My Street Fighters illustration series actually started out as a deck of playing cards. I like illustrating playing cards, because creatively speaking they're a bit restrictive — which sounds like a bad thing, but hear me out! Creative constraints create fun challenges that require creative solutions, and each solution has an interesting effect on the project's outcome...
The available space on a playing card is limited. After adding margins, leaving some clear space in the corners and then dividing the card in half I was left with a tiny, awkwardly shaped artboard. One way to get around this constraint was to remove the joints and bones from the characters' arms (uh, it looked cuter than it sounds) which allowed them to curve and squish into any pose within the cramped space. Noodle arms!
Playing cards should look like they're the "right way up" no matter which way they they're held. In order to achieve that, each half needed to be visually balanced, even when they occasionally had two completely different characters on them. So, I set up a symmetrical template for all of the cards to be based off — this helped them look balanced individually, and consistent as a set.
Traditional playing cards have only 3–4 colours, this is a production constraint but it's also one of the things that makes them look 'traditional'. In honour of that, I chose to begin with a fairly simple colour palette. The colour palette grew and grew, but because the base palette was mostly made up of primary and secondary colours it continued to be playful and vibrant!
Can't Stop, Won't Stop
I should have set myself another constraint: 'Only make 12 cards, idiot', I couldn't decide which characters to include and before I knew it I had drawn over 60 of them. The process took so long that by the time I had finished it, my illustration style had changed. It was time for a rethink...
Recycle, Reuse, Redraw
The project had gotten out of hand so I decided to ditch the card idea completely and redraw all of the characters in a new illustration style, this time as a series of individual busts. The influence of those initial constraints remained though — the way the playing card format initially affected the space, symmetry and palette ended up making the final illustrations look unique. It became a part of my style and I had a lot of fun developing it!