Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Hey, progress!

Some, anyway, heh. Yesterday and today were slow at work, so I spent some time "leveling up" on these paintings. Just like in video games, if you wanna get to Level 60 Artist, you gotta grind, grind, grind...



Some progress on Western Building. I'd done a bit yesterday but it wasn't that obvious so I waited until I got further before posting. All the work is on the left side (compare with 2 posts down).

After I wrote yesterday that I should do something via Syd Mead's process, I went ahead and started doing it, so now I have yet another piece in the pipeline:

12. City Gates



This line sketch is from the first thumbnail page at the bottom of the art dump post, I thought it had potential to be interesting, so I blew it up and started doing a value study version, to figure out light and shade:



This is a little bit of cheating on Mr. Mead's method, since rather than doing this totally freehand I did use the original at low opacity to trace under, but I'm following the same basic plan. The next step is to do a pretty tight line drawing for what Mr. Mead calls the "color miniature," a "small" version of the image to plan out all the colors. He does it on board at 7"x10" to work up to a 20"x30" final image, but I've already rezzed this up to my final size, 3000x1500 pixels, so I'll actually want to rez it DOWN to 1000x500 or smaller to do the color rough.

I think this has a nice balance of dark to light. There's no pure white or pure black anywhere in it but it's got a nice range and things seem to read well to me, so I'm happy so far.

Monday, March 26, 2007

I forgot this one...

This is another old one that I'm reworking, which I forgot to add to all the others.

11. Cargo Unload



I started working on this a looooong time ago, while I was still at my old job; the rough start on it is on my portfolio site, here it is:



You can see that I've expanded the image to the left and top by a bit, to make room for some people and the buildings in the background. I'm not sold on the buildings, but for now I'm letting them stay as I detail the ship in the foreground. Who knows, I may wind up cropping it back again. I also added in an actual sunset photo that I took from our office, to make the sky more real-looking. I'll be adjusting it some, I think it's too saturated the way I have it blended.

I have to try doing a piece from start to finish using Syd Mead's very meticulous methods - I have the Gnomon DVD set of 4 discs where he shows his whole process working on an illustration from rough thumbnails to finished piece. He's very methodical and each step is fairly laborious, but you can't argue with his results, which are always brilliant. He's where I'm getting the focus on making sure there is a story to every image, with people doing things, interacting with whatever piece of hardware or architecture he's illustrating. I'm sure it can't hurt to try following his steps precisely with my own story illustration.

I'm going to work on one of the other ones now. I think I understand why Feng said he likes to have 4 or 5 projects running at once; if you get bored with the piece you're working on, switch to something different and work on that.

Now, how to decide... heh...

Friday, March 23, 2007

Massive Art Dump

I'm not feeling so great about my art and talent lately. I see all this amazing art that other concept artists are cranking out for cool games and film, and my stuff, in my mind, really just does not cut it. I hardly even feel like a real concept artist. The main problem is that I've spent years and years doing work in what is now an obsolete art style - the pen-and-marker "industrial design" look that I first saw in the old Star Wars sketchbooks. There's still a certain amount of this going on, for work that needs to be sketched out too fast to paint it, but the predominant style of work is painterly-realistic to photo-realistic full-color digital paintings.

I don't have much stuff in that style, really, and what I do have is... eh. Probably the closest thing I have to what I consider a "pro-level" concept painting is the Volcano Temple painting down in the previous post.

So. Do I want to feel like a real concept artist or not? Do I want to keep myself employable as a concept artist or not? Do I want to try to join all the great artists whose work I admire, the guys at the top of the concept biz like Iain McCaig, Ryan Church, Craig Mullins, Feng Zhu, Ed Lee, Stephane Martiniere, and dare I mention Syd Mead, in creating really amazing work and working on the best and most interesting projects? Well, yeah. Yeah I do want all of that. Can I do it? I don't know at the moment.

What sets all the best people in my field apart from the rest is one thing: all they do is paint, draw, sketch all the time. Or at least they did when they were students and earlier in their careers. In order to catch up... I have to try to do that too. Which isn't easy, given the realities of life at 41 years old as opposed to 20.

