Friday, August 19, 2011

Shiver Me Twitters

Don't forget!

Man.. No life drawing for way too long. Finally found a place to live. So even better things will begin very soon.

Mixing your strokes in Multiply and Colour Dodge modes give you completely different colour curves, so USE THEM.

If you want to get faster, do the best job you can, and take a long time on each piece. Speed comes from knowledge.

If you can help it, adjust your brush pressure to make the application of value resemble the application of actual light. Usually this involves softening the tip feel, because the value of your surface will be proportional to the cosine of the angle the light is hitting it at. see this. Roughly if the plane being hit by light perpendicularly is at value 10 (and the shadow is at value 0), at light angle of 60º relative to the surface plane the value will be around 8.6, at 45º it will be 7, at 30º it will be 5, at 15º it will be 2.6 and at 0º it will be 0.

Never settle for your first pass at a drawing or a concept, but it will always have some crucial elements that you have to catch and take with you into your next iterations.

Use pure black sparsely. Create atmosphere with almost black instead.

Have a lot of interesting things along the line of sight of your characters. Viewers' eye will always follow it.

Use the Histogram to check your values and make sure your picture is coming out in the key you intended.

When taking feedback, try to interpret what the person is saying and where they're coming from, instead of taking what they say at face value. Try your best to understand why you're getting such a response and what it really means, because words are never enough to communicate visual ideas. More often than not, the critique is hitting some crucial truth, but it's up to you to discover what that is.

Design and visual language mean completely new things to me now. The best designs use symbolic shapes and allude to various objects we see daily in order to elicit an emotional response, much like metaphors in writing. Except design is more like music, since the language of shapes is about as abstract as the language of notes (though much more complex).

You will always have a tougher time making things read in shadow, so make sure that in your compositions important shape-defining edges aren't in shadow. Makes sense, right?

To get unexpected colour schemes, you can't rely on your own knowledge of colour. So experiment with as many tricks as you can. Or do tons of weird colour studies.

Always know which hue you're going towards and max out saturation and value when laying down your painting fundament. You want as many hues and as much contrast as you can manage. You can always tone it all down later by colour picking and mixing edges.

MIX GOD-DAMN COMPLEMENTS, BATMAN! And saturate the shit out of them while you're at it.

Actually, mixing in small bits of complements makes your colours sparkle much more than picking the "right" colours. This is because your eyes are mixing the colour instead of photoshop.

Take colours that aren't working and shift them towards colours that are already on the canvas. As in, take a pink skin tone and put it on a green leather belt that's looking muddy. It will work, trust me.

You can extend your colour range by adding little accents of random saturated hues here and there, but ratios of all the hues in your colour gamut must be preserved.

Every colours fits! Because they all get mixed in the eyes anyway. Try to extract bright saturated tints from your boring paintings so that the eye could mix them and make your picture look more realistic.

Have as many hues on your canvas as you can! Push shit all the way around the colour wheel! You just need to blend them at the right spots.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

League of Vegans

Finally started doing morning warmups. Saw this cool thing on one of the designers' desks. I'm trying to figure out a new way of doing studies without just airbrushing the whole thing. Don't get me wrong, soft edges are good and all, but you can put down way more information with hard-edged brushes. Also, this will actually get me to practice drawing and measure while I study.

A neat little trick for checking values: Put a saturate layer over your image and fill it with black. When you turn it on, your image will become grayscale. Thanks Maokai!

Today I really learned the value of iteration. If you can spare the time, draw the same character/object/environment least 3 times (same pose/angle and everything) before moving to final. You learn so many things about your object as you draw it repeatedly that your final composition and design just become that much better.

