A series of Star Wars illustrations for Nautilus Cosmos March/April 2017 issue as well as the Nautilus website.
Martin Gee: Since Len Small and I were on this year’s jury judging illustration, here’s something we worked on for Nautilus in late 2015 over the holidays. I’ve been fortunate to draw what I love (Star Wars) for Entertainment Weekly, The San Francisco Chronicle and Variety. It is absolutely true to do what you love… and make sure people (art directors) know it!
Here are some behind-the-scenes back and forth via email and sketches:
December 8, 2015
Len Small: This is a psychology article under the guise of Star Wars (aptly timed). There's two threads to explore: One is if AI (droids) can have emotions. The second is about human reaction to beauty and appearance — the "old brain" (Obi-Wan), which is disgusted by the robots, versus the "new brain" (Luke, Leia, Chewbacca), which has empathy and compassion.
There are pros and cons to loving those droids! This article mostly uses characters from the original trilogy, but I'd be happy if BB-8 made an appearance…
December 14, 2015
Martin Gee: Some notes for each:
A super horizontal / two halves with every droid from Star Wars! Super dense! Each droid will have a word or thought bubble for a different motivation or emotion / emoji. Two options for the arrangement: different droids mixed in OR have a spectrum of emotions from left to right, from happy (BB-8) to homicidal (IG-88).
A vertical full page version.
More of a Brady Bunch grid treatment with nine different droids to show nine different emotions.
More of the same but with the ball droid from the Death Star instead of the one from Jabba's palace. I did love how the writer mentioned the power / gonk droid getting tortured in Return of the Jedi.
Something more conceptual. The writer mentions empathy and Chewie putting C-3PO back together again. Here we have all his parts. Should it make or form a shape (animated?!). What defines a droid? There's something here but I don't think I'm there yet.
LS: Ahh, so entertaining! Awesome, and of course fully versed in all the references. My gut reaction is to the Brady Bunch solution… Although I think there's also a great nugget about 'deconstruction' with C-3P0. I'm sure the first one would work well, though I think that the more categorization of the other pieces really helps.
MG: Cool! I can still start / go to final on that solution for now. If you want a deconstructed C-3PO (or any other droid!) as a spot, I'm sure we can work something out! =)
December 15, 2015
MG: Any words from your editor? Started drawing C-3PO since he's potentially the main illo or spot. The other droids are for placement only because they're from previous illos. Only new and original work for you! =)
LS: Yes, actually. The Ed. liked the Brady Brunch droids — however, he made a good point that trying to understand the emotions based on word bubbles/emoji is probably an extra layer… He prefers the one with the labels instead, so we are looking at the droids, trying to intuit these emotions (even though they're not human). So clearly you can go with what you've started… Onwards!
MG: Thanks! Let me try to change your mind… I was hoping to avoid using words since some of the droids don't speak human. By having the word, it immediately gives away the answer and removes that interactive layer. My two cents!
LS: Hmmm. I agree that it might be best without actual text, but I also see my editor's point. Hmm!! Is there some other kind of suggested emotional read? Could we have the characters suggest emotions with their poses (or maybe the backgrounds — storm clouds for angry, etc)?
December 22, 2015
LS: Just checking in and sharing the final hed and dek for the article:
The Hidden Contradiction In Our Love for R2-D2: Star Wars droids are halfway between human and inhuman, allowing us to both love and disregard them
MG: Cool! With this hed, I might put R2 in the center! Been working on this and having lots of fun with it!
LS: I was thinking the same about R2… back from retirement!!
December 23, 2015
MG: Good morning Len!
Here's my illustration so far! Please please please note it's still in progress (especially the bottom row.)
Some ideas for the spot and 9th box. The 9th box is rough but looks kinda weird since it's not a portrait of the droid and a very specific scene / inside baseball. (The gonk / power droid getting tortured upside down in Return of the Jedi.) I'd also have Chopper (from Rebels) who's a fellow Astromech (like R2 and BB-8) in the 9th row. It'll form a cool diagonal and he's pretty sassy with his little arms!
LS: I love the insider baseball happening here, and I have to admit, probably over my head (letting down my geek squad)…
I actually got the gonk droid reference tho… just to give myself some cred!
MG: Just checking! Think I'm going to replace the Death Star ball droid with Chopper. Much cuter and expressive!
December 30, 2015
MG: Are you working today? Here's the latest version (90% done I think). I'm having so much fun and think the droid-mojis are the way to go! =) Please let me know what you think! Thanks!!!!!!!!
LS: I did take a look (with Jude [Len’s son], who explained every one of the droid's reactions! He also knows Chopper!). Obviously it's doing the trick!
For R2-D2's bubble, the Death Star is the only direct reference to an instance in the plot, and though it's a nice SW-geek moment, as the central character, I'm not sure it works in the sense of trying to suggest an emotion. Just remember, there might be readers who won't get the reference (gasp!). So what might we have R2 saying to suggest danger/fear, or anxiety?
January 3, 2016
MG: I think we got it! I moved both sides in so everything is balanced. Attached is the final. Please let me know what you think! Also, thank Jude for his art direction too! =)
LS: Yes, I think the two tweaks are working! I'm going to add to layout and I'll share with the ed-in-chief, but I think we're golden!!