Friday, January 2, 2015

Keep the Aquatics Flying Part I of II: More Gnomon Creature Work

(Close up of Landria, inter-dimensional being that kind of creeps people out but is still cool to hang out with.)

      The first post of 2015! Still catching up on stuff from 2014. This is another look at some of the work from the creature class at Gnomon. Throughout the class I jumped around as far as reference goes, but early on I knew I wanted to tackle some aquatic inspired creatures. The reality is they allowed me to make some mistakes now to spare me trouble later.

     Once again Pav Kovacic was able to boil things down. He pointed out my tendency to design ugly, knobby, disgruntled looking creatures. This is somewhat intentional, as part of my overall design goal is to try and bring some appeal to traditionally off putting designs; develop empathy in unexpected places. However, a good designer can't get tunnel vision and I need to be able to show I can tackle more elegant, beautiful designs. The render above is a half step in that direction. The image below on the other hand, is an example of the scumbags I have a tendency to design.

 (Another attempt at re-thinking the eye-less creature approach. It roams the beaches, chain smoking, pushing over tourists and looking for his drug of choice. The drug is conveniently found on a particular species of washed up jelly fish. I really like this character and plan to revisit the concept based of some feedback from JP Targete.)

      These are a couple of the first sketches for the class. They are unrelated to the concepts below, but they show a little bit of where my head was at and how it progressed by the end of the class. It also shows how taking a step back and consciously push against instincts can sometimes be a good thing. There is some solid progress in the local value variation, rhythm and range. The form is a little clearly defined but could still use some improvement. The creatures are a little more graceful, elegant and aloof. All aspects that are key to the character description and purpose in the narrative.

 (The second pass on more advanced thumbnails for Landria. I made sure to explore some other approaches with the bird and bone inspired designs. The floating head design actually worked well with the aquatic design, but it was too busy for the overall idea and it made the character feel less empathetic. It was important to really walk that tight rope of being able to empathize with the character and also have it right on the edge of being alien.)

     The character description and narrative context was given by JP. It was our job to develop the characters and the world. The character I worked on was Landria, a god-like character of sorts who serves as savior to a humanity facing impending doom. Her special ability allowed her to spawn creatures by request, her only limits being the imaginations of those requesting. When reading the character description I had a strong sense of the ideas I wanted to tackle. For the most part my thoughts on the characters are embedded in the images so I will refrain from repeating it here.

     These iterations were actually spawned from a previous sheet that I will post in part II. The original sheet had a little too many crazy iterations. The result was the overall presentation feeling a little unfocused. The solution in this case, was splitting the sheet and developing two different creatures alongside each other, but going in two different directions.

(As I wind down, I have a layer with some notes supporting design elements to keep me from straying off track during final polish. The simple break downs also help catch other areas that can be changed to support the foundation of the design. The expanding rings are reminders for time management, with ring #1 being the area of render priority. That way the eye is pulled to the face in the level of detail alone.)

      Instead of showing the concept in landmark stages I thought it might be helpful to look at some tools used during the last 10-15% of rendering. A big part of what I learned is understanding the time needed for the last stages of polish. The render above is just a quick idea of what I use to maintain fundamentals late in the production. Making sure the S Curves are organic, the forms guide the eye and that I am sustaining a consistent design language. There were a few simple languages I was developing and layering in order to try and deliver a more sophisticated language. I feel like I was close but ultimately fell short of the target. The plating on the chest and entire bottom half are a bit lacking and would of liked an consistent design strength throughout the creature. The post stiffened a bit as I rendered and could have used a little more gesture and energy.

(The flowers on the ground were a last second addition. I really like the idea of the creature radiate such a powerful life force that vegetation rapidly grows with in a certain range. It supports the character's role but also provides a potentially impressive visual effect or touching story moment.)

     This is the render at it's current state. I may do a quick pass of tweaks before it goes on the revamped portfolio site. At the moment the saturation may be a bit blown out. I did want to push the use of bolder colors but it may be a bit too much. Sometimes the subtle changes in a monitors display can make a significant difference. In studios there can be some level of consistency, but when working from home it is important to review work on multiple monitors. This includes sending it over to a smartphone to look at it and shooting some WIPs to fellow artists for their input. Making sure others are seeing the work as it should be is key, it can make a difference on whether a concept connects or not.

     When getting input from other artists I'm looking for things that are in my blind spot but also seeing if their critique lines up with some issues that are nagging at me. Sometimes they confirm issues while other times they just let it be known I am making mountains out of mole hills. It is good to prioritize the issues and not flood someone with questions. When sending work out for critique it's good to find people who you know will be blunt without being a dick, but also people who have a sense of your overarching goals. On occasion it is good to find a forum somewhere and throw some raw meat to the wolves.

(Final render with some story notes and a quick head call out. The title bar at the bottom feature a list of adjectives I write down before sketching. It helps frame the visuals with out being constricting. This is a technique I learned from Scott Campbell during a lecture at GDC. Writing these lists and short stories have been powerful tools for concept work.)

     Time was tight and with double the creatures to deliver time ran out. I would have liked to include a composition like the one above along side a separate sheet detailing the back view as well as some feature call outs. The compensation was sketching out a quick front view of the head. The head is probably the most complex form in the concept and a call out here would save a lot of wrestling with form during the sculpting phase. It could also inform the rest of the undefined areas as the form language is consistent through out the body.

    On top of the call outs there are plenty of story and function notes. These are not only for the context of the character, but sometimes this information can help flesh out the character for the 3D phase. I am not experienced enough to point to a mountain of evidence, but I am beginning to feel that even notes unrelated to defining form help during the sculpting phase. It can help inspire an approach to sculpting tools, expression in the cuts and direct the improvisation of the forms translated into 3D. Sculptors much better than myself do it with such ease that they can add completely new elements that improve the concept while still making it seem like it is still a direct interpretation of the 2D image.

     That does it for this post, as usual pardon spelling errors and grammar crimes. I am gearing back up after the holidays so I will do my best to keep posting, but they will be much more concise, which is probably a good thing. There are a few more posts reviewing older work. After that the posts will be more of a live diary of current work that isn't NDA. Hopefully by spring one of the two personal projects will be ready for a sneak peek. 

This weeks referenced artist:
Scott Campbell -

1 comment:

  1. Hey ^_^
    I recently found your blog and I find it truly inspiring. It definitely helps me to create a "guideline-like" routine of the process to practice. It can get confusing at times with everything there is to do and study.
    So, thank you so much for the great work you post here and wish you the best this new year ^ø^