December 2014

Fifty More!

by David Dedrick on December 31, 2014

Everyone should have traditions and it’s becoming a tradition here at Sneaky Dragon HQ that, when we reach fifty new title cards, I take a moment to look back on almost a year of inserting a drawing of a dragon into various pop culture references.

This is the third in a series (you can find the first two here and here) so I will follow my now well-established format of reflecting on the process of creating title cards, some trivia that is interesting to me and then I will choose what I think is the best and the worst of this year’s title cards.

During our recent question and answer show for our 150th episode, I said that that creating the title cards was both my favourite and also the worst part of Sneaky Dragon. Although I was kind of joking , it is also kind of true (and, by the way, Ian’s heartfelt answer that it is the contact between Sneaky Dragon listeners and us that is so amazingly awesome is the right answer). That being said, it’s me that set this weird goal that I will draw a new title card every week. I set this goal MYSELF and no one is forcing me to do it, but every weekend I sacrifice an entire day to each title card, and that is a strange thing to do. On the other hand, I have this great little forum to express myself creatively. I have the opportunity to exercise my sense of humour, my (apparently vast) knowledge of pop culture and my drawing abilities creating these – let’s face it – weird little vignettes.

Not all of them are great and I’m okay with that. We have mantra at Sneaky Dragon, which is: “It’s not just good; it’s good enough.” And sometimes good enough is the best you’re going to get and you know what? Sometimes it really is good enough and working under a (fairly) strict deadline has taught me to accept that. As a child of extremely critical parents I developed a coping strategy of procrastination and self-sabotage designed to control how I was criticized. After all, “If it is never finished, it can never be judged.” Of course, the fact that you never finished could be criticized, but not finishing was your choice so you control that criticism and you can frame a mythology around that failure: “I’m a perfectionist.” “It wasn’t worth the trouble.” “No one cares about that stuff.” (Coping strategies are often as weird as doing weekly dragon-themed drawings.)

As I look over this most recent crop of title cards (and, believe me, I don’t look back at these cards very often), I’m actually struck by their overall quality – there are only a couple that I would describe as middling and that has more to do with what I intended and not with what I got. Artists and performers always forget that the audience has no idea what our intentions were and will only judge us by what they can see – not what we meant to do. On the other hand, I know when I failed to bring off the original idea so my judgement will be harsher than yours. On the other other hand, I’m judging these cards on criteria known only to me: some little trick or accident that happened – bits of trivia that are pleasing to me, but which have nothing to do with the finished product itself.

For instance, for the Episode 131 America’s Got Talent parody title card I decided to have the other contestants terrified of a dragon in their midst. It’s easy to draw one person scared, but you don’t want everyone in the same pose so I thought I should use some reference pictures and found these hilarious photographs of people at the, I’m assuming, climactic moment in a haunted house and combined them with the original silhouettes to get the appropriate reactions.

Sneaky-Dragon-Episode-131

Here are a couple of the photos. Can you spot the people in the drawing?

Scared-People_2 Scared-People_1

And for the Episode 132 title card, the Calvin peeing sticker was placed on my neighbour’s truck. (I took a picture of it that afternoon.) You’re looking down our street towards the trees at the end of the road. I had originally planned to use my wife’s SUV and, as you can see, actually finished the title card before changing my mind and using the pick-up truck instead. Don’t ask me why I changed my mind – I think it might have had to do something with the rain on the window and the lightness of the window compared to the one on the pick-up truck. (It does have the benefit of the decal being larger though…)

Sneaky-Dragon-Episode-132Sneaky-Dragon-Episode-132_Alt

The still I screen-grabbed for The Shining title card for Episode 106 couldn’t possibly exist in the film. I actually ended up placing Shelley Duvall in the shot so I could have someone saying, “Sneaky Dragon!” It’s a pretty impressive piece of trickery. Even the shadows behind her seem to suggest that she is really there. She wasn’t.

Sneaky-Dragon-Episode-105

Whether my drawing has improved over the this year’s run of title cards, it’s hard for me to say. I don’t do that much actual drawing. Besides me, Ian and Sneaky D, most of the artwork is traced from its source material or Photoshopped in some way. The Doctor Who-themed title card and the Tintin parody are two that were drawn without tracing. There have been some technical improvements as I always seem to learn new ways to do these things.  Last year I figured out that I could create screen grabs from my own DVDs or Netflix to alter in some way. This year I added a few more arrows to my quiver. I found a great brush for giving a painted look in Photoshop and I learned how to create lettering in Illustrator so it doesn’t look like it was shakily drawn by me – if we compare the title lettering on the Betty and Veronica cover parody and the lettering on the Care Bears parody you can see the difference between the rather shaky “Davy and Ianica” and the more polished “Care Dragons”. Like the previous step forward in my colouring process, it does add a little time to the overall process, but I’ll trade time for quality any day.

