Saturday, December 20, 2014

It Was The Best of Times, It Was The Blurst Of Times: Chicago to LA

      While I chip away on some personal projects, I decided to take some individual course at Gnomon to stay sharp. Gnomon has been a great experience that I would recommend on any level. The classes have been quality and they also have an awesome community of talented and enthusiastic artists that really makes the experience their even more valuable. 

      This entry is the first of a handful that break down some of the work I did while at Gnomon. Below are works done while taking a class by JP Targete who is an insanely talented concept artist and Illustrator. The class was a Creature Design class with a focus on fundamentals of anatomy construction and design grounded in believability. Improvement was notable weekly and with every sketch. The first image is a collection of rough sketches and idea development for a concept focusing on believability and imagined anatomy.

(Toolshed Design - If time permits it is valuable to explore every possibility. These sketches play with a range of creatures covering humanoid, domesticated and wild. This stirs the brain for the piece at hand while creating new design tools for future projects. I won't copy and past but will redraw and redesign with old ideas as additional reference. Things get cut but some are stored in the tool shed. For example, the saddle, the head or the ostrich legs might all find their way into future concepts. Future posts will highlight this as well.)

     The image above is a collection of imagined studies and not the iterative process. Depending on the task I usually switch up my approach to iteration. Sometimes I paint silhouettes with simple value (usually when working on a "hero" character, costume or something that needs an "iconic" feel).

     Tasks with a narrower focus or with tighter turnarounds, I tend do as many rough sketches as I can with in a set time and flesh out a little more detail if I am trying to sell a more subtle design. Then once the sketch is done I go back in a create a fill to highlight the silhouette next to the sketch. This is quick and easy way to deliver more information and also double check your silhouette read. It isn't orthodox and involves a little more work in the earlier phases but I have found that it can really pay off if the presentation is clear and concise.

      That said, some studios or even leads with in a studio may require that you take a certain approach and the ability to adapt to that is important. Other scenarios may require results so quickly you need to effectively work things out on your own and deliver. This concept being for a class with a relatively tight window set for myself, I skipped a lot of steps to focus more on improving my rendering. I did a series of loose sketches until one really popped out.

 (First pass on value and call outs. I pushed along pretty quickly as I wanted to focus on the rendering. This lead to some shortcomings in design. It could have done with a much stronger silhouette and more playful proportions.)

      It has proven valuable to treat every angle and call out as a valuable resource, I can burn it up with static poses which will still deliver important physical information, or I can go all out and deliver additional info within that space. So back, front or side views also tell you how the creature runs, reacts to distant threats or how it balances itself.
     It boosts the value of a concept if it not only gets artists excited but designers, animators, sound engineers, programmers and even the occasional marketing face person that may swing by to see how things are going. I have found you can tell who is who by how much they are smiling. Even if designing something that walks passed the frame in 5 seconds, it helps to be able to explain every last detail, down to why the nails are shaped the way they are. Ultimately concept art is more storytelling than it is illustration. This is something I am really trying to develop in my work.

(Early stages of color, bounce light, temperature shifts and filters. It is a little flat and the canvas lacks unity. That is okay for now as I am still playing around with certain details.)

     One of the most valuable lessons I learned from JP Targete is not only stressing anatomy, but developing some noise/texture to the concept early. This can be done with a dirty custom brush to break up flat or clean fills before you dig into blocking light and pulling out forms. By the time you get to the stage above, a lot of the sense of dirt,texture is engrained into the foundations. It creates a sense of surface without literally painting skin detail or dirt.
     This piece doesn't best represent it as it was the first one I did with this particular technique. The sense of volume and light could have been a lot stronger. Additionally, the striping on the skin could have and should have been a little bolder to create some organic rhythm and eye movement. I also should have really placed more weight on the front left leg. Often times when working in a new technique uncertainty or even the time spent working it into the pipeline can take away from other areas.

(The concept as it stands today. This piece was done with a quick turnaround and a lot of experimenting, so it isn't my ideal presentation. However, I made sure to have most of the building blocks in place: dynamic pose/action, Material changes, alternate views, story notes, function, atmosphere and scale reference. It is missing some photo reference and notes.)

     For color I have two approaches, with a enough confidence and vision I will jump straight into color from line work. I then check my values using a hot key to switch on and off grey scale. The sacrifice is in simple form reads but the plus so far has been bolder color pallets. In time that will eventually balance out but for now it is something I need to be aware of.
     The other technique is to really work in values and not only define volume, but also design local value rhythm. Using the change in value to move the eye around. Then when the value is at about 70% I work in color with blended layers (I used a combination of Color, Overlay and Color Dodge). I find my pallet is not as bold with this technique but it is slowly improving with time. Anthony Jones is a master of stunning light and form and watching more of his tutorials will really help me in that area.
     Moving forward from this concept I needed to deliver a more believable anatomy, define macro forms more precisely and really punch up my pallet. Before this goes on the revamped portfolio site I will run in through another hour or so trying to fix some of these issues. In the following days I will post some newer work that succeeded and failed in various areas. There will be some tie ins and hopefully the posts with work with each other in a helpful way. If not I apologize in advance for the waste of time, poorly written word things and long winded blog posts.

Below are the links for the artists I referenced.

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