Apr 23, 2016

'OTERO WAR'!!! CAVEMAN'S ALBUM COVER IS ROCKIN' the RETRO!!!






CAVEMAN ROCKS

On January 6th I received a interesting proposal From a Cinematic, a record label seeking my skills on an Album cover for a New York rock group called Caveman. After doing a bit of research into the band, and hearing the song list that they linked me to, I was definitely impressed. The sound was full, vibrant, nuanced, and thoughtful. It was solidly rock, and the band members fantastic. ...But why me?…As it developed, all of these young men were once kids who played games, and loved them! They remembered that art that I had produced and tracked me down, in no small measure, because the name they had chosen for this album was 'Otero War'. There's a smile to the naming, but it's not my tale, so I'll leave that to Matt and the boys to one day explain to their fans, which are legion, and growing.







Clearly, the idea was intriguing, and I was anxious to chat with the band about their ideas. That task fell to Frontman Matt Iwanusa who was a delight to work with, and an inspiring artist in his own right, certainly to a guy like me, who can't carry a tune in a bucket. The rest of the band members are, Jimmy 'Cobra" Carbonetti on Guitar, Stefan Marolachakis on vocals and drums, Sam Hopkins on vocals and synthesizer , and Jeff Berrall on bass and vocals.The first task was to get an overall impression of the band's vision, which was one of  a world existing in the aftermath of war, mystery, and desolation. Much like the soul of one who struggles against the grip of love, and loss, or gain, with overtones of the adventures of one's youth spent partly in the confines of the world of gaming. Matt wanted a visual that felt game-like, and worked with the idea of war, entrapment, and release, all mirroring the concept of the entrapment of and the escape from, or to, relationships.



THE MOOD….




This nomadic rider walking past the ruin of an ancient
icon of a sports warrior in a trackless desert seemed
to Matt to capture the desolation the band desired.




Tis desert environment that I had recreated in an illustration
 for the Baltimore Sun Times in 2003 about Joseph Heller's
novel 'Catch 22' seemed a perfect setting.

There were elements of my illustration for
Lynx's Xybots that the band liked as well.

Of the first selection of images that I sent Matt, he chose as a guide a cover I had done for PC Games magazine in 1990. He enjoyed the isolation of the desert he saw, and that became our paradigm. He also mentioned the scale of the buried athlete This was the first appearance of what became the Battlebots in the final version.

The Days of Thunder logo was the original direction
the team wanted me to lean for the header title.






In this initial layout I was working with a distant planet, a war aftermath environment , and an
Arcade game cabinet for a game called Otero War, in which the deco on the cabinet reflects the
surrounding area.

FIRST PASS

Matt'a concept for having the deco imitate the environment was a
great thought. Over time however the team moved to minimize the
cabinet within the image, as you will see.
So, I put together my first pass, very quickly done in photoshop, using elements of earlier illustrations and creating the landscape, featuring the Arcade game 'OTERO WAR' showing the scene itself as the deco on the game. As much as I liked this version, the clients desired that I minimize the Arcade game itself. This version eventually gave way to some more dynamic versions, utilizing Large battlebots as seen sketched here.


THE MOVE TO BATTLE BOTS



One of my favorite paintings from the retro era
was this piece that I did for PC Games Magazine
in February 1990. It hangs framed in my
studio to this day.
The Battlebots were derived from Matt's enthusiasm regarding the PC Games magazine cover I had done back in 1990. He was intrigued by the imagery of the giant abandoned Cyborg football player I had done for their sports games review edition.

The Battlebots were laid out as aftermath forms. The band wanted to create a feeling of desolation, along with impending destruction, hence the Tidal Wave I created in the background.


This is my fist version for an appearance of the Bots. The
Arcade cabinet was still prominent, and I liked the
upright posture of the dead Bot, like a tank that
ran out of gas
Here you see Bot version 2, which came to be the final
position, and you can see the Arcade beginning to be less
important.



The Final Front album art reveals the downed Bot cradling a weapon on his left arm, as in the sketch, and color roughs, and as seen here, however Matt asked for the weapon to be removed, aiming for a less aggressive image.

I had always had in mind arming the Battle bot, and proceeded to build out his arm mounted laser weapon, which
I had originally had in the sketch, although smaller. The client team however, probably correctly, were concerned about the image seeming to be overtly war-like, and asked me to remove it: easily done in photoshop.

THE NAME GAME...


The Days of Thunder style of lettering ended up succumbing to the
use of the Pre existing angular logo mark that Caveman has used
for a couple of years. It's a handsome, clean, and techy look that
really sets off the illustration.



