Sunday, December 22, 2013

Rough Vehicles and Linework I: Focused Practice and Warm Up

     I usually don't post things so early or quickly but just for the change of pace here are some rough sketches that were finished a few minutes ago. The focus for these were more confident line work, design and perspective. I chose vehicles because that is an area I really need to improve in as I rarely work on them. I started by warming up with simple shapes and silhouettes. While doing that I had some Feng Zhu and Scott Robertson tutorials I went through before working on my own designs. I chose them because I have a particular admiration for the way they use line weight and also their vehicle design.
     The next step for these will be to take a step back and review what needs to be improved. Then move on to the process of reworking the quality of lines and their weight, while re-configuring the secondary design details. After that I will then refine perspective, form and finish the values and atmosphere. From there will be the choice of which one to take to final color and detailing. There is also a heavy influence from Simon Stâlenhag, a bit too much, so I will work to make this more of my own as I progress. Should be fun. I will post the progress in different posts over time rather than drop them all in one entry.

(These started with a series of low opacity silhouettes as if I were working with cool markers on paper. I looked for the forms, visualized them, then began laying down the rough line-work.)

Friday, December 13, 2013

Future Farming Now 100% Human Free

(This was done with no grid or line work. It was a way to practice quickly putting paint down and pushing it around until the image starts to come together. I got to this point after almost 3 hours of work.)

     This was a quick color study. I used this to focus on defining form and depth without using line work and working with color from the first stroke. I painted and figured out the subject matter as I went along. So the design isn't the most solid, but I think it works in terms of catching the eye. In the time I gave myself I think it was successful. It could be improved with a little more thought into the vehicle design as it pertains to functionality.  Defining the farm land around it and even placing a supervising farmer or some human figure to provide scale reference would greatly strengthen the composition. The windmills would be more interesting if some of the sci-fi elements accented their design.
     The painting was pushed further with soft bloom effects and also pushing the saturation up with an adjustment layer. Those two elements help the piece pop. I also add a very soft white vignette across the top and a dark vignette across the bottom. This is something anime scenes use a lot and helps reinforce the sense of light from the sky while still drawing the eye inward.

(This was the painting after an hour. after blocking the forms out I started to flesh out more mechanical and atmospheric details.)

(This was the painting after 20-30 minutes. Simple and undefined but it still translates the overall feel of the scene. When compared with the final you see most of the painting is established at this stage.)

     The new focus after this is to take more time on personal pieces. In order to push composition and overall quality even further, 2-3 hour pieces aren't going to cut it. I am simply not good enough yet. So it will take some practice in patience and persistence. It's rare that I take 8-10 hours on a single piece but doing so will push past my current limitations and be much more educational. This will also require a shift in work habits. I currently have about 6-7 long term personal pieces in progress outside of professional work. Some artist can work like that, but it would be better for me if I can cut that number in half and narrow my focus.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

That One Show Where Malcom's Dad Cooks Meth in His Underwear

      I wanted to challenge myself and create an image with a retro-movie poster influence. My focus wasn't divided by having to build the characters, world or narrative. I simply focused on design and layouts. Unfortunately, things did not go as well as I hoped on this one. The painted tiles and elements don't quite set into the background and it could use some more narrative references. That said, I felt I got what I wanted from it and it is time to move on.

      The reason I chose the show was because I appreciated the attempts at confronting audiences with some dark realities. At times it was bold enough to toss traditional worries about character likability or being too depressing. American culture is becoming increasingly consumed with comfort, self-censorship and the chase for immediate, thoughtless satisfaction. So it should be appreciated when some one comes along and sticks our face in the ugliness we try so hard to ignore. Especially when it is done with media that is somewhat mainstream.

(The final piece, I had to cut it off. I could have kept working on it, but working on it occasionally in short bursts stunted the development and it was going to go much further under my hand,)

     The show can also provoke thought regarding morality and mortality. It gives the audience time and space to reflect during and after. This is in contrast to the era of memes and viral videos that quickly make a mockery of anything or transform it into a processed digital tablet dictating stale emotion. 

