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How To Hang Loose, Fly A Jeep & Why It’s A Good Idea To Number Your Rocks

October 26, 2012

Here’s a recent caricature I did for a Jeep enthusiast who heads up a club for Jeep lovers.caricature of man who is airborne in his mud-splattered jeep soaring over rocks and leaning out window giving the hang loose hand sign

I just had this one photo to work from.reference photo showing guy leaning out window of his mud-splattered jeep on rocky ground in forest

Here’s a detail image. Say, what’s that strange hand signal??detail image of caricature of man who is airborne in his mud-splattered jeep soaring over rocks and leaning out window giving the hang loose hand sign

One of the great things about being a freelancer illustrator, is that you almost always learn something new with each assignment. This time around, I learned the shaka sign, which means “hang loose.” It comes to us via Hawaiian surfer culture. Am I the only one who’d never heard of it??

Photo below courtesy of Photolivier and Flickr.

photo of man in wetsuit windsurfing and giving traditional Hawaiian hand signal for hang loose

I wanted to add shading to the left side of each rock, so I used the Pen tool to select them all individually, then saved the selections as “Rock 1,” “Rock 2,” etc. But how to remember which was which? See below for my ingenious solution.

The big challenge, of course, was remembering to hide the numbers when I was done… : )

caricature of man who is airborne in his mud-splattered jeep soaring over rocks and leaning out window giving the hang loose hand sign and rocks are numbered to show how artist identified them so he could add shading to them one at a time

The client requested the final as a vector file. I created the illustration as a bitmap file in Adobe Photoshop, then imported it into Adobe Illustrator and converted it to a vector file.

As mentioned in recent posts, a bitmap image is pixel-based, a vector image is path-based. Pixels allow for smooth gradations of color; there’s no clear dividing line between colors. In a vector image, paths define areas of various shapes. Each area contains a single color. Up close, you can see the little dividing lines.

I thought it might be instructive to include a comparison here.

At left: the original bitmap image with its smooth gradations. At right: the corresponding vector image. In the latter, you can see some of the paths and distinct single-color areas, especially on the cheek, lips, forehead, and coat sleeve. They look like the contours on a topographical map.Β compare showing difference between caricature done in Photoshop (bitmap or raster image) and same image after it was traced and converted to a vector image in Adobe Illustrator

What do you think? Ever driven a jeep? Were you familiar with the hang loose sign? Ever had occasion to number rocks, frying pans, or other inanimate objects??Β Hope you’ll leave a comment.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

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40 Comments leave one →
  1. October 26, 2012 10:21 PM

    My grandparents have a timeshare in Waikiki, Oahu, and I use to follow Gilad Janklowicz and his shows (Basic Training: The Workout and Bodies In Motion), which were filmed on location in Hawai’i. (Actually, my grandparents decided to go meet him on a shoot, hehe.) So I learned about the shaka sign that way. It’s pretty broadly used and sometimes corresponds with the Californian surfer term “chillax” (chill, relax), like “chill out, dude, relax, don’t knock so hardcore on me”.

    Being from the Pacific Northwest, I’m pretty relaxed– I like to joke that if I were any more laid back, I’d be Hawaiian (and a lot of Pacific Islanders are pretty chill, not just Hawaiians).


    • October 27, 2012 9:07 PM

      I can see you’re way ahead of me, Jak. Chillax… sounds like a horror movie about a homicidal snowman… : (

      Can’t say I’ve heard that expression here in New Hampshuh. Of course, we’re not really known for our surfing culture… : P

      I didn’t realize Pacific Islanders could give Hawaiians a run for their money in the laid-back department. Good to know you’re leading the charge (in a laid-back way, of course).

      Many thanks for your comment, sir! : )


      • October 27, 2012 11:38 PM

        I meant to say everyone in the Pacific Islands– not just those in Hawaii– are very laid back. Much of Latin America is kind of that way, too, such as strict punctuality not being a hard expectation.

