Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Un Chein Andalou Analysis

Un Chein Andalou (Translated means 'An Andalusian Dog) is a 1929 surrealist film said to be based on the studies of theorist Sigmund Freud. By considering certain key scenes, we can apply some of freud's theories on the dynamic unconscious, the castration complex and fetishism, and possibly the Oedipus complex.

Around two minutes into the piece, we see a subject riding a bike, dressed in feminine attire. It is also important to note the box worn around the male's neck. Similar boxes are referenced throughout the film, signifying their relevance. The fact that the male is wearing female attire quite clearly breaks convention. It could be argued that this is a representation of the 'ID' freudian model, which contains the animalistic urges suppressed by our 'super-ego' and our knowledge of social conventions. The box perhaps is a visual metaphor to show the area of the human psyche where urges and fetishes gained form childhood experience are suppressed and hidden.

around four minute into the film, we see a young female examining a severed hand. This could be considered to depict Freud's castration complex. In this case, it is the sensation that female feels she is missing something after realising she has no phallus. In his text 'Fetishism', Freud mentions that the fetish is 'a substitute for the woman's (the mother's) penis that the little boy once believed in...' Although this quote is directed toward the male psyche, it could arguably be subverted to explain the woman in the film's fascination with the severed hand. Perhaps the hand is symbolic of the castrated penis itself, leading the woman to store it her box of suppressed urges as a replacement for her absence of the penis.

Remaining on Freud's 'Fetishism' text, we see the main male subject groping the lead female above the clothes. In his text, Freud states: 'This piece of clothing covered up the genitals entirely and concealed the distinction between them.' Perhaps the male in the piece finds some attraction in the way that the females dress conceals her body, masking the fact that she is missing the phallus. This relates again to the time where the child believed his mother owned a penis, and he had no fear of being stripped of his. Note that there is also a focus on the groping of the breasts. When Freud talks about the Oedipus complex, he talks about the intimate bond a child develops with their mother during early years of development. Breast feeding is one of the first forms of contact a child will experience with their mother, showing that perhaps some of the male's sexual urges may derive from this deep bond established with the mother. This particular complex seems to be revisited later in the film.

Around eight minutes into the piece, the lead male attempts to ravish the female in his presence. His actions initially seem to be a clear representation of the 'ID' Freudian model. interestingly, the male is weighed down by a chariot of pianos, dead animals and human priests. This is likely symbolic of the 'Super-ego' suppressing and holding back the male's primitive sexual urges. Particularly the reference to the religious priests fortifies this view. Evidently in religion, their are many values and beliefs which are 
injected into society. There is a feeling of a constant weight of judgement over the male's shoulders.

Perhaps the most powerful reference made to the 'Super-ego' takes place ten minutes into the piece. a physical embodiment of the lead character himself enters the room. The lead character has now returned to his feminine attire, and is told by his conventional self to stand in the corner as a child would be commanded to do. It could be seen that this conventional reflection of the lead male is the physical representation of the 'Super-ego'. This is backed up by the conventional male throwing the other male's unconventional clothing out the window, displaying a demand for the effeminate male to follow what is accepted within society. The Super-ego then hands the effeminate male a book, which could resemble the 'dynamic unconscious'. this is the trait which Freud discusses, where the infant visits the taboo and socially unacceptable area of mind in order to protect the future self. This book then manifests itself into the form of two handguns. It could be said that the shooting of the conventional male is symbolic of the animalistic qualities within the human psyche breaking loose. As the conformist male dies, he clutches the naked back of a woman, which could be seen again as a representation of the intimate bond between mother and son.

In the final scene, a new male character is introduced. This new character could be taken as the father, as the female immediately develops a seemingly loving bond with the male. Another clue could be the final reference to the 'ID' box, which is smashed. We can imagine that through reaching an intimate bond, the couple feel they now feel no need to suppress and hide their deep insecurities. The couple are finally depicted dead in the sand. Quiet morbidly, this could be relating back to Freud's Oedipus complex, where the child develops a deep loathing and jealousy towards the intimacy between the mother and father.

The Gaze and the Media

Our second context of practice lecture was all about 'the male gaze'. This is where the male watches the woman, and the woman watches herself being looked at by the man. It is highly relevant in modern society as 'the look' is largely controlled by men, particularly in advertising.