     Anyway! For this the goal was to focus on design. So I constructed many sketches from reference while trying to maintain some personal flair. So I was avoiding doing direct copies. As I worked on it I took moments to make sure I was understanding the planes, form and why the light was working the way it was.

     I did many rapid sketches without erasing and with a brush that mimicked an ink pen. So the line I put down was the line I had to make work. The goal was to build confidence and understanding of the forms. It also was a way to play around with ways I can define style.

(Quick sketches, no erasing, not worrying about them looking good. It was about what is going on in my brain not on the canvas.)

(A quick design sketch, trying to capture a certain energy and composition.)

(Jesse, the character on the bottom left, looked ugly and nothing like Jesse)

(The likeness is still a bit off, but it captures the darker feel I wanted to capture in his depiction.)

 (A value pass that is very rough. Making sure the depth and forms are working with the angular style.)

 (This is a rough color pass. Color's don't need to be dead on at this point. Simply blocking in and refining the pallet.)

 (I began to feel the background design was off so I decided to experiment with changing the negative space and color. Not sure if this was working after looking at it a few seconds.)

 (Checking the value design and making sure there is a nice balance between the dark and light tones. Pushing design further I take an extra step to use value blocks to assist in guiding the and framing. Some adjustment needed to be made to balance the contrast and use it in away that guides the eye.)

Thursday, October 3, 2013

"Not a game....Practice!" - Part II: Too Broke for FZD

      There are a lot of amazing production art schools out there. Places like Gnomon, Art Center and FZD are great places to go to and come out industry ready if you work hard enough. A lot of them take the approach that anybody can be an artist. It is a good sales pitch that doesn't alienate anybody's wallet, but it also happens to be true. It is about clearing your head of "I can't" thoughts and putting in the time to draw for hours on end. Lessons learned are strengthened, or sometimes, only fully understood after taking them on over and over again.

   Fellow artists and co-worker Max Hudetz decided to look into Feng Zhu School of Design in Singapore. He suggested I do the same. We then quickly realized the financial reality, that shit ain't happening. So after looking through CGMA, Gnomon, FZD and miscellaneous tutorials we decided to dissect there techniques and school ourselves. We live in the age where the internet provides countless resources. So we grabbed tutorials, dissected student work from said schools and included old fashioned practice techniques. Over the course of 4 non-consecutive weeks we  are going on life drawing outings with different focuses. Tackling areas we feel we need to be stronger one by one. Drawing with traditional materials and swapping techniques. We then assign ourselves digital homework along side tutorials to watch as well.

      This post is my homework for Week 1. It is a form study sheet and additional form through color study. The approach for the Komodo study was inspired by an FZD assignment. The idea is to draw but do so with careful attention to form through the breakdown of simple shapes, so detail isn't the most important. I then reinforce the forms with lines across the mass. It also exercises changing details of reference to challenge yourself with using your imagination to fill gaps.

(These studies exercise the ability to define perspective, breakdown complicated forms into their basic shapes and also develop presentation skills. In addition, you pick up great information that you might have overlooked that could be utilized in future imagined designs.)

       I have adapted a new approach, rather than start a sketch and follow it through one at a time, I now work on various drawings in layers. For this sheet I did very rough sketches of most of the different elements, giving each a good amount of time but still moving around more than usual. Once the rough sketches are all done I then progress them through a state of cleaner line work and so on. This keeps things fresh and reinforces the exercise of visualizing something in my head from multiple angles in 3D space. It promotes a better understanding while at the same time keeping my line work loose and fresh. It cuts down on any issues of tunnel vision or obsessing over a drawing.

(This was not only a color study but I also challenged myself to define perspective and form with out line work or defining grids. I dropped paint on the canvas and moved it around. Overall I feel good about it but there is some distortion in the perspective that was due to a bit of tunnel vision. I needed to take more frequent steps back to review.)

      For color studies are start simple, color picking the few defining colors in the image. I get as far I can with limited pallet, I then start introducing some one accent colors. However, I try to color pick as much from the colors mixed on the canvas before introducing new tones and hues. I made a point to find an image where I could move the composition around. The original image was a 1:1 resolution ratio. I changed it to a widescreen format and moved around some of the background elements while giving the colors a slight nudge in a bolder direction. This helps give the image some pop which distracts from the loose feel and even some of the errors.


