Thursday, March 31, 2011

On Our Last Crusade

Today is a very important day because I failed harder than I have in the recent past, and it was difficult to get over it.
I stopped working on this guy and decided to start on a new one. Where this guy failed:

  • Detail distribution
  • Silhouette read
  • Value read
I've sunk two days into this robot, expected to get a portfolio piece, but had to settle for the knowledge of how much I need to work on vehicles. But out of the bad comes the good, out of the plague came the renaissance, and at some point soon I'm gonna embark on a new challenge that will teach me the ways.

Starcraft struck gold by imitating the Alien with zerg, and adding an exciting horror element into their game, on top of the sci-fi run-of-the-mill conspiracy/rebellion plot lines and themes that go along with the Terran campaign. Protoss are probably the race with the least character, and I was never really invested in what they had to say when I played the campaign, though their visual and gameplay design was solid. Their biggest thematic achievement is probably being the indians to the Terran cowboys. My guess is they were trying too hard to conceptualize a real alien race, which felt too foreign and weird.

Blizzard is the game industry Valhalla. You go there once you have proven your worth in battle.

I realized recently why a few of my pieces were ions beyond anything else I was doing at the time (see the Samurai). It's that "artistic" aspect of concept art shining through, coming from your subconscious. When people are hit with "inspiration" or whatever you want to call it, your brain produces better work, and that's what happened. However there's still no way to logically predict when it will happen again, or how to cause it to do so.

Ideally, all the pieces that go in your portfolio are ones that were made with inspiration.

Oh yeah, I also did some studies hoping they would help me with materials etc. They did. But it didn't save me in the end.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Here We Go Again

Time to get back to work. I'm making some robots next. Will probably upload by Sunday.

In concept art, three things guide your decisions when making shapes: appeal, functionality and gameplay implications.

A lot of hard surface and architecture design is about adjusting angles to make straight lines flow in a nice way.

In the same way that you want to distribute polycount and texture space, you want to put your detail on the part that is most exposed to the camera, or position your concept so that the biggest area of importance is seen.

The way you usually tell a professional from a student is by spotting shortcuts in brushwork. A student, while perhaps having the same skill as a professional, will not have had enough experience to simplify his painting process into something efficient and effortless.

When you don't want to design new shapes, guide the eye with dust, scratches and other texture details.

I heard this new rumour that Diablo III is actually set in Mexico.

Sunday, March 20, 2011



Been thinking a lot about form in my still lives. Having less and less time to do them these days... How long can I keep it up?

Also, I'm often on the phone with my girlfriend as I do these, so I wonder how that affects their quality. During the last one she read me Sailor Moon lore from the wiki.

Some thoughts I've collected over the past couple of days:

When you are drawing line art, doesn't matter that much how you arrange your shapes, as long as there is a semblance of going big to small. The eye can be guided with line weight.

Size should dictate the amount of detail you put on an object. If it's big, it's usually important.

I think that ideally every company wants their concept artists to produce the quality of work they would produce for themselves (for fun), but do it for the company and before its deadlines.

If you want to become good, you have to modify your process for painting so that you are rewarded appropriately as you paint. In a way, it's like a video game. It's only fun if you have enough success, otherwise you don't want to play anymore. Since making a detailed illustration or concept takes a long time, there must be points in your process where you look at your work, become proud of your progress and get inspired to continue working. For me, there is always a dip that happens at about 40% when your expectations for the painting are underwhelmed by what it actually looks like as you start to refine the sketch.

There is always a positive and a negative way to react to your situation, so ALWAYS react positively. When you are striving towards a goal, you are only harming yourself by letting negativity get into your brain, even if its only for analysis of your situation.

I started taking 5-minute "motivation breaks." When I feel tired, bored or uncomfortable from sitting in one place for a while, I go into the living room and look outside for a couple of minutes. Then I flex my muscles, yell and do whatever it takes to get myself pumped up to go back to work. It works much better than taking breaks by checking your email.

Instant colour scheme tip #1:
- Take your entire image or area with muddy colours and lower the saturation.
- Go into "Color Balance" and raise or lower any colour you want. Boom.

I still haven't figured out a good way to mix colours digitally, because there is no way to preview the colour you find with RGB sliders other than trial and error. Also, PS eats your saturation when you use opacity to blend your colours, which gets in the way of everything. Maybe I should just permanently use my brush on overlay? Gonna try it on my still life tonight.

