Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A foray into character design, cont.

So following the feedback I received on my previous designs, I knew I needed to correct the figure's proportions, pose and generally define my design.

I built upon the rough new outfit sketch, starting with a new silhouette and pose, and came up with this:

At this stage I sent the image to the designer to get feedback before I developed it any further. The response was really positive, which I was very happy about. I'm pleased that I managed to fix the issues I had with proportions and with portraying the character.

I finalised the design to this. (Unfortunately it won't link or upload the image correctly, so I'll have to leave the dropbox link. The file is very large)

As you can see, I used a reference for the face so that I could achieve much more realistic values and tones. Although this could be classed as cheating, it really helped me to understand this part of painting, so I can develop and eventually not have to use reference. 

I'm really hoping to paint more life studies (both digitally and traditionally) over the Summer to practice this, as it will really help to make my overall art look more polished and professional.

Even looking to the first drawing I sent a few weeks ago, on my previous post, it is possible to see already how much my drawing has developed over a matter of weeks. 

It's motivating and exciting to be working on this game project. Next, I'm going to draw up a turnaround and face studies.

Very basic colour theory

Colour theory is an integral aspect of any painting or illustration. Again, this is something I've never fully took time to understand, which is why the majority of my digital paintings up until now have looked flat, "murky", and just generally off. So I thought I may as well try to start understanding now.

Basic colour theory covers three categories: the colour wheel, colour harmony and colour context.

Here's a colour wheel:

Colour harmony is crucial as it prevents an image from being boring, but also from being chaotic and unpleasant to look at.

I have been working on my own practice speedpaintings, but unfortunately I can't access them from my college at the current time... So I'm going to use some examples I found on this website.

Analogous colours, which sit near each other on the spectrum, are harmonious.

Complementary colours sit opposite each other. Opposing colours create maximum contrast and make their counterpart "pop" in an image.

Colour context is noting how a colour "acts" when it is placed alongside other colours. 

For example, here, the red appears more vivid against the blue-green than the orange, and similarly it appears brighter against black than white. 

Understanding colour relativity in great detail allows you to fully manipulate and understand how to make certain shades stand out. 

Now all I need to do is put this into practice!

Practicing poses and anatomy

Creating concept art for a project has inspired me to take a closer look at my drawing skills, and study where I need improvement.

I have always worked in non-realistic styles, but it's become increasingly clear to me how it's very difficult to work, in even a stylised fashion, without a firm understanding of the fundamentals of drawing and colour theory. Only recently have I realised how out-of-proportion my characters really tend to be, particularly male figures, and it's something I really want to change and develop. 

I began by looking into the basics of proportions. I watched a couple of Youtube videos and came to understand that generally speaking, a character is about eight heads high, and is separated as follows:

I've been practicing this, and drawing poses, quite a lot lately. I've mainly been focussing on male forms as I've always known that is where I need to improve. I'm more comfortable with drawing the "curviness" of female forms, so I just need to reach a point where I can draw male figures in this way too.

Although I skim over the details, such as hands and feet (they'll be the subject of practice for another day), I can see how the practice has really helped me to be more loose and free with the strokes when drawing the shapes of the body. Again, all I need is practice, practice, practice.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Don't get ripped off - Understanding copyright

With the rise of the internet it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep track of original material. It's very important to understand intellectual property and copyrighting so that we can protect our ideas and make a living from our work. We had a lecture and seminar introducing us to understanding our rights.

What is an evaluation?

An important part of our course is learning how to effectively evaluate our own work and progress. In a lecture we had on the topic, our attention was brought to just how many choices we make on a day-to-day basis, and how it is we reach those decisions. Generally, our daily choices are based "on value judgements or appraisals and reviews based on certain criteria", i.e. price, brand, ethics, design, taste, convenience. Reviews are also an integral part of our decision making; checking a film review before visiting the cinema, or a game review in a magazine before investing money in the game. But are these evaluations?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The importance of social networks

We live in an environment of networks, whether that is electricity, water, roads or, these days, the all-important online social networks. These networks allow us to directly link with people. In our lecture we went through the different social networks that are available today and how they can benefit our lives and careers.

Who am I?

At the start of our year we had a lecture that invited us to have an introspective look at ourselves, our personalities and our approaches to work, so that we could better understand ourselves and our potential. This was one of the main objectives of our PPP module, so that ultimately we have a clear understanding of the professional environment that we wish to work in and how we can achieve those goals.

Although some aspects of ourselves are easy to measure and therefore define, such as our gender and level of education to our shoe size (demographics), this lecture helped us to define the aspects that are not, such as our capabilities, thinking styles and working styles. Learning these will help others to understand how we work and what it would be like to collaborate with us. They are personality type indicators.