THE FATE OF THE ARCADE:


The Arcade was finally consigned to being a very buried element, but still holds a
prominent position, and is difficult to overlook. It now acts as what we call a 'second read'.
This term refers to an element that is discovered only in close examination of the art, often to the delight
of the viewer.
THE FINAL ART COVER FOR 'OTERO WAR'

The mood is complete, as the fallen 'Bot lies destroyed but still his EM powered eyes glow even in death, while in the background an approaching maelstrom pushes a titanic tsunami toward the war torn metropolis. The half buried, battered Arcade cabinet awaits its impending destruction. Will the band escape its fate, trapped in the clutches of
Otero?

THE FINAL BACK COVER

SHOWS THE BAND ESCAPING THE GAME AND THE DESTRUCTION

And finally the Band escapes the Otero War aftermath, running for their lives, true game style, from the onrushing apocalyptic tsunami!!  GAME ON!!

IT WAS A TOTAL BLAST… what a way to make a living!!



CATCH THE VIBE from CAVEMAN: OTERO WAR, at these spots:

Soundcloud….

Spotify….his one was a blast, and working with the band to get them exactly what they wanted was really special.


THANKS FOR DROPPING BY,
AND CHECK OUT
CAVEMAN'S
OTERO WAR 

                       Dropping June 17th!! 








Mar 31, 2016

HELL ON WATER!! ACTIVISION'S OCEAN RANGER!!

Got a penchant for some seaborne battle porn? 



I always considered this package to have been one
of the poorest box designs I was ever involved in.
The terrible use of the colored lettering for the
masthead has always bothered me. I felt the
Activision Designers to have been asleep
at the wheel. Here I took the liberty of enhancing
the masthead for the benefit of my pride.

No Sweat: Sink or Swim. There's no middle ground, (...except 40 Fathoms down…)

The skies around you erupt with the Banshee wailings of supersonic attack aircraft as you floor your state of the art hydrofoil equipped U.S. Navy Attack Frigate , the U.S.S. Ocean Ranger, through a maelstrom of incoming steel and heat seeking Soviet air to sea, and sea to sea, missiles. Your mission is to sweep the Bering Straits free of Russian sea and air warcraft, secure the Carribean against drug smugglers, and sort out the mess in the Persian Gulf. You've got fistfuls of armaments, from your High velocity, rapid fire 76 mm cannon, to your Sea Sparrow, and your Harpoon Missiles, depth charges and Infrared chaff out the wazoo!!

The USS Ocean Ranger makes steam in this harpoon missile attack on enemy shipping, while deploying her (rather fanciful) depth charges, and fires her 76mm Cannon on enemy Mig 25 fighters overhead, forcing the pilot to eject.

HIT THE SILK IVAN!!

We wish this courageous pilot well, as an
ejection at sea is a harrowing and risky
act of attempted survival.

I tried to place a lot of Mayhem into a very small space, basing my Soviet era attack Aircraft loosely on an advanced Russian fighter bomber of 1988: The sturdy Mig 25 FoxBat, a superb piece of baltic engineering from the Mikoyan Guerevich Design team for the Soviet Air Force, showing the Russki Pilot ejecting after pressing his attack against the Ocean Ranger. His A/C is clearly disabled to the point of near disintegration, his right turbo fan flaming merrily





THE BACK PANEL


The navigation table on a 1988 era naval ship probably still
relied to a degree on the instruments that Activision directed
me to depict., but within only a few years the con of a U.S.
ship of war would be completely computerized, I'm sure.

 



This British sub has the Odessa in it's sights
in this 1989 illustration I created for
Warner Publishing.

The back Panel was a much more inspired design, and required a second illustration from me, of a down view of the plotting table for the Navigator of the Ocean Ranger. Interestingly, the Activision chose to include  a data sheet of the Soviet navy's cruiser, the Odessa. Within a year I would be working on  a book jacket illustration for a novel for Warner Books Publishing named 'The Saturn Experiment' which would also feature the Odessa.




                                      THE FRIGATE DESIGN

A Hydro Foil Patrol boat laid out similarly to Ocean Ranger

Another example of a Hydro Foil patrol
craft-Note the port side launch tubes
As you can see, I didn't have much to work with, although I could see the essentials required
for my illustration: the guns, missiles, bridge, radar array, and, at the rear the missile launch tubes.



My frigate version is larger than the patrol boat sized test craft seen above. Click on this piece to enlarge it, and you can see the figures of the crew on deck and the degree of detail. I did a little magic wash on the depth charges to make them look more interesting than they are, for the entertainment value.




                             The full Monte
Here's the original art, as it was photographed, along with the color scale and gray scale required by the
printer for reproduction purposes. it was a lot of fun to produce, and was one of my most complex battle
scenes. I only wish Activision had stepped up with a nice box design to show it off.