To explain how the gaze works, we can take an image comparison. With the bellow image titled 'Vanity' by Hans Melmin, we see a woman examining a reflection of her face in the nude. Note that the reflection  in the small mirror is inaccurate when we consider perspective. This tells us that the painting is in some sense abstract, meaning that their is focus on the message behind the painting as oppose to photorealism. Because the perspective is skewed, the reflection begins to look like a perfect portrait, elegantly cropped with the shoulders and head in frame. perhaps this could suggest the woman's search for convention and properness, and how she would like to be received under the scrutiny of the male gaze. The viewer is almost invited to examine the females form as the image is in no way evasive, and she becomes merely an object, like a sculpture in an art gallery:

If we now take a look at this second image, we see a female applying makeup, sat on her bed. Here her form is much less elegant and conventional. Her legs are parted, yet she is still clothed. Add this to the reflection in the mirror, and we the viewer almost feels intrusive. Her reflection is correct in perspective, meaning her eyesight catches us looking at the painting. We almost feel caught in the act of peeping, their is a real sense of voyeurism with this image.

The idea of the male gaze is hugely relevant in fashion photography:

Regarding this image, theorist Rosalind Coward said 'The camera in contemporary media has been put to use as an extension of the male gaze at women on the streets.' Again there is this sense of voyeurism, catching someone in an exposed intimate act. This is taken further by including the public backdrop, adding a sense of risk and excitement to the image. Again, the woman almost becomes objectified, her sunglasses breaking eye contact so that the male viewer does not feel he is under scrutiny, as he himself scrutinises the woman in the image.

It is very rare that this gaze is reversed. Even when men are depicted in the nude, they often challenge the gaze. They are never objectified in such ways as the women in the above images.

Moving towards contextualising the ideas in the lecture, we can can see the gaze present in films, games and animation. One of the most noted transmedia characters in gaming, 'Lara Croft' is a perfect example of objectifying the female form for the pleasure of men. She is 'a visual spectacle to be consumed', she is over sexualised, and their is a sense of excitement with her destruction. We see this tradition carried on with many of the female characters in gaming. In the 'Halo' franchise, even the protagonist's computerised companion 'Cortana' is over sexualised:

This idea of digitalised sexual objects in gaming is taken further still, with the 'Miss Digital World' a competition held in Italy, where digital artists create beautiful digital women to compete. Again it is this idea of objectified women being put up for scrutiny against the male gaze. As a result, ideal definitions of beauty are manifested in society.

So why are male protagonists so versatile in age and appearance, while women are almost always depicted as young, attractive and over sexualised. Is it that men are not under the scrutiny of females and their gaze. Take Marcus Fenix from the 'Gears of War' Franchise. He is gruff, scarred and unbathed. This could however, be more fitting to the conventions of the male's traditional role in society. Marcus's rugged, masculine persona could be seen as 'sexy' under the female gaze. Perhaps this in fact reverses the gaze, as Fenix is under the scrutiny of females, whereas the male audience sees the heroic figure as an idealised reflexion of themselves. In a sense the male audience could be viewing themselves being observed and scrutinised by the female gender. Perhaps whereas as slender petite females seem to be a convention in the media, perhaps male characters also conform to certain conventions. For example, although the male protagonist varies in age and is not always portrayed as classically handsome, there is a always a trait of strength and dominance present.

We see the gaze everywhere in the media, from fashion photography, to advertising campaigns, to film and game. This comes with the general understanding that sex sells. Women become objects for marketing, playing on this sense of voyeurism that entices and excites the male market.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Advancing With Photoshop

I have indicated that one of my main areas of interest relating to my area of practice lies in Photoshop. I have recently been trying to expand my knowledge on the tools available whilst also improving my workflow. 

I believe a key to speeding up my processes in Photoshop is to understand working with layer masks. This is an efficient non-destructive way of working. It also means that colour and detail can be applied more loosely without constantly having to redefine edges.

As I had made made aware of some free beginner tutorials available at '', I decided to take alook. I already had a loose understanding of layer masks, but wanted to consider how to better put them into practice. I found the tutorial helpful as it demonstrated hand keyboard shortcuts, as well as other features available when working with layer masks. I wasn't aware that you could view a layer mask by alt clicking the preview icon in the layers menu, and then edit the mask in the main window. There is also the option to hide the mask (shift click the preview icon) and also the ability to make the layer itself and the mask independent by clicking the chain icon in the layer menu.