Monday, May 14, 2012

A foray into character design

I have recently began working on contributing character concept art for a group of students who are making a multiplayer first-person shooter. I came into contact with them through my brother, who noticed an acquaintance of his requesting help for concept art on Facebook. This alone has made me realise the importance of keeping a steady social network as opportunities to work can be found almost anywhere and from anyone. I thought it would be an excellent opportunity to develop my character drawing skills, practice taking directions and working with other people's ideas

I was initially apprehensive about how well my work would fit into a gritty first-person shooter; after talking about the project, I was asked to create a character design for one of the classes to see how well my style would merge with a slightly more realistic aesthetic. I usually work in a slightly exaggerated, cartoon fashion so I thought it would be an interesting challenge to practice and perfect a more realistic approach to character design. This is the first time I've worked according to another's requests, so the main challenge has been fulfilling what they would like in the design whilst also adding my own personal touch.

After studying the reference images that I was sent that expressed the overall look of the game, I began my sketching. The character is a post-apocalyptic scavenger. These were my quick initial drawings where I focussed more on the impression rather than technical details (I was aware he's far too skinny and oddly proportioned here):

Following positive feedback from the designer who thought I had a grasp of the style, I sent over a more refined image that experimented with something slightly different:

This drawing, although giving an indication of a more developed design, was not quite right. I was sent an in-depth critique from one of the other artist's working on the project, which was in fact one of the most useful and motivating critiques I've had. It was noted that my figure wasn't anatomically correct or in proportion, and also that I perhaps hadn't thought through some of the physical traits of the character. It was suggested that I make him more lithe and "rat-like", as he spends most of his time searching through scrap for materials. Also the outfit wasn't quite reflective of the post-apocalyptic environment. It was also suggested that I work more on the silhouette and overall shape of the character before starting on the details.

He sent me this redline for help on drawing the figure:

I had read about these methods before, but for some reason I hadn't abided by them in my first designs... So, taking all of this on board, I've began sketching again, making sure to first focus on an interesting, unique silhouette, and then start on the details.

I roughly sketched up a new outfit after thinking more about what the life of the character would be like; I aimed to make his outfit look more ragged, like he's having to continually patch it up and build his own armour on top of it. I also changed the face so that he had some rodent-like qualities.

I got a more positive response from the designer over the design of the face and outfit in this image, although the anatomy and pose are still incorrect - his stance is too rigid and doesn't display the outfit well. So next I'll be refining this into a more solid, three-dimensional figure to make him appear more lifelike.

This is the first glimpse I've had into what it would be like to work for a client, and I'm looking forward to gaining crucial concept art experience and developing my drawing skills. This has already spurred me into learning more about colour theory and drawing the figure in the correct proportions, which I'll write about in another post.

Any feedback on this work would be appreciated!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Working in Unity

For the level itself, I kept the terrain size quite small. The main focus of the environment is the house, and the spooky atmosphere leading up to it, so there isn't any particular reason why it would be required of the player to wander deep into the surrounding forest. It was somewhat difficult to give the impression of a forest with only two tree varieties and an increasing polycount; I placed trees outside of the terrain to give the impression of them going into the distance. I'm also going to have quite a dense, dark fog present so that distant objects only become visible as you approach them, again giving the illusion that the scene is bigger than it is (hopefully). 

The main problem I found after I'd finished putting the scene together, was figuring out the lighting and how to make sure that the house stood out rather than just fading into the darkness. The scene is set at night time, but I had to incorporate some sort of coloured lights to guide the player. On our final crit where other people in the class tested our levels, somebody suggested I have something leading up to the house - some sort of candy lamppost. I thought that this was a very good idea as it would make the pathway much more interesting and add some elements of anticipation. I also added a light on the house itself so that it illuminates slightly.

After ensuring that the player can walk around and approach the house with ease, I looked into what sounds I could use to heighten the atmosphere. I knew I certainly wanted some quirky, Danny Elfman-esque music. I also added some diagetic sounds - the door makes a knocking noise when you click it, and upon walking towards the gate a spooky voice whispers "what are you doing?

All-in-all I was mainly trying to evoke curiosity in the player and express a slightly skewed but whimsical version of the fairytale.

Final texturing

I have finished texturing the gingerbread house! (For reasons unknown, the gingerbread texture appeared semi-transparent when I rendered this image in Maya. It worked fine in Unity)

For the areas that were particularly detailed and visible I painted them myself on Photoshop, as it was difficult to find textures suitable for a cartoon-style game. For example the wood on the gate and the tree bark was painted so that I could easily manipulate it's placement on the geometry.

However for some areas, such as the icing and to achieve a "gingerbreaddy" texture, I experimented with photographs combined into the UV maps so that it would appear a little less flat. I also used a ready-made texture for the grass as whilst looking for reference, I found an image that would be suitable to use.

These are the trees that I've modelled to use in the final scene. I'll mainly be duplicating them and altering sizes and rotation to give the illusion that there are more varieties. I painted the textures, although I found some difficulty in working out where the UV's met, so there are some very visible seams; I think if I use lighting it effectively it will draw attention away from this...