Thanks again for dropping by, and I hope you're having a great 2016!

Aug 29, 2015

THE BADDEST of SNK's 'IKARI WARRIORS III The RESCUE' THAT NOBODY EVER SAW!!!

IF YOU PLAYED YOUR GAMES ON AN IBM, YOU MAY HAVE SEEN THIS ART!

                                            But wait,  ...who played on an IBM?


Seriously, Take a look anyway, because Vince and Paul really laid it out trying to rescue the son of an important politician, 
( IS there such a thing?)...and following a time warp that …wait, what? ...Really?  …A TIME WARP?!
Click on any image to enlarge.

Anyway, they struggle to survive an onslaught of deadly terrorists, strictly for your entertainment back in 1990, and deserve to be remembered today.


WHO KNEW???


Sadly for me this game art was relegated to the outer reaches of the market, and really very few players are even aware of its existence today. I hope you will find this bit of retrogame trivia entertaining, and educational, because it is one of only a couple of my game covers for which I can document for you with original sketches, the pathways of art direction that played out, the dance executed by the illustrator and the designer/art director when this box was produced 25 years ago.






The sadness of only a Polaroid reminder of lost art.


I found this little old polaroid at the
bottom of a dusty Flat file drawer.
The game was introduced to me by a group of designers in the South Bay ( To us San Franciscans that meant Silicon Valley) named The Graphics Factory. I surmise that from the 408 Prefix on their fax replies relative to my sketches. My log notes for March of '90 talk about the fee, and the contact (3-6-'90), naming a designer named Brent, and my invoice dated 4-4-'90, and the two thermofax sheets which you will see here. End of evidence. Of the original art, only a polaroid remains:

EXPLOSIVE MAYHEM
"Let's see a quarter turn and lean back, like he's taking a punch!"

Carl Buell (left), Darryl Chan (right) and a third model (center) pose for action sequences.
The designers had requested a wild and wooly shootout, with hot brass flying, knives whipping around, explosions, tanks, choppers, and the rescue from  abduction of a young boy (In this case my son Richard.) and oh yeah…More explosions. My sketch was sent in based on my photoshoot of various models, including my sidekick Carl Buell  and amazing stuntman Darryl Chan, about whom my readers already know.

TRY AND TRY AGAIN

The creative process in illustration usually requires a series of directions followed by a series of sketches. Amazingly, I found two faxes in the rabbit warren I call 'my collection'. They were the return replies to the sketches I sent Brent and his boss, evidently named Kent. I know, right? What's up with THAT? Brent 'n Kent?

This model gave me a great pose, but the client said he
looked too 'Determined' and asked me to open his mouth.

And the Hot Brass flies!!

My son Rich EMOTES!

"C'mon Rich! Lemme see that you're scared Buddy!! 
Somebody's trying to grab your arm!  LOOK OUT!!! click.


My kids grew up modeling for me, and they would show their friends the box art to prove it;)

OMG!!! WATCH OUT!! Here My younger son Rich plays the terrified rescued youngster, while my older son Christian provides an arm to hang on to.


"BELT FED AMMO, NO CHOPPER, HERO TOO DETERMINED, BOY TOO OLD!"


As you can see here, Brent had definite input, and that's exactly what an illustrator expects. Changes are part of the game, and the sketches serve that role. In this case there was also plenty of positive reinforcement, and I'm sure he telephoned in to me his approval of the basic layout. The creative approach always requires movement on both sides, and gratitude is always part of the dialog:

"Thanks for giving me this job, I'm really jazzed and will do my best "…"We're so happy you could fit it in, and we know your work. We are looking forward to seeing what you come up with!"

That was the template for conversation in 95% of all the freelance illustration of all sorts that I have been involved with over my entire career. (see marcericksen.com) I have always been grateful for my experiences, and grateful for the attitudes that prevailed. Of course there were those who would generate bad vibes with power trips, but they were mostly fringe players, and a tiny minority of the bent that you can find anywhere in life.

"LOOKS GREAT, LET"S GO FOR IT!"


In the final fax, we see Kent sign off on, and instruct me to do what we called 'go to final'. As you can see we had agreed to lose the belt feed, and went to a regular assault ammunition magazine on the weapon the hero is firing in the foreground, and I made my son look younger. I added the chopper, (which I had completely forgotten), And shot a few more photos for a more powerful punch in the middle background.



THE NET NET WAS A REALLY KICK ASS ILLUSTRATION...FOR A REALLY NICHE MARKET. 


Luckily I found a really beautiful sealed game for this SNK's Ikari Warriors III The Rescue game online at Ebay and it has joined my collection of the games for which I had so much fun doing art. I have to say this is indeed one of my faves, because I was able to do it with my sons.



Thanks again for dropping by!