        Thanks again for your insights as an artist! Inspiration comes from all sorts of places.


  2. October 26, 2012 10:24 PM

    I rode in a Jeep in the late ’70s. It’s a cool-looking vehicle, but it wasn’t a comfortable ride. I could feel every burp in the road. Love the “hang loose” sign and your illustrations.


    • October 27, 2012 9:14 PM

      I hear you, Judy. I had occasion to drive one around when I worked summers on a golf course maintenance crew during my college years. Yes, cool-lookin’ vehicles, Jeeps, but I don’t think ours had any shocks at all. A true teeth-rattlin’ ride!

      Thanks for your comment, and your always generous support! : )


  3. October 26, 2012 11:24 PM

    As always, a really great job. The rock numbering is awesome and reminds me of my childhood when I painted by number. Number 7 would be pink. πŸ™‚


    • October 27, 2012 9:30 PM

      Thanks, Maddie! Always nice to have a famous author check in… : )

      Now that’s amazing that you should mention the old paint-by-number kits. I remember doing a few of those, too. What’s amazing is that it suddenly jumps out at me that those paint-by-number paintings were the non-digital equivalent of computer vector illustrations. Exact same idea: areas of different shapes defined by paths, and you filled each area with a single color. When you were done, you stepped back and the colors seemed to blend into a pleasing whole– the exact same way a vector illustration tricks the eye. That’s a very cool connection you’ve made there– you are clearly a genius!!!

      Hey, Rock #7 would look good in pink– wish I’d thought of that! Thanks so much for a great insight! :


  4. October 27, 2012 12:33 AM

    Mark, Mark, Mark…! When will I ever get to learn all these new techniques. If it’s not bloggers writing great posts, it’s me trying to squeeze time into life for such things as work; eating; sleeping; you know, all of those things that we each need to do (at least, sometimes).

    No, Mark; the ‘shaka sign’ is a newey to me too. Does that make you feel somewhat better?

    Loved your result, and your ingenious method/s… Another one to bookmark..!

    Hang Loose, Man….! πŸ˜‰


    • October 27, 2012 9:40 PM

      Work, eating, sleeping… I knew there were some things I was letting slide because of this crazy blogging business. Thanks for clearing that up! : (

      You didn’t know about the shaka sign?? Excellent! As long as there was one other cool person besides myself who didn’t know, yes, I do feel better… : )

      Good advice– I shall hang loose. In fact, that’s what I’m gonna tell the hangman when he puts that noose around my neck– that’ll show him!! : P


  5. October 27, 2012 1:02 PM

    Loved the post Mark! You are very good at explaining things! I actually have heard of the hang ten sign before. But then I think California stole that sign from Hawaii the second it became a state (or maybe even before!).

    I also went Jeeping with a Jeeping club a couple years ago. It was fun but there were lots of cliffs and precarious situations (at one point they had to hook up the winch to get out of a sticky situation (might have been a molasses pond) which I think they were thrilled about. Personally I found it rather nerve wracking. But then I don’t even like driving on the Freeway. But I was hanging ten during the entire trip (hanging on with all ten fingers for dear life, that is!). We also hit a lot of rocks. Mostly number 7’s. πŸ˜€


    • October 27, 2012 9:55 PM

      This comment just won the Most Droll Award– why am I not surprised??

      Hanging ten with all ten fingers, eh? Ha! And that quip about hitting “mostly number 7’s” really made me laugh. I think from now on, if I hit a bad bump, I shall baffle bystanders by yelling, “Yow! That felt like a number 7!!” : P

      You’re right: say “surfing,” and people immediately think: California. That’s because California had the Beach Boys, and Hawaii didn’t– they stole the whole thing!

