Follows is a short breakdown of one of my methods for coming up with full color concept art. Do enjoy.
BEGIN! Objective: Scout based character for an arena based FPS in the light of Quake 3, Team Fortress, and/or Unreal Tournament. After some initial sketching I decided I wanted something based on an ostrich, with long threatening talons being its main attack and a shotgun for a secondary mid-range. I wanted the critter to look fast, so ostriches made sense. I came across an interesting idea to use a symbiotic little caterpillar as the controller of the ostrich character.
0 – After continued sketching I cobble together this line art from my favorite previous sketches Frankensteining the best armor, legs, and weapon from my exploratory sketches. I am using the classic .3 mechanical pencil w/ HB lead on Bristol board. After distinguishing all the forms and overlaps and getting the perspective close (important important important) with the line-work I begin rendering with the same gear on the same drawing. I took 4 drawings to this level and picked this one for the final. If this stage isn't working no amount of rendering or color can fix it. So I spend lots of time here making sure it all works.
1 – Rendering! I attempt to push focus to the face of the ostrich dude and his caterpillar overlord with value in this step. I do a bad job though, and will require another step digitally to push the values to a decent balance. I take note of this and will take care in future rendering. Yay for learning.
2 – I scan the sucker again and meticulously cut out the silhouette. A little extra time here and I can save time and effort fixing edges later on. Placing this on its own layer in PS allows me to quick select the silo whenever I need it. I can also adapt this layer as the overall silo evolves.
3 – Due to my not so great pencil value skills I get to repeat the value stage. I push and pull until I feel like the values are working. Internal cast shadows are critical here. I am also beginning to think about specularity and where I want my glossy and matte surfaces. The specularity step can also be done in the pencil stages, but for now I separate them out because I am not a megabo$$ quite yet.
4 – This is where it gets crazy, When I am working on acrylic paintings and I have left over paint on my palette I drop it into my sketchbook for messing about. This page ended up with a solid color scheme so I scanned it and placed it in a negative of the character silhouette.
5 – After some finagling I move the color around with a hard round and the clone brush. A lot of sexy texture lives in this step and the clone brush is my friend. The more of the original page I conserve here the more traditional vitality the final will have. Digital has a tendency to feel lifeless and overly plastic. Injecting some analog textures, color, or simply beginning the piece in a traditional media for scanning and finish keeps a chaotic life within the pixels.
6 – Here is the value layer and the color layer combined. I am missing specularity, accurate value transitions and my values have wandered into bad neighborhood. In my younger days as an artist I would stall out in this stage and not know quite how to finish. This is the most gimmicky stage for the piece. Time spent watching others finish pieces helped me figure out how to lay in homogenous color, a grand shadow, reflect light, terminator color saturation, edge-work, specularity, and finish detail among tond of other things that sell a piece as 'final'.
7 – Here we have the pre-critique final. Crits are a journey. Maintaining my objective is important so I avoid useless work for myself or a client. I want to make sure my piece relates to the average person which usually means stepping on my ego so I can reach the largest spread of individuals. This is the stage where separating myself emotionally from the piece and fixing stuff is near impossible without some help so I post it up and ask my art friends for crits. I hear back many guttural things, and a few useful things. I beef up the legs and claws, and make the wormy dude more obvious. Edits here can take minutes, or days depending on how well I maintain my PS layer stack. In this case, I lost my silo layer and my color and texture layers are combined. I end up having to go in and hand paint edges and transitions effectively doubling the time for these edits. Lastly I go in with more samples from my color texture page and get some analog grit into passages that have lost it.
8 – The final! At least for now. Larger legs, bigger claws, and caterpillar cockpit move forward and made more clear. That about wraps it up. Thanks for checking it out. Feel free to email me any questions or comments: nate (at) nateabell (dot) com