Sneaky-Dragon-Episode-123Sneaky-Dragon-Episode-130

You can see a comparison here between the original, hand-drawn version of Care Dragons and the version drawn in Illustrator using the Pen tool. The hand-drawn version isn’t terrible, but when compared to the original or my vector-based version it looks a little shaky.

Sneaky-Dragon-Lettering_Example

You can click to enlarge this to see the admittedly subtle differences. I was showing these to “Phyllis” and she said, “They both look same to me”, but the differences to me are glaring!

All right, enough about my mental problems, let’s talk process!

PROCESSES

I’m going to talk process about a few different title cards that I’ve done – mostly because I just love process talk and seeing all the behind-the-scenes artwork and do-it-yourself information. If you don’t like process talk, you can skip down below where I select my favourite/least favourite title cards.

Yellow Submarine/Action Comics Mash-Up Process

I’m sorry that I can’t remember who it was, but one of our listeners requested that I talk about the process behind the Yellow Submarine/Action Comics title card, as well as discuss the differences between doing a title card like that and doing one that is mostly Photoshopped. These are both great topics for a post like this and I put off answering until it was time to do one of my retrospective title card posts, but in the meantime I lost your name so my apologies!

So let’s take a look at Yellow SubmarAction Comics: like every title card, the subject matter came out of something Ian and I were talking about on the show. I think at some point one of us even brought up the idea of mashing up Yellow Submarine with Action Comics, but which of us thought of it or if we really did talk about it I can’t remember now. (Hey, we were both sick during that episode!)

Besides the cleverness of the initial concept, the rest of the work was fairly pedestrian. I usually start a title card by finding the initial image and opening it in Photoshop. Then I’ll print out a large image that I can work on top of – using the original image as a template. Since I’d already done a parody of the Action Comics cover, I had a large image of the original.

Remember this?

Sneaky-Dragon-Episode-72A

(Ah…physical injury to me and Ian. So good.)

So I printed out a large image (four pieces of paper taped together) to draw on top of. Here is the original Action Comics cover:

Action-Comics

And here is cover image with an overlay of my title card. You can see how many elements of the original image are carefully mirrorred in the title card:

Overlay

With the Action Comics image at hand, I then used Google Image search to find pictures of the Beatles, Jeremy Boob, the chief Blue Meanie and the submarine for reference.  Often when I work on title cards I’ll work on different elements separately so let’s say I started with the submarine. This was pretty easy to do because I just traced the image of the submarine, adding the damage to the nose, shattered windows, etc. I probably placed the submarine over the original Action Comics image to size it correctly and then printed that out. (It was a pretty big image – consisting of two pieces of paper taped together.)

Yellow-Submarine_Rough-Pencils

Next I drew the Chief Blue Meanie, using the reference pictures I’d printed out. This was drawn separately from the submarine. I simply laid a piece of paper over Superman and then using him as a guide, drew the Chief Blue Meanie. You have to work within the limitations though – the Chief Blue Meanie does not seem to have articulating knees, choosing to travel everywhere by goosestepping instead, so I couldn’t copy Superman’s exact pose, but found a happy approximation.

Blue-Meanie_Rough-Pencils

Next, on a separate piece of tracing paper, I added Ringo to the corner of the image. I chose Ringo to be the large image because he’s my favourite design. No one is going to mistake Ringo for someone else. I felt the same about Lennon’s character design. The less striking McCartney and Harrison could have their backs to us. (You can see I thriftily saved tracing paper by drawing Paul and George on the same piece of paper as Ringo.)

Ringo_Paul_George_Rough-Pencils

Judging from the orange construction lines, I wasn’t having much trouble drawing these characters.

So then I drew John Lennon in place of the man on his hands and knees. (You can see where I was working on the Chief Blue Meanie’s boot.)

John-Lennon_Rough-Pencils

And then added Paul and George in place of the man running away from us.

Ringo_Paul_George_Rough-Pencils

Judging from this picture, I was drawing this title card using the following method: first, I had the original image; then I had a large piece of tracing paper taped to this with the panel borders ruled out; to this large piece of tracing paper I was adding elements of the drawing as I went along – for instance, upon finishing the submarine, I had traced this image onto the large piece of tracing paper so I could draw the Chief Blue Meanie interacting with the submarine, but I also could see Superman as well for reference. With the drawing of Paul and George, I can see that I didn’t bother to draw all of Paul’s leg, which tells me that Ringo’s head was already in place when I was drawing those two.

As with every title card, but two (episodes two and three), Sneaky D has to appear somewhere in the image so I thought it would be fun to use the “Nowhere Man” character Jeremy Hillary Boob Ph.D. transformed into Sneaky D in place of the tire in the original image.