I also took a loot at the 'Brush Dynamics and Custom Brush Presets' tutorial. I have talked about working with textures to add an extra sense of realism to my concept art. By creating custom brush presets more dynamic brush strokes and markings can be achieved. I had a quick test producing my own custom brush preset:

I feel this brush creates soft furry edges. I feel it could be applied for something like moss ore frost in a painting. It is interesting how a small abstract image can be assign to a brush preset, creating very delicate and intricate results. I hope to build up some interesting preset brushes which I can then apply to my paintings to add a greater sense of both dynamics and detail to my work.

I also made a visit to the College Library and headed to the magazine section. I picked up a recent issue of "DigitalArts', where I found an interesting masterclass which involved placing a building render into a base photograph image. Although this lies more in the area of photo manipulation, I believe some of the skills could be applied across a broader spectrum. For instance, the lesson looked at placing in textures and reflections, manipulated to fit the perspective of the render using the 'Distort' tool. It also looked at using different layer blend modes, particularly the 'Soft Light' option to show the sunlight.

I feel that I am beginning to broaden my understanding of the tools available within Photoshop, which will hopefully lead to a tighter and faster workflow.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Skills I Hope to Develop This Year

I have been talking a lot about my workflow in Photoshop. I hope to drastically improve on this throughout the course of the year. I want to explore working efficiently with layers and layer masks. I also hope to consider custom brushes and applying textures to my images. I will also strive to build on my visual vocabulary and drawing skills, looking at anatomy more in depth whilst also moving away from drawing only human characters. I want to expand on my ability to draw landscapes and environments, and also vehicles and machinery.

Another potential tool I am considering learning is Autodesk 'Mudbox'. I believe the process of sculpting relates more to the methods used when producing concept art. The process seems more expressive than extruding faces and tweaking vertexes:


Psychoanalysis is a form of therapy which is based on the understanding of the human mind from birth. It considers the unconscious mind and how it effects our sexual identity and everyday lives. We humans are seen as subjects, and the aim of psychoanalysis is to figure out our identity, our personality, the way we think, what motivates us and our subjective ideas. We can also look to our dreams to understand our desires and motivations.

To understad the ideas behind psychoanalysis, it is important to consider that we are not entirely in control of what we do. We are not always responsible for what surfaces from our unconscious mind.

Sigmund Freud:

Freud was one of the key theorists we looked at during the lecture. He had the idea of psychoanalysis and used it to treat hysteria patients. He analysed dreams to understand hidden desires and wish fulfilment. He observed infants in their habits and their associations with parental figures.

The 'dynamic unconscious' is created through infancy in order to protect our conscious selves. This is where taboo ideas which are unacceptable to the concious mind are visited. Although we cannot look and asses the chaotic thoughts which have no order or language, they can sometimes be manifested through ticks, symptoms and 'freudian slips'.
Freud identified stages of an infant's development. Most notably was his theory known as the 'Oedipus complex'. This is the idea that the mother is the child's first form of sexual contact, and that the infant feels strong compelling emotions of love towards her. This then develops into jealousy and resentment towards the father. This is a very confusing phase during development, as the infant experience a sensation of love rivalry and jealousy all mixed.

Freud also looked at the development of masculine and feminine identities all in relation to the penis. The 'castration complex' is based on the idea that after seeing girls do not own penises, the boy fears his will also be taken. It links with the fear of loosing something. The girl on the other hand sees the boy's penis and feels she is missing something. These mixed feelings must be overcome for the child to gain a sexual identity.

Freud also considered the 'uncanny'. This is where something feels unnatural yet familiar, creating a sense that the barrier between fantasy and reality has broken down. We elaborated on this idea during our seminar after the lecture. Perhaps this highlights where psychoanalysis can be contextualised into film and game. By understanding certain complexes within the human psyche, we can consider the emotions we want our audience to feel when experiencing our work.

Freud also created 'Freudian models':

The 'ID' contains our animalistic unconscious instincts and desires.

The 'Ego' contains our conscious, our individuality and personality.

The 'Super-Ego' is where our understanding of social order comes from. This is the model which helps us conform to the conventions of society.

Jaques Lacan:

Jaques Lacan in a strong sense revised the work of Freud established in 1890. However, in contradiction to the idea that the unconscious mind is unstructured, Lacan aimed to develop a language resembling the chaos in psycho analogy. His approach gave the opportunity for multiple interpretations, often resulting in paradox and contradiction.