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

"Not a game, not a game......but practice!" - Allen Iverson

      I always found it helpful to hear other artist's practice techniques no matter the skill level. It is how I pick up new exercises and sometimes learn what I am doing wrong. So this entry is a record of some of the things I have been doing to improve by 2D skills. If you aren't an artist, maybe it will be interesting to see what goes into the development of 2D abilities. Chances are it won't, so I included some plenty of stuff to look at for a few seconds. For any Amish readers, there are a few figure drawing images of people who aren't covering their bodies with fabric. It is called nudity and it is a thing.
      Last year I was made aware of a site, which is amazing for any artists looking to learn basics or just brush up on digital painting. I found it to be extremely helpful and contributed quickly and noticeably to my improvement as an artist overall. I started with short tutorials and assignments on the site. I quickly moved on to more complicated and dynamic assignments I borrowed from FZD, Gnomon and CGMA tutorials.

(This simple study is a CTRL Paint practice assignment. The focus was the rendering of light, clearly defined planes and subtle texture. Mastering the ability to define simple forms and their relationship with light are the foundation of everything.)

 (Again, thanks to CTRLpaint for the direction. The sheet consists of a reference photo at the top. A black square frame identifies the patch of color I am looking to find with out using the eye dropper. After putting down a color I then use the eye dropper, painting the exact color right next to it for comparison.)

      I have made a good amount of progress in not only by general ability, but also in my practice techniques. Rather than practicing by placing swatches when identifying color, I am now identifying color in context and relationship with others in daily studies of environments, objects and vehicles. I no longer use the color picker and hunt for the color. I now raise a slightly opened fist to an object on screen or off and peek through a small hole to isolate color. Then I blur my eyes and compare the source and what I put down on the canvas (Learned from James Gurney's books). It is surprisingly effective. Alongside this approach, I do more life drawing and mental note taking. I then can compensate for the color lost in the photo with an expanding mental library, particularly in dark shadows.
      Since starting to do so, I have noticed a rapid improvement in picking color accurately and quickly. My environment painting and also stylizing of reference material has grown considerably.  After a bit of continuation down this path, the next step is to mix in more studies that are from imagination and use reference as support.

 (Most recently I have included quick environment studies that help warm up my color and perspective identification. Above is the progression of what my warm up layer looks like over time. It consists of 15-20 minutes of line work warmups followed by a 20-30 minute color study.)

       My color ID practice has now been integrated into warm ups. What once took an hour or more to do I can do in 20-30 minutes with better results. So I start my day with warm ups. First just control warm up by drawing lines, elliptical s and 3D forms with some light rendering. Then I move on to a quick color study. I use only one layer and never erase or throw anything away. I just keep painting over what was there last. It also helps reinforce the all important principle of not making anything my baby. Anything at any point must be discarded for the sake of improvement. So this starts my day with that reminder and develops a mentality that keeps any piece from being too precious.
      Another improvement to my practice has been in my focus as it relates to what I am trying to do with my art. Before I would start drawing with no particular plan, which is fine to do on occasion. I now do focused studies on form, color, or production techniques. This helps develop the effectiveness of my presentation, build a mental library and expand my understanding of how a particular subject works. I always start by breaking the subject down into simple shapes before building detail.

(I often overlooked smaller details of spiders. For example, how they breathe out of a mail slot looking orifice under the abdomen. I know their legs were segmented, but when studying I understood just how the legs segments into more pieces that originally thought. The are just simple pieces of information that get overlooked when only focusing on the bigger ideas.)

(This frog study helped exercise rendering thicker skin and how it moves over the mostly soft masses of a frog. This one in particular was done in preparation for a character I will be creating from 2D to 3D next month)

Oh no! There are drawings of naked people below! Cover you eyes!

(Another adjustment is was to jump between more literal translation and stylized translations.  On top of that, I went out of my comfort zone and tackled different perspectives and trickier poses. This is to force myself to apply my understanding of the lighting when changing forms. It also is another way to build a large visual library in the mushy mass that is sitting inside of my skull.)

