August 26, 2009

Saint Louis Character

When you cobble together something at the last minute, it is - as a rule - terrible. But every once in a while you get away with it.

This Character of the Week started out with a very cool premise - take a city, any city, and imagine it as a character. I chose my home away from home, St. Louis.

St. Louis is a curious kind of city, especially for someone for whom the definition of "city" is "Manhattan". Whereas New York is blocks and blocks of skyscrapers, St. Louis is an enormous continuous suburb (with a few skyscrapery bits here and there). It's a city fiercely proud of its heritage as a hub for American trade and culture. At the same time, there are a number of decaying areas in the city, and a decided undercurrent of not-fully-resolved race relations. So, in short, it's classic American.

When I sat down to sketch, two versions of St. Louis came right to mind. There's the history and culture angle - a classy, fun-loving jazzman - and there's the more realistic modern city - hip but kind of downtrodden:

I did the sketch and let it sit for almost a week. The jazz character seemed like he'd be much more fun to render, but I wasn't sure how to do it. Realistic? A cartoon? Traditional media? Digital? Then, an idea:

Let me tell you - St. Louisans are proud of their Arch. Anytime you want to say "St. Louis" quickly and visually, get a parabolic arch in there. I still wasn't 100% how to render my final piece, but at this point it was five or six hours before the deadline. I made a snap decision to try a vector image in Illustrator.

I did a test of the straight-on face:

And pushed through to the final product, just in the nick of time:

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