Mammoth Cave

This is a t-shirt design I created last month for my cousin's Boy Scout outing to Mammoth Cave. I had some fun creating it, and I'm waiting to post some commercial work, so I'll add some background info. about the process.

First comes the brainstorming and the sketches. I knew before I started that I was going to print a light color on a dark shirt, and that flashlights would be involved. I also knew that Mammoth Cave has nothing to do with the woolly creatures, but I've never been one to pass down the chance to draw a weird extinct animal, so I started with this:

This sketch was the first idea that entered into my head, and it was quickly obvious to me that it was too wordy and complex to make an effective design. I thought it was funny, so I sketched it up anyway, quickly hashing in some copy.

I then tried a simpler mammoth sketch. This was probably my favorite concept, and compositionally, I think it's the strongest. Even though the sketch is really rough, I felt it had a great deal of potential.

the sketch below was the one the scouts picked. —and in retrospect, a great choice.

I sometimes worry that my humor will be seen as trivializing the target audience, and let's face it —I am. Luckily, teenage boys have a sense of humor about themselves, so this concept moved on.

Once the basic idea was established, The first thing I had to do was get used to seeing the art as it would be printed: light-on-dark. A few minutes on Photoshop got me this:

Finally satisfied with the sketch, I started rendering the final art.
Some details were changed when I rendered the figures: I pushed the lankier kid behind the pudgy one and tilted him a bit toward the center.

Then I scanned in the new art and turned my focus to the text, attempting to replicate the type on the cave ceiling.

I played around with several creepy fonts, and applied a 3-D rotating filter to the type until I felt I had something appropriate. I was happy to arrive at a configuration that improved upon the sketch, even though that meant re-drawing some of the image to get it to work.

I also used the computer to add the goofy shadows to the kids' faces. I was a bit apprehensive about killing the kids' facial expressions, but I felt that the shadows added a lot to the humor, so I went ahead.

With the artwork 90% complete, I tried some color variations, exploring some trendier color combos before deciding that an acid yellow-green on plain black served the artwork best.

Before releasing the art, I added shadows to the stalactites in the foreground, re-drew the beams from the flashlights, and made some subtle changes to the bat.

That's about it —the final image is at the top of the post.
In parting, I'd like to give a plug to The T-shirt Company in Cincinnati who did a fantastic job with the printing. Thanks, Tim!