Sunday, March 8, 2015

Bringing 'Rusty the Robot' To Life 
Hey fellow space adventurers! I thought it would be fun to share some of the original art from my book. Early sketches from the beginning of the process, if you will!

When I write, I often have a blurry image of the character in my head. A sort of cloudy, half-formed creature that floats around in my brain. Because of this, I often try to get an artist on-board early in the process, so I can SEE the character more clearly. It's amazing how helpful seeing your characters can help with with your writing (at least for me).

Today, I'm going to share with you the early sketches of one of my favorite characters in the book, Rusty the Robot!

Rusty the Robot (or as August calls him, Rustpot) has become one of the most popular characters in A Space Story.
"Rusty is one of the best robots in all of science fiction." - Carol Kean 
(Perihelion Science Fiction Magazine)
 "I want my own Rusty the Robot!" - Greg Dolman
"Rusty is so adorable, is that weird to say about a robot?" - Rachel Essex 
These are just some of the amazing reviews I've received about Rusty. What makes me smile from ear-to-ear about them all, is this...

In the beginning, there was no Rusty the Robot!
When I set out writing, I had no need for a robot. Sure, I figured I would throw one in somewhere along the line, but just as some sub-character. But as the story went on, the idea of a robot companion for the Female Earthling known as 'Death Touch' seemed more logical. Someone like HER could never have a full crew on board. Having a robot to do the work of 10 men was a much better idea. And someone who couldn't be killed by an accidental touch of HER hand. Someone she could trust. Someone she could talk to.

Rusty made HER the word - happy. 
 A faithful companion.

I contacted my buddy John Zarate-Khus, who also helped in  developing Kilroy.

We bounced design ideas around. I wanted Rusty to be dented and... well... Rusty. My little robot has been around for billions of years, so he needed some battle scars. Maybe he's missing the bottom half of his body, and is fitted with a tricycle-type body to get around.

John got right to it. 
 I loved it!

This was 'Rusty' for a good portion of my writing. I would keep this picture pinned to my wall as I wrote. I loved how he was rough, but tough. Mismatched. Dirty. Rugged. But he also was a bit.. dare i say... cute.

I trekked on with this version of Rusty for quite some time. But as I wrote, some things changed for me. The Female Earthling spends a good amount of her time tinkering with Rusty. Maybe out of boredom, or longing for some contact. Either way, she modifies Rusty quite a bit.

Up stepped the amazingly talented artist: Adam Barutis
Adam took what John had done and tweaked him a bit.


I immediately said 'No' to the head, and thought the body was too bulky. I called Adam, and we discussed Rusty for a solid hour. Adam wanted me to tell him everything about Rusty. Everything! Every idea, every little detail in the book. I, being a storyteller, gladly babbled on about my creation. Among other things, I told Adam that I wanted Rusty to have saucer shaped eyes and no mouth. That was always how I saw his face.

Once Adam felt he had all he needed, we hung up, and Adam disappeared into his lair to work on our little robot friend.

 It's a tough and tedious process getting an image from your mind, to the artist's mind, and then onto paper. I can describe what I see in my minds-eye until I'm blue in the face, but we all see thing differently. 

I tossed more details at Adam. I even gave away certain vital plot twists.
(He's sworn to secrecy, so don't even bother contacting him!)

Adam got to work.
Now we were cooking! 
I was very excited when this image popped up in my inbox late that evening. I knew Adam and I were finally on the same page. I was psyched. I wrote him back praising his mad skills, then asked for some simple tweaks. Knock back the nose area. Add a symbol to his chest. Add more detail to his arm.

 That's my Rusty!
Everything was perfect! The symbol (same as the book cover). The face was cute. The two mismatched arms. The wheels were perfect for all types of terrain. The straps holding his upper and bottom-half together looked good.

Now, we just had to get it to go from a highly polished look, to a "Dean drew it in his journal" look.


The journey of creating Rusty was complete. I received this finished version from Adam the same day I finished the book. It was quite appropriate I suppose. Along the way, Rusty had gone from an afterthought, to a vital part of the storytelling process. 

He is my special little buddy. And to know that Rusty has brought a smile to others, makes it all worth it.

It makes me the word - happy! :)

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