Adobe Creative Cloud

An Illustrator Goes Hollywood

The anticipation and excitement of attending his first Adobe MAX inspired the art; a band and a human rights movement inspired its title. Behind Orlando Arocena’s Brave Leon art.

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It’s a certainty that anyone who’s visited the Adobe Illustrator CC Facebook or who uses Illustrator CC is familiar with Orlando Arocena‘s vector art. But when we asked him to attend Adobe MAX as a MAX Insider (someone who would share personal insights about the conference), he remembered his mother’s advice about being a good guest: “Never show up empty-handed.”

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Coupled with a bit of restless energy and a traffic jam, her advice led to a “mental sketch” just one day before he was scheduled to be in Los Angeles. Sketching in his mind is the only type Orlando does; he explained his process during a recent lecture at Pratt Institute: “Although I do a significant amount of research regarding my mental sketches, over time I realized that I wanted to eliminate the stiff rigors of the standard process of sketch, scan, trace; so I rarely do any pre-sketching on paper. I’m a big fan of energy and confidence and running with them from start to finish, harnessing the excitement of starting a project.”

Pop culture meets Hollywood icon

Fueled by music, Orlando sat down at his computer and began to draw. Six hours later his art, part pop culture icon and part Hollywood homage, emerged…

In it was a connection to location (Hollywood), and the band (Kings of Leon) he learned would be playing at the Adobe MAX Bash: “I wanted my vector to be a pop-icon parody, leveraging established elements synonymous with Hollywood that, when composed, would also represent a Kings of Leon-at-Adobe MAX-in LA gig poster.”

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Keeping the subject matter rooted in Hollywood—by incorporating Art Deco embellishments and a color palette reminiscent of Hollywood’s Golden Age—he also kept it relevant to a modern audience (and specifically to Adobe’s creative audience), with tattoos. But not just ANY tattoos, but icons from Adobe’s tools palettes. “I decided to inject elements from the tools menus that, for me, represent customization and are found in practically every Adobe application: the Fill/Stroke, the Eye-Dropper and the Arrow (depicted as a piercing rather than a selection tool).”

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The essence of an illustration

During that initial drawing session, Orlando shared his progress on his Facebook. Despite the online support and encouragement of an audience hoping he was creating a vector Wizard of Oz tribute, he stopped just short of revealing the final illustration. Instead, he put the artwork aside, deciding to finish it up the next day, just hours before his flight.

After printing two artists proofs to “get a closer look at any errors or misalignment, and to make notes of questionable areas to address on the vector file,” he printed an 18 x 24 foil print (on his own giclée printer) and took off for the airport.

It wasn’t until after Lee Hirsch, the documentary filmmaker behind The Bully Project, took the stage and touched his heart that the circumstances surrounding this personal project and the fictional character in it, came together for Orlando. He realized, “What began as Kings of Leon-at-Adobe MAX-in LA gig poster was no longer just that; it had transformed into something more. The true spirit of the image was revealed and my vector had become the Cowardly Lion who had found courage at Adobe MAX—thanks to The Bully Project.”

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That’s the story of how Brave Leon came together for this gifted artist: An invitation, a band, a movement, and Illustrator CC.


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