Dennis could begin to see the finish line approaching as Pinball Expo was about one week away when he started to build the backbox. Even though there were other details of the cabinet that needed to be addressed we felt that with the backbox completed, we'd have a good portion of Dennis' vision for the cabinet represented at Expo.
While Dennis was cranking the summer away on the cabinet, I had spent some time working on a backglass sketch starting at the end of August and began working on the title design for the Whoa Nellie brand. Based on my research of fruit crate labels I had a good idea for the direction I would take regarding the design of the letter forms and I ended up designing a piece that was a good starting point. I sent it to Dennis to get his take on it.
Dennis was happy with this initial direction and reminded me that fruit labels were full of all sorts of lettering...along with the company name there are distributors, locations, the kind of fruit or vegetables, quality marks, packers, years in the business and other elements that fill much of the label with words. This allowed us to have some fun with these types of elements and gave me more room for creativity.
I really didn't want to go to expo without representing the art "department" so I continued to refine what started as a title design into something that could be used for the front label of the base crate.
At the same time I had some initial ideas for the backglass going. Knowing all of the above direction from Dennis would play into the backglass design as well I started by looking at the key elements of the art - the title (all of it), the pin-up girl (I call her Nellie), and the cool stake bed truck. I still wanted to capture the feel of a retro-backglass but based on the design principles of crate labels.
At this point I paid some amount of attention to the Continental Cafe layout, especially for the locations of the hidden copy on the original backglass, but more as a placeholder for future reference. I used rectangles to represent an approximate location for the score reels. My first pass of Nellie was just that, a first pass. I wasn't at all happy with her face but you gotta start somewhere. She needed to be...sweeter. But I was happy with the initial sketches for the stake bed truck and started to give it some personality of its own. And the driver was the beginning of my take on Roy Parker's cast of happy background characters.
As you can see this initial sketch added a new energy to our overall direction and the excitement of working on pinball started to sink in once again. I set the backglass aside and went back to keeping up with other design work in my new freelance career.
With a backglass sketch started, Dennis began to look into the backbox and specifically the insert panel (the piece of wood that holds the score reels and the lights to illuminate the backglass). He called to let me know that it would be possible to move some elements around slightly if needed to achieve a better layout for the art. To a pinball artist these words are similar to..."Son, here's your brand new pony."
Ok, so I exaggerate once in a while. BUT, back in the day, when the backglass was still based on score reels or digital displays scattered throughout the backglass layout, causing shadow areas that we had to design around and create an "opaque screen" to help hide these shadows, and there was no talk about moving things because these were 'standard' locations for production, then you can begin to see how a designer telling me that I could move stuff around to suit my aesthetic needs...damn near a new pony in my book! It's the little things in life...right?
So we got off-track slightly to give you some insight to the start of art, but next time we'll continue with getting the cabinet ready for Expo and share our first "Notable Quotable" from the project.
G & D
All art, sketches, or photos related directly to "Whizbang Pinball" or "Whoa Nellie (Brand) Big Juicy Melons" or "Whoa Nellie (Brand) Sweet Juicy Melons" are TM and Copyright 2009 WhizBang Pinball, Greg Freres, and Dennis Nordman.
Pony Photo courtesy stock.xchng
"Driver 1" (funny picture) by A. Freres