(After a while of doing this I got much quicker, again cutting an hour down to about 20-30 minutes with improved results. My pallets became richer and more dynamic. I was able to play with styles more and even change details with confidence. Patrice O'Neal can't believe what the frog just said.)
        Along side my studies I work on personal projects, as you might have seen if you follow the blog. These are pieces I intend to finish and serve as chances to push myself beyond previous limits, try new techniques, play with different brushes and experiment with styles. Eventually the idea is to get to a level where a small percentage of my warm up time is practice and the majority is working on content that contributes to various narratives Unlike before, these personal pieces will have a much more professional quality and presentation.

(A progression of personal pieces from the earliest posts to now. Improvement is noticable, but with my new techniques and routine, I will be improving my efficiency and increasing the rate at which I successfully apply new lessons. This will ultimately lead to larger leaps.)

      Below are the list of sites and resources that have made my self education possible. I highly recommend their content on YouTube and their respective sites. However, these alone aren't to be credited. The help of fellow artists, teachers and getting my work out for feedback has been just as crucial.

- Gnomon - Jameys Gurney's Books - FZD - CTRL Paint - ZBrush Central - - 
 - CGMA - Google! -

This post is done now. Bye.

Friday, September 20, 2013

One Person's Treasure is Another's Trash

 (This was painted from a collection of reference and subtle use of photo texture for the trash piles and overall texture of the image. Pieces like this are more relaxing as they are more abstract and more about the creative flow. Although the subject matter isn't relaxing it leads to positive mental friction.)

     One day, there is a good chance that wonderful, very expensive phone in your pocket will just be another target for the modern day game of kick the can. Maybe not, I'm guessing when trashed it is taken apart and distributed to both legal and illegal e-waste dumps. At the very least part of it will be kicked by somebody at some point and it will be more or less worthless. In other words, it will soon match the value of a lot of content pushed out through the device.
     It is tragic to look at photos of communities living in poverty, yet they are surrounded by skeletons of the technology that brings a better life people across the globe. E-Waste is a rising health and environmental problem and to no surprise it primarily effects Africa, China and India.

(These are some images that inspired the painting. It just struck me as something that is worth painting. Outside of production and entertainment art, I am finding myself searching out subject matters that fly under the radar. There may be some value keeping these realities in the back of one's head.)

        That said there is no way of completely removing yourself from this system. The reality is many of us are born into fortunate circumstances just as many are born into unfortunate circumstances. The very least we can do is to try and show some awareness and operate with efficiency in our everyday lives.If we keep certain realities in mind it will help promote better living unless of course, you are a scumbag looking to take advantage of people's misfortune.
       It would be nice if we didn't replace perfectly good phone every year because the apple thingy comes out with a new version that takes better selfies and has gold trim. The problem with the world's systems boil down to the problems with us humans as individuals. Maybe overtime if we try to improve the way we operate and think as individuals it will manifest in our larger networks of activity. 

      I believe Billy Bush once said, "Be the change you want to see in the world". Did I get that right? Yeah it was definitely Billy Bush.

Happy Friday Everyone!!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Coming to A Pirate Cove Near You

 (Traces of an environment help build the character more than if it was just standing in an abyss of white space.)

       I had a back story for this character while working on it which helped. Below is an example of a decent but not full character back story I like to have when working on a character:

      The alien migrated to earth from a distance planet and found refuge in the pirate communities of Somalia. Through ruthless tactics and it's natural physical advantage over most humans, it soon rose to power as a infamous crime boss. Often in hiding, it occasionally takes it's hyenas for strolls around the shanty towns, picking victims at random as a ruthless display of power.  Although the rumors it's incredible acts of brutality are believed, no one has ever seen it take action with their own eyes.
       There are occasional whispers that it is in fact not an alien, but a human in a disguise using the alien image to strike the fear of the unknown in people. No one has ever scene it with out it's retro fitted breathing apparatus or ragged clothing hiding most of it's body. Basically it is mysterious as shit and terrifies people.

