One of the most fun parts of creating a personalized illustration, is when the client is interested in different movies and characters and wants to combine the different elements together. This “mash-up”, creates a whole new story for the composition that makes it both challenging and visually interesting for myself as well as the viewers of the piece.
When I met Bruno Lombardi last year at Can-Con in Ottawa, we had already unofficially met on the phone, as we were both looking to share a table. The organizers thought we’d be a good match. He’s a great science fiction writer, and had a few books published through anthology series. He was very easy going, and immediately I knew that we’d have a great time at the convention
As we chatted over the weekend, I found out that he was engaged to be married. He knew that I did personalized illustrations, so we began chatting about what he’d want to do for one of them. A few months later he contacted me to begin the process for a commission
His fiancé was huge into Charlie and the Chocolate factory, while he was a fan of Dr. Who. We wanted to make sure there were some personal elements in there as well, so the background would have the Ottawa Parliament building, where he worked. He also wanted to have a steam engine locomotive somehow incorporated to reflect an important place they had had a date. His cats would also find a place as well.
After we had gotten off the phone, I realized that while I had a visual idea of what it would look like, I still didn’t have a way to tie them all together. As I’ve mentioned before in past blog posts, I like having a story element with a theme to tie it together. With all of the mashing up of the two different intellectual properties, in addition to the location and the train element, it was going to take some thinking to figure out how to make it all work. It’s like a chef having ingredients for a great meal, but not exactly knowing what the meal was going to be.
Since I had time to come up with the composition, I let it percolate in my head for a while. I knew it would come to me eventually, and usually it did when I didn’t force it. When I was ready to start working on it, I still didn’t have an exact idea of what I was going to do. This is unusual, but has happened a few times before. Sometimes just by trying to work out the composition, ideas come to me. That’s why it’s always a good idea to go fast and loose in the early stages, as that’s when visual problems work itself out.
When I started laying out all the elements we had talked about, the real issue was the train. Would I make it just a static image in the composition or should I make it moving somehow. And how do I portray movement while not distracting from the more important aspects, which were Bruno and his fiancé as Dr. Who and Willy Wonka respectively. For them, I knew that they’d be battling evil Oompa Loompas and a Dalek. I knew that there would be the phone booth, and that the Parliament building would be in the background. I decided I wanted the steam engine flying through the air, as that was a suggestion Bruno had given.
With all of those objects in place I still needed a setting. Would it be a made up place or one set in Ottawa? What time of year, or time period should it be? Would it be day or night? And what was the theme of this piece, or in other words, what was the connective tissue that bound everything together. With these questions, I started seeing some answers and then it hit me- adventurers being ripped through space and time, and their love for each other conquering all!
Knowing how I needed to proceed, I began drawing in a rip in the fabric of space, where the steam engine was now flying through. They were standing on a medieval castle about to be cornered while pterodactyls were attacking from behind. Bruno wanted me to throw in an extra cat, to represent his bride-to-be’s and so I made all of these cats, their protectors against the overgrown birds. It all fit together quite nicely as they heroically fought together, fending off the on coming baddies!
Bruno, having written time travel what if stories, loved the idea and the composition, and with everything in place I proceeded to create an illustration that perfectly suited the couple’s tastes! While the time travel theme hadn’t occurred to me until later, it became an obvious choice once I came up with it. It’s always important for me to know my clients and because of his writing, it felt like the rip in space and time would be perfect. And thus a new genre defying mash-up was born!