Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Earth Elemental Final

I actually  finished this guy a few days ago but I've been trying to avoid the computer because of a recent bout of stiff neck agony.  I'm feeling much better now though, so it's time to update the blog!

I'm starting to think that maybe monsters are my expertise.  Drawing people is hard, cause you have to make sure they look good, but monsters?  The uglier the better!  I think that there's a lot to like here, but I may have fudged the lighting in his torso area.  Too much lighting on the grassy bits makes him look like has a belly. I still have a lot to learn about controlling lighting.  

The frame around him was a last minute touch.  Joe Wetzel of Inkwell Ideas asked me if I could make a little watermark over the image since he plans to use it for minis and stock art.  I didn't want to just make a watermark so I put a tiny bit of effort into it and incorporated the miniature stand in idea into the image.  Like the werewolf, this image is being used to promote a Kickstarter project called Monster Stand-Ins.  Since that project is having a little difficulty getting funding, Joe started up another Kickstarter project called Monster Stock Art with a much lower funding threshold.  If you're interested at all in these Kickstarter projects or just like me enough to help me out (ha!) please do contribute to the projects.  Every dollar counts, and if they get funded that means more illustration work for me, yay! 

Friday, January 27, 2012

Big Sale at the Art Department

The Art Department is on sale again, offering all of their downloads for $6.99.  This is a great deal, especially considering some download originally cost $60.  I haven't been very diligent with reviewing the tutorials, but here's a list of the tutorials I've done quick reviews on:

I highly encourage you to give these videos a shot.  While there's a lot of free stuff out there on the internet, these are some finely made videos that really helped me along with my artwork.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

On Being an Artist

Thought I'd throw in a WIP of the Elemental I'm working on.  It's the last you'll see of it till it's published, but I'm pretty much satisfied with it as it is.  I'll probably try to modify the trees on his back since they don't really integrate very well with his body.

Mostly I wanted to write a quick post about a conversation I had with my friend Caroline Dy, on our shared issues being artists.  Lots of people see being an artist as a great job.  tons of fun, this drawing stuff.  And while it is indeed a blessing to have such a creative job pay my bills, there are many days when we both wish we could do something that just involved more manual labor.  Thinking is hard, especially so when you're tasked with keeping the artistic identity of an IP in sync, which is what Carol has been doing as an art director for Boomzap.  It's often much easier to have someone art directing you, pointing out your mistakes and giving advice on how to solve problems, than actually having to art direct yourself.  It's a burden that many commercial artists struggle with.

It's interesting that we're also both thinking about younger, better, faster artists than us.  People don't tell you this when you embark on an artistic career, that you'll be living an entire life trying learning how to be a better artist in order to keep yourself in front of the pack.  The process can be very rewarding but it's also exhausting, and it's hard to tell when you should rest and when you should keep going.  I've had friends thinking of switching careers into some arts or design related, since that's really fashionable these days, and I tell them not to be ridiculous.  It's not all fun and games, art.  There's a lot of hard work that's hidden behind the most beautiful artworks, and the saddest thing to me is that I honestly feel like most of this work has little to no benefit to society.

But even as I fantasize about being a railroad engineer or an urban planner (yes, my fantasies, contrary to the work I create, are quite banal) I wonder if I could ever truly be happy doing anything but this.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Earth Elemental Studies Using Silhouettes

I recently got a commission to paint an Earth Elemental, giving me a bit of a break from working on in-game sprites for Prison Architect and the soon to be announced personal game.  At a sale in Fully Booked a couple of weeks ago I bought The Skillful Huntsman: Visual Development of a Grimm Tale at Art Center College of Design. I'm not going into much detail about the book since I haven't read enough of it to do a proper review, but it was suggested multiple times by art podcasts I listen to as a great book for would be concept artists/designers.

One of the methods they use while designing characters is to create silhouettes as thumbnails and then fill in the silhouettes with different details.  Now I've always been vaguely aware of the idea of using silhouettes to design characters, but there's something about the very plain manner they explain it in the book (with visual samples) that unlocked something in my head.

So after a couple dozen thumbnails I decided on three different silhouettes that I like, then made three different concepts using each silhouette,  It's a really fun exercise and you'd be surprised how much variation you can come up with.  This sample is rather easy, since as an Earth Elemental I don't really need to design clothing for it, but I'm eager to try it out on human characters soon.