      I’ve never heard of a molasses pond– sounds like one of Brer Rabbit’s little tricks… : P

      Always great to see you, thanks for sharing your traumatic Jeeping adventure!! : )


  6. October 27, 2012 11:36 PM

    Now that’s something new I learned today “hang loose”… Will start applying it in real life ASAP πŸ™‚


    • October 30, 2012 9:56 AM

      Ah! I’m glad I’m not the only one who wasn’t familiar with that hand signal! And yes, I’m sure applying it would do us all a world of good… : )

      Delighted to have you stop by, Malvika– thank you! : )


  7. October 28, 2012 10:32 AM

    Champion artwork and great tip for numbering objects! I may have a bash at some illustration this week!

    Fabby o!


    • October 30, 2012 10:07 AM

      I was a math major in college, so I guess numbering things comes naturally to me… too bad I forgot everything else I learned! : (

      Thanks a heap, mate! : )


  8. October 28, 2012 7:48 PM

    I’ve never driven a jeep and never heard about shaka sign before. So I am on your side, LOL.

    Nice work, Mark! πŸ™‚


    • October 30, 2012 10:14 AM

      And there is no one I would rather have on my side– thank you, Inge!

      If anyone ever leaves me an old Jeep in their will, I’ll take us both for a ride!! : )


      • October 30, 2012 12:18 PM

        yihaaaaayyy! That means we would go to Amazon! Start my backpacking from now…LOL


        • October 30, 2012 3:26 PM

          And I’ll ask Santa for a pith helmet and some mosquito repellent for Christmas!! : )


  9. October 28, 2012 10:35 PM

    Hi Mark,

    I’m not the Jeep driving type. I like the way the cartoon conveys motion, in the clouds yet — how cool is that?

    The shaka hand sign is one I didn’t know about but it was a perfect inclusion. Your description of your treatment of the rocks and the differences between bitmap and vector images was appreciated. Thanks for the virtual ride πŸ™‚


    • October 30, 2012 10:32 AM

      Many thanks, TT, no one I’d rather take for a spin in my virtual Jeep. And yes, I think I’ll stick to the virtual kind– a lot easier on the backside… : (

      My sincere thanks for your kind and loyal support! : )


  10. October 29, 2012 9:10 PM

    As a lifetime Jeep lover/owner and consistent “hang loose” flasher, I loved this!! You’re the coolest cat I know.

    And speaking of counting things, I am constantly counting my fur kids to make sure none of them has left them premises:-)

    The picture of the Jeep he sent you is amazing as is your interpretation. I love the fact you counted the rocks. I enjoy when you detail the tactics of your creative process. It satisfies my left brain AND my right brain:-) Who knew??? Two brains and just in time for Halloween!

    Hope you’re surviving the storm Mark!


    • October 30, 2012 10:50 AM

      Ha! Thanks, Tracey– one of your wittiest comments ever. “Fur kids”– now that’s a euphemism for pets I’ve never heard before!!

      I should have guessed you were a Jeep person. I can picture you zooming up and down over rough terrain with perfect equanimity, flashing the ol’ “hang loose” with a big smile on your face… : )

      You actually have two brains?? Hm! That might account for a shortage we have here in New Hampshuh… : P

      Yes, I did survive Hurricane Sandy, thanks, hope you did the same. When I was a kid, one would sometimes hear the expression: it’s raining cats and dogs. I’m gonna update that to: it’s raining fur kids!!

      Thanks as always for your cheerful support! : )


  11. OyiaBrown permalink
    October 30, 2012 5:09 AM

    Reblogged this on OyiaBrown.


  12. October 30, 2012 7:02 AM

    Great post and illustration Mark πŸ™‚ I learned something too about the “shaka sign”, now I know the meaning of that hand sign. Merci beaucoup! πŸ™‚

    About Jeep? Well, just add -ney on it so that it becomes Jeepney, hahaha, the most popular means of public transportation in the Philippines πŸ™‚ And it really is an adventure to ride in one of those vehicles πŸ˜›


    • October 30, 2012 3:33 PM

      Jeepneys… c’est amazing!! I’ve just been reading about them. Fascinating. I’m trying to imagine you driving one, people running and screaming, jumping over walls and into ditches, trying to get out of the way, as you roar by with a big smile on your face… yes, I can picture it all quite easily!! : P

      Always an exquisite pleasure, dear Dolly– merci cupcakes!!


