donny nguyen.
donny nguyen.
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samurai i am awry

i do love me some 30 rock. if you’ve been paying attention, i finished a movie poster for a blaffair to rememblack a little while back. 30 rock is one of those shows where the one-liners come out of nowhere and then sometimes they just disappear all together to make room for more. for my next project, i wanted to try and incorporate some of my favourite lines and moments. rather than try and posterise this one, i just wanted to have fun with an illustration.

the underlying inspiration is one tracy jordan line: “i spent nine months in japan filming samurai i am awry.” when i first heard the line i thought he said, “samurai i-amurai” and that he was just making up a ridiculous word. in doing research for rememblack, i actually saw the written text and had a good chuckle, long after the fact.


one of my favourite scenes from the entire series comes from the first episode where tracy is seen running down a highway in tightey-whiteys and tube socks, wielding a toy light sabre, and screaming, “i am a jedi! i am a jedi!!”

again, genius.

so that scene also needed to be alluded to in this illustration. in continuing with this story that i made up to drive the illustration, i took the liberty of setting it in japan and assuming that he didn’t actually finish filming the samurai movie. his character just doesn’t really finish anything. but in his defense, in this alternate 30 rock dimension (30-D?? lame), he finds a real lightsabre. would you keep on filming a movie if you found a light sabre? i rest my case.

i like that 30 rock embraces the cliches and makes fun of them so i wanted tracy running off in a meadow or something toward a sunset in a very cliche way. while doing so he would just shed his samurai armour and sword along his path. i realised early on that if he were running off toward the horizon, there would be little to tell the viewer that it’s tracy jordan outside of the title and his outfit from the first episode. but this is a drawing for 30 rock fans who i hope will understand.

here is the initial sketch:

originally i was going to make this a tad more destructive. tracy would’ve just been trying (and succeeding!) to cut up everything in his path. so you can see singed tree stumps and sliced trees and grass if you look closely. i decided against this though as i wasn’t sure if there would be just too many elements drawing the viewer’s attention in so many directions. in more experienced hands, this probably could’ve been done effectively but i’m not going to claim that my hands are anywhere close to that.

another problem was that there really wasn’t any imagery to suggest the japanese landscape.  cherry trees came to mind but i thought the more obvious choice would’ve been a pagoda or temple silhouette or something. i just very quickly (and crappily) drew up where i wanted the trees to be and the temple as well.

so far so good. i got to drawing more detailed trees and i also decided to leave out the temple / pagoda. just wasn’t feeling it. i did a cleaning of my studio recently and i can’t find the final pencil sketch of the trees so on to the inking. i’m not sure if i’ll make a habit of this but i thought i’d try inking in steps and scanning the results to try and save time if mistakes were made. here’s the rough progression:


the original is 11 x 18″ and was scanned in a couple of times and stitched together in photoshop. here is the full piece and some detailed shots.

i have to admit i didn’t really think too far ahead about the colour palette but i decided to stick to what i guess you’d call realistic colours. one thing was for sure, tracy jordan would want to rock a lightsabre coloured like the only “bad ass muthafucka” jedi – mace windu. also, tracy’s underwear had to be white.

the trees, field, hills, and sky were pretty much decided on in this kind of typical field setting. for the sky, i did want to have a nice blue-purple-red transition. i wasn’t overly sure about the colour of his discarded armour though. he seems to wear a lot of red so i thought about doing a red and yellow scheme but i kept being reminded of the flash or ironman. i pondered it while moving on to colouring tracy’s socks and shoes.

as soon as i got to his shoes, i remembered the episode where tracy not only dons golden shoes, but is too proud to be helped to lug around the weight. another great scene and that answered the question for his armour – gold!

the colour process overall took longer than i thought. this post is getting pretty long so i won’t really detail it here but i may update this later on. i ended up with many, many layers and a 500+ mb file – take that yuko shimizu!!

here is the final piece. i hope you enjoy it, i had a lot of fun doing this. i’m not sure if i will do another 30 rock piece but once the season starts i may just change my mind on that.

plus minus

here’s a longer post to hopefully try and make up for the lack of updates. i’ve been busy but i made time to quickly work on this.

i came across this poster competition on the swiss miss blog and i thought it would be fun to enter. positive posters is a non-profit poster competition founded by nick hallam and run by volunteers. they basically just try and spread a good message through the competition. it started last year with the theme of change and this year’s is “a glass half full” from a more positive viewpoint.

