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A Project From Initial Rough Office Sketch To Finished Ink & Color Renderings

This rendering began as a side conversation about a new property that was acquired that need some marketing. Curios, the owner asked "Can you draw something up?" "Sure..... Do you mind two sheets notebook filler paper?"

"Can you do it right now from photos? (Always carry a pen....)

It helps to be able to sketch ideas quickly in perspective for a potential client. Ten minutes later he was sending out a rough sketch of his concept from his cellp[hone.

It isn't detailed but presents a general size, proportion and use of signage near a highway site.


The first meeting is discovery of what a client must have in the rendering. This project involved a family destination hot-rod theme with restaurant, auto parts store, body shop, hot-rod assembly & repair shop, go-cart race track and a stage for music concerts on site. I always walk the property and take photos for future reference finding clues on sun angles, shadows and foliage. The client wanted a period 1930s and 40s look using glass block, old gas station product signs and two period gas pumps to set the theme. The start/finish line idea was mine as were the finish line flags and all the signage design. The site is directly off a major highway and easily seen by drivers. Hence, weight was given to large signage that would light up the night sky and attract people to the exit ramp. A sign company was consulted for advise on the size of these lights and code issues. The 1930 Yellow Model-A Ford was a must-have over the entry doors as was the racing stand with lights just off the "GO" position. 


The composition had to consider a very wide, flat building and oversized signage. The initial solution was to create amovement with a focal point down low and sweep the viewers eye up into the rendering. Verticals were used to break up the flatness of the building and give the eye other places to consider, especially period gas station signage. People are used to show scale and in this case create a festive, fun atmosphere.

The second attempt adds details and works the composition. Signage will be an important selling point for marketing.The original perspective is now only a base as elements change to carry signage. More entry doors were needed and the restaurant is n ow open to the parking lot side. The go-cart section is added, enlarged enough to show race car activity and onlookers.


The third presentation adds a right side foreground. The eye can now move right or left along the building or in an ellipse from the light tree to the Model-A to the large sign on top the building to the new burger caution sign. Tree elements are also going to be placed on the right to Crete opportunities for shade & shadow. The rendering is becoming busy - as it should - as this business is offering many choices for patrons.


As is always the case, once into the actual final work opportunities happen that were never expected. We, call them "happy accidents", prevalent in any creative genre be it music, painting, architectural design, penmanship, sculpture, etc. Pen & ink renderings are drawn light to dark because once you are too dark, there is no escape from a mistake but painting it out which might be seen in reproduction. But "happy accidents" rule over everything. If you have one - always use it. In this case - especially in a night time scene - care had to be taken to draw the eye where needed and create movement. Active people enjoying themselves needed light source definition to detail the checker patterns, escaping interior glow at glass areas and a lighter building paint color specified as yellow by the owner. It took patience to get the car engine to "spit fire" in the lower foreground. The surrounding area went through many revisions to allow everything to read properly. A problem developed with the foreground "start tree" taking away dominance from the main entrance, unavoidable with the choice of perspective showing both sides of the building with readable signage. The eye can continue to the right side of the building all the way to the go-cart area or go straight up into the gas pumps, 1930 Model-A and entry doors, then to the brightness of the moon.It is a "busy" solution, but this business is going to be ultra busy day and night. It was agreed a night rendering would show the effect of the signage better, especially with a major highway almost across the street. The dark areas underneath the foreground car, left side grass area and sky were redone and darkened down many times as values were compared and lighting took the effect of a night time "glow". The right side parking area was an after-thought to show a busy complex, not an actual parking layout. Hopefully, the end result is wanting to be the next car to the "start line tree" waiting for "go" or fighting it out in a go-cart on the race track behind the building - a place where the rendering has teaked your curiosity.

The black and white rendering was created because local newsprint might be too coarse to display a color rendering.

Pen and ink looks better on poorer quality paper. Color renderings can look washed out and lose detail on normal newsprint.

Also, details in Blakeys and white will read better using a smaller photo, probably the case with a local newspaper.


The color final presented a different set of choices. I was not pleased with how the eye "capped" the building so I went all in with black and white paint to create a checkerboard row with a thick proportion at the top of the building. It carries the race theme through the large signs and pavement paint. It might be a touch too busy, but busy is what the owner wants. On that note an all black sky was considered with a moon hanging on the left side, but it seemed to tone the entire rendering down. The solution was a late dusk color scheme which in hindsight could have been even darker reds and blues. Much research was given the period oil and gas signage to create the aura the owner wanted. More people were added in the foreground and near the band stage for scale and "busy". Signage paint colors were agreed upon as "deep and readable" with no use of neon or tints that could not be read from a distance. It was agreed dark, bold colors would compliment and stand out against the yellow facade paint color. The lighting glow is slightly overdone because of the yellow building paint color. A yellow had to used that was bright enough but not overbearing . The yellow was toned down with a bit of orange as was the Model-A color. It also keep the yellow from appearing flat like it would on a house wall. The foreground light tree had to have the last orange row lit (when a dragster driver actually presses the accelerator) before the green. Press when you see green and you are late. One always learns a lot about a clients business when researching the rendering specifics. Shade and shadow techniques bring out the flags. A few more were added at the band stage. The night time solution offers opportunities to throw yellow and orange reflections around as needed, hopefully against complimentary colors as the pavement has purple in it (orange/blue & yellow/purple). I always use color compliments in shade and shadow manipulations to make the building and signage read.

The color rendering was executed for higher quality magazine print where color matching and details are important.

Magazine marketing usually requires a larger image for clarity, especially if a reporter is critiquing this establishment.

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