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Creating Project ALERT's Distinctive Characters

Q & A with Artist Tuesday Mourning and Graphic Designer Larry Brown

PA CharacterFor over a decade the appealing characters who bring Project ALERT to life have come from the lively imagination of artist Tuesday Mourning (her professional name), who resides in Utah. The liaison between Mourning and the Project ALERT team is Larry Brown, the creative force behind Larry Brown Graphic Design & Communication in Los Angeles. We asked the two of them to explain how these characters come to be.

Q: Larry, you’ve worked with the staff at Project ALERT on design projects for a long time. How did the characters that define the program come to be?

A: We wanted to create a look that the ALERT target audience would be attracted to. We considered various artists and illustrators, each of whom had distinctive styles. We started with another artist but gradually realized that we needed something more touchy-feely—characters that actually spoke to young people, characters who looked and dressed the way young people see themselves. All of us immediately gravitated to Tuesday’s work.  

Q: Tuesday, you’ve illustrated several dozen books for children and young adults. What made coming up with the Project ALERT characters unique? PA Character

A: I wasn’t familiar with the program so I studied it carefully. I loved the aspects of good health and self confidence that it can help students achieve, so I set out to reflect that in the characters I sketched. 

Q: Larry, are you involved throughout the creative process?

A: I was in the beginning. But as we worked together, Tuesday needed less input from me. I work directly with the Project ALERT folks and then liaison with Tuesday. Now, the Project ALERT folks will tell me what they need—a male, a female, summer, winter dressing, that sort of thing—and Tuesday takes it from there.

Q: Is the universality of her style part of what makes it work so well?

PA CharacterA: Absolutely. She has a great way of representing diversity—characters who could be any ethnicity—and that’s important to Project ALERT because it reaches every audience. We also appreciate her ability to use colors, texture, and style. She puts lots of effort into the clothes, the faces, and all the little details.

Q: Tuesday, once you know what characters are needed, do they just spring to life?

A: As soon as I start working with pencil sketches, they typically do. But some don’t. Some need quite a bit of work to get their personalities to come through. When I think I’ve got it right, I send them to Larry and he reviews them with the Project ALERT staff. I rework the sketches until we’re all satisfied. Then I produce them in color on the computer. 

Q: What inspires your work? 

A: The myriad of amazing young people I see around me: their fashion sense, personalities, resolve, and diversity. I love the way dress and personality mesh. It helps that I enjoy clothes shopping. Once I know a character, it’s a matter of going shopping through his or her imaginary closet—and then I’ve got it. Details, like a dress with a beautiful pattern, or a tiny heart necklace, are the icing on the cake. PA Character

Q: Does it have extra meaning that these characters are for a drug resistance program?

A: Definitely. I love how this program empowers teens. I know they are from all walks of life, have varied interests, and represent all races, so I want my characters to reflect that, and to be strong, smart, fun, and full of life, health, and happiness.

Q: is that true for you as well, Larry?

A: When I work on this program, I see its value. I can’t say that of all my clients. But I am proud to contribute to Project ALERT. I feel I’m doing something of real importance.  

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