     This was just a personal piece that is an offshoot of another concept I was working on. I didn't push the rendering as far or even develop the narrative behind it as far as I usually would. This as usual is due to having to squeeze in time between work. It was fun and helped in planning character concepts that reveal a bit of the environment which helps build the narrative.
      If I gave myself more time I would have designed the background elements a little better. This would have really come to life if I populated the street with more foot traffic, peppering in some aliens. The vehicle in the back also could have been a little more fleshed out and numerous. The color pallet was a bit of a step back for me, it is an overall improvement but it could use a little more flare. One last thing I would have done different, REFERENCE! I can be stubborn and need to be better about gathering extensive reference for specific pieces of the concept.

(This study/concept was a victim of a busy schedule. I picked at this for only 30 -40 minutes at a time days to far apart. That is no way to work on something. A lot of good energy fizzled out effecting the final piece.)

    It has been awhile since the last post. I have been working on a lot of 2D pieces as well and picking 3D back up to gear up in that area again. So that said, this month will have a good amount of updates from a bag log of work. Goodbye.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

BoZ Dev Diary Entry V - Animation, I.O.U and UI

      (The UI was developed by Megan and I through a never ending series of iteration. Something to be expected if we want to get it to function and feel right.)

      The first playable demo is rapidly approaching. In a little over a month Creative Proximity and Box O Zombies look to reveal a peek at what is to be expected of the Box O Zombie game. The demo will also provide an opportunity for the art team to review how things are or are not working together visually. The biggest issue thus far is making sure that assets stand out against the ground texture.
     Although measures were put in place to avoid visibility issues it turns out more needs to be done. A lot of this is due to the wide range of the camera. The player can zoom out quite a bit. This leads to a loss the simple block detail used in pixel art. There will be some touch ups as well as VFX tricks that will need to be implemented. It is very difficult to let some things go but it is important to create reminders that there will be time for it later and prioritize. I keep notes of issues and potential solutions. An I.O.U to any testers and the art team itself. We will pay back what we owe to the game before it fully ships.

The UI

       As an artist I primarily focus on character, props and more recently environments. I greatly appreciate sleek UI design, but working on it can be a tedious process. For starters it is tricky business. The UI needs to sync with the game and when the visuals of the game slowly evolve with the update process it leads to a lot of iteration. The design at this stage has gone through various adjustments and changes. The UI is directly linked to function dictated by design, so that piles on more iterations and adjustments.
       In addition, I also have moved to working on animation, icons and miscellaneous environment and clean up tasks. It is a rough road with small development and sometimes to many gear shifts can take it's toll on the creative process. Early on I could focus primarily on the characters and overall art direction. Now that we are in a semi-crunch, it is more direction and even more production. Early on I felt like Dr. Octopus with the great art team working as extra arms. Now Dr. Octopus doesn't have quite enough arms to keep Peter Parker from another mid-fight, sassy quote. SHUT UP ALREADY SPIDERMAN!

The Animation

(The animation team now consist of Eddie Einikis, Sarah Harkey the mid production addition and myself. Unfortunately Vicky Kao took a break to pursue opportunities in comics, her work has been greatly appreciated. The Sprites in this post are a mixture of all our work.)

     This is one area that was daunting early on. Animation, especially in isometric, ESPECIALLY with pixel art, is another area of tedium for some. Luckily, the team has picked up to pixel painting quite well. When sitting down to plan production I was concerned with the level of animations requested with the time and small team we had. There was a good amount of dissection and clever production shortcuts that helped make the schedule more reasonable. Solid production techniques, and prioritizing has also been very important. It also helps that although small, the team I work with is very talented. It also helped that despite my experience in certain areas, I overlooked a simple technique shown to be by Larry Pixel of the awesome Moon Intern team (

     (As the case with many tasks, with time production runs smoother and more quickly. The key is not just improvement through repetition but properly utilizing new techniques, hot key's and time management. I am very happy with the consistency in look from artist to artist through it all.)

     So fast forward a bit to present time and we are in a really good place as far as delivering animations for the demo. There will be a significant amount of fixes and improvements I would like to see that will really push the sense style. For this deadline, we have some solid work keeping the spot in the code warm. Sarah, Eddie and I have been churning out sprite sheets, bringing each character to life.

     The next Dev Diary will be the last! It will be a brief overview of the production and feature a look back at the game's Style Guide. It will be interesting to see the comparison. It also could be very uninteresting. We shall see.