Sneaky-Boob_Rough-Pencils

Once again, judging from the construction lines, I had way too easy a time drawing Sneaky D as Jeremy. For some reason, the drawing looked better with the arm coming forward (even though it is anatomically impossible that it should be visible). In retrospect, I wish I had drawn him in 3/4 perspective instead of the weird, flat way I chose to do it, but “good enough”! (You can see that I drew him “skipping” or whatever he’s doing in the wrong direction.)

After that it was all gravy. I psychedelicized the rocks being struck by the submarine, added some unobtrusive elements to make it look like Pepperland and then – as the original image has those radiating lines in the upper corners – I added the Yellow Submarine-inspired designs to the upper corners. I just drew one and then flipped it and traced it for the other corner.

Psychedelic-Rocks_Rough-Pencils Corner-Design_Rough-Pencils

As I said, I was adding all these images onto a large sheet of sketch paper…

Sneaky-Dragon-Episode-109_Pencils

…then inked it with a Micron pen to imitate the lines of the animated cel. This was scanned into four separate images that were then “stitched” together to make one large image in Photoshop.

Sneaky-Dragon-Episode-109_Inks

Colouring was quite easy because it was just flat colours with no shading. I generally keep the original images I’m copying on hand so I can quickly choose the correct colours with the Eyedropper tool.

Sneaky-Dragon-Episode-109_CMYK

Then I began to construct the final image in layers using Photoshop. The black border lines of the original cover were re-drawn in Illustrator and coloured to suit the Yellow Submarine colour palette – then placed into the image in Photoshop.

Sneaky-Dragon-Episode-109_Border

The Yellow Submarine image was then placed under this layer.

Sneaky-Dragon-Episode-109_With-Image

I then added the blue gradient to the title box.

Sneaky-Dragon-Episode-109_With-Gradient

I had a tricky time trying to find suitable lettering to replace the original Action Comics lettering. I managed to find a font that replicated the Yellow Submarine font so I used that, but it still took some fooling around to get it right. Here are two different arrangements that I didn’t like. The first one was done before I settled on the change from Yellow Submarine to Sneaky Submarine. I didn’t think the yellow was bright enough and I didn’t like the All-Caps SUBMARINE. The next image is very close to what was eventually used. I liked the Sneaky and the lower-case Submarine, but I wasn’t very happy with the red highlight on the lettering.

Sneaky-Dragon-Episode-109_Alt-TItle1Sneaky-Dragon-Episode-109_Alt-Title2

I finally settled on a plain yellow for the lettering. After that I just added elements from the original image – the date and the issue number became the episode number and date of the episode. Only the ten-cent price was cut and pasted from the original image. And that was it!

Sneaky-Dragon-Episode-109

Harry Podder Process

Another more recent re-creation was the spoof of the Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire cover. Once again, this was relatively straightforward. Rather than use an image glommed off the web, I stole a copy of the book from Myllis’ room and scanned that into the computer. I then printed out the image without the lettering above it (to save on ink!) and taped this to piece of tracing paper. I quickly sketched out the main elements of the drawing so I could make it look as authentic as possible. It looked like this:

Cover_Rough1

Using that as a template, I began to draw the various parts of the image on bits of tracing paper. First, Ian flying on his broom, reaching out for the Kinder egg.

Sneaky-Potter_Roughs4

Ian was pretty easy to draw since he was modeled on Harry Potter from the original image.

Then me being burned alive in the dragon’s breath.

Sneaky-Potter_Roughs3 Sneaky-Potter_Roughs2

It obviously took a lot longer to draw me in a way I was happy with, but I finally settled on the green one in the centre of the second page. I didn’t have to worry about the bottom part of the drawing since it would be engulfed in flames.

Finally, Sneaky D itself flying in the air and shooting flames out of his mouth.

Sneaky-Potter_Roughs5

You can see on the rough outline above that I’d already done a fairly detailed rough of Sneaky D so it was pretty easy to draw him.

I then traced these various elements together onto a larger piece of tracing paper.

Sneaky-Potter_Pencils

And then inked this image using my trusty #4 Robert Simmons.

Sneaky-Potter_Inks

It was when I was colouring the image that I made a happy discovery. I wanted the colours to have a painted look, but not necessarily a watercoloured look – which I have imitated before.

Sneaky the Pooh

But something more like the original cover. Did I show you that?

