Monday, 28 April 2014

Sparth on Spitpaint

Nicolas Bouvier, nickname 'Sparth,' is a French concept artist/ artistic director who has worked on franchises such as 'Asassin's Creed' and 'Halo.' I am a fan of his work, particularly his science fiction environments. There are lots of artists that rely heavily on phototextures to communicate realism and detail. When I see Sparth's work I think 'broad strokes.' Instead of intricate detail, he depicts vast environments using strong bold forms:

There's definitely something stylistically unique with Sparth's work. There is a level of looseness and simplicity, yet overall his environment seem vast and dense. His colours are warm and vibrant, contrary to much of the bleak washed out environments we see for franchises like 'Call of Duty.' I find Sparth's approach uplifting and visually pleasing. I was very excited to find that Sparth also posts in the 'Spitpaint' group:

It's great to see such talented and established artists posting in this open online community.

Random Studies

One of the biggest flaws we see in digital art painted by beginners (like myself), is a lack of understanding of what is being painting, and a constant application of general unconsidered brushstrokes. Professional artists spent time producing studies so that various materials and surfaces in their work look dynamic and believable:

It was interesting to consider how light both passes through and at the same time reflects on this glass surface. We see strong reflections to the left, with subtle light bounce, and faint speculars projected to the right of the glass. There are also areas of strong contrasting light and dark, hinting reflections from other surfaces around the glass tumbler.

I produced this quick candle study during a power cut. The melting wax is semi-transparent, allowing the strong candle light to pass through it giving a glow effect. Also, as this was a decorative Christmas table centrepiece, the silver tinsel at the base of the candles gives strong sharp contrasting reflections. I like the chiaroscuro feel with this study, emphasising the areas which are being lit by the candles.

With this study, I wanted to render a chrome ball, taking the surface from the top reference image, whilst reflecting the scene below. I captured the reflectivity of the surface to some extend, and used the smudge tool to try and show the warming of the reflections around the spherical surface and near the form lines. I didn't quite get the contrast right here. The chrome sphere almost feels washed out and dusty, as if it doesn't have its full reflective quality. I later found this video by professional artist Scott Robertson:

The biggest mistake I made when rendering my chrome surface, was lightening the values from the scene where in fact they should be a value step darker. Interestingly, when rendering chrome in an environment, Scott talks about not being afraid to loose edges, as chrome acts very similar to a mirror, so against the sky a chrome surface would likely very nearly be lost.

I plan to do more of these surface studies. I grabbed this example from the 'LevelUp' community from an artist who's Facebook profile name is 'Soy Sauce.'

I like how they are presented as simple forms, focus being on the rendering of the materials, and there are some interesting choices for study, such as the leather sphere with stitching. 

Monday, 7 April 2014

Level Up! Sessions

There is a new online community currently posting weekly videos hosted by polish artists Wojtek Fus and Darek Zabrocki, along with Jonas De Ro. Each video is hosted as a live stream, inviting a guest artist from the industry. On this particular session, concept artist Titus Lunter was invited along to share his processes and produced two original pieces using different approaches: [accessed on 7th April, 2014]

Lunter shared his recognisable approach of 'photobashing,' an approach that seems to be growing ever more popular in the industry as it speeds up workflow and achieves more photorealistic and detailed results. Lunter also speaks about, composition, colour and how some briefs offer freedom and room for experimentation whereas some are more strict and require planning.

Where I found the session really helpful was with the overpaints. As Lunter paints and discusses his work flow. The hosts encourage viewers to send in some of their paintings for critique and adjustments. Below is a painting that was sent in with a strong edge light effect:

Darek painted over this piece, deciding to use the same colour palette but make the painting 'cleaner,' and to make the strangely broken mountain the background a complete object:

One main criticism with the original painting was with the hard edge light and the way that the light source is seemingly bouncing directly upwards away from the viewers eyes. In reality, the light we see is that which is bouncing towards our eyes, so any specular appears slightly inside the edge that disappears away from our sight. This quick diagram Darek drew explains this well:

Again, it always impresses me the level of general knowledge industry professionals have of the world around us, here how light bounces off of objects. It is also important to understand how light acts differently when reflecting off of different materials. The sharp white specular highlights on the rocks from the original painting makes them appear damp and moist, whereas if they were dry the highlights would cover bolder forms and be more saturated. Some materials are much more reflective that others, so will more likely reflect values from their surroundings, where other materials appear to soak up light so have softer more neutral monochromatic highlights like for example cloth. Artists achieve such an understanding through studies and careful consideration when working, thinking hard about the surrounding environment and the materials and surfaces within it.