Lacan argued that without language we are not human, thus justifying his attempts to consider the mind as a structured language.

Lacan discussed the mirror stage. This is the compelling moment where the child first sees their own reflection in mirrors and also in other people. Up to this point they believe that they are centre of existence. When they realise that they are merely a small piece in a larger picture, the ego explodes resulting in rivalry and alienation. When the child see's their reflection for the first time, they a described as being both absorbed and repelled.

Interesting Lacan was also interested in the 'Phallus'. However, he saw it not as the literal penis but as a symbol of power and order. Quite controversially, he believed that the males onwership of a phallus  provided them a 'peaking position in culture'.

Lacan also underpinned what he believed to be the 'Orders of Reality': 

The 'Real' cannot be symbolised, it is where our most primitive animalistic selves exist.

The 'Imaginary' is where the ego operates. It is where an understanding of ourselves and other people is established.

The 'Symbolic' is where social order and culture is acknowledged.

Art Criticism / Theory:

This is where the study of the psychoanalysis really starts to become relevant to our creative courses. Artists consider subjectivity, and what it is to be human. By understanding motivations, desires and the unconscious mind, we can begin to identify why we create the work we do, and it's sentiment to us and our potential audience.

On a more cynical note, we can look at Edward Bernays (Nephew of Freud), who was nicknamed the godfather or PR. He applied the knowledge of psychoanalysis and unconscious desires in order to manipulate his audience. He promoted the lifestyle rather than the product, using aspirational marketing techniques.

We can see these manipulation techniques used in the above 'Torches of Freedom' marketing campaign. Berneys knew at the time, women felt suppressed by the thought supremacy of men. Cigarettes were one of the delicacies exclusive in society to the male, and Berneys saw the opportunity to open up the market by aiming his campaign at a female audience. He used this pursuit of grace and beauty as a tool to manipulate his audience, claiming that smoking will help keep a slender figure. In reality we know this is the unhealthy result of a loss of appetite. This links with the knowledge of desires and motives that drive certain people. Here, it is the desire to be slender and beautiful. Even today we see similar marketing campaigns all focused at women and their potential insecurities.

Although I am sure most of us have no desire to manipulate the audience using cynical means, perhaps through the study of psychoanalysis, we can consider how to reach people on an emotional and personal level through our work. Particularly in game, we are always considering emmersion and captivating our audience. By understanding how certain ideas engage the unconsious mind, we can think about creating engaging worlds and narratives, which reach our audience on a sentimental level.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Keeping Things Loose

I have been talking a lot about the speed at which I work and my concerns regarding it. I am yet to return to the sketchpad, as I am currently enjoying working entirely in photoshop, but for this next set of images, I decided I would try to work fast and loose:

I was initially working with the idea of a more streamline vessel, as you can see with the first three images from left to right. For the first image I began by trying to draw inspiration from my previous ship design, whilst trying to straighten things out as appose to using the organic curves I applied originally. I quickly decided I wanted to draw something from a more dramatic perspective to make my design more exciting. With the next set of designs I tried simplifying things even further. As you can see with the top right image, I originally included a fin, and more expressive and jagged curves on the wings. This design almost looks shark-like. I felt that this would emphasise that this vessel is occupied by the antagonist in our particular piece of narrative. Re-visiting my whale moodboard however, I felt the inclusion of a blowhole style vent on the top of the ship could look interesting. I also further simplified the lines as I felt the exaggerated curves on the previous design felt too cartoon-like.

For the last design, I was looking at tails I had gathered as source material. I wanted to attempt something from an angle that drew more focus onto the rear tail mechanism of our potential vessel. I feel this design also feels smoother and more Orca looking. In one sense this contradicts the designs purpose as the lines are too soft and delicate, however, it could be debated that the silhouette also bears connotations of the 'Killer' whale. Another quality I like about this final design is that it showcases the propulsion system of the ship. Although the ship is slightly more organic looking than the streamline vessels, it doesn't appear too joint driven and more rigid as you would imagine a spacecraft to be.

