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I anticipated this being an extremely challenging project for me right from the start, as my artistic style for the past few decades has never relied on accurate illustrations, let alone isometric grids and functional diagram pieces. Acknowledging this fact, I dove headfirst into something I thought would stretch my capabilities to the max, as I love a challenge more than anything!


I thought the complex mechanics of one of the more gigantic man made war machines would make a pretty interesting piece so I tapped into the mind of a friend who is a pretty extreme tank hobbiest to see if there was one that would fit what I was looking for. He recommended one of the more important tanks of WW2, the T-34. My first stop was jumping over to my go-to free stock images site, and pulling up T-34 photos.


I then started some preliminary sketches to give a basic idea of how I wanted the tank to "explode" out into different layers.

T-34/85 Case Study: What I Do

I then moved fairly quickly into illustrator to create my line work on an isometric plane, utterly oblivious to the challenges facing me just around the bend.


It was only just then that I started to notice the subtle differences in the reference photos that I had chosen and realized that the T-34 tank is not as basic as once assumed... In fact, I had chosen a few references of completely different series of the same model! I knew absolutely nothing about tanks in general, let alone soviet era Russian war machines and thought perhaps it was time to school myself a bit. I started diving into schematics, blue-prints, other technical illustrations like this one from "Joseph-MNBC" on DivantArt


And this illustration at (I could not find a specific artist accreditation)

T-34/85 Case Study: What I Do

Actual schematics of different parts of the tank were helpful as well, such as in this case of what the side of the tank would look like without the wheels or tread.

I also researched COUNTLESS websites, wikis, articles, etc. in my search behind just what made the T-34/85 click behind the scenes. I found out more information that I ever thought I would learn about any one tank in my life. I think if I were to type T-34 in my google search engine, EVERY single website link will still have a "visited" color... Here are just a few websites I found helpful in learning about this particular tank.

All of this new information helped develop the tank into both my second and third progression stages.


I was finally at a stage where I felt confident enough to send it for critique amongst my peers, to my instructor, and to my extreme tank enthusiast associate. I received very good advice about changed the direction and plane of the turret to coincide with the isometric plane but I will say my tank enthusiast simply tore my design apart. Major redesigns obviously needed to occur in order to attain the level of detail, accuracy and integrity I wanted to achieve in my technical illustration. He pointed me towards what was probably my most helpful resource throughout all of my research, spanning my entire project. There is a series of youtube videos and episodes created by World of Tanks North America called "Inside the Chieftain's Hatch" that explores the entire hull, engine, interior, and history of every model tank of historical significance. I could finally see with my own eyes what a T-34/85 really looked like, what made it "tick" and actually watch it move!

This one is episode 2 where he actually goes inside the turret and bow. This helped immensely and I finally took out the "lazy boys," redesigned the operating mechanics and engine covers, and was able to add an accurate weapons chute, arsenal racks and gunman's post.


By now I was utterly lost in the world of tanks and can say with confidence I know quite a bit about Soviet era war machines and can tentatively call myself a fan. I have thoroughly enjoyed this project and count it among one of my top challenges of the past couple years. I definitely have a huge amount of respect for those who create technical illustrations and find it fascinating.

T-34/85 Case Study: What I Do

Special thanks to my "tank enthusiast" who really helped make all of this possible. Without his continuing critiques, advice, and dogged attention to detail, I would have never been able to create this graphic with any amount of precision. Thank you Andrew Grimes!

T-34/85 Case Study: What I Do

T-34/85 Soviet Era Tank

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