If you're interested in checking out or buying the book, please do click on the link below, since I will get a small commission from Amazon if you do so.  Thanks!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

On Introversion and Prison Architect

Having worked in the games industry for quite some time I was always aware of Introversion Software.  I will admit that until they'd contacted me I wasn't exactly playing their games, but I was reading about them intently and cheering on this plucky indie developer in the UK that had somehow managed to make it big before the golden age of indie games.  So it came as a huge surprise when I received this email in my inbox:

Would you be interested in discussing working with Introversion Software on our next game?  We are the indie developers behind Uplink, Darwinia, DEFCON and Multiwinia, and we have a new project currently in development that requires a talented 2d artist such as yourself.  I’ve had a screenshot of Spacechem in my “Visual Style Ideas” folder for a while now, and today I found your portfolio website and had a look.  I really like the visual style you’ve used in SpaceChem and think it would work great for our new project.

At first my eyes widened, then one eyebrow went up as I did some research to make sure I got the names right.  For all I knew someone picked a name very close to "Introversion" to gain some indie cred when speaking to unsuspecting game developers.  Introversion Software.  Chris Delay.  It was real.  I relaxed and allowed my eyes to widen once again.  After a flurry of emails and a couple of skype conversations and quick mockups, it was made official.  I was part of the Prison Architect team.

It's been a great ride so far, and while there's still a lot of work to be done I can see it's shaping up to be quite a game.  The beginning stages were quite interesting, as Introversion were looking to me to provide the visual style for the game.  The image above shows off the peak of one of the design directions I had for the game.  It mixed in architectural blueprints with topographical maps and a dash of graphic design.

Here's one of the topographical maps I downloaded to use as a reference.  You can see that I picked up the font design from here, as well as using different colored buildings to show different uses for a space.  I really liked that the look was unique and striking, and also paid homage to Introversion's spare aesthetic that permeates all their games.

Ultimately Introversion decided against that direction and after a few weeks of finding our footing we ended up with the design we have now.  In some respects we may keep some of the elements of the previous design.  Giving the walls a certain shade of color will still be helpful in the game to delineate areas. We may use the blueprint lines as a graphic for when the player is planning out his buildings.  In the end I guess the guys really wanted to try something that looks totally different from what they've made before.  They had approached me because they liked the work on Spacechem and based on some of the comments I read after Prison Architect's announcement (It looks like Spacechem and Dwarf Fortress had a baby) it turns out that is exactly what they got!

Monday, January 9, 2012

David Allcock and Eva Kuntz

Something I've taken to doing in movies is waiting for the credits to roll and listing down the names of the artists who took part in conceptualizing the film.  I take down production designers, art directors, concept artists, graphic artists, illustrators, storyboard artists.  Basically these are the names of people nobody else knows or recognizes but are integral parts of the creation of any movie.  I do this partly to recognize them for work but also to learn from them in case they have a blog hat I can visit.

For this movie, the blogs that I dug up were for David Allcock and Eva Kuntz (there's a joke there that I'm going to leave hanging).  Allcock is more my kind of guy, sort of an all around illustrator/concept/storyboard artist (it's his storyboard seen above), while Kuntz is rather adept at photomanipulation and photomontages.  I hope you enjoy poring over these blogs, and I'll try to update these as I watch movies in the coming year.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Starting 2012 with a Bang

When I started this blog my goal was to be an illustrator for a property like Warhammer, M:TG, or L5R and slowly move my way out of games.  There was a good 3 months last year where I had my nose to the grindstone, buying up art videos left and right and doing weekly Conceptart challenges.  It was thrilling, frustrating, rewarding, and humbling all at the same time.

But games just kept creeping back into my system.  I'm still working on the game Prison Architect with the fine folks over at Introversion, and I felt like the network I had built in the indie game world was just too substantial to put to waste.

So I finally decided to make a game.

After years of encouraging developers to make their own games (as IGDA Manila head) I'm finally taking the leap myself.  I pitched the idea a good friend of mine (who I feel jumped at the opportunity to work on something/anything aside from his startup company) and he surprised me with a build of the basic game on my birthday.  We plan on rolling something out by the end of month and then just seeing what happens next.

Not sure how much I want to reveal about the game right now, but take a gander at the first few graphics above and start drawing you own conclusions!