Making of a Shamrock Shake Leprechaun

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As they say in showbiz, "There are no small parts, only small actors" and this guy is a small actor indeed. The assignment was to digitally illustrate a leprechaun painting a billboard sign, Trompe L'Oeil style, to advertise last year's announced return of McDonald's Shamrock Shake. It was termed "urban signage". Translation: a sign that would go above the entryways to Chicago's downtown L-train and other locations. I was provided the Art Director's thumbnail sketch and told to make the figure turn and look at the viewer as if "caught in the act". When working on storyboards or in my usual finished illustration style, I generally don't use photo reference, but in this case, the client wanted a semi-realistic style, so I had my son shoot a few humiliating reference shots of me in character. I gave the AD a proposed pencil sketch along with an edgier cartoony version as an alternative. I preferred that version myself, but the client definitely wanted more realism. Even if they'd gone with the alternate version, I'm sure I would've had to delete the pipe, which was my favorite part anyway. :) After the sketch was approved, I scanned it in and used it as an underlay in Photoshop. I digitally painted over the sketch on a new layer, reducing the opacity to about 50%. Once the simple shapes were blocked in, I made the layer fully opaque and continued refining the figure, starting with the face. I had to keep reducing the size of the image on the screen to get an idea of how it would look at a much smaller size. By doing that, about halfway through the job, I decided that the body should be smaller in proportion to the head. Fortunately, I was working in layers,so it was a pretty easy fix to reduce the body size. Near the finish, I adjusted the levels in Photoshop to increase the overall contrast and deepen the shadows. All in all the job went very smoothly and though the finished figure was a miniscule part of the composition, it was fun seeing it posted in a couple of locations within a block of the office.