Ed Emberley: Helping All of Us Become Vector Art Wizards

By Matter

Let me start off by saying, I can NOT draw. I feel like a lot of times as someone working in a creative field, people assume my skills range into all of the artistic buckets (which they do not). The late stand up comedian Mitch Hedberg once claimed how as a comic, people assumed he could act. He then compared it to someone looking at a chef and saying, “Well, can you farm?” The same rings true here.

Lately I’ve been diving deeper into vector animations that include kinetic characters, cars, and buildings that rise out of the ground in just a matter of frames. Most of the time a collection of people and environments from shutterstock will get me set on the right path, but what about when specific objects are needed, and nothing on the web matches the style you’re looking for? Or perhaps the environments are a little bland, and you want to add some details that make it unique For example, downloading an Illustrator file of a giant store for a project is easy enough, but then in the script it specifically notes that it’s a grocery store. How do you create something from scratch that remains continuous with no illustration expertise? Just let Caldecott Medal winner Ed Emberley come to the rescue.

Ed Emberley authored a whole slough of children’s drawing books from the early 70’s through the mid 90s. His tutorials show his audience how to draw everything from an oil tanker to a gorilla, by using nothing except basic geometric shapes. Growing up these books were always lying around my house, and I never thought they’d be just as useful at age 25 as they are to a 5 year old (and no I am not a parent).  Just to get an idea of the layout of his books, here’s his instruction on how to construct a gorilla  Next to it is a vector version I created in Adobe Illustrator, in just a couple minutes.

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My takeaway from these tutorials is that Ed’s books help all the people like me out there who don’t have the steadiest hand (read: too much coffee on the morning commute) create interesting add-ons to their vector projects. Combined with a color deviation to a brand’s stylistic guidelines, any of us can create a protective Viking ship for a data security client or a bunny for a consumer brand’s Easter campaign.