Harry-Potter

So casting around in the brush menu I found a brush in the “Dry Media Brushes” that added a lot of painterly texture to the colouring. Guys, I was pretty excited. Here is a close-up:

Painting-Detail

And the finished coloured image:

Sneaky-Potter_CMYK

After that, the rest was gravy. As usual when putting together a pastiche, I will place the original image in a layer with the transparency set low so I can arrange everything as exactly as possible:

Transparency

Originally I had changed the title to Harry Podder and the Tired of Gabbin’ as some sort of approximation of The Goblet of Fire, but I  had to admit that Ian and I will never tire of gabbin’ so I changed it to The Goblet of Gabbin’ which is better, I’m sure you’ll agree. (It was Ian who came up with the name Harry Podder)

Sneaky-Dragon-Episode-147

In the interest of verisimilitude, I also added the spider lines of crease marks that covered my daughter’s book. I want to make some title cards feel like it could be a real object. You’ll also noticed that I simply pasted in an actual picture of a Kinder Egg. ‘Cause I’m lazy.

Crease-Detail

Done! Post it and let’s go to sleep now.

Oh, wait. We were also going to talk about creating a more Photoshop-heavy title card, but I hope you’ll all notice that every title card relies heavily on Photoshop whether I’m working from an original image or  I’m altering an existing image in Photoshop.

It might seem like simply altering an image in Photoshop would be a lot easier than drawing an image from scratch, but, as every image involves some level of drawing – mostly of dragons –  it can often be just as time consuming to work in Photoshop on a cut and paste image as one I’ve mostly drawn.

For example, here is a relatively simple title card (for Episode 118), which was a silly riff on Sleeping Beauty in which Maleficent confronting the charging Prince is replaced by Sneaky D with a target on his chest.

Here is the title card:

Sneaky-Dragon-Episode-118

And here is the original:

Sleeping-Beauty

You can see that Sneaky D is smaller than Maleficent and instead of shooting flames at the Prince was looking in a worried manner at the target on his chest so I had to “draw out” those elements. I’ve laid out the two images on top of each other so you can see what wasn’t covered by Sneaky D and would have to be drawn out.

Transparency

The first step, as usual, is finding a suitable image. I wanted a big picture of Maleficent as the dragon because I wanted to insert Sneaky D in her place. This was the best image I found on Google Image Search. I printed out part of the image and then drew Sneaky Dragon on tracing paper.

Sneaking-Beauty_Rough-Pencils

(Whoa, I remembered to draw the wings!) Anyway, you can see that I’ve roughly sketched out the pillar on the bridge so I could tell where to put the hand. You can also see a whole lotta construction lines! I did a quick version with clean pencils…

Sneaking-Beauty_Pencils

…and quickly – and not very ably – inked it with a dip pen.

Sneaking-Beauty_Inks

The inked version was scanned into Photoshop, where I quickly coloured it in simple, flat colours.

Sneaking-Beauty_CMYK

Once all this was done, I could place the image in the picture and start to erase Maleficent. (I place Sneaky D in the picture first because I don’t want to worry about areas that are covered.) Often I use the “Stamp” tool in Photoshop to erase unwanted elements. This tool will sample one part of the image and draw it over another area – very handy for photographs where it’s more difficult to redraw elements. In this case I mostly used the brush tool set at one or two pixels and the eyedropper tool which will sample colours and redrew parts of the image to cover Maleficent.

You can see here in this detail Maleficent’s tail, which must be erased from the image:

Sneaky-Dragon-Episode-118---Process5

Here is the image with the tail erased by drawing in the smoke to cover it:

Sneaky-Dragon-Episode-118---Process3

You can see there are a couple of rough spots, but that’s okay because they’re going to be covered by Sneaky D’s tail as you can see in this image:

Sneaky-Dragon-Episode-118---Process4

Perfect! Of course, that was just the tail. I also had to paint out most of the rest of Maleficent and her flame breath as well. This image shows all that was left of Maleficent after I was finished.

Sneaky-Dragon-Episode-118---Process

All that was left was covered by Sneaky D:

Sneaky-Dragon-Episode-118---Process2

For objects that are in the foreground – covering up Sneaky D – I like to copy and paste the foreground elements over Sneaky D and then erase the parts of the image I don’t want to see. For instance, here you can see Sneaky D both before and after I added the fire, which is individual images pasted over Sneaky D. I do this so I’m not wrecking the actual image that I’ve pasted in. It’s easy to recopy the flame if I screw up – usually less easy to re-paste, re-size and re-position Sneaky D.

Sneaky-Dragon-Episode-118

After that I add the Sneaky Dragon word balloon and the Sneaky Dragon tag, and I’m done!

Much the same, but slightly different was the process for Episode 125, which was a title card based on Attack on Titan – as requested by recent guest Nina Matsumoto. Now I knew absolutely nothing about Attack on Titan besides that it wasn’t very well drawn so I did what I usually do – find an image that would be fun to draw. I think the image that I used was for the DVD of the TV show because, unlike the manga series, the art is pretty nice.