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Legend of Barash the Buff

      Before recorded history, great barbarian's roamed a planet where human contact was rare and nature was unkind. One of them, was Barash the Buff  Barbarian (buff as in naked, not strong). The smallest of the Giants, often teased, took upon the shoulders of the largest of giants as compensation. He roamed the land proud and arrogant in his reputation for being a fierce barbarian. He does this, giving no credit or acknowledgement to the key factor the largest giant plays in his reputation. He is so bold in fact, he rides around in nothing but a helmet and rarely even acknowledges that the largest of giants exists. Instead he basks in his delusion, parading his horribly kept body and enraged when anyone even hints that he wouldn't be great with out the giant.

("FEAR BARASH THE BARBARIAN!" - "...and the largest of giants?" - "NO! ONLY BARASH!")

     This story comes from two places. The first being a fellow Columbia Alumn was looking for me to contribute to his barbarian sketchbook. This lead to conjuring up some characters in a realm I usually don't think about. The idea of using that space to create narratives about perception versus reality and delusion whether personal or public, proved to be intriguing. So I jotted down an idea for a character outside of this one. It will probably won't be until next year before I start seriously writing anything, but there is a arch I have outlined that shows promise. The character above came about from being in that head space.
(I scrapped the idea of placing him in an environment. I wanted to wrap this one up quickly.)

     There is a quite a bit I could improve here but I need to move on. I could have worked in some more detail to make the mountains and grass feel more connected to the larger giants body. The smaller giant looks a little too floaty as well. If I were to spend more time I would also create a more interesting design to the house around his neck and add a lot more ropes. More ropes that are smaller would help support the scale and also the idea of the larger giants strength. Lesson going forward, work in more visual rhythm, make things feel connected where necessary and support the narrative with detail.

(A quick comparison of the rough linework compared to the final render.)

     I mostly set out to have fun with this one and not worry too much about learning a lesson from it. Inevitably I did, learning to better wield a particular brush as move towards a better balance of line-work and painting. Not there yet, but I am getting close. In the end I like the idea more the my execution. I still need to push for a loose feel to the pose to really sell the movement. I also still have quite a bit of work to do as far as rendering characters from imagination and maintaining perspective. The work still looks overly labored if that make sense. It comes from hesitation and lack of confidence in certain areas. The more I learn the more confident I become and that translates into the brush strokes and ultimately the final image. There was a nice simplicity and flow to the clouds I really liked. I would like to start to work in the feeling into characters. 

      That is all, have a good weekend and what not. In the next couple of weeks I will post some practice routines and references for educational materials I have found particularly helpful.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Injustice: God's Among Us - Entry V - Two Fers!

Robots and Weapons

      Things are getting very busy so the write ups will be a bit shorter on these. I figure I have done enough of them. This entry goes over a handful of concepts and some sculpts. These particular assignments were a part of significant improvement. 

 (This sheet shows some of the iterations and the wrong directions I took early on. It needed to be bulky but I had more of a lean look to start.)

      One of the characters I worked on was the robot guard for Strykers Island. I stumbled a bit through the process but it marks a moment that was a bit of a break through. After this character I learned enough to build some confidence and push myself to another level of ability.

     (This is the final sheet on my end. This one was challenging at the time, looking back now I realize I made a lot of unnecessary mistakes that prolonged the process.)

      Eventually I got something close to what they wanted. I handed it off to my lead and he made some adjustments and additions to get it exactly the way he wanted. The final version of the unfortunate robot guard can be seen when fighting at Strykers Island. Any super hero is free to steal his gun or even use him as a baseball bat. Poor, poor robot.

(Production sheet showing the different stages of development.)
     This is a giant, organic, alien laser that Senestro summons after lifting you into space and smashing you between two asteroids. It blasts you back down to earth, where you continue to fist fight as you were. Everything about that makes perfect sense. 
     This was a cool prop that got done quickly as I was able to sit down with the Art Director. The lead was out so he sat down and critiqued one on one. Although it is a bit of a complicated form, I really should have knocked out a version in perspective to illustrate how the rib formations wrap around the barrel. It was simply my lack of a ability at the time, in the future I need to step it up.