I found this looser method of working much more efficient, and not only that, I felt that my ideas developed more freely. At this stage, it is easy for me to get tied down on one concept and my ideas become too laboured. With this study I felt that I developed more of a flow with my ideas. I would quickly get down a mental image I had in my had, and any ideas that were sparked from that, I was able to capture them before they were lost. Workload is not the only concern associated with my tedious workflow, it can also have a strong impact on the development of my ideas. It feels rewarding to produce images I am happy with in a considerably shorter amount of time to previous concepts, and also, to feel that my ideas are moving forwards.

Thinking Bigger

In my previous post regarding the spaceship concept, I commented on how I was interested by the idea of morphing using living organic subject matter in order to create interesting mechanical structures. I went with the wasp design inspired by my silhouette work, but found it to be too agile-looking. Reflecting on which possible living creature could best resemble a large space vessel, I decided to collect some Whale images and created a separate moodboard:

I found that I was drawn to the torpedo-like anatomy of the baleen or 'great whale' anatomy. A member of this family can be seen in the top right image of the moodboard to give an example. I took this idea and tried to incorporate it into a ship design:

I am also beginning to consider possible colour combinations for the vessel. I tried a complimentary orange and blue with the top left design. Although these two colours do work well together, they do not really fit with the context of the design. The ship is supposed to be perilous and occupied by a sinister security guard. This scheme is too vibrant warm and inviting. The obvious blue design to the right is too soft and delicate on the eyes, not really collaborating well with the dwarfing ship it is occupying. I also tried a green and purple scheme, inspired by my early crash sight concept painting. This design feels closer, as the colours aren't quite complimentary, creating an uncomfortable jarring effect. This is better fitting with the abrupt nature of the vessel. The final scheme, is the one I am perhaps the most happy with. As I had based the Guard character in my storyboard with the 'Splinter Cell' source images on my moodboard, I opted for a black and grey colour scheme with subtle dashes of bright green. This creates a generally darker mood, fitting with the villainous ship.

I believe this is a step in the right direction. This particular design certainly looks more substation as appose to the flimsy wasp concept. Still, I need to try and gradually work away from the very literal organic shape, and achieve something that looks less like the marine mammal it was inspired by. Perhaps the curvature of the design is too exagerated. A flying vessel would arguable be more streamline, although, as the vessel will be working in low gravity, perhaps it could propel itself in a similar way to a sea dwelling creature, moving it's limbs in a smooth serpent-like motion. Perhaps considering the purpose of the vessel will help better inform my design. If the ship is required to enter planetary orbits, it would need a more versatile design, likely including some form of propulsion engine. Alternatively, I could continue my experimentation until I find a design that looks aesthetically pleasing, and then decide on a purpose that fits the nature of the vessel, allowing me to further refine my design ideas.

Monday, 15 October 2012

'SWOT' Analysis

As this year there will a focus on our future careers once our three year course is complete, I filled in a 'SWOT' analysis sheet to identify my strengths and areas for improvement:

I feel that one of the key strengths that I identified is my ability to be analytical of myself and constantly asses the task in hand. I try to be focused in my work to achieve the best possible results based on my abilities. Hopefully by maintaining this work ethic, I will see a considerable improvement in the quality of my concept work throughout the year.

The main weakness I hope to improve on, is the speed at which I work. This is not the result of procrastination, but of being over clinical and tedious in my methods. I have been meditating this concern, and perhaps working on paper at stages in the process could help speed development along. When I work in photoshop, I become very precise and deliberate. Perhaps scribbles in a sketch pad could later be refined as protfolio-standard digital paintings. Less successful ideas however, can be dropped without going through the long photoshop process before coming to the conclusion.

It seems that with the influx of indie games, there are opportunities for a concept artist everywhere. No longer must I worry about trying to catch a break with the leading game developers in the industry. Now small teams are being formed everywhere to produce creative titles. My one key weakness which I feel must be improved upon, is my workflow. I will continually strive to improve my methods and develop good practice. I feel it is important to reach an understanding of how I work most efficiently. Perhaps a fully digital approach isn't the most effective means for me. I will revisit the sketchpad and see how it impacts the momentum of my work. I could possibly discover that an entirely digital process drawing everything on a graphics tablet does prove to be the most effective in the end. 

Friday, 12 October 2012

Refining our Chosen Direction

Now that we have a storyboard, our approach to producing concept art has now become much more focused. I suggested that we begin to figure out what exactly is required to move forward and assign tasks to each member. Joel was happy to focus on developing the Ninja style protagonist, whilst Dan is happy to take on the security guard character design process.  