Step one is always to copy and open the image in Photoshop. Once there,  I’ll print a largish version of the relevant parts of the image. I’ll use this as a guide for whatever changes I have planned. This was a pretty easy image to work with and the idea suggested itself quite quickly – replacing the monster with Sneaky D and putting Ian and I in the place of the character holding the sword. Here is what the original image looked like:

Attack-on-Titan

So using that as a guide I roughed out a couple of scaredy-cats, namely Ian and me.

Attack-on-Titan_Rough-Pencils

You can see the simple construction lines I use to try and get a little dynamic quality into the drawing. (I secretly think I draw really wooden poses so I try to add a little body language if I can.) As you know, if you’ve read any of my process posts, I like to draw using various coloured pencils. (I use Col-Erase pencils.) The orange pencil was used for the initial rough outlines, which I then refined slightly with the purple pencil. The nice thing about this drawing was not having to draw feet since we would be standing behind some rocks. (Thanks, fellow lazy artist!) You can also see that I used curved lines to define Sneaky’s neck, but he’s so easy to draw I don’t even know why I bothered! Only my back patch has the microphones on it because I knew I could just trace it onto Ian’s jacket. That’s called being time efficient! (Also, lazy.) The microphones are a riff on the swords that are on the patch worn by the Attack on Titan character. I didn’t bother to draw those big things at his sides as I have no idea what they are!

Once I was happy with my roughs, I did the finished pencils.

Attack-on-Titan_Pencils

When I do the final pencils I rarely change stuff, but this time I lengthened the sword I was holding. Originally I had wanted it to recede in the distance as though I was holding it straight out in front of myself, but I couldn’t make it look convincing so I settled for second best. (If you look on the page with the rough pencils, you can see where I worked out the new sword.)

After pencils come inks. I inked this very simply with a small brush – probably a Robert Simmons #2. First, Ian and me:

Dave-and-Ian_Inks

Next, Sneaky D:

Sneaky-Titan

Once I’ve done that and coloured the characters after scanning them in…

Sneaky-Titan_CMYK Dave-and-Ian_CMYK

(You can see in this image that I added a layer of haze to match the smoky haze in the original image.)

…I go back to the original image and begin to erase elements that I don’t want to see in the picture. So the boy with the sword is gone, as are the monster at the top and the lettering. Unlike in the Sleeping Beauty-inspired title card where I did a lot of drawing to cover up parts of the image, the flames and mostly flat colours allowed me to use the Stamp tool almost exclusively.  I ended up with this:

Sneaky-Dragon-Episode-125_Basic-Image

I then added Sneaky D, and Ian and me to the drawing:

Sneaky-Dragon-Episode-125_Background-with-Characters

Then added the foreground elements to hide our footlessness and Sneaky’s bodylessness.

Sneaky-Dragon-Episode-125_Complete-Image1

Then, to be accurate, I had to add a layer of smoke hanging in the air. I had no idea how to do this so I did what I usually do, which is find a good YouTube tutorial to show me how.

Sneaky-Dragon-Episode-125_With-Fog

I had decided early on that it would be a funny joke that no one would get if I changed the Japanese words to say “Sneaky Dragon” instead of “Attack on Titan” or whatever the Japaneses actually says. (As it turns out, two of our listeners got the joke so congratulations to Maire and Nina!) Like a high school student needing a quick translation, I went to Google Translate and typed in “Sneaky Dragon”. It gave me this: 卑劣なドラゴン.

The original title lettering is very distressed, but first I had to make sure I was accurately drawing the Japanese characters. So, using the original Attack on Titan lettering as a guide, I drew out a fairly straight-forward version of the lettering – partly with a ruler and partly freehand. I was mostly concerned with getting the style and thickness of the lettering accurate at this point. This was my “rough” pencils, which ironically are probably easier to read then the finished version:

Sneaky-Titan-Lettering_Rough-Pencils

The so-called finished pencils weren’t much more polished. I basically traced out a somewhat neater version of the original rough pencils and then added the distressed elements used for the original lettering.

Sneaky-Titan-Lettering_Pencils

Here is the inked version (Inked with a .3 Micron liner – the inked line didn’t matter much as it would be coloured white in Photoshop):

Sneaky-Titan-Lettering

Which then went on to the image, along with the Sneaky Dragon word balloons. Here is the finished image:

Sneaky-Dragon-Episode-125

Phew! Okay, enough process talk! Let’s get to what really matters: the stinkeroos and my favourite title cards of the past year!

THE BEST AND LEAST BEST OF 2014

First, five title cards that I think aren’t so hot. (You’re welcome to disagree, but please don’t feel the need of adding your own!) I’ve included their titles for the heck of it.