(This process was fast tracked so there was little iterations. I was given a concept sword from the concept team, this was used to match the style and speed up production.)

     An axes for Ares. He summons these and throws them at you. It needed to look heavy as well as match the concept of the sword done by the full time concept team. It also needed to be done quickly at the time. So there was little iteration. Single blade turned to double and it was good to go.

 Sculpting Heads for Cops and Citizens

     It was a bit unexpected, but I was tasked with rapidly sculpting a number of heads to be used for modular sets of NPC's. The heads would then be passed down the production line to be prepped for in-game use. The idea is that these heads can be mixed and matched with a handful of bodies to help add variety to citizens and cops.

(I repeatedly sculpted the jaw line right into the end of the ear lobe. This is a mistake, sometimes it makes sense, but often it is a softer form that moves under the earlobe.)

     The sculpts could use a lot of improvement. Anatomically there are quite a few things I would have liked to execute better. Particularly in the neck forms, planes of the face around the cheeks, where the jaw meets the ear and the forms of the lips. Basically, when I look at them the lack the "pop" I see when looking at really good sculpts of faces.

(Although there is no law, there are some general guidelines I messed up when sculpting the faces of woman. The neck shape and softness of the features could have been improved to create more feminine features. That said, texturing and finished hair pieces helped mask those issues.)

      One major mishap I take responsibility for is the lack of extra information when passing these heads to the next guy. I should have included the photo reference in order to indicate the intended range for skin tones and hair colors. Also, I pushed the changes in the head meshes a little too far without making note if it. This lead to a lot of issues due to the sculpts being fitted to the same head shape. 
      I made the assumption there was flexibility in that area. Key lesson, don't make assumptions and communicate any information that isn't being shown. The end result was some of the faces not coming out as clean due to the features being adapted to a different head shape. This was a valuable lesson that not only helped individual improvement, but also improved my ability to work with a team.

(There was a total of about 12 heads, 6 of those were cops. The approach for them was more rugged and square jawed. These particular cops needed to look like bad dudes, in a good way.)

     Every one of these heads started with a generic head. I then pushed, pulled and carved it into a more unique face. In a couple of cases I sculpted these heads from imagination, using reference to fix inaccuracies. For most of them I collected photo reference of actors and actresses as requested. I tried looking for lesser known faces at the time. The idea was to use them as inspiration to get ball park likenesses to avoid any issues with directly borrowing a celebrities face. In some cases I got a little closer, but was careful to still change things up.

(The faces were a little tricky as I was going for a look that was a mix of realistic representation and a comic style realized in 3D.)

     The studio and artists created an awesome environment to learn. It was always challenging, but always rewarding to see how everyone's personal contributions came together in the beast that was the final game. I am currently in the middle of updating my main portfolio site, but I hope to post one last entry of the series. In the mean time keep an eye out the return of the Box O Zombies Series. There will be a couple new entries covering animation and a review of production leading up to the release of the first demo.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Protest Concept: Composition and Meaning

 (An attempt to create a piece with a very loose but complete feel. The goal was to establish mood and strong composition over detail. )

     After a week of sorting through news updates regarding protests in Turkey and Brazil, inspiration struck. In those countries there was a great amount of anger of increase in transportation fees, poorly allocated finances, the tearing down of green spaces and the dissatisfaction with their governments. It was curious that with the recent wave of news in the United States, there was a surprising lack of anger or any action here at home.
      This is a bit discouraging and in some ways disturbing. Taking to the streets and letting chaos ensue isn't the answer or even necessary, but it would be encouraging to see some protests. Not just emotional protests, but productive and intelligent ones. The system we have does not need to be uprooted, but it could definitely use some pressure from the people. That said, this piece was just a matter of looking at the images from Turkey and Brazil and wondering what it might look like if that level of anger was expressed in our own cities.

 (This was an attempt to track where I was guiding the eye. After updating I would go back and see if anything was knocked off course.)

  (This is a breakdown keeping track of my movements. I tried to have the organic forms in the smoke pillars moving left, while the city structures move against them.)

(I now have an adjustment layer with the saturation at 0 to switch on and off at any time. This allows better control of the images depth as it progress. Even with  this tool I could have done a better job and clearly defining layers of depth.)

