“I love to create slightly offbeat characters and weird worlds,” says Jon Ball. In his professional guise as Poked Studio, he has turned this love into a career, creating quirky – yet highly polished – miniature worlds for clients including MTV, the BBC, PlayStation, Doritos, Rossignol, and Penguin Books.
He says that vectors are a natural fit for the way he works – “I like using simple geometric shapes to create characters and worlds” – but it's not the only application he'll use. “I do about half my work in vectors, and half using 3D; most pieces tend to be a mix of vector and 3D work. I usually take works into Photoshop for some final editing,” he adds.
To illustrate his creative process, Jon talked us through how he created his art print Octobeast. He says: “I started with a simple sketch – though I don't always, and often my sketches are very simple, just the main element and its relationship to the rest of the picture. I then create some simple shapes in Illustrator.; the most complex shape in this picture was probably the eye.”
He continues: “I used various gradient fills for the iris and for the lens. Using custom brushes I created some veins around the eyeball, and made some transparent layers for highlights.”
Other elements were brought in on separate layers, then he exported it into Photoshop to add in the creased-paper texture. “This could be done in Illustrator, but it starts to get really slow when you add large raster layers in,” Jon says.
While the methods involved in creating images like this are surprisingly simple, Jon points out that the skills needed are anything but. “You could argue that these vector characters are simple to make and less time-consuming than a hand-drawn or 3D character, but having experience in most media I don't think that's true. You need a certain eye to get the proportions and shapes of vector characters right. Creating good and unique characters in Illustrator is just as hard as in any other media.”