An In-Depth Look at the Package Art Process for the Ceratopsian Series!
28 days ago
– Sun, Mar 01, 2020 at 02:16:39 AM
I've been planning this for a while now and it's finally time to take an in-depth look at the creative process behind the package illustrations for the Ceratopsian Series!
If you followed the Raptor Series, you're likely very familiar with the amazing art created for the line by Jonathan Kuo. While I was hoping to have him return for this second series of Beasts of the Mesozoic, he was consumed with his other work and wasn't able to commit unfortunately. However, this led me to working with several new inspiring artists and I'm very grateful for how everything has turned out. With all of the talent involved this time around, I felt it would be a great idea to show you all what went into creating the masterful package art for the Ceratopsian Series!
This update will focus solely on in-progress work and the process involved. If you'd like to view the final versions of each piece, you can find them here.
Warning to those hoping for a short update- There is a LOT to look at here, possibly my longest Kickstarter update to-date. So prepare yourself... here we go.
Shannon is an accomplished wildlife illustrator living in Germany, and very good friend. I had her tackle the package art for many of the Chasmosaurines of the series. A lover of animals, Shannon really got into the work and it shows with the lush environments and additional smaller wildlife which can be seen in several pieces. What I love about her approach is how each scene feels like it's part of a larger story. You can tell that she really lives in each piece while she's creating it.
This was the first piece Shannon did for the project. A variety of 3D reference was used to get that large head frill into proper perspective, from Raul's Chasmosaurus head sculpt to similar figurines.
Shannon was also a big help with designing the head frills for these dinos. Working from my side view color designs, she would come up with several possible options for me to choose from. This helps her with the illustration and also ended up informing the final look of the figure as well. For this one I went with no. 4.
Shannon had the idea for a night scene, incorporating the 'cosmos' and it worked really well. The lighting on this piece makes it very unique.
Here you can see the references used for getting the right look for the lighting along with the head frill design options. We went with the 1st option.
The idea for this one is actually quite charming- this Spiclypeus has an itch and needs a whole tree to scratch it. Great character development here, and again, it completely feels like one part of a larger story.
This one arguably has the most interesting frill design. Here are the options Shannon created. I chose no. 2 because I loved those eye spots.
For this one, Shannon went with a sunset which is a very effective setting. She was also inspired by Brian Engh’s piece of Utahceratops in which he used a prehistoric bird (Mirarce eatoni) as a contrast to the large animal.
Frill designs were actually inspired by the Gila Monster- not Darth Maul. We ended up using a modified version of no. 4 (bottom center).
I think the idea for this one was always a 'stampede' theme. A lot of action and kicking up of dust. The additional Pentaceratops in the background makes you wonder how many more there are 'off-screen'.
After choosing thumbnail no. 2, Shannon created these options. no. No. 3 was selected.
For this frill design, I ended up using a slightly modified version of her no.1 design. In any case, seeing the frill design options for each piece was one of may favorite parts of working with Shannon.
In order capture the proper atmosphere and overall look of the piece, Shannon used Bison reference as inspiration. Both are large animals kicking up a lot of dirt- reminds me of the old west.
I've worked with Shannon on a number of pieces now between these and the small Raptor Series 2-packs,and each time she creates a new piece, I feel like I've gotten to know these animals a little better- they somehow seem more real in a way that goes beyond the visuals.
To see more of Shannon's work, go to https://www.shannonscribbles.com/
Jax Jocson and Carlo Arellano
The artist duo Jacqueline (Jax) Jocson and Carlo Arellano are illustrators/ concept artists for the entertainment industry with a heavy emphasis on creatures and animals. They were the first artists I worked with on the Ceratopsian Series way back in early 2018, well before I had any prototypes made. Together we would work toward establishing an overall look for the series.
Xenoceratops (original version)
Some of you may remember the initial announcement for the Beasts of the Mesozoic Ceratopsian Series a couple years back with Jax and Carlo's Xenoceratops illustration. Here are the original thumbnails.