     This also served many learning goals. I tried a lot of new techniques with the piece and although it is a little off target, I was able to push myself to a new level of improvement. The composition for this was a heavy focus, not just with the placement of forms but also their movements. This effort to pay more attention to these elements is helping establish a production process that I can carry onto future pieces. It is a mostly from imagination with reference taken from photos and a mirror for specific elements. Rather than build from reference, I fixed from reference. This is an area I need to improve in if I want to get my work to pop more. Reference is something I should be constantly weaving into imaginative forms.
    After writing this blog I realize there is a lot more I can do to improve the piece and I might make a second pass on it next month. At the moment I am conflicted about whether or not to put a cap on it. 

  (The progress as I chugged along. Once the composition was established I moved a lot of the smaller parts around.)

 (A collection of photos I used for inspiration.)

Go Merica!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Injustice: God's Among Us - Entry IV - Damaging Your Super Heros

     This post covers some work I did on the damage feature of the game.I did not create or concept the characters below, but I was asked to tear chunks out of them and beat them up. This was a major change of pace.
     The damage textures were made by selecting a patch of the mesh and when the character takes enough damage, it swaps out that patch featuring a clean costume with a patch featuring the damaged costume. That is the short and sloppy explanation, there is a lot more in the process, but it would be tedious to go through.
     This whole process was made a bit smoother thanks to 3D artist Keith Beu. He built both Maya and Photoshop plugins that automated a lot of steps. In Photoshop layers of costume, skin, muscle and blood were in place and could be exposed by using masks. The general shape and design of the damage was made by selecting areas with a marquee tool then hitting a button. Then an artist would paint over the near final wound, adding a little more blood and bruise detail. Again, the short and sloppy version of the process.

     A very thin line of metal damage on the outside of the clothe tears enhances the quality of the damage. It is too thin to read as metal but still adds a touch of discoloration and scratching that makes things look a little nastier. It also gives the clothe some weight, making it look like the material is a little heftier than just plain cloth. This was particularly helpful with characters wearing a red suit. It helped define patches but creating some separation between the red of the blood and the red of the suit.

      There was a lot of back and forth during this process. The tools were new and my station did not have engine access. So I would review the work in Maya's HUD then send it to Keith for him to review in engine. Sometime I could stop by his station to look over his shoulder and critique the iteration. This provided a lot of productive collaboration. Discussions lead ways of making the process smoother, improving the quality and I could also pick his brain about the tools he created. It was a sudden shift into more of a Tech art position, but it was a fun challenge.

      I also got a chance to do more exciting damage concepts. I was asked to tear up Luthor for a cinematic sequence. My first passes on the damage focused on dents. burn marks and smaller pieces being broken. I was directed to really push it. The fact was that it was a quick sequence and it needed to have a lot more visual punch. So after some feedback and guidance from the leads, I began to rip the suit to pieces and look for particular parts of the armor that would create a more interesting image when torn off. For example, ripping the robot arm to the forearm exposed the human figures underneath. That little detail really exposes the vulnerability of the character and intensifies the level of destruction delivered to the suit.

      During my time at the studio I learned that painting details is helpful, but providing any further information to help illustrate the idea helps.  In this case I prepped a render that was color coded to show wear the breakable seams and pieces connected. Not sure how helpful the concept was in the end. Turned out the damage to his suit was never clearly shot during the cinematic sequences. So a 3D artist may have used some tricks to translate the damage rather than follow a specific map.

      This is unrelated to damage but just something extra. These were concepts for a little orb Luthor summons during battle. It floats around then eventually shoots a small, annoying laser at you. It does not real damage but does more to throw of timing and frustrate your opponent.
     I wanted to change up my pipeline and take advantage of my 3D capabilities. So I did all these concepts in ZBrush. They are quick renders that were painted over them in Photoshop. I put a good amount of time into the sculpts and although I can't say for sure, I think the concept sculpt was used almost as is for the in game asset. It looks as if it was re-topologized and sent on its' way. Personally I really like P1 and P2. I believe they went with P4.

Anyway, this is the very clumsy end to this entry.