Commission: Fringe Quest’s Avatar and Banner

Michael Redmond is, like myself, an old seeker of truths with a deep interest in paranormal topics. That doesn’t mean he’s willing to believe any cockamamie story making the rounds on the web (Añjali anyone?) which I think is a very healthy and astute way to navigate the murky waters of Esoterica without losing your bearings –or your sanity…

Michael recently contacted me because he wanted a new avatar for Fringe Quest, which used to be a monthly meetup of fellow Forteans in central New Jersey with their own website and newsletter, but currently it’s just maintaining a presence on social media. I welcomed the opportunity because I knew it would be a fun chance to make a personal comment about the paranormal.

I started out with some concepts for the avatar/logo, keeping in mind it’s intended to be seen as a small icon within the Twitter app. Below are some of the sketches I presented to Michael, in which I wanted to play with the initials of Fringe Quest while at the same time conveying the theme of Forteana in a minimalistic way:

Once the avatar/logo was approved I proceeded to create the image using Autodesk Sketchbook. Remember how I said the avatar would be intended as a small icon? Well, in spite of that I decided to go cray cray and spent a lot of time with all the images I inserted into my kooky corkboard, because I remembered all the fun I had when I made the promo poster for Anomaly Archives last year.

Can you recognize all the things I added to the corkboard?

With that settled, I proceeded to work on the Fringe Quest banner. There are certain specific guidelines one should watch when designing images specifically for the Twitter app, like taking into consideration the placement of the account’s icon and such. The last thing you want is to find out that super-cool detail you spent hours working on ended up being covered by the account’s profile pic.

I stubbornly decided to exploit the Indiana Jones theme and sought to recreate the famous escape from the giant boulder scene. Not an easy feat, considering all the details in the background and the fact that finding good reference images on the Internet is next to impossible.

Full size banner (click to enlarge).

With this illustration I chose a more ‘painterly’ and realistic style than with the avatar/logo, adopting a ‘chiaroscuro’ approach in order to convey just the barest amount of detail into the silhouettes of the stalactites and stalagmites in the cave, while leaving most to be filled-in by the mind of the viewer. It was very difficult at first but once I got the hang of what I wanted to convey, finishing the background became a matter of dividing the piece into different sections –and yes, I realized during the process that trying to faithfully recreate the original background scene was impossible, so what you see is my own personal interpretation.

By the time I got to the round boulder, my mind was already fully accustomed to ‘rock texture mode’ so it wasn’t as hard as I feared. The text itself was prepared previously in Photoshop (Sketchbook has very limited text options) and then it was copy/pasted and altered to give the impression that the words were carved into the stone.

Once I had completed the hard work of the background and boulder, the caricature of Michael as Indy was pretty straightforward (chose to keep the line art on this one) leaving into consideration how the main light would come from the right in an oblique way, which would mean lots of ‘rim light’ effects the kind of which digital artists love to add into their work to add a sense of drama.

Instead of being truthful to the original movie, I decided to have a more satirical attitude by putting an arrow over Indy’s hat. Also, I chose to have fun with the design of the idol, making it look as if it was some sort of ‘Ancient Aliens’ reptilian giving birth to a gray –explain THAT one, Tsoukalos!

Gold texture tips: Leave your darkest tones next to your lightest ones to give a sense of metallic reflectivity, and the lightest tone should NEVER be full white (with a few exceptions, like the atmospheric rim light touches applied on the borders of the idol)

Michael was very pleased with both illustrations, and hopefully they will help them gain more followers on Twitter –as he should, because he’s a very very good source of UFO and Fortean-related information.

If you have a paranormal website or podcast and are seeking to promote it with graphic work or customized illustrations, send me a message 🙂

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