Drawing Transformers

I spent some time at lunch today goofing around with my sketchbook in between bites of leftover chick pea and tomato stew doing terrible little sketches of Optimus Prime out of the first issue of IDW’s ongoing “Transformers” series. The story is set a few years after the events of the “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” movie and the design is a nice combination of the classic Generation 1 look and the movie external aesthetic. The skeletal frames of the Transformers are tighter and more solid, similar to “Gundam,” actually, but the way individual parts of the vehicles separate and rotate to provide more depth and geometry to the exterior definitely owes itself to the film designs. Overall, I really like the style; it’s a nice balance between the simplicity of Generation 1 and the overwhelming complexity of the films.

There are several excellent drawings of Prime in the book; I have the second printing, so he’s featured solo on the cover, and there’s a full-page, full-body panel (albeit from a low ground perspective) as the issue’s last page. Several other good shots are scattered throughout the book as well.

In trying to work out the shapes today, I immediately noticed that he’s drawn with four entirely different shoulders in the book. On the cover they’re boxy and square without a lot of detail on the front face other than Autobot logos. Inside the front cover they’re similar in shape, altough a hexagonal inset detail has moved from the top to the bottom. On the two-page spread on pages 3 and 4, the shape is similar but the left-shoulder logo is gone and the inset detail is now on the outside; I wrote this off to the panel being a flashback. When he appears “for good” about midway through the issue, his shoulders are radically different – they’re six-sided instead of square and have two significant “panel line” details running through the front face. They remain with this design throughout the rest of the issue, including the last-page full-panel splash.

The differences in the design are going to make working this guy out to be a little more difficult; I’ll need to make sure things are consistent if I’m using one drawing as a reference to a hidden part of another.

I wish I was as good at drawing this stuff as I am about finding nit-picky little differences in the drawings like this… Even the four or five sketches I’ve done is a reminder of how insanely talented the original artist is. Practice, practice, practice.

Andy Bartlett

By day, I am the executive director of communications and marketing at Bemidji State University. The rest of the time, I'm a husband, father of three, and proponent of super heroes, lasers, space ships and explosions.

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