Thursday, 26 December 2013

Attending 'Thought Bubble' with Business Cards

Last year I attended the 'Thought Bubble' comic book convention at the Royal Armouries is Leeds. This year instead of simply browsing and buying comics, I wanted to try and network with illustrators and writers. In preparation I printed a batch of business cards. I opted for a simply slick design inspired by the hilarious scene from 'American Psycho', where a group 'Yuppies' exchange very similar-looking yet competitive business card designs. On the back of my card I placed a piece of my concept art titled 'Nazis in the Himalayas', removing a swastika flag to avoid causing any potential offence:

I did manage to distribute a few cards to illustrators and digital artists, prompting them to view my work and leave feedback. I also discovered the work of illustrator Jeff Stokely, who was promoting his latest project 'Six Gun Gorilla'. Jeff has a very stylised approach, showing an incredible understanding of human anatomy, action poses, and line weight. I now have Jeff Stokely on facebook, and hope to share my page with him and share my enthusiasm regarding his own amazing work, as well as possibly receive some critique and feedback on my work.

Jeff Stokely's page:

FZD Design School

I have been aware of Feng Zhu's work in entertainment design for a couple of years now, and I have learned from his videos in the past. Artist Feng Zhu established a school for entertainment design in the spring of 2009, Singapore. Monumentally fortunate for us aspiring concept artist, Feng has uploaded a library of helpful videos that share his methodology and give us access to the techniques and principles he teaches his paying students, all for free on Youtube!

As I am really trying to push my abilities and improve this year, I decided to visit his early videos and begin following them in order. Instead of tendiously talking about each of his videos, I will highlight some of the ones I found most helpful and talk about some of the key principles and techniques I have taken away from Feng Zhu's amazing work.

1. Learn to work fast:
Feng talks a lot about working in the industry and about the pipeline. The distinction between illustration and concept art is that sometimes concept artists are working to tight deadlines, in collaboration with a team working in different areas of the industry. This means that the work is greater than just the one person producing it. Sometimes in order for an environmental artist to meet their deadlines, the concept artists needs to get their work out to them fast. Sometimes this means compromising sharp renders for loose work that captures the scene and tells the story. One way of speeding up the pipe line is to use phototextures. Feng talks about using loose line drawings, bringing in photocollage to colour pick fast values, and letting elements of photographs bleed through the painting in order to bring in detail without tedious rendering:

2. It's all about the values:
Many artists begin their work in grayscale. This is because values take priority over the colours themselves. Not to dismiss colour theory as a means of achieving depth, put the distinction between light and dark, and the differentiation in contrast from the horizon to the foreground of an image is "king". One technique to constantly monitor the values of an image is to create a black layer set to the 'Saturation' blend mode, on top of your image. Here is an example of me attempting to control my values in response to Feng's videos:

Notice their is also primary photo refference taken during a trip to Normany, France, near the walker's legs

Even when crazy colours are added, the values still translate in the image is readable.

3. Think about composition:
Feng Zhu is the master of guiding the eyes around a composition. He talks about how in a good piece of concept art, there are a number of stories being told. The eyes never become board discovering new details, and are never allowed to escape the composition. There are tricks such as using people to establish scale, having a character look at the key subject in the image immediately prompting us to look, framing the image and and establishing curves to make the eyes follow the composition:

Finally, I like the format of Feng's tutorial videos. He usually paints over a students work, highlighting the elements he likes and his reasoning for choosing the work initially, to where they fail and they could be vastly improved. This gives an idea the level at which under graduates are working, and the benchmark for industry quality work. I have been incorporating many of his techniques in my own work, helping improve both its quality and the time I spend producing it.

Establishing an Online Presence.

In this final academic year, I hope to establish myself as a concept artist through developing an online presence. This could also potentially lead to job prospects if I am able to get my work in circulation among potential employers. My first step so far has been to break away from my student email, and set up a professional web address: ''.  Using this email address I have created a professional Facebook page and a 'Deviant art' account:

Deviant art:

I have been thus far regularly updating my art pages in the hopes of getting my work seen. I have had some interest from other users on deviant art, who have asked to feature some work in online galleries. Although this is only a small start, if I keep a healthy flow of work being put out there, hopefully I can build followers and generate interest in my work. So far my most successful piece has been an initial concept for my Extended Practice module, receiving so far 26 favourites from other users, three comments and has been added to 4 galleries. Again, this is no huge feet in comparison to other established artists who use 'DA', but uploading the particular image has generated some interest in my page, and given me an idea of the sort of work people find appealing: