Where’s Stig? was a surprise hit last Christmas, and has sold over 250,000 copies so far. Placing Top Gear’s iconic character, hosts and memes into a template made popular by Where’s Wally?, the book featured illustrations by Rod Hunt – who has created a new series of works for its sequel, Where’s Stig? The World Tour.
It's out today, so we spoke to Rod to learn more. We've also hidden a Stig somewhere in the latest issue of the print edition of Digital Arts. Find him and you could win a copy of the book!
DA: Were you surprised by how successful the first Where's Stig? book was?
RH: I think everyone involved was surprised how it captured the public's imagination. It was a bit of a leap into the dark for the show to do a fully illustrated book. Top Gear is hugely popular, so we thought it would do quite well, but it surpassed all expectations selling over a quarter of a million copies up to Christmas – and ended the year as the 4th bestselling hardback non-fiction book of 2009.
DA: What was the brief for the new book?
RH: Once the concept for the new book was decided on I had a few conversions with the commissioning editor at BBC Books about ideas and locations for the spreads. The obvious ones were places Top Gear had been, such as in the Bolivia and Romania adventure episodes. Others were partially based on stunts they’d done -- and also places I wanted to draw as they’d bring something different to the book.
Once we’d finalized the list of places around the world, I did a lots of research on content, stunts and jokes from the show so that all the details are correct. You won’t be surprised to know that I’ve watched a huge amount of Top Gear over the last two years.
From this I then wrote a detailed script for each spread -- plus ideas for the stuff to find, the cover and the introduction pages. The main thing for this book was to have a theme and narrative running through the book tying everything together. Once this had been approved by Top Gear and the publisher, I moved on to creating the roughs for the artwork.
DA: What's your creative process for producing these immensely detailed artworks?
RH: Everything starts in an A5 sketchbook with very rough compositions to work out the overall page layout and where text will be placed. At this stage I purposely draw with a biro so that I can’t erase anything, keeping away from detail to keep the ideas flowing. Compositionally, it’s important to have flow through the piece and lead the eye on a journey. It’s also important not to be seduced into the detail too soon and lose sight of the overall goal.
From there I move onto creating a detailed fully finished A3-sized pencil rough, drawing with a 2B pencil on heavyweight cartridge paper. It’s at this point I work out the amount of detail in the piece.
The roughs are then used as a guide in a background layer in Adobe Illustrator to produce the final artwork. I now work on a Wacom Cintiq, which helps with speeding things up. It’s a much more natural and intuitive way of working -- drawing directly on the screen -- than using an ordinary tablet. I break everything down into many layers to I can keep track of all the detail & make things easily editable for myself.
Details from the London spread.
DA: Which one's your favourite and why?
RH: It’s hard to pick an overall favorite, but I loved doing the Monaco Grand Prix spread as I’m a huge Formula One fan (and I purposely put it in the script so I could do it).
DA: How long did this project take to create?
RH: The book was a solid six months work, taking up the first half of 2010. I had to turn down all other commissions during this time as it’s such huge commitment, finishing it this time frame and hitting the print deadline. There was no room for overrunning if the book is going to hit the shops on time for the run up to Christmas.
DA: What's the secret to creating artwork as a puzzle?
RH: You want to keep people coming back, so attention to detail is very important. So you need to put a lots of little things in for people to discover on multiple viewings. With Where’s Stig? there are many layers: finding the Stig, the presenters and the jokes from the show -- but also the petrolhead stuff like identifying the many cars. It might help if you’re a bit obsessive compulsive too.