How did the project come about, what was involved in generating 54 unique characters and what did I learn along the way? Let’s get into it.
It’s been on of the longest projects I’ve been involved in, in terms of timescale. But it has been one of the most enjoyable to create.
Making unique characters has been the cornerstone of my career as an illustrator so a project focussed solely on creating a sequence of Tactical Teddies just had to be done. Through the creation of characters it allowed me to explore the world of Sublectus (home of the Tedlands) and the customs of its inhabitants in a more in-depth and direct way than illustrating the environments themselves. Though that is something I am keen to dive into in the immediate future.
Why playing cards?
I’ve always had a passion for card games and tabletop games in general and having a history in the print industry I often think of projects in terms of tangible products like cards.
A little while back I produced a small single series collector card set called “Tedland Wars”. There were 20 characters in the series and a handful of weapons and pyrotechnics to collect and the project was great fun to produce. I even made a mini game to play which was a blend of Rock Scissors Paper and the Top Trumps game.
It had been a couple of years since the Tedland Wars cards and I was getting the itch to create another project, it was between creating a second wave of Tedland Wars cards or playing cards.
Playing cards won for a few reasons.
One factor was cost of production meant I could sell them cheaper and create more than if I created a second run of collector cards. Another factor being the opportunity to create 54 characters instead of only 20 (if I kept the same pace as the debut set). That volume of artwork alone was enough to entice me. I often enjoy telling stories through character creation, the more you look the more you see of their lifestyle, their habits, interests and so on. Making a small army of them unencumbered by surrounding stats felt like a fresh and exciting project.
What were the challenges?
The first challenge with any project is knowing how to structure it. It’s easy to fall into the trap of starting a project based purely on hype and then finding yourself in a rut or creative block because you’ve run out of steam. It depends on the project and on your work style that dictates what a project plan might look like. Whether it’s a full on road map or just a pattern or work to repeat. But there should be something to maintain the creative flow.
For me the choice was to create a pattern. I work well with patterns and detailed lists because it gives me clear and regular goals to feel accomplished in, which in turn keeps me enthusiastic throughout a project.
As you can see here, the pose is the same, or very similar. This was the pattern I chose to follow for the cards. I created thirteen mannequin teddies… Teddequins perhaps. Once all the Teddequins were created I assigned each pose to a number in the suit. This way there would be a similarity to tie the common numbers and face cards together throughout each suit, much like in a normal deck of cards where each one looks the same but the suit icon changes. Each base pose allowed me enough scope to really customise every character fully, creating the variety of personalities through the deck.
I would say the second challenge for any project of this nature would be creating unique personalities, in this case fifty four. Luckily I’ve had a lot of practice in this field, through creating twenty characters for the Tedland Wars and generally focusing on character art for so many years. I’ll write a post in the future with some tips and tricks on that.
Lastly there is the challenge of production. And that has many challenges of its own.
Finding the right print house you’re happy with is the first task. Then onto ensuring the stock, size, resolution and so on is to the specification you need it to be for a quality final product.
I had gone through a contact I had used in the past but their suppliers had changed which caused a series of delays which, as I write this, still continue.
In short the initial print run took seven months to produce and came through with some small issues both me and my contact were not happy with. They took a further two months to reprint and the boxes wouldn’t even stand upright due to poor printing, cutting and construction. They are finally being outsourced to a new company and in the meantime I put a small selection out of the first run which, in comparison to the second run, were almost perfect. A small number went live on the site at a discounted rate and those who had been waiting patiently since the first mention of playing cards got to add a deck to their go bags. The new print run is due to arrive within the week.
The lesson here is one I’ve learnt before, the most frustrating kind haha, Don’t promote something until it’s a done deal. Until it’s in your possession and to a grade you are happy with when possible.
So the first deck of Tactical Teddies playing cards is as good as completed now and it’s been an illustrative journey. I got to scratch my itch for creating a set of something everyone can use, do a bit of package design along the way and end up with a product that suits an audience of outdoor enthusiasts with a penchant for cute and badass teddies.
This second run has been printed on a stock called Synaps, a durable polyester material. Giving them the look and feel of luxury card but is synthetic. This means it’s resistant to tearing and submersion like the first run, but the pack will be slimmer as a result. The box artwork has also been updated slightly for this run so there’s a splash of colour on it!
That’s all from me for now. More info coming soon on these cards and more!
Stay awesome, Squadron!