My focus will be on producing the exterior of the ship, and then focusing in on the set (interior) where our cutscene will take place. We are also aware that the camera will need concept art behind it as well as the explosive device the protagonist is attempting to plant. Joel has agreed to take on the camera, whereas Dan is happy to design the bomb. There is also the matter of the Ninja's small getaway craft, which at this stage may or may not be included in the final product. I will gladly put myself forward if the requirement should arise.

I feel that I am beginning to understand how to function within a team, as I feel have the rest of the group. As we all have strong ambitions in concept art, there is a desire within all of us to design characters, Levels and props in a very generalised manner. I enjoy character design, despite taking on the environment aspect of things. I see this not as a pit fall in my development, but as a chance to work outside of my comfort zone and develop my abilities. This is something I can relate with when we think of SWOT analysis, and consider areas for improvement as well as areas of strength.

I began the second phase of my concept art process by considering how the exterior of the ship could look. Working from our moodboard as reference, I began creating silhouettes. Something I found with the shapes I created, was that I could relate certain designs to that of particular animals. I am always interested by the idea of 'morphing' particularly when creating vehicle concepts. This is where features taken from living organic creatures can be applied to create unique structures. You can see from my annotations how some of my silhouettes can be related to organic forms:

One of the links I liked was the relation to a wasp, with it's lower stinger bearing abdomen. I thought this could make for a very unique looking vessel. I developed this idea further, creating a ship concept working from a source image taken from the internet:

I like the result, however,  for the scale required for our vessel, this design perhaps is more fitting for a smaller pod based craft. Firstly, it looks exo-skeletal and lightweight. One can't really imagine long corridors running through the structure. Perhaps I could translate the key elements of this particular idea, and translate them into something much larger and less fragile.

Still, one element I do like about the design is it's organic living feel. I am reminded of the reapers from the 'Mass Effect' game series, a very organic looking machine race. They seem to take there design from the squid, with torpedo-like bodies and arms resembling tentacles. 

I would very much like to keep this living element with the vessel where possible. Perhaps studying larger subjects such as the whale family would be more fitting. This more exo-sceletal design could be used for the Ninja's stealthy getaway craft instead.

Taking a moment to analyse my progression with working in Photoshop, I feel I am gradually improving. If there's one thing that still concerns me it's the speed at which I work. I see my teammates beside me developing ideas at a rapid rate, and I can't but feel I am lagging behind. I am hoping to start working with layer masks to speed up the process of creating concept art. This will help particularly once I've blocked out my image, when adding detail and highlights, eliminating the need to constantly tidy up edges.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Thought Bubble-Leeds

This coming November I plan to attend the 'Thought Bubble' comic book convention with a friend from the course. The two dates are Saturday the 17th and Sunday the 18th. We have discussed the possibility of going for one day as oppose to the entire weekend, with a single day ticket costing £12.

Although comic book illustration is not immediately relevant to our area of study, I imagine many of the skills could be applied when creating concept art for film and games. Hopefully by attending, my passion for digital art will be elevated further, and I could potentially pick up valuable tips from practitioners.

I have reviewed some of the guests who will be attending and I was fascinated with the work of Simon Davis. It seems form visiting the artist's website, Davis works with traditional media, primarily Oil paints on board. His style however, could possibly be emulated by digital means, using a Wacom tablet:

I was also excited through discovering the work of Paolo Rivera, who also works in traditional medias, this time along with ink and occasionally sculpting:

Artist Ken Walker is actually based in Leeds. It would be interesting to discuss working in my local city, and could prove a valuable contact.

I look forward to the illustration element which 'Thought Bubble' will hopefully have to offer. Also, I plan to network and seek advice from practitioners, further informing and inspiring my own work.