  13. October 30, 2012 7:55 AM

    The hang loose sign is one that has been used and adapted in the area I grew up in. Local Maori gangs use it as a symbol of power. Kids use the sign too in fun and also to represent who they are and where they are from…. It seems to have squeezed its way into the culture of NZ’s small communities.


    • October 30, 2012 3:41 PM

      Fascinating. A symbol of power… that seems quite at odds with the sign’s original meaning. Funny how gestures and expressions can migrate to entirely different meanings.

      Always good to see you. You are, of course, recognized here as one of the foremost authorities on New Zealand, biking, travel, photography, and the composition of pleasing prose– thanks for stopping by! : )


  14. October 31, 2012 6:29 AM

    That sign? It’s ‘Call me’, and with a little bit of facial expression, the message could be – I’m waiting, I’m excited, etc. – you choose how to.


    • November 1, 2012 9:46 AM

      Your comment made me slap my head and laugh. You’re right: I’ve seen people use that very same hand signal to mimic a telephone: thumb up, little finger extended. They hold it next to their ear and usually mouth the words, “Call me.” I completely missed that association– thanks for pointing it out. Apparently we have a hand signal with more than one meaning!

      I sincerely appreciate your stopping by. : )


  15. October 31, 2012 8:00 AM

    You’re not the only clueless person about the origins and meaning of the hand sign that we’ve seen others do for past decade or so. Thank you. I guess we’re getting dated, etc. πŸ˜‰

    Yea, those jeeps can be huge. In our neck of the woods, 4×4 trucks, etc. are popular.

    Glad you get a diverse range of “work”. πŸ™‚


    • November 1, 2012 9:52 AM

      Well, Jean, we mustn’t be discouraged that we weren’t hip to that one particular hand signal. After all, even incredibly brilliant people like you and I can’t possibly know every little bit of knowledge in the world… : P

      Your putting parentheses around “work” made me laugh. I suspect that’s a problem most humorous illustrators have: trying to convince people that the stuff they produce actually qualifies as work… : )

      Thanks for your comment, always appreciate your support.


  16. November 4, 2012 12:38 AM

    Awesome art work! I actually learned to drive a stick on a jeep…very scary because I’d always driven small cars before that. Being from Hawaii I’m VERY familiar with the shaka :P. And as far as numbering rocks and frying pans…nope never did that before. I look forward to more posts. subscribed! πŸ™‚


    • November 5, 2012 6:11 PM

      Thanks, Mei! Yes, I can see you driving a jeep– and I bet it’s got a surfboard on top! I guess being from Hawaii gives you some small advantage when it comes to knowing certain hand signals– but I’m awarding you a prize anyway: a trip to Hawaii! What? You’re there already?? Well, you certainly wasted no time… : )

      Many thanks for subscribing, I’m delighted. : )


  17. November 4, 2012 4:19 PM

    You learn something new every day : ) It is really interesting knowing something out of your knowledge/social circle.

    I love the muddy effect you gave to the wheels and the jeep. Certainly brings that added depth and adrenaline rush one would possibly feel when driving those at full speed!

    And a very clever way of remembering what is what. I always get confused just by looking at the layer thumbnails on photoshop, so that little technique would certainly help : )

    Thank you for letting us delve into the ‘behind-the-scenes’ of your work ^_^


    • November 5, 2012 9:26 AM

      What a kind and supportive comment– thank you, Sabine! Yes, it’s interesting the little things one learns doing an assignment. Maybe I should splash a little mud on the old clunker I drive. Nah… on second thought, it’s dirty enough as it is… : (

      Glad you enjoyed the post, always a pleasure to see you! : )



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