This final version was originally intended to be the package art for Xenoceratops, but the prototype wasn't completed until later and this look was only based on my color design. Once the final figure was done a few months later, I felt I'd gotten too far away from this art to match it up.
As a kid it always bothered me when the package art didn't represent the colors of the product (I'm looking at you Dino Riders T-Rex). So I eventually decided to recommission the art later on with Raul Ramos, as Jax and Carlo were unavailable by that time. Despite this piece not being used for the final packaging, there were some design elements from it that helped me with developing the final look of the figure such as the striping on the back and tail.
By the time we got to the second piece, Zuniceratops, I felt we were getting much more into a flow. The swampy environment along with the downward camera angle was perfect for this little fella.
Early color render
One of this things that we did here that would become a standard moving forward was the emphasis on vibrant colors. The first piece (Xenoceratops) was good, but darker overall than I wanted for the line. We bumped up the colors on this one and it then looked like the lively dinosaurs I had imagined.
One last-minute change that some eagle-eyed followers may have spotted was how the face of the Zuni changed from the original version to the final version. Again this was due to us not having a physical model to look at when the piece was commissioned. The final adjustment was made later on (right) to better resemble the actual figure.
By the time we reached Styracosaurus, we were off an running. Styracosaurus is my favorite of the Ceratopsian family so I was really happy to see this come together so well. C was selected from this set.
Here's an early rendering before color.
I would say more about this, but it was a pretty straight-forward development from here. The end result really breathed life into my very 'ambitious' color design. Only after seeing this art completed did I know for certain that the colors would work for the actual figure.
For this one, we wanted to play around with the sun as a strong lighting element. I came up with a thumbnail D which is just mash up of A and B. We would end up adjusting the neck position to a more realistic pose, but it seemed to be a good solution. It was also important to me that we saw the face as well as those famous tail quills.
Here's an early version of the piece. We ended up adding in more purples along with a few other tweaks for the final.
This guy always had a lot of character. Of all the 'ceratopsians', this is the one I'd want most for a pet.
Centrosaurus was an interesting one as Jax and Carlo had the unfortunate task of working from my failed color design, which I would later redo.
For this one, I went with 'A 'and on the right is more developed version.
The thumbnail would be refined a bit more and we were good to go. A muddy theme emerged during this process and I think that worked really well. Birds were originally going to be in the background, but this was dropped for the final version.
The first pass while more blue than I'd imagined, was leaps better than my color design which actually was also more blue than green. With a few adjustments, like adding in more green, not only was the art completed, but we had the true basis for the figure design. This is the only instance were the final color design for the figure was developed from the illustration.
Centrosaurus is a great example of how many steps are sometimes involved with the figure design process. It's good to have a method, but it's also important to be flexible and go with the flow of the project. Centrosaurus ended up becoming one of the most popular designs of the line.
To see more of Jax's work, go to http://www.jaxjocson.com/
For Carlo's work, check out https://www.artstation.com/carloarellano
Going into this Kickstarter, i'd become a big fan of RJ's work from the Saurian video game Kickstarter which happened around the same time as my Raptor Series Kickstarter back in spring of 2016. I'd been in touch with RJ on several occasions after that, and I eventually asked if he'd like to be a part of the Ceratopsian Series. Despite his full schedule, I was able to get him for one piece, and it was a very important piece. As I've gotten to know him, I've become so impressed with his passion for creating realistic natural history-inspired creatures, real and fictional. We share a lot of similar interests and are currently discussing our next collaboration.
Triceratops horridus (adult)
I did very little art directing with RJ as I really just wanted to see what he'd come up with. I provided a color design and left him to do what he does. Here is the very first work-in-progress image.
I was shocked to see that he included a T-Rex head, adding an additional complex element to the composition, but man, what a cool idea!
His initial pass at the head colors for the Triceratops were a bit too involved to translate into a mass-produced action figure, so I had him simplify the look a bit.
This is close to final. Now you can see much of the detail in the T-Rex head and there's more of an orange-brown look to the head. The final figure ended up being an amalgam of this art and the original color design, which I think worked out really well.
And the most brilliant part is the 'teaser' for the Tyrannosaur Series. It was totally RJ's idea- I can take no credit.
