Spike
A photorealistic illustration created for the Watcher project based on the Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series
In the early 2000s I was involved in a fan project based on the Joss Whedon series "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" as a designer and art director. The goal was to create truly realistic icons from the series while maintaining their functionality. That is, the readability of the characters they reflect in the system, the shape, sharpness, and contrast of the elements on a small icon on the desktop. Such ambitions led to the fact that most of the icons were drawn by hand, and some had a phenomenal amount of detail (since CoverFlow on the Mac allowed you to show a large icon in the window).

The problem was that the show itself was filmed in the late nineties, and it must be said to be far from shining with high resolution pictures. When you watch a movie, it's okay, our brain adapts the flaws, plus you still follow the plot, not just the quality of the picture. But transferring some of the objects and even the characters from the screen was just impossible. They were just blurry screenshots of low quality and dubious detail. So I began to draw and actually recreate the world of the series by eye, in order to transfer it to the high resolution of modern computers.

One of the toughest ones was Spike, one of the key characters in the series. Who had to be not just recreated, but practically risked from scratch, using tablet drawing techniques, textures, effects and shadows available in a visual editor. This is one of the pieces where Photoshop was used 100% along with my drawing skills, but first things first.

The only sane thing I could find on the internet was this picture:
I saved the size on purpose, so that you could feel the drama of the situation. The photo was either taken from a screen or from some poster and did not shine at all, except for the pose. Moreover, the person who posted it was not very accurate in cutting out the photo and hastily plastered over some parts of the clothes. No need to blame, it was fine for a late 90's fan site, but not for high quality Mac OS icons.

Realizing that I couldn't find anything better (at least it had a good pose), I went to work. As a result, Spike was first drawn by hand on a tablet. Gradually I increased the detailing with finer lines. After that I found dozens of high-resolution textures and clothing examples online (not from the series of course, everything was taken from free and rarely paid photostocks). These materials were carefully selected, tested on the drawing, suitable processed and integrated into the image so that there was no visible editing. Among other things, the shape and perspective were taken into account, so that the texture fit perfectly with the shape of the clothes and body (including all the curves of the fabric and other details). The result was a high-resolution illustration like this:
The final image has been used on the CoverFlow icon. By the way, the elements of the icon itself were also created by hand, but here we were able to use clipart, which was processed in the final image. But the sign "Welcome to Sunnydale" also had to be created from scratch, because there were not enough authentic (if you check the scenes of the series frame by frame), or of sufficient quality.
Illustration and design: Ulyashenkov Sergey
Project: Watcher
2006.06.27