Sneaky-Dragon-Episode-106

Episode 106 “From Tusk til Dawn” – Agh. A great idea (I think, anyway) – changing Barbarella to Babarella. Brilliant, right? Well, darn it all, I really blew this one. There is just something not quite right about the Babar figure. I didn’t get him quite right. The original poster colours were ugly too so I can’t complain about that, but the whole thing didn’t quite work for me.

Sneaky-Dragon-Episode-121

Episode 121 “It’s Freakin’ Impossible!” – Based on the LP cover for the soundtrack of the TV show, here is a real “Git ‘er done” job – done before our annual trip down to Seattle for Emerald City. Seriously. Move along. Nothing to see here.

Sneaky-Dragon-Episode-133

Episode 133 “This Title Card Gets the Record” – I really wanted this one to work. The record is from my own collection of language records (sigh…yes, I have a collection of language records), but I couldn’t really come up with anything to make the concept more than pedestrian. Ah, well.

Sneaky-Dragon-Episode-144

Episode 144 “Peanuts Envy” – Should have been a natural! But I didn’t do the obvious and make the psychiatrist stand taller to suit Sneak D. Instead, I squeezed him in in that awkward way. Sucks to be me sometimes. Alternatively, I could have drawn a Peanuts-style Sneaky Dragon, but I didn’t do that either. Hindsight is…

Well, four out of fifty isn’t bad!

I don’t think any of those title cards are bad. Just personally disappointing and one of the negatives about tight deadlines and instant publication is it’s time consuming to second-guess yourself so sometimes stuff goes out there that you’re not all that proud of.

Now let’s take a look at my personal favourite title cards for this past year. I like them because they’re all great! Or for personal reasons that have nothing to do with aesthetics. It’s all good. You can have your favourites too. In fact, let me know which ones you like best in the comments section below.

So, in no particular order (with their titles):

Episode 104 “Who Is It?”

Sneaky-Dragon-Episode-104

Pretty good. It seems strange that it took 104 episodes before I got a chance to draw a Doctor Who-themed title card, but there is no rhyme nor reason to title cards I’ve learned. My favourite part of this drawing is Sneaky D as the dalek, which was a lot of fun to draw. I had to watch a YouTube tutorial to figure out how to add the flare from the TARDIS light. I only wish I’d done a better job drawing me and Ian. You should see all the tortured attempts I made to draw us!

Episode 107 “We’re Having a Ball!”

Sneaky-Dragon-Episode-107

I’ve done several seasonal title cards and I think they’re all okay, but this one I really like a lot. It isn’t based on anything in particular. The idea for it popped into my head about a month before Christmas so when the time came I photographed  our own ornaments and Christmas tree. That’s a big part of why I like this title card. It’s also a really great visual.

And I seem to like putting Sneaky D inside a ball!

Episode 109 “Smash Hits!”

Sneaky-Dragon-Episode-109

Kind of an obvious choice, but if I’m going to pat myself on the back for high concept title cards like my A Boy and His Dog/Adventure Time mash-up, then I’m going to have to choose a mash-up of the iconic Action Comics cover and Yellow Submarine. There is a long description of the process above so I won’t talk about that.

Episode 115 “The Heart of the Problem”

Sneaky-Dragon-Episode-115

I really enjoy the visual of this title card plus it’s a pretty good joke. The lettering was scanned from a Dover font collection so each letter was individually cut and pasted in Photoshop.The only problem I had was that the original image…

Box-of-Chocolates

…was a full box of chocolates so I had to find other chocolate box images with empty spaces that I could cut and paste to make the box look partially empty.

Episode 123 “Beauty and the Dave”

Sneaky-Dragon-Episode-123

Archie artist Dan Parent was the guest on this episode so I really wanted to: a) do an Archie-style title card and b) do a Dan Parent drawn cover. After much searching, I found this great cover and what a fun cover to reproduce (also, everyone seems to like me in a dress). Obviously since I’m fairer than Ian I played the Betty role and Ian got to be the jealous Veronica, looming over Sneaky D and I. As I said above, I wish I’d figured out how to do lettering in Illustrator, but that didn’t come together until the Care Bears parody cover for Episode 130. (I want to point out that Ian is also wearing a dress!)

Episode 125 “Attack on Attack on Titan

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Funny how some of the title cards I’ve given detailed process descriptions of are turning up in my “best of” list. The subject was requested by Nina Matsumoto, but I’m not sure why. I’m not sure if she is a big fan or just wanted to see me make fun of it. To be honest, what makes this image work is that the original image is so good. I’ve just hitched my wagon to their star (and you could say that about most of these title cards). I do like how I drew Ian and I with our chickbleep knocking knees and changing the Japanese to “Sneaky Dragon” really tickles my nerdy love of the “deep cut”. I’m glad two people got it!

