Assignment for Columbia Magazine

I recently completed an assignment for Columbia Magazine, Columbia University’s alumni publication. I thought I would share the process for my 3D style.

(I’m delaying this post so it won’t come out before the magazine itself)

The article is about Mack Meller, a freshman who is a world renown Scrabble champion.

Here are the sketches I sent. They are drawn in pencil on paper with the scrabble pieces placed in. Color is added in Photoshop.

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They chose the sketch with Mack studying in the library – which I also like a lot.

Here is the sketch without the photoshop color or the Scrabble tiles.IMG_6917

Even though it’s not a true portrait of Mack, I’m not so happy with the face. So I tried drawing him again from a reference photo Jeffrey (the art director) sent.IMG_6916


Then I made a cleaner drawing on tracing paper which I will use as a template for cutting the figures out of watercolor paper and illustration board.


I go through a lot of exacto blades.


I kept checking to see how the drawing worked from the right camera angle to obscure his face and focus attention on the Scrabble tiles. This one feels too much like he’s looking at the tiles.


So I tried redrawing his face directed more toward his notebook.


and checking it again with the camera angle.


Now for more details. The spiral of the notebook is the spring from a ball point pen. The pencil is a clipped toothpick with a little snippet of aluminum wrapped around it.



I knew I wanted to glue some fuzzy fabric on this girl for a sweater but wanted her pony tail to go over it. So I cut just the top layer of the illustration board to lift it up.


balsa wood chairs.

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Trying out different fabrics for the other guy at the table to wear.


Placing pieces over the wash background I did to match my digital color.


Painting more people.

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And more parts.


this is the view of the piece straight on.IMG_6936

But this is the camera angle I’m going for.


Placing more parts. Yikes! feeling way too busy – especially that book cart I made from aluminum and ball bearings. Like it’s squashing his head. IMG_6941

Better without the cart.But the book cases still feel heavy.


Lightening up the book cases. I’m feeling better.Got rid of that guy in the background too.


Here is a view of the side of the piece to give an idea of the dimensionality.


So here I’m thinking I’m nearly done.


I set up the lights and shoot the final photo.

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But once I get it on my monitor, I feel like the background is washing it all out. It’s too close to the color of the tiles. I try out some other colors and find a darker grey which makes the focal point pop out better. IMG_6958

Yeah, I could just leave the color change in photoshop (which I sometimes do) but it wouldn’t feel the same to me. So I paint the new color on the real piece and re-shoot it.


Which brings me to the final piece which I send to my client.



Client is happy but asks for just a couple of revisions: brighten up the exposure and remove the C from the hat in the foreground.


Thanks to Art Director Jeffrey Saks for the assignment!




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