Kevin Tong Illustration Kevin Tong Illustration

R2D2, at LONG LAST

UPDATE: Mondotees has sold out of “A Linch Pin Droid”. Thanks so all the people who successfully bought this print and sorry to those that weren’t able to grab one. I WILL be selling a few copies on my site really soon, but I need to work out the details before I can announce anything. A blog post will be made here before the prints go on sale. The prints I will be selling are the only ones that will be signed and numbered by me.

UPDATE: I just uploaded exclusive photos of my R2D2 print to this blog.

Please direct any questions, comments, and viagra spam regarding THIS PRINT to the comments section of this blog. Please keep in mind that I am traveling during the holidays, but I will do my best to answer your questions and respond to feedback. I do not have any sales info that Mondo hasn’t released on their site. Happy Holidays!

After sitting on this for months, I can at long last exhale. And that exhale sounds like R2D2 Art Print! My art print, titled “A Linch Pin Droid” is part of the Mondo Star Wars Art Print Series.

I am so glad to be a part of such a great series with such amazing talent participating and in the works. For me it doesn’t get any better than Star Wars, perhaps one of the biggest influences in my life. As far as Star Wars goes, it doesn’t get any better than R2D2, in my opinion, the best character in the series.

I have a HUGE writeup (all CAPS gives you an idea of how huge) to document my experiences working on this massive undertaking, but first, I’ll dispatch with the hard facts.

Title: A Linch Pin Droid
Size: 24 X 36 inches
Colors: 5 Colors, the border is metallic silver, the bright green and blue are glow in the dark inks
Paper: 100 lb White Cover Paper
Edition: 400, please check with Mondotees.com for other related information

Sales Info: Please check Mondotees.com for sales updates

Below is a slide show of photos including closeups, process shots, and an overall image:

Below is a process video, documenting almost three months of work:

Some of you may remember the pictures of me working in that hotel room (above) from my Mechanical Dreams Process Video. Yes, that is the same hotel room in San Diego I stayed at with Justin Ishmael (Mondo guy/person/friendo) during Comic Con International in late July earlier this year. In addition to starting the R2D2 rough sketch and working on my solo show, I also finished my MOON poster in that hotel room. What a week!

That gives you a frame of reference for how long I worked on the R2D2 print. I started it in late July and finished it only recently. It took almost three months to complete the artwork, working on it 6-8 hours a day. The hardest part was all the research and by research, I mean watching the original Trilogy dozens of times to pause certain spots and reference them.

MY INITIAL OBJECTIVES WITH THIS PRINT:

After I finished the rough sketch in that hotel room, I had some tough decisions to make. While Justin slept in his bed, on a pile of read and unread comics and a partially eaten seafood pizza, I laid awake in my bed, considering some hard choices that would overshadow the next few months of my life. Would I be the same person, after sch an ordeal? Would my friends still know me? Would I still know me? Alright, it wasn’t that serious, but it still sat heavily on my mind’s lap.

The first objective I decided right away was: THE ORIGINAL TRILOGY determines EVERYTHING. Regardless of the mixed feelings about the newer Prequels, I made that decision because it was original Trilogy that captured my mind and heart. I don’t know how many hours I have spent at comic books stores and web forums debating Star Wars trivia. (Han shot first.) I didn’t want to rely on the Expanded Star Wars Universe (like the novels or comics) for reference either.

I also went on a trip to Sideshow Collectibles (above) in Southern, CA to research some of their Lucasfilm approved R2D2 models and to geek out.

The second objective was DESIGN and CLARITY over TECHNICAL DETAILS. With such a technically driven print, I didn’t want to make it too cluttered or lacking in aesthetic. I decided that if necessary, I would sacrifice things like perspective (within reason) and trivial details (like the amount of perforations in R2’s head mounted life form sensor plate) in favor of what looks best. That being said, I also made a sub objective to NEVER ASSUME THE FORM. You can see by the process video that all the parts continue under parts the that overlap them. All the components are fully drawn as interlocking 3D shapes to make sure they could actually work together with each other.

The third objective was the hardest to decide because once I got into it, there would be no turning back. It would be either do or do not, there would be no try. I knew that watching the Trilogy for reference and drawing, measuring and comparing every part of R2D2’s metal body would take months if I actually drew each part. Keep in mind I was releasing prints and exhibiting regularly the whole time I was working on R2. I had taken classes using 3D modeling software like Cinema 4D, Lightwave, and Maya. With some brushing up, I could have used that software to cut the time spent working from almost three months to three weeks. That would have been the sensible thing to do. Too bad I’m not a sensible person. I wanted a greater sense of achievement.

I was still undecided about which way to go (drawing it all myself or using 3D modeling software) until the All Knowing Internet shined its digital wisdom upon me.

