General ramblings

I forgot I could draw

At the tail end of last year Tall Story Games was lucky enough to receive a modest grant to afford us some industry-focused business consultancy. We have been working closely with a seasoned industry pro to help us form a solid strategy for launching our fledgling studio.

The existing art just wasn’t good enough.

Last week I was beginning preparations to launch my point & click mini-adventure Hair of the Dog and Lucy Dreaming pages on Steam when it became apparent that my current upscaled (and slightly rushed) pixel-arty key art wasn’t going to cut it in an already packed and competitive marketplace.

The old Lucy Dreaming key art.
The old Hair of the Dog key art.

I had begun to quietly panic and look around for suitable illustrators who could help me out… not easy when you’re working on a super-tight budget.

Coincidentally, I had also bought myself a couple of new brush-style Tombow pens and was having a bit of fun drawing cartoons in what little spare time I have left.

My new pens. I LOVE these, especially the soft tip!

Can you see where this is going?

On speaking to our mentor, Stephen, he mentioned that maybe, possibly it might be a good idea to actually DRAW the key art for the games myself, like with actual pens. This unnerved me slightly as, although I know I CAN draw reasonably well, illustration has never been a skill I consider myself to possess to a sufficient degree.

More importantly, I also assumed that if I created my artwork with real pens on real paper it somehow wasn’t valid. All around I see professional, insanely-talented illustrators sharing their digital work drawn with awesome, state-of-the-art hardware – that just isn’t for me so I must be out of the running, right?

Cut to Tom, sitting down with a cup of tea and an imposingly-blank sketch pad resting on his lap. I don’t have a picture of this, so here’s a photo of our teapot instead.

This poor bastard has poured over 25,000 cups of tea in its lifetime.

I then spent the whole of last weekend feverishly sketching, drawing, inking, colouring and compositing the key art for both games.

Go on then, let’s see them…

Oh alright then, truth be told I’m genuinely surprised and delighted at how well they turned out.

I’d also like to thank @lrzbn for all his professional advice on the composition and lighting in the final stages of the Lucy Dreaming artwork. Recently I seem to have surrounded myself with an invaluable community of creative and intelligent folk. I love you all!

Hair of the Dog

This was relatively easy by comparison to the Lucy Dreaming artwork, probably because not as much hinges on its success, so I was more relaxed when drawing and composing it.

Initial pencil sketch and inked/coloured version (I use Copic Ciao alcohol markers for colouring).
Final key art composited in Photoshop with some creative commons photos in the background.

Lucy Dreaming

As mentioned above, this artwork was a trickier exercise. The concept and characters are more complex than those in Hair of the Dog, and there’s a bigger story to tell with this one. I also wanted to ensure that it didn’t get too over-crowded and cluttered, because when they are shrunk down into some of the smaller formats they could just end up a bit of a mess.


First option for composition/layout (rejected, but very fun to draw).
Second option for composition/layout. This is the one I went with in the end.

After I had worked out the basic composition of the artwork, I wanted to draw the different elements separately so they would be easy to rearrange and composite in Photoshop to create the many different assets required by Steam (some landscape, some portrait, some square, some massive, some tiny).

Lucy, from pencil sketch to final coloured version.
Pitcher plant character.
Duck, Bear and other elements.

Once they were all drawn, I digitised them (my scanner was on loan to someone else, so I actually just took photos of them with my iPhone), cleaned them up and started to arrange them in Photoshop to produce a design that I felt represented the tone of the game and would stand out on Steam.

Here it is.

The final key art for Lucy Dreaming.
A selection of the different Steam assets with the new key art elements.

In summary… the art-related panic is over (for now), and I have slightly renewed confidence in my ability to weild a marker pen.

Let’s hope they do the job they were drawn to do, and I will eventually get the ink off my fingers.

Feel free to comment below 🙂
Tom x

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