Well. So, just to remind myself that I am actually doing artwork and trying to get better and learn and increase my output, here's a whole pile of paintings that I've started and declared to be "Portfolio Projects," that I need to finish:

1. Asimov's New York City



In one of my favorite books, The Caves of Steel, Asimov sets the story in a future NYC that has been completely enclosed, sealed off from nature, in which all the millions of New Yorkers live their entire lives without seeing the sun or sky. I've always wanted to do a series of scenes based on the book, so here I start the first one, an aerial view looking at the southern end of Manhattan Island. I just started this one today, using a real aerial photo as the basis, so just a rough beginning.

2. Forest Canopy



A quick start on an alien forest looking up, following some of the Star Wars Episode III art book environment paintings. Needs a story and people in it.

3. Green City



This started as kind of a stream-of-consciousness scribble in Painter, using the square chalk and only vertical and horizontal strokes abstractly, but it started looking like a city to me to I want to detail it out. This rough actually looks like some of the pro work that I want to get to, so that's good. Need to figure out a story for this one too.

4. Starshipwright Shipyard



Trying to update my existing portfolio somewhat, this is a color version of this piece. I got to this point and kind of stalled; I've got the bright sunlight coming thru the open bay pretty well, but there would be other artificial light sources outside the bright area and I kinda got overwhelmed trying to think them through. Needs some story and people in it too.

5. Western Building



Another one from my older stuff, this one needs some characters, some life, and the left hallway lit properly with the reddish kerosene lantern light. That's supposed to be the paymaster window to the left, maybe I should put some bandits in there robbing the guy and maybe a hero sneaking up on the bandits. That's a pretty Western story...

6. Lantern Carrier



My boss Miguel threw out the two words "lantern carrier" as a sketch-of-the-day idea, and this is what I came up with. It needs polishing, detailing, and a bit more work on the light. Happily, this one already has a story scenario in it.

7. Phinn Starships



Yet another older work update. Needs lots of details and interesting lights and some cool space stuff in the background, like wreckage or nebulae or smashed up planetoids or something. I probably can't put people in this one unless I pull back a bit and show them inside another ship, so maybe I can get story out of the environment.

7. Island Town



Night view of a Spanish-style architecture island town. Looong way to go on this one. Needs people, a sense of story, life!

9. Hallway



Some kind of sci-fi type tech hallway. I did a flat elevation view of the stuff on the walls, which I put into perspective on both sides of the hallway in Photoshop. Now it needs to be made 3-dimensional and lit well. And populated with characters and a scenario.

10. Forest Stairs



Started this one yesterday, doing a grayscale value study/sketch first before trying to go to color. This one will take a long time because I want this image to basically look like a black & white photo before I even think of adding color to it. One of my biggest weaknesses is lighting, and an even bigger one is properly applying color in a way that brings life and emotion to the image.

Okay, so I'm doing some art. Just have to try to finish all of these. Oh, and here's a couple pages of thumbnails I did last night:






OK, I feel a bit better. Still... lots and lots of work to do. It will probably take me 2 or 3 years to get up to the level that I want to be at. I hope I can catch up, I hope things don't change too much in the biz in the next couple of years...

Monday, March 12, 2007

Painty Paint Painting

Here's what I'm working on now for my portfolio:



This is an expansion on a project piece I did that served its purpose at the time, but didn't really come out as well as I liked. I talked to several of my colleagues about it and got suggestions, and this is where I'm going with it.

There are both painted and lifted-from-photograph elements; I'm trying to blend the two so that it's hard to tell what's what. The photograph parts are the sky, some of the foliage, and much of the stonework, some of which is from pix of actual Mayan temples.

Below, here's the original "finished" version from which I started. It's not horrible or anything, but it's just not that exciting an image.



You can see that I'm going for a lot more contrast and drama in the expanded version. The idea is that most of the left foreground will be more lit with the red light from the volcano. Also, I'll be adding some kind of exploration party checking things out, carrying torches that will add more red local lights, with the blue sky and sunset clouds giving the cool offset. We'll see how it works!

I've been doing a bunch of caricatures and other weird stuff, I'll try to get some up soon.