As our first Crit is approaching, our team realised that it was time to narrow down our approach and turn our focus onto a storyboard. I offered to take on this particular task as I was slow contributing my concept art ideas due to spending long amounts of time on single paintings. Before I began, our team contributed plot ideas, which in the end narrowed down our title choice to 'Surviallence'

My step in refining our art direction was to develop a detailed moodboard containing spaceship concepts, surveillance equipment armour and weaponry:

The idea of having a stealthy ninja style character infiltrate a ship was agreed on. This Protagonist could possibly be cunning and sneaky, fitting the Trickster archetype, or possible fit the Martyr archetype, facing possible peril after protesting against the vessel's purpose. Responding to the Protagonist's infiltration, some form of security guard was discussed. This figure will likely fit the Antagonist role, preventing the Protagonist from completing his task. I took this general approach and structured a short narrative. Bellow is the storyboard:

There are still elements of the narrative which need refining. Most importantly, why is the Ninja character infiltrating this particular ship, what is the ships purpose? Also, this initial storyboard is subject to change, however, it will hopefully help us refine our ideas and begin moving in a solid focused direction.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Crash Concept

After meeting with the rest of the team, one of the ideas we all agreed had great potential was some form of airship. I took this idea (Based on some of teammate Dan's concept art) and applied it to the cave location I had worked on previously:

I opted to use a cool green and purple colour scheme as I feel it successfully captures a damp dark cave atmosphere. This time I feel that I executed the colours more successfully, as the image seems to have better depth and the focus seems to be drawn onto the ship. I used a rule of thirds grid to try and balance the composition, and make the sure the focal point (airship) was correct. I also concentrated on perspective as well as shadow and light.

One problem I faced was colour banding when using transparent gradients:

You can see subtle banding here, the gradients showing clear segments almost resembling a poor print. I found that I could tone this down by adding a subtle noise filter along with a gaussian blur. 

My final Issue would be the hours I spent painting the image. I hope that with time I will be able to produce at least two pieces of this level of detail in a day. Perhaps for my next piece I could attempt a rough looser style. If I could still manage to capture my ideas, but spend less time on a single image, my work rate would be much more efficient, as would be expected working at an industry level.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Modelling a Biped for Rigging

We were given an alien T-pose drawing by our Maya tutor. We were asked to create a 3D character model to be rigged, animated and presented on a turntable. After we were given a quick refresher on some of the important modelling tools in Maya, we were left to figure out how to model the character. I enjoyed this approach, as I found it encouraged me to experiment with the tools.

This was the first I had modelled a full humanoid model. Instinctively I placed a polygon cube and began modelling from the centre of gravity (The stomach). I worked on creating one half of the model for the geometry to be mirrored when complete. I mainly used the extrude tool to follow the contours of the drawing, and found myself often tweaking the vertexes. I was constantly thinking about the edge flow and how my model would bend when rigged. The 'insert edge loop' tool came in useful when adding in extra loops particularly around joints. When the model became more complex, usually when working on the head of my character, I found the 'interactive split tool' gave me more freedom when adding in extra edges and vertices.

One problem I faced was trying to model the face after I had created the neck and skull. With the transparent view on, all the edges were visible, making the front view appear confusing. I was able to complete my model by constantly referring to the perspective view, however in future, perhaps it would be much easier to begin by modelling the face and then model the rest of the body.

Finally, after mirroring the geometry of my model, the head merged fine, however, the body left a large gap running down the centre. When modelling I must have not completed the body up to the line of symmetry. To resolve this, I used the 'merge edge' tool. It almost felt as if I was sewing up the gap, completing my model. I also isolated the main body on a separate layer to the eyes, keeping my work organised and giving me the ability to make certain layers invisible when rigging:

Un-smoothed Showing Polygons.

With Smooth Preview.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Setting up a 'deviantART' Account

As I am hoping to work hard on developing my concept art abilities, I have decided to set up a deiantART account. This way, I will be able to upload the work I produce and gain feedback from other users. There are also regular contests, which I hope to enter in my field: My account.

Initial Concept Idea

I was reflecting on the images I found earlier, and thinking of ways in which I could combine elements I liked from the concept art I looked at for inspiration. I decided that I liked the idea of a bleak sci-fi setting, and also the idea of man-made architecture against a wild natural backdrop. I liked the idea of a cave system holding something mysterious beneath its surface. Instead of an old structure holding historical information, I thought I could approach this idea in a more literal sense. I was reminded of the uncovering of 'Prothean' virtual intelligence in the first 'Mass Effect' game. I imagined discovering some kind of information terminal buried deep within my cave system. This could be an interesting focus for a piece Machinima narrative. I produced an early piece of concept art to try and capture this loose idea:

I already have ideas on how this concept could be taken much further. Firstly, if this location were to be developed, I imagine there would be a great focus on the terminal itself as a key prop. As there has up to this point been now initial development work, the terminal I have painted here is admittedly uninspired. To improve upon it, I would develop something much grander in both scale and detail. I haven't quite captured the colossal structure I was hoping for originally. Also, the terminal could be something more abstract and alien, perhaps left behind by a race existing before man. This would certainly make for a more mysterious and intriguing narrative, very much like the ancient 'Prothean' race from the 'Mass Effect' series:

Similarly we have the 'Forerunners' from the Halo series. I came across this stunning concept art teaser for the upcoming 'Halo 4' release. We see evidence of these 'Forerunner' structures left behind by the ancient race:

Again, I love how these polished futuristic structures sit against vast natural backdrops.

