The Birth of the Bass Playing Robot

This bass playing robot is nearly 15 years in the making! Here’s the evolution from initial sketch to (nearly) print ready artwork.

First rough sketch

First rough sketch

The first guitar playing robot didn’t play guitar at all. He was an evil robot killer named Mr. Self Destruct after a Nine Inch Nails song. Instead of feat his legs attached to single wheel like Gizmo Duck from Duck Tales. For awhile now I’ve thought about reintroducing this idea in a new bass playing robot.

Mr. Self Destruct Drawing

Mr. Self-Destruct, Circa 2000

The first bass playing robot sketch wasn’t to my satisfaction. I wasn’t doing something right. Part of this was complicated by the fact that I equipped this robot with a left handed bass and I’m used to drawing right handed players. So I decided to introduce a model.

Emma Anzai

Emma Anzai of the Sick Puppies, turned left-handed Rickenbacker player

Enter Emma Anzai of the Sick Puppies. I did a Google Image search for “female bass player” and “left handed Rickenbacker bass” to make this crude picture. Ms. Anzai is a right handed player, but that’s easily solved with a quick “Flip Horizontal” in Photoshop.

So why was a female bass player necessary? My other two robots are typically referred to with masculine pronouns so I thought I’d switch it up with a woman. As a big Smashing Pumpkins fan perhaps D’Arcy was a subconscious influence.

Of course it’s not readily apparent that this is a female robot. I briefly considered giving her red lips or fake robot breasts, but that just seemed silly to me (too Futurama for my taste). Besides, it’s not as if my “male” robots have robot penises or anything. So the tweaks are quite subtle. You’d have to be a robot anthropologist to know the difference. The torso is slightly narrower and she has three “floating ribs” as opposed to two (see other robots for a reference). It’s kind of a reference to the Biblical story of God taking one of Adam’s ribs to fashion Eve. So now with Ms. Anzai as my unwitting model, I had my first complete drawing of the bass playing robot down.

Initial drawing and color separations

Initial drawing and color separations

The initial drawing lacked a few details. Having done this a couple times I find it’s best to leave off the frets and strings and add them in later. When I first started coloring it and making my separations I didn’t give a whole lot of thought into how many colors I would print or what exactly the background would be. I knew I wanted a blue robot with red hair.

Initial background with speaker cabinets

Initial background with speaker cabinets

Eventually I drew some speaker cabinets in Illustrator as a mockup and started to reduce the total number of colors. This also shows my initial design with some different attempts at soundwaves and some random red stuff in the background. Also note the inclusion of strings and frets at this point.

Second design update

Second design update

In the second design update I went with one large speaker cabinet and made the background less busy. The soundwaves are a little more basic as well. The strings are fixed so they don’t pass over her hand.

Current design subject to change

Current design subject to change

The current design has quite a few updates. The soundwaves are doubled up. The instrument cable and amp head are introduced. I’m just now realizing that the strings should pass under the pickup cover on the bass. The bass bridge and saddles were adjusted. Looking at this now I feel like I might town down the bass cabinet so that the figure pops more from the background like the earlier design. The speaker cabinet has also been scaled down so that the figure breaks the frame of the background on all sides. This version also has the right leg finally drawn in and reflections have been added to the figure. At one point I had the left forearm in gray, but I may have lost that in a Photoshop crash so I’ll have to put it back.

It’s worth noting that this is stillĀ not how it will look like printed. Anything shown in gray here will be printed in a metallic silver ink. It will be the first ink to go down and the other inks will have a slight transparency so that the silver shows through a bit where it overlaps with other colors.

My hope was to start printing it this weekend, but the supplies I need to convert my printer to all black printing will not be here in time.

This is to be what I hope will be the first in a series of prints featuring each member of the robot rock band. I’ve yet to design the drummer, but I have some ideas in mind.

She also needs a name. What do you think? None of the other robots have names either. I was considering names taken from computer components. Maybe SCSI (“scuzzy”) for the evil robot. Let’s hear your suggestions!

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