For more of RJ's work check out https://www.rj-palmer.com/
What can I say about Raul... he's simply amazing. He's the only person who is credited as both illustrator and sculptor for the Ceratopsian Series, a skill set that I can really appreciate being a toy designer/ sculptor myself. Raul has been my go-to guy since we began working together in 2018. Not only did he do the lion's share of the the Ceratopsian Series package art, but he also sculpted the Chasmosaurus head and many of the skulls used as the base for Ceratopsian head sculpts. In addition, he's responsible for cutting the articulation into 3D models for both Triceratops figures as well as Torosaurus, Psittacosaurus, and Protoceratops. Raul, I couldn't have done this without you, buddy.
Since Raul did so many pieces for this line, I'm going to go through most of this just showing the initial thumbnails. Still, there is plenty to appreciate as it was always a struggle for me to choose just one thumbnail for the final illustration. Enjoy!
Triceratops horridus (sub-adult)
Early color render.
Early color renders.
It's interesting to note that for many of these, Raul will create his own 3D model of the dinosaur and pose it according to the thumbnail. Here's one he created for this piece.
Early color renders.
As mentioned, Raul will usually work from his own models, but since we had just worked on the articulation for Jake Baardse's Triceratops/ Torosaurus, Raul used Jake's model for the Torosaurus thumbnails which ended up giving us an illustration that is very accurate to the actual psychical figure. My only request was to have two of them engaged in battle, an idea I loved in the original 'Walking with Dinosaurs' documentary.
Original sketch and early color render.
Avaceratops (Video Demo)
So far, I've only given a brief overview of how this process works, but for the full story of the amount of work that goes into just one of these illustrations, I highly encourage you to watch this video that Raul made showing his entire process from start to finish for creating the Avaceratops art. It is quite impressive!
For more of Raul's art, go to https://www.raulramosart.com/
Ezra Tucker... Legend. I'm still shocked that this even happened.
As many of you are aware, Ezra was one of the artists who worked on the original Tyco Dino-Riders toy line back in the late 80's. He's also done a ton of work in the entertainment industry (some of you may be familiar with the movie poster for The NeverEnding Story? That's Ezra). After describing my idea to him for creating a new illustration for my Dino-Riders homage Monoclonius figure, he was very interested. He's been working on his own personal wildlife art for the past twenty years or so and had gotten away from commercial art completely. But he was willing to come back to it for this project and it was a huge honor to work with him. We're talking about a man who's art inspired me as a young boy, so it goes without saying that this piece is very personal to me.
After discussing the composition, Ezra gave me a few of options for the general pose. In our conversations, I'd described that I wanted something that reminded people of the old Monoclonius package art but also works well on it's own. My only requests were that the colors and mood were similar and that there be a volcano in the background. I was very adamant about there being a volcano. Of the two sketches shown here, we went with the second option.
Here is the very first rendering I'd seen and I was immediately blown away. It was pretty much done aside from pushing the contrast a bit more. The only notable difference here is the toenail on the right outside digit, which was changed for the final version. This was hand-painted with acrylic on illustration board.
Ezra was an absolute pleasure to work with. His style was exactly what I'd pictured in my head, capturing the wonder of 80's paleoart with modern day accuracy. Simply fantastic. I liked the piece so much, I bought the original painting.
To see more of Ezra's impressive body of work, go here: http://www.ezratucker.com/
Package Art Items now Available in the 'Shop'
Whew, that was a lot! I'm glad Kickstarter is allowing for an update this long. Before I go though, I just wanted to mention that printed items featuring the Ceratopsian Series package art are now available in the 'Additional Items' section of my web shop. The remaining stock of Ceratopsian 2020-2021 calendars, plus the post cards and a small supply of prints have recently been added.
If you've read this far, thank you so much! This was a very important post for me to share as I wanted to express my gratitude for being able to work with such a talented team of artists. Even though the focus of Beasts of the Mesozoic is about the action figures, the package art has always been just as important to me.
That'll do it for now- I hope you all enjoyed this.
Until next time!