Here at 2and2, we are lucky to work with an incredible team of illustrators to bring our projects to life. From the Language Learning Space to RAC Wheels. these artists have helped us construct amazing worlds that both captivate and delight learners.
To kick off 2015, we’re bringing you a series of interviews with some of the artists who help bring our worlds to life. Our first is with the very talented Ian Brown, the Art Director who helped create the Chinese, Indonesian and Japanese Language Learning Space for Education Services Australia (the latter of which was released before Christmas last year).
In this interview, Ian talks about the inspiration behind the Japanese LLS and some of the challenges the team faced along the way in bringing it to life.
What was the inspiration behind the illustrations in the Japanese LLS?
Ian: We wound up using lots of reference material from many places. The look that really inspired us, though, was Rockstar Games’ terrific cover art for their Grand Theft Auto series. The images have an amazing hyper-real look that use the same general technical approach that we were going to use, so it only made sense to look at how these were done.But we wound up using a raft of different creative influences from traditional Japanese watercolours to classic ’50s manga. It actually depended on the content of the story – each art style was influenced by the subject of the narrative. Each story is kind of artistically self-contained in lots of ways.
An inspiration for the LLS: Rockstar Games’ Grand Theft Auto cover art
Astro Boy manga – another one of the influences for the Japanese LLS manga episode
How did you go about creating the LLS artwork?
Ian: Each story was workshopped at the writing stage with Nik Bambrick, the lead writer. She took the broad outline of the story we created and filled it with a huge amount of detail and research, and put it all into an amazing outline document that broke the action down screen by screen. We then storyboarded each frame, adding specifics such as speech bubbles (an art in itself, created by 2and2 Graphic Designer Monica Wood), titles, and so forth.
All the main characters were played by actors, so these roles were cast and then we went into a greenscreen studio at Fox for the main shoot. The actors were then treated using a proprietary process and then composited into the storyboards ready for the main illustration process. Each episode was handed over to a different artist.
One of the frames for the LLS, being shot at Fox Studios against a green screen.
How did you manage a team of illustrators who may have different styles?
Ian: Each artist did actually go through an acclimatization process, in order to adapt their own particular styles to the look we were going for. One of the reasons we shot the main characters was to maintain consistency between episodes and artists. Generally, once we had a couple of illustrative episodes in the can, we would point the artists at these to use as a stylistic guide. I was there as the point person to maintain a general level of consistency, but we really were running on rails towards the end so I wound up doing less and less corrections as we progressed. Of course, each artist did have their own style, so we wound up having a lovely visual richness across the whole projec
How did you ensure all the artistic portrayals were culturally accurate?
Ian: Nik (the lead writer) was very thorough in her research, and she collaborated with ESA’s own cultural experts to make sure everything was culturally specific. For the Kendo episode, we had a Kendo Master on set to make sure the moves and poses were accurate.
What is your favourite episode from the LLS so far?
Ian: Noooooooo! You can’t ask me to choose – it’s like choosing your favourite child! I can give you a list of favourites, though. I love both Robot Suspect and the Rise of Maro because of the sophistication of the story, and the questions they pose. I love Wall of Manga because it really is a masterpiece in it’s portrayal of vintage Manga comics. But there’s so many great ones for so many different reasons.
Japanese LLS - Robot Suspect
What was your biggest challenge in creating the Japanese LLS illustrations?
Ian: Definitely keeping a high level of quality with the sheer bulk of work needed. We did 30 episodes, each with 8 screens of action – most of which had multiple panels. That’s 240 screens, so at a rough guess we did at least 500 individual illustrations of varying complexity, all in about 4 months between 3 illustrators.
We really wanted each panel to have genuine creative merit, so I approached things in more of a concept art way, rather than in an illustration mode.We worked more for speed in an impressionistic way. It was a huge logistical challenge, and we couldn’t’ have done it without our awesome producer, Peter Giles. He pretty much kept things running smoothly from day to day, and also did all the organization for the highly complicated shoots.
It was a really strong team, and I hope we get to do this again some day.
Stay tuned for Part II and III where we interview some more of the great artists we work with!