I wanna get back to the age when I updated my blog so often that I ran out of titles. Unfortunately since then I've both slowed down in work I can show and expanded my title repertoire.
Because the game industry is so competitive, you have to be a genuinely good and nice person to get in. As a result, once you are in, you're surrounded by the brightest, nicest and quirkiest people you'll ever meet. I noticed when I moved to Riot that overall people seemed nicer, friendlier and smarter than most of the people I've met up to that point.
I already mentioned this on twitter, but it's very important so I'll reiterate: If you don't know what's wrong with your picture/design, use the process of elimination. Paint out every element, one by one, and eventually you'll know what doesn't belong. Picked that up from Maokai Xiao. The hard part is trying to figure out something to replace it.
Interrupt yourself frequently when not doing art. Do not interrupt yourself when doing it.
Separate silhouette from content.
The first difficulty with designing is making cool shapes. The next difficult is making them for a reason. You have to find a way to make shapes cool AND relate to the character/environment.
Here's my process for warming up. Hope it helps:
1. Draw randomly, let your pencil fly and don't even think about what it is. Just explore new things and try to make them look good.
2. Try to make cool shapes. Modify your lines, combine things and make a conscious effort to make things look cool.
3. Design. Draw things in perspective, and know what you're drawing.
There's two ways to expand your shape vocabulary: conscious and unconscious. Unconscious means trying to extract shapes you've seen before by letting your pencil go and seeing what comes out. Conscious means going out and drawing new things! Go on the internet, do a still life, etc. You internalize it for later use.
Since design is all about ratios, any design can be fixed. Usually it's pretty easy to do that by slightly adjusting scales of things and their positions.
Compartmentalize your knowledge. Break it down into small chunks that make sense. Then post them on a blog :D.
To get good at interesting shapes, switch between looking at positive and negative space.
Start out with a simple 3-dimensional primitive, then put your designs on it. Or draw perspective lines. But that usually makes my drawings stiff.
Rely on feeling. After a while you just can't measure certain things and you have to rely on the "feeling" of your drawing in order to make it look correct. Focus on relationships between the main shapes, feel the weight of the object.
Just after you've made a breakthrough, forget that you di. You still need to internalize the information before you can apply it reliably.
Exaggerate your shapes when you design. You can't draw a tank with two strokes, but you need to be able to, in order to generate ideas faster. Thumbnailing is stream of consciousness splurging on the page. Don't let the act of drawing slow it down. Concept/ideas is what's important.
Good design is symbolism. Put shapes of things you want to allude to into your design. Example: you're designing an owl monster. What kind of feeling would putting a horseshoe on him evoke?
Take a bunch of things you've seen before that caused you to have an emotional response and them together in an appealing way.
You can use colour for symbolism as well.
Three important things any design:
1. Distribution of detail
We are subconsciously attributing meaning to certain shapes all our lives (any design that looks skeletal, for example, will seem frail, cold, deathly etc.) Our job as concept artists is to take advantage of that and invoke the right combination of feelings for a cohesive character/environment.
Get your point across as quickly as possible. Make it look compelling with the least amount of detail.
Shape language is as much in the details as the big defining shapes.
It's important to define the theme in your thumbnails. Prototypes for designs should have a similar shape language. e.g. Sharp vs. curved. Often times you only need to design the primary focal point, then it informs the rest of your design. Once you go deep enough into one direction, you'll find everything you need to make a compelling character.
Do not confuse motif with interest. Your thumbnails should have both.
Lock on to your gut feeling. Somewhere inside you know what's wrong with your picture, but your brain keeps covering it up because it doesn't want to fix it.
A fresh set of eyes is infinitely useful for an artist, because I've found that the more time you spend solving a problem, more likely your brain is to say "ok that's good enough, there's no problem there anymore, it's not important." Another person will tell you right away that you haven't solved it, and that is important.
There are two ways to approach design. What looks real and what looks good. Your job is to merge the two. Translate a well-executed two-dimentional contour drawing into a 3-dimentional shape and you will win.
Design saturation and hue in addition to shape!
"Each line in your design tells a story" - Eduardo Gonzalez.