Perhaps in the near future I could send in one of my pieces for critique from industry professionals and the online art community.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Cintiq 13 HD

I recently purchased a 'Wacom Cintiq 13 HD'. I originally considered an 'Intuos' (standard graphics tablet setup), but was fascinated by the idea of having a tablet/ monitor, creating a feeling much like painting on a canvas. I did consider a higher priced 24" Cintiq, which in turn offered more accurate colours, but opted for the more affordable option. I have noticed that when I drag paintings off of my Cintiq onto my Mac screen, the colours need adjusting as the levels are usually blown out and slightly harsh. This is because the colours on the Cintiq monitor appear slightly washed out, meaning you find yourself compensating by exaggerating the saturation, shadows and highlights.

I find the perhaps the greatest advantage the Cintiq offers, is simply the fact that the external monitor gives you two screens to work with. This means you can keep all of your painting windows on the Cintiq screen, and any reference images on the computer screen. This eliminates screen clutter and the constant need to juggle windows around.

The experience of drawing directly onto an image itself is okay, although I don't find it to be highly advantageous. Perhaps it speeds up the process of line art, but as far as painting concept art in general, I don't find using a standard tablet too difficult in comparison. I often find myself plugging in my 'Bamboo' and cracking on with painting instead of clearing a large space and setting up my full work station. Perhaps this is simply laziness. On another note however, I do find there is something more organic feeling about the standard bamboo tablet. The surface is slightly rough, making it feel more satisfying as the pen passes over it. The Cintiq monitor however feels very smooth like drawing on glass, reminding more of interacting with a Nintendo DS or touch screen phone with a stylus. This isn't a massive issue, as it doesn't affect the outcome of the paintings, just a personal note on feel.

Focusing on some of the hardware, the stand supplied seems quite flimsy, and I often find that if I rest on the corners of the monitor, the plastic fold out stand slides and collapses in. On a positive note, the Stylus is far superior to the one that came with the Wacom Bamboo. It comes with its own compact case complete with replaceable coloured rings for customisation, and nibs to replace the ones that gradually become worn down.

I haven't really tapped into to the express keys just yet, although they could improve my workflow significantly.

The key advantage that outweighs the small gripes has to be the dual monitor capabilities. Particularly for larger projects where I will be working with large amounts of reference materials. On the issue of time and set up, perhaps if I had a permanent workstation instead of having to constantly pack and unpack the Cintiq tablet would defeat the tediousness of setting up the monitor and encourage me to work with the duel screen setup more often. When looking at studio diaries, concept artists are often seen using Cintiq monitors, meaning they must have an advantage over the standard Intuos setup. Perhaps with more time and experimentation, I will reap the full benefits of working with a tablet display.

It's Art February Awards

'It's Art' is an online community that offers inspiration for CG Artists. This includes 2D concept art, and there are many instances where 'It's Art' is involved with the online art community. One strong example is it's involvement with the 'Daily Spitpaint' group, where at the end of each month the administrators pick a selection of their favoutrite 30 minute speed paints.

I decided to submit one of my pieces into the monthly 'It's Art February Awards.' These awards are new, and are to be held every month. There is no subject, and participants are allowed to submit any original artwork that has been created in the current month. I chose to submit a personal piece I had created depicting a mysterious shipping vessel in the middle of an Ice cave titled "Frostbite."

My original plan for this submission was to create a selection of diverse environment thumbs, collecting random referense material to help with the mood:

I knew I wanted a stranded cargo ship, but wasn't sure where exactly the scene would be set. Admittedly, I immediately got carried away and when with the chilling ice cave setting. below is the process:

I started very loose with a monochrome blue feel.

Instead of bringing in a warm complementary orange, I opted for a cooler brownish red to maintain to chilling feel, yet offer some contrast with the very cool blues.

Here I am beginning to render in details like the damaged hull and covered shipping crates on the deck. I feel this is an area I have improved on massively this year. Notice how I quickly captured the bold shapes and values that make up the composition before rendering out the intricate parts. This means that I am working much more fast and efficiently.

With the final rendering, I painted in areas of orange. The warmness and heightened saturation help draw the eyes into interesting parts of the composition. The explorers in orange snow coats create a sense of scale as they descend down a worn in path. This trail draws into the damaged hull, where an orange light burns hinting that someone has taken shelter in the ship. It follows a rule that there are areas of the painting that spark the viewers imagination and suggest activity. Are the explorers returning to the shelter of the ship where their friends have built a fire, or have they just stumbled across the ship and are preparing to make contact with whoever has inhabited the wreckage?

My work successfully submitted for consideration.

In the end my piece received what I feel was a respectable 6 votes.