When you set out on a big project, it's important to lay down some key elements and main goals at the beginning, so that you don't lose track of them as you are working.

If you are using a soft brush, you are limiting your value range, because your capabilities for contrast are limited. This is why it also makes sense to use a soft brush to begin your paintings. However, as you progress through it, you must use a harder-edged brush for the fine value/colour transitions.

Contrary to the unpopular belief, it IS actually about the brushes. The shapes you make, the hardness /softness of edges, and how the brush puts down the colour are all qualities that are essential in achieving a workflow that makes every stroke count.

The MOST IMPORTANT THING I LEARNED: It doesn't matter how good or bad you are objectively. If you can constantly convince yourself that you're just within reach of greatness, you will become objectively great sooner than you think.

Oh yeah, I also think I'm gonna reveal that project I've been talking about. Check it out!

And some thumbs:

Just sent that off to the blizzard guys I met. Hopefully they'll find these worthy of a crit.

Based on the work you see above, things I need to work on are:
- Scale
- Depth in Z-space by the use of colour, saturation, edges and shape. i.e. more scale.
So I gotta get back to work!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Missing Deadlines

For the past three still lives I've used pretty much completely different methods of starting. First one was an amalgamation of brushes, just getting warmed up. Next, I tried to block everything in with a hard brush and exact colours. Now I tried blocking in with a soft round airbrush and approximate everything, then refine colours, edges, values and drawing as you go along. I think this is the method that saves you the most time in the end. You can leave most of your painting with soft edges and "averaged" colour, but then tighten up the areas of focus, and find a way to guide the eye creatively. The danger here is it's very easy to make the entire painting swim in mud.

I've also been thinking a lot about colour transitions, and trying to make them as efficiently as possible. Highlights, for example, take at least two tones (usually a saturated soft one first, then a dull, bright, hard stroke on top) to pull off. I think ideally you want to simplify the picture down to as few colours as possible, and still retain all the information in the picture. That's where the "skill" comes in.

Saturday, March 12, 2011


Thought I wouldn't post today did you? Well you're WRONG.

This is a lot better than the last "night still life" I did. I think back then i couldn't see green. On this one I tried to achieve a realistic look with the highlights, but failed again. Oh well. Some value areas need a bit of work as well. Now that I see it in thumbnail, mistakes become more apparent. Gotta remember to step back!

Can't wait to see what my paintings will look like when I get back to them!

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Waiting Game

I'm a firm believer in number of updates over having things to say so here.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Daily Still Life: Start!

Well, it's time to get back to work, and I figure the only WEI I'm gonna beat Wei Wang at art is to paint from life. That's the wei everyone seems to learn how light works and how to create believable form. So, until Daily Duels gets back on its feet, here come the daily still lives!

Still need to work on values and texture. It's pretty tough, but I figure these will get much easier in about a week.

Then there are these guys:

The trouble with that portfolio below is that I'm a lot better than it, both because the 2D works are now almost a month old, and because I did each one in a day. But nevermind that, the project I'm working on right now is gonna kick so much ass, you have no idea. I hope to finish it by Monday.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Unbent, Unbound, Unbroken

I'm back from GDC now and my mind is still trying to straighten itself out. I feel a little empty from having the deadline for such a significant goal pass, and I dearly miss the three days I spent hanging out with professionals. They flew by so fast, and I can't help but feel like I didn't make the most out of the experience. That said, even though 6 weeks was not enough to accomplish my dream, GDC was the best place to spend my birthday week. The questions that have built up over the weeks finally got answered, I met tons of badasses and got a lot of feedback on my portfolio (which you will find below); and most importantly, I know exactly what I need to do to get to where I want to be.

I've been keeping a diary of the things I learned over the last 6 weeks, and I think once I actually accomplish my goal, I will post a very extensive "how to." In the meantime, I'm gonna regroup, clean my room, my mind and my "to do" list, and prepare for the next round.

In addition to the emptiness, I feel a lot more freedom. I'm free from the time and money pressure. Now that daily duels is in hiatus, I have the time to polish my new work. Additionally, a lot of things broke last month, so I had to be very frugal to have enough money to get by. This month I'm swimming in birthday cash.

And without further ado, the best of the last 6 weeks: