Health magazine (the same issue for which I had drawn cover art earlier).

So instead of trying to draw the man’s face from scratch, I decided to adapt the photo itself into a form that looked cartoony enough to fit into the cartooned surroundings that had already been approved for my dog-filled book cover art.

Well, mainly approved. There had been one small request for a change.

I was told that Dr. Bridgers and his wife Judy had owned and loved a sheepdog named Brooke who had tragically passed away only a few months before Dr. Bridgers himself. Would it be possible, I was asked, to include the Dean’s beloved Brooke in my canine tableau?

It was an easy change to accomplish. By shifting of my cast of characters, space was cleared among my "yellow dogs" for Judy and Bill Bridgers’ shaggy and un-yellow Brooke.

The magazine photo I had scanned of Dr. Bridgers’ face could not be popped into a cartoon drawing as it was. As is always true of photos in mass-produced publications, the dean’s face was built out of colored halftone dots that, while small, would be discernable to anyone who looked closely. The effect would not mesh with the rest of my cartoon artwork, which would be built out of simple areas of unscreened color.

I needed to make the face look as if it had been hand-drawn. Look at the progression of details below to see the process I used. First came the raw screened photo captured by my scanner. Next is the same scan after I washed out most of the dots by applying Photoshop’s Gaussian Blur filter. Next I broke the image into small areas of flat color by posterizing it (IMAGE> ADJUSTMENT> POSTERIZE). And that was just the beginning, posterizing-wise!

I opened Adobe Illustrator and used LiveTrace to convert my already-posterized Photoshop art into even flatter areas of color, now made out of vectors. (And if you don’t know what I mean by vectors, don’t worry about it; just look at the fourth image above to see what the effect of this procedure was.) Returning to Photoshop, I converted Dr. Bridgers’ vectorized face back into rasters (you non-geek-types don’t need to know what rasters are either) and added just enough black-outlines to make the drawing feel at home amid a bunch of dogs and props created totally out of ink lines.
Above is my finished drawing, shown along with the five stages of Dr. Bridgers’ descent into cartoonishness.

Below is the drawing as it appeared in the context of my final cover design.

Did you find this backstage look at a cartooning project interesting? Be careful about encouraging me now, ’cause I’ve got a million of ’em!

About Howard

I'm a cartoonist and writer, best known for my graphic novel, Stuck Rubber Baby, and my comic strip from the 1980s, Wendel.
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0 Responses to Cartooning Dean Bridgers (Part 2 of 2)

  1. I always use Adobe illustrator at work because i work in an animation studio. this is really a serious tool for the graphic artist.,.;

  2. Howard says:

    It took Adobe WAY too long to bring its vector-conversion program Streamline into the post-MacOSX world, but when I learned that its capabilities were finally being folded into Adobe Illustrator with the CS2 upgrade, reinvented, improved, and renamed LiveTrace, I knew that I would have to spring for this particular upgrade for that reason if no other.

    Upgrades can be pricey, if course, so one can only take advantage of them as fast as one’s budget permits. But you’ll enjoy LiveTrace when you do get it, Jason.

  3. jason says:

    Seconded!

    Now if only I had a version of Illustrator that actually supported LiveTrace, I’d be able to take advantage of your useful advice!

  4. François says:

    Well, I found it interesting.
    Consider yourself encouraged.