For those not in the know, I finally joined twitter.. It's okay, I have some things I have to share with the world, not just what I ate for lunch.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

I Will Not Disappear

Unlike most other artists who get full time gigs and drop off the face of the earth, I'm gonna keep sharing my thoughts, studies and personal work with you here. The reason I haven't been is because I still don't have a place to live, which puts a hard cap on how much work I can do outside of Riot. It's been emotionally tasking not to be able to pursue your goals for a month, so I'm a little shaken up. Now it's time to review all the things I've written in my journal from a month and a half ago.

You are always right. Any decision you have made in the past was the choice that you needed to make. Even if it seemed like a mistake, it was the best thing that could have happened.

Trying to change your habits as a test of willpower is immature and rarely works. You need to internalize a shift in priorities in order to succeed at that.

Becoming an adult happens in 3 steps:
1. Learn who you are.
2. There will be things you won't like (or you have to re-do step 1), so change them
3. There will be things you can't change, so learn to love them. It is illogical to hate yourself for things you can't change. Your past mistakes count.

Los Angeles is deceptively spacious. There is actually very little space, because people are always moving. You always have to wait your turn to enjoy things. I guess it's the same in New York, but there you just expect everything to be crowded.

Here is how karma works: you put in the time, and you get rewarded. Fair? Yes. Why does it work? Because everyone else gave up before you. Certain kinds of risks often pay off, because very few people take them.

It doesn't matter how you apply brush strokes as long as you put the right value in the right place.

We spend so long hiding our true intentions that all you have to do to make a connection with another human being is to reveal them.

It's infinitely harder to make compelling and precise brush strokes on the computer, so do them in three steps: put the marks down on a separate layer, then adjust them, then merge down.

You can save a lot of time by plotting down your hard edges first, because they're the most important.

By trying too hard you make it harder for yourself to succeed. You start thinking about the effort rather than the thing you're doing. Or maybe that's just me.

Picking the base tone is more important than subsequent colours, because it heavily affects how your colour mixing curves will look. Make sure you have enough saturation!

Oddly enough, growing up is about relaxing more than proving or achieving anything.

Commit to lines right away. Without committing, you can't design.

You can change skintone by changing the colour of the clothes.

You learn how to react to things from the people around you. And other people learn from you what kind of behavior you approve of or not. Pick the right reactions and approve of the right kind of behavior.

The more you think about something, the bigger it becomes. Be careful of this power.

Your subconscious limits you. Negative thoughts limit your subconscious. DON'T HAVE THEM.

I was told I'd have a hard time working after work. But in actuality, I need to work on my own stuff to stay sane.

Don't use straight lines with shift-click. Do them with your own hand - put personality into them.

Successful people are not the ones who take action when something is wrong, but the ones who keep achieving when everything is great.

Doesn't matter what you do, it's all about how you do it.

If you have time or brainpower to think about how well you're doing your task, you're not doing it well enough.

When you are presenting a bunch of your designs, pick the worst one and work on it until it is awesome, (or start it over) then rinse and repeat until you can't tell which one is the worst.

Design is changing the patterns of elements in a picture to draw attention to certain points in it. The cleverness and simplicity of distribution of the viewers' attention is what makes the design appealing.

Anticipation is more interesting than the climax. IMHO.

Figure out what else will be in the illustration besides the focus. You gotta have room for your eye to travel, not just points of interest everywhere.

Monday, August 1, 2011

How I Broke into Concept Art

Sorry I've been away, everyone. Things are getting progressively busier and busier, but it's all good because I'm happily employed at Riot Games as an associate concept artist! I'm living with my friend in fumy downtown Los Angeles trying to find a place to live in sunny Santa Monica, where my beloved studio is.

Consider this a rough step-by-step tutorial of how to break into the industry based on my experience, the mistakes I made and the things I learned along the way - while they are fresh in my mind. Anyone listening to my story should know that since it already happened, by repeating the same process you won't be able to get the same results. You will need to work harder, because I just took your spot.

Now, the big dogs out there will have much more information about the industry, how it works and what they like to see. I'm simply attempting to sum up how I would approach it if I had 5 years to do it over.