i spent a few days on my daily commutes brainstorming. i won’t detail the concepts i didn’t follow through on but i decided early on that i wanted to keep things as simple as possible. the concept of polarity immediately jumped in my mind (being the nerd that i am) and so plus and minus signs were the images i wanted to use to reflect the positive and negative outlooks people can take on this classic saying.

here are some of the initial sketches. hopefully you can see some of the thought processes i (might have) had.

the basis for the theme essentially is perspective. so my first thought was to make the poster work in any orientation, – landscape, portrait, upside-down, or right-side up. no matter the layout, i wanted a positive sign to always be recognisable. the simplest idea that i went further with came from the third image of sketches and is as below.
this is just a draft but the idea was to have the inked surface cover fifty percent of the poster but it’s probably not exact in the depiction above. the border wouldn’t have been there either, i just drew it on here to show the boundaries of the poster. rather than just plop a plus sign right in the middle or any other area, i thought about having it “float” in the liquid represented by the inked surface – ink…liquid…get it??? also, instead of the more obvious black and white, i went with magenta – slowly becoming a favourite colour for design. the brief reminded us about the fact that these posters should stand out in a cityscape because the winning poster will be printed 4000 times and plastered around australia. to keep things basic then, i wanted to stick with one of the CMYK colours since the nature of the poster is pretty basic. yellow and cyan don’t seem like they’d stand out so magenta it was.

sidenote: to try and validate the choice of colour, i looked up magenta and i found some interesting points. it’s an extra-spectral colour, meaning that it cannot be perceived with out two wavelengths of light. so it’s got that duality thing going on right? a bit of a stretch. more interesting though is the origin of it’s name. a conflict called – what else? – the battle of magenta in – where else? – magenta, italy occurred shortly before the discovery of the dye in that region. so that was kind of relevant to me – a negative conflict may have brought about something positive in the discovery of the dye and, you know, hopefully the conflict occurred to bring about positive consequences. validation? check.

anyway, the good thing about the plus sign is that no matter what orientation, it still looks like a plus sign. here’s the same version upside-down.

in the first version the plus sign is white and blends in with the background and in the flipped version, the liquid would be white and so it blends in with the liquid at that point. it’s pretty plain that the plus sign doesn’t seem so obvious. and in the inverted version, the liquid isn’t really filling half the glass. it gets worse in either landscape format.

the other idea i thought would’ve been interesting to pursue involved patterns of plus signs. i haven’t worked too much with patterns so i thought i’d try and take that a bit further. you can sort of see two attempts in the sketches but something jumped out at me for one of them. the plus signs in the positive space started to form minus signs in the negative signs in the negative space. this idea responded well with me for obvious reasons.

so for the second attempt, the abstraction of the half filled glass would be presented as a pattern of positive or plus signs that align to form negative signs in the negative space. rather than have the positive signs just cut exactly half the page, they’re staggered but the ratio of positive space to negative space is about equal. the staggering also helps lend to a layout where the positively spaced area is just slightly larger than the negative (i actually calculated it), which biases the outlook to the positive. also, the negative or minus signs are only really perceptible in landscape layout. either way, more plus signs are always visible than minus signs. so in those ways, the poster really is more positive than negative. the result is below.

and here’s the “inverse” version:

this version is kind of interesting because the plus signs seems to occupy the negative space and the opposite is true of the minus signs – so a bit of irony there. also, the minus signs seems to resemble drops falling into the magenta liquid – at least to me.

so why a tilted liquid level? well, here it is rotated. notice also that the minus signs are a bit more obvious.

the impression i wanted to finally leave things off with is that the poster that is the “cup” is being tilted but enough for the contents to come out yet. so is the liquid being enjoyed and sipped? or is it being poured out and wasted? that’s up to the viewer.
i was a bit bummed at the fact that it’s not a true pattern because if you try and tile this, you obviously won’t get the impression that it’s a never ending barrage of plus signs formed by a succession of posters aligned adjacent to other versions of the same poster. BUT, now that i look at it again, a similar effect can still be achieved:
and it’s still possible to have a level “liquid”
so that makes me happy.
even if i don’t win, this was tonnes of fun to do. the rest of the entries are here.