Autonomous Grand Prix Crash Tender (Finished!)

  • Above, initial thumbnail. 3" ballpoint on photocopy paper. At this point, mass and proportion, general gesture are solidified. Detail is suggested and applied in clusters of focal points. Because a fire truck is a mobile tool, nearly every inch of space has some interesting function or purpose. As a result, it ends up being a bit overwhelming in terms of detail and focal point layout. Main idea here is a extruded flattened hexagon fuselage riding high on narrow, large diameter wheels. Firetruck design for an alt-reality autonomous race series. Similar to airport firetrucks- Oshkosh and the like, front approach angle requirements, high ride were functional parameters, concept design cool fills in the rest. Off center support light bar continues on into the final illustration, but the location of the front glass and rear winglets do not. The dramatic gap between the rear tire and the body was a nice negative space area that got lost in the the final illustration process partly because of the change of perspective, but also in the logical addition of a rear fender. I'm always looking for ways for the silhouette of the vehicle to have lots of shape and movement. Peeks of background between surfaces and details catch the eye.
  • Above: Rendering process is a working color rough that transitions into a final tight illustration. "Back in the old days," you'd do some value studies, thumbnail sized on paper, and small color comps, in gouache. This modern analog-digital process allows you to comp the design and perspective in ink, then do all the color on the fly and use that loose comp as the foundation for the final. In this way, some of that looseness carries through, helping the final not be too sterile but having the essential detail. For my model box series, I use a standard ivory background tone that helps the object pop by value contrast, but also allows spare pure white highlights to come off the page. Conceptually, I wanted to do a red and brass vintage color scheme. Surfacing is pseudo 70's/80's. Rendering material is pure logic, considering light source, bounce light, sky tone influence, warm ground tone influence, specular warmth, fresnel effect. .
  • Completed color comp above. The ratio of brass to red to neutral greys and detail color is laid out. At this point, I'm blurring my vision to visualize the impact of everything together, silhouette, the read of the color, darker front, brighter side, 3D feeling. Detail is general, but not final. At this stage, even as a loose sketch, it should look strong and good.
  • Color comp completed, roughing in detail layout was done with ballpoint on small light value printout paper. I use callouts to clarify color, detail, function, etc. to my "future self" that will be looking at this small comp and trying to figure out what I meant with a squiggly line, days later. :)
  • Above, big chunks of detail resolving in the rear area. About 4 hours of work to this point from the previous step. Normally, I work from the front near corner focal point and work my way backwards, but this illo started from the front and is working its way forward because I was having second thoughts about the front end design. Tire tread and wheel rendering are painstaking and time consuming but really dictate the finish level for the vehicle and make it real.
  • Next, above, a brand new design/color comped front end. The previous front was too blunt, didn't have enough direction or forward movement for my taste. Pushing the C.O.E. proportion further by drawing the nose out gives the truck for character and directionality. New bumper concept is forthcoming. Roof detail is mainly neutral tone boxes- this is a color and value stage with which to ensure the brass water cannon is a strong focal point.
  • Detail of finished area. At a close view, the texture of the standard "dry pastel" Photoshop brushes adds an analog feel. I don't speak German, so decals and callouts are courtesy of the limitations of Google Translate. Corrections welcome.




  • Done! My conclusion is that I have an even greater respect for the old school gouache technical illustration people who would labor over a detailed design painting like this for a week or more without the benefit of such digital magic like layers, and the undo key. I worked on this over the course of several evenings and at times it did drag, the progress is indeed slow but I'm pleased with the result. (commences playing air guitar in celebration)