Step 1:

Don't go to college. I make less in a year than my tuition was for one semester, which is enough to live decently in Santa Monica, one of the most desirable areas in Los Angeles. While the place I got educated was a lot of fun, a fulfilling life experience, and got me a piece of paper that helped me get the job and stay in the States (I'm Canadian), it didn't do me much good as far as furthering my drawing skills. In fact, it took away time that I could have spent getting better.

Step 2:

Move in with an ambitious art buddy. It is very hard to motivate yourself when you are living on your own, or with your parents. It is even harder when all your roommates want to do is kick back and have fun. If you're serious about drawing for a living, you don't have time for fun right now. Get rid of friends, girlfriends, family, drugs, video games and whatever other distractions may stand in your way. Your ambitious art buddy will satisfy all your social needs and motivate you. Get someone around your skill level, where neither of you may feel superior to the other, so you will both take each others' criticism.
I lived with Neolight  from last September to May. He is now going through an art internship at Insomniac Games.

Step 3:

Use the money you saved from not going to college to sustain yourself. Join a gym. Eat healthy. Sleep well. I can't emphasize this enough. If you don't exercise every day, you raise the risk of getting carpal tunnel or other RSI's. Alternatively, if you don't run into physical problems from drawing, you're not drawing enough. When you run into wrist/back problems, you'll need to carefully analyze your posture and drawing methods. Leading a healthy lifestyle outside of drawing will help you, but you'll also need to take frequent stretch breaks, have an ergonomic set-up for drawing, and do anything you can to adjust the physical act of drawing so that you don't get put out of commission by RSI. When I go to life drawing, I don't do bold strokes that carve the form out of the page anymore, because I only have about 400 of those in me before my thumb begins to hurt. Instead I draw lightly, bringing the form out with gentle strokes that I can do all day.

Step 4:

Communicate with other artists. You're not going to learn enough about the industry or about art from the internet alone. Reach out to as many people as you can and try your best to soak up everything they tell you. E-mailing people and going to conventions has countless benefits. It raises the industry's awareness of you, it gets you super inspired, builds up your social network (which increases opportunities), gets you tons of new information - anecdotes like this one, critiques on your work, etc etc. Face time with other artists is key. It puts you in the right mindset and reminds you that you're not alone on this journey.

Note: The only way you can increase the chances of people responding to your e-mails is by being yourself and being honest. If they still don't respond, then they're either way too busy to read them, or you shouldn't hear their feedback anyway.

Step 5:

Have something that separates you from hundreds of other kids at your skill level or better, trying to get your job . Concept artists are a dime a dozen. Even if you're not at a skill level comparable to the big stars of the industry, being able to do one thing exceptionally well will really increase your chances of getting hired (especially if that thing is in demand). This could be a tangible skill, a style that you have developed, subject matter you specialize in, or just a je-ne-sais-quoi about your work that makes other people remember it. I am good at turnarounds.

Step 6:

Get lucky. I did a turnaround to cover my bases, and 6 months later I happened to show it to Riot at precisely the right time when they needed someone with this skill. At this point, Riot's sky-rocketing reputation has turned the heads of badasses way beyond my level and I highly doubt I'd be able to get in if I were to apply now. Be at the right place at the right time, and seize any opportunity that comes your way. I had no idea how awesome Riot was when I was showing my portfolio to them. They were just across the way from the Blizzard booth at GDC.

Step 7:

Have a loftier goal that getting a job in the industry. It's a good place to start, but once you do achieve it, you'll need a new place to get to. Only recently did I understand that the journey is more fun than the destination, so I have to come up with a new goal fast, because I've trained my mind to focus on the task at hand and give it my all. At the moment, my brain is very confused as to what to focus on, and you don't want that to happen.

I'm attaching some life drawing for good measure. I haven't done it in a while, but I was sitting behind a dude who was just so good, that I had a really easy time simplifying the figure after looking at his drawings. 2-25's.