Tony Helms’ Star Wars Rogue One Countdown

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star wars rogue one fan art challenges

Do you challenge yourself to draw every day? We absolutely admire those who do, but how do they keep their momentum up? We discovered a completely novel way for a super fan to get excited and stay excited about drawing — by counting down the arrival of the next big cultural event. Tony Helms is doing exactly that. He’s challenged himself to a Rogue One Countdown on Instagram. He’s inking a new Star Wars drawing for each of the 40 days before the premiere of the movie on December 16th. And he’s almost there. We love this idea so much that we had to ask him a few questions about it.

Where do you live? What’s your drawing background?

I live in Temecula, CA with my wife of 22 years and our teen daughter. I’m a full-time software engineer. I’m a novice who just loves to draw. I have no formal training other than a few online courses. Most of what little art knowledge I have comes from various drawing books I have purchased and from encouragement given by the few professionals I have had the honor of meeting. Drawing is the perfect creative outlet for me after hours of software coding.

star wars fan art
Tony does a great job of following his “Star Wars-ish” rule. We love seeing characters like Stitch as Rebel Pilot.

What do you draw on and where do you do it?

I draw directly on a computer screen. Not sure I could ever do otherwise now. My budget for drawing hardware is tight, but I make sure it has a Wacom digitizer and allows direct drawing on the screen. Currently I’m using a very dated Motion Computing LE1700 tablet PC. The machine was originally built for the medical industry but works well as a budget, on-the-screen drawing tablet. I believe it was through my first LE1700 that I was introduced to SketchBook Pro. SketchBook’s interface was clearly designed for on-screen drawing, and it made the experience feel natural moving from traditional to my first digital work. I rarely do traditional anymore and exclusively draw in SketchBook. I don’t have a specific drawing desk, so I stay mobile and draw with my LE1700 while taking a break at my programming station, sitting in bed, lounging on the sofa, or even at the mechanic while waiting on my car.

You draw a lot of characters. Has that always been your focus?

Character drawing has always been a personal passion even when I did not know it had the name “character design.” It provides a wide variety of interesting subjects that helps push me out of my comfort zone. I want to learn to be able to draw most anything and having a story or character as my subject leads to drawing other supporting subjects or objects that I would normally never draw. Though I also enjoy drawing landscapes and elaborate backgrounds, they seem to simply provide a stage for a character.

Are there illustrators or artists or characters you admire?

There are many artists I admire and enjoy learning through resources they have either published or simply through analyzing their work. The artists I feel influence me the most are Tom Bancroft (Mushu the Dragon), Stephen Silver (Kim Possible), Cory Loftis (character designer), Chris Sanders (Lilo and Stitch, HTTYD, Croods), Christopher Hart (retro cartooning), Ben Caldwell (various comics/toy design), and Bruce Timm (Batman and other DC Comics characters).

rogue one fan art
Chewbacca playing video games? We don’t want to be around when he rage quits after a tough multiplayer round.

What gave you the idea for this Rogue One project?

I need regular drawing prompts as I try to make sure I draw every day — even when I don’t feel like drawing. So I look for sketch prompts or ideas where possible. The Rogue One countdown idea happened randomly while looking to see how many days until the movie was to be released to theaters. When I first Googled this it so happened to be exactly 40 days till its premiere.

Do you do regular challenges?

Over the past two years I have aggressively participated in Drawtober/Inktober and look forward to these each year now. I can clearly see a marked improvement at the end of each challenge period along with a great sense of personal accomplishment. While waiting for the next Inktober I will occasionally pick a theme like this Rogue One countdown and stick to it daily until done. Even when doing a theme I still try to do some non-theme related subject as a warm-up before I draw the theme related subject that day. This helps me to diversify my drawing subjects and why you will see a mix of subjects in my gallery stuck in between various Rogue One countdowns.

star wars rogue one fan art
Tony does other challenges, too: He has been a longtime Drawtober/Inktober participant.

Did you set yourself any rules for this challenge?

The only rules were to keep it Star Wars-ish and draw something every day until the movie is released. I did want to mix it up between serious and comical which is why I try to alternate between western animation style, Lego characters, and a few comical cartoon representations. Though I try to squeeze in canon characters I also take the opportunity to do some theme-based character design and try to come up with my own Star Wars related OCs (original characters). This further pushes me to draw outside my comfort zone.

Have you been able to uncover any details about the movie?

The only thing I believe I uncovered from my Rogue One research is that they had originally planned to have two or more main characters as aliens. From my current understanding most (if not all) of those alien characters were cut or moved to secondary roles to be seen briefly. This information is based on an article I found linked to some of the original Rogue One concept art depicting a team mixed with human and alien characters. I am still holding out hope that is not entirely true and one or more main characters are alien. It would be nice to see a new main alien character that becomes iconic like Chewbacca. But I’m betting my new favorite will be K2-SO, the reprogrammed imperial security droid.

Mickey, Minnie, and who knows show up in these Star Wars drawings.
Mickey, Minnie, and who knows show up in these Star Wars drawings.

Do you follow other Rogue One fan art?

I have purposely tried to avoid the trailers in fear they will show too much. I find I enjoy a movie more if I avoid the trailers. Most of my research has been based on photo searches and a few entertainment site articles. I have not actually seen that much fan art yet. Just a few of K2-SOs and some of Jyn. There is probably much more out there, but I have not actively looked for any. This is probably why most of my Rogue One images actually have little to do specifically with Rogue One and more as just general Star Wars art. I believe artists need to see the personality behind the character to do them justice in fan art. I have done pre-movie fan art before and after I finally see the movie I can go back and look at those older works and say, “I was totally wrong.” I’m sure I will do the same with many of my Rogue One countdown works. I may try to draw Jyn and Bistan (the space monkey) before the countdown is done, but I’m sure it will be way off base until I get to know each character through the movie.

Did you already buy advance tickets??

Normally I wait until the second or third weekend to see any movie, but my own inflated hype from drawing this countdown theme has encouraged me to break my own rules. I purchased opening day, 3D IMAX tickets the very minute pre-sales started. I also understand it is “encouraged” to cosplay on opening night. Not sure if I will do so, but I’m guessing it will be a fun and fan filled night.