Episode 129 “Big Probe-lems”

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Based on the cover to Tintin and the Shooting Star or as it’s known in French Tintin et l’Etoile Mystérieuse. (And, hey, do you want to know something dumb? The English version – The Shooting Star – doesn’t use the “o” with the star in it!)

Tintin

I changed the island setting to the icy wastes of Hoth and  the space probe took the place of the giant mushroom. I was able to find a Hergé style font online, which made the title a lot easier to do.  I opted for the French partly for authenticity, but also because I love that little “o” with the star in it! The title translates as Tauntaun and the Mysterious Space Probe.

Boy, the problem with doing these retrospectives is you can see all your dumb mistakes that were buried under the rush of deadline, but now stick out like sore thumbs. But you don’t care about that so I won’t mention that I wish I’d used a pen to ink Tauntaun and Sneaky Snowy or that I should have erased the rock in the background from the final image. (Shhh. I never mentioned that.)

One of my favourite things about this title card is that I drew the space probe while sitting at our table with Ian at VanCAF this year since I had to be there all of Saturday and most of Sunday. Lots of people enjoyed seeing it and it was probably kind of cool to see it pop up in that week’s title card.

Here is the rough version of the probe drawn at VanCAF:

Space-Probe_Pencils

Episode 147 “A Burning Sensation”

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I chose this one because of the brush I discovered while colouring it. Yep, that’s all it takes to get into my Top Ten. It also meets the criteria of super-authentic to its source and it features bodily harm to one us -which I didn’t seem to do as much of this year, darn it all – and a Kinder Egg, which is a nod to our American friends who can’t enjoy those delicious treats.

Episode 149 “Like Clockwork”

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Another image that really is only good because of someone else’s wonderful design. That cover to A Clockwork Orange is just killer graphic design by David Pelham. (You can read a little bit about its hectic creation here. It’s a good story.) I’m not sure how Pelham got his fabulous lines before computers. I’m guessing rapidograph pens and French curves, and maybe drawn at a fairly large size so some of the “human element” was lost in the reduction for the book cover. Living in the future, I drew a rough version of Sneaky D with the iconic bowler hat and cog eye on tracing paper, scanned that into the computer, and “inked” it in Illustrator where unvarying lines are easy to create in vector. Although I have done colouring in the past in Illustrator, I haven’t done it a lot so to save time, I coloured the image in Photoshop and assembled all the cover elements in Photoshop as well.

You can see the progression of Sneaky Droog from start to finish:

Sneaky-Droog_Process

Episode 150 “Quick! Drive over them!”

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I’m not sure why I like this title card so much, but I really do. I’m sure I passed up some more notable title cards to include this one. There is something about the way we’re standing in front of the car – as slavishly copied from the original poster – that is charming with a certain insouciance. We look worn out, like we’d just finished our 150th episode and it was three and a half hours long. One problem with adding Sneaky Dragon to images is he is so darn tall and it can make for an awkward composition to fit him in. For this image I actually had to add some height so Sneaky D’s head would fit. Using the Stamp/Clone tool, I added in some sky and made the tree taller. Other than the three of us, there isn’t much drawing with this title card. The original movie poster was mostly text and I always try to stay true to the source material.

Here is one more little tip that I’ve learned doing title cards: sometimes you need to reproduce the font used in an image – for instance, changing Two-Lane Blacktop to All-Talk Non-Stop – but you don’t know which font it is. Well, there are a couple of websites that will pretty reliably identify what exact font you need. There are a few, but two I use are What the Font on the My Fonts website and What Font Is. For best results – since you can only use two letters – try to find letters that are most unique to that particular font. In the case of Two-Lane Blacktop, the font was Blippo, which I had in one of my Dover font books so I was able to cut and paste the lettering and make my silly title card as authentic as possible.

BUBBLING UNDER

Honourable mention goes to:

Episode 130 (“Too Many Balls In the Air”), which I’ve already mentioned. This was for the episode recorded at VANCaf featuring Steve Rolston. He had been a fan of Madballs comics as a kid so it seemed like a natural to find a cover I could parody for the title card. Strangely, the only one I could find that appealed to me was actually a Care Bears comic featuring the Madballs. That way I could change the Care Bears into Sneaky Dragons and feature Ian, Steve and I as Madballs. Other than that, there is nothing too remarkable…except this is the first title card where I used Illustrator to create the lettering. A trick I would repeat with Episode 131’s title card with the “Sneaky” in America’s Got Sneaky. You can see the progression below from the rough where using the A, E and N from the original lettering I approximated the look of the remaining letters; then the linework done in Illustrator and then the lettering coloured in Photoshop. The last step was to add the glittery fill to the letters, which I did by using the Clone/Stamp tool to copy the glittery fill from the original “Talent” onto a different layer beneath the layer with the lettering on it.