I found this great article at Den of Geek about the late Dan O’Bannon’s tactical displays from the original Trilogy. No one ever notices the tactical displays on the screen in the Star Wars movies, yet they are inventive, critical storytelling elements, unchanged during the rehashing of the Trilogy, and (for the time) extremely difficult to achieve, considering how little screen time and emphasis they have in the films.

The thing that helped me decide to draw everything individually was this video posted in the article at Den of Geek. It shows a young Larry Cuba, the computer scientist that George Lucas hired, creating some of the wire frame animation and images for the tactical displays.

What really got me was how much I could relate to him. He was 24 years old when he made the process video. I could totally identify, being a professional in my mid twenties, making similar process videos, using a tablet, and just loving the work. He painfully and precisely plotted each point and line segment for Star Wars. When I saw that video, I knew what I had to do for Star Wars. I wanted to do what Larry Cuba did all those years ago. Strangely enough, I too did much of the work in a dark room with no one else in it.

Also, the work of Dan O’Bannon and Larry Cuba inspired the final look of my print, specifically, the wire frame and tactical display look of the print. Initially, I had no solid ideas, but I was thinking of a paper blueprint look or a catalog page, as if the viewer was ordering an R2 unit.

As I worked on the artwork, as silly as it sounds, I found that in order to understand some of the confusing aspects of R2D2, I had to think like him. “Why would R2 have a bracket there, but not there, how does that benefit an astromech droid?” were questions I would ask myself. I even made a short lived attempt to decipher his language of beeps and whistles to better understand the nature of R2. I often lost track of what day of the week it was or if it was AM or PM.

MY TAKE ON R2D2 AS A CHARACTER

I couldn’t have been happier to work on R2D2 as a subject because he is my favorite character and in my opinion, the most important character in the Trilogy. Granted, he doesn’t duel with light sabers or shoot stormtroopers, but his actions, whether direct or inadvertent, play deterministic roles in the events that unfold.

For example: (SPOILER ALERTS):
A New Hope: R2D2 runs away from Luke, Luke goes after him, meets Obi Wan (setting off the whole chain of events), and avoids getting killed by the Storm Troopers that kill his aunt and uncle. On the Death Star, R2 locates Princes Leia, disables the trash compacter, and deliver the plans that help the rebels destroy the Death Star.

The list goes on. He is the only character that knows the whole history of the rise and fall of the Empire and the Skywalker family history (especially if you want to bring the Prequels into this). The other part that makes R2 so great is how low the bar is. Of course, Luke and Han, as heroes, should do extraordinary things, but R2 (and C3PO) goes beyond the expectations of any droid. Definitely, as is well known to many Star Wars fans, Lucas intentionally told the story of Star Wars through the perspective of the lowliest characters, a nod to director Akira Kurosawa’s Tahei and Matashichi, two such characters in 1958’s The Hidden Fortress. (Note: Not trying to present this as my own idea, it is well documented, I just wish to inform anyone who doesn’t know because that is an awesome fact and more people should watch Kurosawa’s films.)

The final thing that I love about R2D2 is that he’s the “constant” throughout the movies. All the other main characters go through changes, dealing with their respective issues. Those issues cause the characters to separate or get separated, or wane from their courses of actions. R2D2, on the other hand, remains unchanged and fearless, almost as if he had planned it all. He brings and holds the characters together, while staying the course, yet his actions and presence are largely unseen.

As you look at my print, consider the title, and let your eyes wander over R2D2’s many implements and devices, please reflect upon the specific moments when he used those tools, when his actions and selflessness saved the galaxy.

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  • mus42

    November 22, 2010 at 3:51 pm

    One word,Quality

  • dylansdad

    November 22, 2010 at 4:11 pm

    This is the absolute polar opposite of phoning it in.

  • Justin Parpan

    November 23, 2010 at 11:15 am

    Wow, this is unbelievably cool Kevin! Your process for this one is really amazing to see.

  • admin

    November 24, 2010 at 5:19 pm

    Thanks so much for the kind words guys. I am blinded with happiness these days.

  • jung

    November 26, 2010 at 10:56 am

    Kevin, another amazing print as usual, and possibly my favorite out of all of your work thus far. I got up early on Black Friday to try and buy one, but unfortunately they all sold out before I could complete checkout on Mondo’s site. Any chance that you will have a few copies left to sell either through your website or at a live event (like, say, the San Francisco Renegade Craft Fair)? Please let me know if there will be any alternative method to obtain one of these prints that does not involve paying hundreds of dollars on ebay. Thanks!

  • Barbara

    February 9, 2011 at 2:05 pm

    trying to get a little bio info about Kevin Tong for an art project within a school for underprivileged girls in NY. can anyone help me out? thank you

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