A Look Inside the Art Behind the Earliest Days of Steven Universe

Image: Some of the earliest development drawings of Steven Universe drawn by Rebecca Sugar in preparation for the pilot pitch. Abrams Books/Cartoon Network.

Steven Universe has become one of Cartoon Network’s most beloved shows—for everything from its nuanced characters to its toe-tapping music, to its gorgeous and vivid aesthetic. The great news is a new art book promises to reveal boatloads of work that went into making Steven Universe so good, and we’ve got a first look.

Published by Abrams Books, Steven Universe: Art and Origins offers fans rare insight into the process of making the show, as well as tons of glimpses into the earliest days of its creation, back when series creator Rebecca Sugar was doodling images of a floofy-haired, stubbly teenager in her notebook while pitching the series’ pilot to the network. Alongside rare storyboards, concept art, background pieces, and character design iterations, the book—written by Chris McDonnell, with forewords and introductions by Rebecca Sugar and Genndy Tartakovsky—also features exclusive commentary from artists who’ve worked on the show, providing insight into the universe of Steven and the Crystal Gems on an unprecedented scale.


io9 is proud to reveal a few of the never-before-pieces of artwork you’ll see in Art and Origins, including looks at how Beach City’s vibrant waterfront was brought to life—and, amazingly, some of the earliest looks at sketches of Steven, Garnet, Pearl, and Amethyst from the show’s pilot and beyond, some of which contain Rebecca Sugar’s early lyrics for the show’s catchy as hell theme song, “We are the Crystal Gems.” Don’t forget to click the magnifying glass in the corner of each image to enlarge it—and them in a new tab to see them at their full resolutions.

Beach City Concept art by Kevin Dart.
Some of the earliest development drawings of Steven Universe drawn by Rebecca Sugar in preparation for the pilot pitch.
Music is always integral to Rebecca’s animated work. For the Steven pilot, Rebecca knew that Steven would play and sing a silly song about himself and the Gems, which would become the series theme song. These early sketched pages include Rebecca’s initial drafts of the lyrics and other early drawings of the characters.
Danny Hynes drew hundreds of Stevens in preparation for the eventual task of tying down the final series design into an iconic standard model.
Steven Sugar’s development drawings of proposed Beach City locations, including It’s a Fold, Fish Stew Pizza, Big Donut, Beach Citywalk Fries, Kone ‘n’ Son, and Tee Time.

Steven Universe: Art and Origins will be available from July 11.


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James Whitbrook

James is a News Editor at io9. He wants pictures. Pictures of Spider-Man!