And now, for something completely different: I created this image of Snake Eyes and Timber for GI Joe Classified Series late last year, but true to form I just got around to cracking open the box from Hasbro a few days ago!

Since most of my personal work these days is devoted to my playing card project (which demands a fairly consistent style, subject matter, and composition for each piece) I’ve noticed that my commercial projects to be filling the “playground” role I’d normally find in my personal work… in no small part because I’ve really lucked out in the last couple of years with some clients who seemed happy to gave me free rein to create something cool!

This was one such “you do you” dream job, and as such, I used it as an opportunity to play with some of the things that I feel strong ties to — graphic lines, unapologetic hard edges, the comparative freedom of digitally-applied color — but often feel the need to de-emphasize in my personal work out of fear of getting too cartoony, perhaps in the questionable pursuit of becoming a “serious artist.”

The composition on this one was an interesting puzzle because it had to work as a standalone poster image, but also fit the wraparound die layout of the action figure packaging. Here’s what I came up with; the image underwent a few minor changes from my original sketch (a more heroic pose for Snake Eyes, and a wolfier facial expression for Timber).

Like most of my pieces, the heavy lifting is done in traditional media with a monochromatic underpainting in pencil, ink, and white charcoal; the final colors and value pump are all digital.

Since Snake Eyes is perhaps the least fancy dresser of all the Joes, I had to create interest in his outfit entirely through detail and texture, while maintaining the feel of a black-on-black-on-black color scheme. As the image developed, I became more and more grateful for the changes to his pose from my sketch; the revised silhouette helped keep him from looking like a featureless licorice gumdrop at print size.

And, here’s the nearly-impossible to photograph corner wraparound on the package itself! At long last, I have someone in the studio with sufficient firepower to keep those renegade artists’ mannequins in line. Pew pew!