Our team has yet to get together and share our initial ideas for possible genres and locations to aim for with our piece of Machinima. I hope this piece of concept art I have produced will spark some ideas. I am looking forward to combining my thoughts with the ideas belonging to the rest of the team. Hopefully we will have a strong idea of where we going with our project by the end of our next meeting.

On a personal critical note, I am still experimenting with colour and composition. With my terminal piece, I found it hard to move away from the initial green colours I was working with. I opted to try and apply a complimentary red tint to the backdrop, which achieved a slightly more dynamic sense within my painting. I am still however trying to learn more about colour theory and how it can be applied.

Seeking Inspiration

We have established a three person team to develop a piece of Machinima. During our first discussion, we found that our main areas of interest lie in producing concept art. Because of this, we have agreed to stretch out of our comfort zones and generalise to cover the maya, unity, and sound elements required. Where this background of concept art will work for is, is that we should have a very thorough and vivid idea by the end of the art process.

From our initial brainstorm, we accumulated a large number of themes for a location. We felt it would be a good idea to first consider the space, which will inform our character ideas and story. Working very loose and freely, we said that instead of tying down one of the ideas, we would each go away over the weekend and produce some rough initial concept art for possible scenarios and locations. Instead of producing a focused mood board right away, I thought at this stage to just seek inspiration to spark ideas.

I decided to use deviantArt to search for user produced conceptual works.

This first piece I came across by 'Raphael-Lacoste' is titled 'Mining on Gliese':

What I like about this stunning piece is it's implications. It is easy to fascinate over a brighter future where everything is more refined and efficient. However here, it is suggested that we are still spoiling planets by scaring the land with industrial scale mining equipment and the extraction of possible fossil fuels. The colours are very rustic and earthy, contradicting the clean polished look we find in some science fiction concepts. I am engaged by this dirty future theme, which we find also in the 'Alien' films.

The next piece I found is a colaboration between 'JoeDiepstraten' and 'DanilLovesFood' titled 'Kradortharr Tower':

I like this idea of a fallen colossal structure, which likely once stood strong and tall. The tower seems almost personified, like a sleeping giant due to it's enormous scale. I love the combination of ancient ruins occupying vast cave systems, a theme adopted in 'Gears of War' when uncovering the Locust's underground civilisation. It really feeds off a sense of discovery and exploration, the idea that an almost parallel world exists hidden beneath the surface. It also invites a sense of isolation and secludedness. A setting of this kind would also allow for some great use of sound. There would have to be a huge focus on achieving the cave's open acoustic environment. I can almost hear the thin streams of water trickleing through the caves, combined with the sound of water droplets dripping from stalactites on the celing, all echoing to create a symphony of high pitch frequencies, balanced by the deep eerie sound of wind moving through the environment. Perhaps this eerie secluded cave idea could be combined with the 'dirty future' concept, occupied by abandoned industrial mining equipment as oppose to the ancient ruins in this image.

Another great piece concept I came across was this piece by 'wildcory1' titled 'Dome concept':

I am really starting to sway towards this idea of futuristic manmade structures being embodied by the environment around them. As you can see from this piece here, there is almost a juxtaposition created between the wild vines and foliage compared to the smooth chrome-looking platform assembled in the centre of the painting. Colour wise, the man made structure and the surrounding environment do not differ greatly in colour values. In this sense, the image merges quite well, whilst still keeping the platform the focal point without loosing it to the greenery.

What I notice about all the pieces is the attention to textures and detail, and the great feel of depth and value control. They almost already feel as if they could exist as a 3D space, as if there is some existing awareness of the game industry pipeline and how the environment could be modelled and textured. I hope that in my work I can also really capture the mood of the environment and ultimately consider how the setting would feel as a virtual gamespace.