So, come the middle of May, I’ll be performing in False Matters with folks from Gnap! Theater Projects. For the clicky-averse, it’s an improvised Philip K. Dick show. Ambitious and crazy, to be sure, but we’ve been rehearsing and building ensemble for the last few weeks, and had an amazing run-through this past Tuesday – I would have been totally happy had that been a show in our run, so I have high expectations for how this show turns out.
One of the challenges we’re looking at is how to take a suggestion for the show that will properly inspire a PKD-ish story. So, during our last rehearsal, we sat down in front of a whiteboard and the cast threw out common elements and themes from his stories. We’ve all been reading and watching and listening to his work, of course, to prepare for the show, so we’re all fairly familiar with it by now; I’ve been a long time fan of Dick (hurr hurr), so I’m all over it, as well.
Anyway, it appears that I’m going to be building a little application in Flash (probably running under AIR) that will do a spinny thing with a bunch of icons representing the concepts we brainstormed this week, alongside a hexagram from the I Ching, which Dick was fairly obsessed with for a while. We’ll have that on a laptop or projected somewhere, hit the randomizer button, get our thingies, and present it to the audience for interpretation. From there, it’s all made up, creating a world that’s already science-fiction-y, and throwing a PKD-style reality breaker in there at some point. It’s going to be insane and a total blast.
But, you’re not here to listen to me talk about improv, right? You want to know how I’m making those icons, yeah? Well, Photoshop. Durr. I’m going for a beat-up, hand-drawn kind of look, while retaining some of the regular lines that people expect from icons and whatnot.
So, I’ve got a mostly – but not quite – regular octagon cut out with white on a black background. On top of that, I’ve shopped and dropped a scratchy background that’s big enough that I can reposition it and flip it around so that each icon will have a fairly unique, but consistent distressed look to it. (I’m also flipping around the slightly irregular octagon, but that’s just barely noticeable.) Every now and then, when I add the text for the icon, I tilt that a degree or two one way or the other just to add to the off-kilterness, but I keep forgetting to do that, so we’ll see how often the tilted text happens. It’s probably good not to do that too often, just enough to keep things interesting here and there.
So, I’ve got my nice template for the icons, so all that’s left is the drawing. I’ve got thirty or forty icons to create – the list got pretty deep – and I was kind of dreading bouncing back and forth between Photoshop and Illustrator to create the vector art for the icons and bringing it back over to the template and rendering them out and so on. I could have gone the other way, adjusting the borders and backgrounds and bringing them into Illustrator, but that would have been just as bad.
But hey, there’s a pen tool in Photoshop, too! It’s been a good long while since I really worked out with that there, so I figured I’d give it a shot. Turns out, it’s a lot easier to handle than I’d expected – between the pen proper (and its sub-tools), and being smart with the path selection and filling/stroking tools and whatnot, I was able to quickly crank out a dozen or so of the icons.
Take a gander at what we’ve got so far:
Not bad, right? Those are all totally hand-drawn from scratch, except the animal one, which I traced from a photo of a dog with the pen tool, and worked up from there. But still, just using pens and brushes and shapes and straight-up photoshoppery, not too shabby for a non-artist like myself. I’m about a third of the way into the project, but it’s a lot of fun so far. I’ll have to sit down and write some code sooner or later – well, before the week is out, probably – but for now, I’m having a great time just coming up with the ideas for these icons and knocking them out.