Sneaky-Lettering_Sample

Episode 135’s Popeye parody cover was a little simpler. I only had to change one letter and then do the linework in Illustrator. (Maybe I should explain that Illustrator is a vector-based graphics program so it’s quite a bit different than using Photoshop or Manga Studio. If you’re used to working in Photoshop, Illustrator can take some getting used to, but the nice thing about vector-based graphics is their mechanical smoothness and the fact that they can be endlessly enlarged without any reduction in image quality because they are not pixel-based.)

Podeye-Lettering_Sample

One of the most complicated lettering projects I undertook was the lettering of “Sneaky” in the “Sneaky GWAR” title card for Episode 140 with Ben Mills. It was a lot of work, hoo boy! First, I started with a rough pencils sketch of the lettering based on the GWAR logo.

Sneaky-GWAR-Lettering_Rough

Then I had to do the lettering in Illustrator in three layers starting with the inner lettering:

Sneaky-GWAR-Lettering-Outline_A

Then the slightly thinker outer lettering:

Sneaky-GWAR-Lettering-Outline_B

Then an under-layer of blue, which was just the first two layers copied, re-coloured and thickened.

Sneaky-GWAR-Lettering-Outline_C

(I’ll explain why I did this momentarily.) Now I had to colour the lettering which involved flatting all the colours, then adding the chrome highlights so it looked like this:

Sneaky-GWAR-Lettering_RGB

That took a while. Then I had to convert the image to colourhold so I could colour the black lines:

Sneaky-GWAR-Lettering_RGBH

Now this is why I needed the layer of blue lettering. I created a file with an image of just the blue lettering, which I opened in Photoshop:

Sneaky-GWAR-Lettering_CMYK_1

I then placed the chrome-coloured lettering over this so that the letters had a blue border just like in the GWAR logo!

Sneaky-GWAR-Lettering_CMYK_2

All that work for a dumb picture of Sneaky Dragon standing in as a member of GWAR.

Sneaky-Dragon-Episode-140

I must be insane. You all noticed that Oderus Urungus wasn’t very happy to see Sneaky D in the group, didn’t you?

Scared-Oderus-Urungus

You didn’t? ……Sigh….

OH MY GOD! I’M DOING MORE PROCESS!!!

AND IN THE END

Well, if you’ve read this far into the post, thanks, I appreciate it. Although these posts are a lot of work, it’s fun to be able to look back on my title cards every once in a while and take the time to appreciate all the work and inspiration that have gone into them. Even the ones that aren’t so great started off to be great and were still a lot of work – if not as inspired. When you’re doing one a week it’s hard to take the time to reflect on what you’ve done, you’re so busy thinking about the next one.

In the past I’ve tried to guess where inspiration would take me over the next year, but I’ve learned that there is no way to know or guess what the future holds so I’ll just say I hope I draw some really cool title cards for the next fifty!

If you’d like to tell me your favourite title cards or ask any questions about my drawing process, please feel free to leave comments below. Thanks!

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Sneaky Dragon Episode 160

December 27, 2014
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With Jason Dedrick! It’s a Dedrick Boxing Day tradition as David’s cousin Jason pops by to celebrate with Ian and Dave. It’s the return of Eggs Dedrick with a twist of Jason; they take a look at British cooking shows and spoon sucking and things take a nasty turn; we pull out the time machine […]

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Merry Christmas from Sneaky Dragon!

December 25, 2014
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To all our fans and friends, Ian and Dave would like to wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! Thanks to everyone out there who has taken the time to listen to our podcast. You don’t know what it means to all of us here at Sneaky Dragon HQ. Keep on writing to us […]

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Sneaky Dragon Episode 159

December 20, 2014
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Hello, Sneakers! Welcome back, my friends, to the show that never ends! (No, literally. It never ENDS!) This week: the religious denominations of Peanuts characters; the evolution of mud floors; dairy palaces and sex barns; Ian’s making it up; Sneaky Dragon is finally getting classy; the show is vitamin D deficient and that explains everything; […]

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Sneaky Dragon Episode 158

December 13, 2014
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Ola, amigos! Welcome to another Sneaky Dragon! And while we’re at it, let’s welcome Ian back from Portugal! The land that the Broken Window Theory forgot. This week: Ian bemoans late eaters; Dave defends spitoons and advocates for bar culture; they talk about their Caustic Soda appearances; Dave has a theory about fighting, but that’s […]

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Sneaky Dragon Episode 157

December 6, 2014
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Bom dia, Sneakers! Ian is in Portugal this week, but don’t let that stop us from having some sneaky fun! This week, a long, interesting conversation about the documentary Tim’s Vermeer, a film about a man who can’t paint who sets out to reproduce Vermeer’s The Music Lesson, which leads to a discussion about crazy […]

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