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Character Design - Herman Ng
From: FantasyArt Magazine
Translated by: Xavier Ho (SpaXe)
(Any corrections are welcome. I’m doing this for my friend Leonard, who told me about this awesome article! Keep in mind this is a Chinese article (not anything else :p). The translation does not represent my opinion whatsoever.)
In our usual impression, the quality of our designs has always been below average. We view it as if only foreign designs were good, but is that true?
Actually, many Chinese artists have done well in many international design competitions. Even in games, or the film industry, there are also Chinese artists who use their talents; they are no less than other great artists. However, we found it difficult to locate them in the popular Chinese mainstream media. Today, we interview the Chinese concept designer, who was born in Hong Kong, now residing in Australia – Herman Ng.
Jun 03 – Feb 02: Junior Concept Designer, Fuzzyeyes Studio. Worked on “HotDogs HotGals”.
Apr – Dec 05: Junior Concept Designer, AND Studios. Worked on storyboards for commercial TV.
Jan 05 – Jan 06: Concept Desiner, Kalescent Studios.
Jan 06 – Jan 07: Concept Designer, Fuzzyeyes Studio. Worked on “Edge of Twilight”.
Mar 07 – Present: Founder of Creative Assembly as Senior Concept Artist, working in the Games Industry.
(F: FantasyArt, H: Herman)
F: Thanks for accepting our interview.
H: I’m glad to be able to share my experience with the readers.
F: Then, firstly, could you tell us when you started drawing?
H: I loved drawing since I was young, but my formal training started when I went to university in Australia, since five years ago.
F: Could you talk about your workflow?
H: Everyone’s workflow is different. Mine generally has four steps:
First, thumbnails. Put anything you can think of onto paper, drawing basic black and white drafts.
Second, pick out the good concepts and combine them into a basic line drawing.
Third, add colour on the line drawing and produce the general feeling of the big picture.
Fourth, start to add details, slowly using colours to cover the line drawing. This is a continuous process only experience and job requirements can decide when to stop.
F: What elements do you think a character design should have?
H: There are three key points to character design:
First, proportions. If the proportions are wrong, the drawing will hardly convince anyone, and your character would be hard to model.
Second, have your own reference database. Save various pictures you find into the database, so your characters aren’t constrained in one style, and you increase your chance of being accepted at different companies.
Third, colours. With colours your character has life, allowing others to understand your design easily. For example: culture and history.
F: How do you equip your characters with special histories?
H: If you want your characters to have interesting backstories, you must let them have related themes and elements. There are many themes in concept design, say sci-fi, horror, fantasy, steam-punk and what have you. All of these themes have their representative symbols. You need to render them in clear spots when designing. Also, in horror, many dark and evil elements like blood, vampire, zombies and so on are usually very effective. But you must know what theme your character needs, so you can secure the main theme. Mixing elements in different themes is a dangerous act, most of the time not recommended. If you would like to use these elements well, then practising daily is a must. In addition, also pay attention to various visual elements in everyday life – they can be useful when you design.
F: How do you portray the personality of a character?
H: For me personally, I like this kind of girl: cool-looking, tall, soft-mannered and kind, and maybe a tiny bit of wildness in her eyes. Okay, if you’re a designer, you would like to present her personality, how would you go about it? This is an easy question, because you could use anything to represent her personality. From hand gestures to facial expressions, to clothing, everything you can draw can be used to do so. If I were to design a character, I would first consider if this was for a client, or for myself. If it was for a client, you usually need to design for whatever requirements they give you, even if you don’t like it, you still have to do it. If it’s a personal work, naturally go with my own likings, I draw what is fun.
F: What sort of artworks do you admire? What contributions do they have for concept design jobs?
H: For me, I can appreciate heaps of different artworks, from Japanese manga to photo-realistic drawings, but I think a good character design at least need to have precise structures, a good feeling for actions and poses, and original ideas and designs. But most importantly are the original ideas and designs – copying is a very bad habit, and it makes your artwork shameful.
F: What do you consider first when you design a character? Functions or Personalities?
H: Thoroughly design the characters according to their functions. You can fill a character design with details, but if they cannot service their presumed goals, then the designs are not successful. Do make sure your character is functional. I usually try to imagine or draw his possible actions in a sequential way. I also imagine I’m my own character, so that I can feel more about him when I design.
F: What do you think the most important thing is for being a character designer?
H: Both in film and the game industry, the character designer must know that your final work will be modelled in 3D or animated. So your design must clearly display structure. Orthographic drawings are important references for modellers when you transpose from 2D to 3D. So, when you design your work, one of the most important standards is if your work can be completely modelled in 3D. If it can be, then your design is successful. Therefore, please work with the modellers, so they can produce your work in 3D in full.
F: What advices do you have for young designers?
H: If you want to be a professional artist, I only have two advices:
First, understand the advancement of the CG world. Visit international websites, such as www.gametrailers.com for the latest trailers, or www.cgtalk.com for the latest CG news. Besides, you can exchange and share your drawing skills. For general professional artists, visit www.conceptart.org and www.cghub.com and websites like such.
Second, continue practising, non-stop drawing. As a professional artist, it is very important to draw daily, doesn’t matter how life is – you must hold on to your practice.
F: Thank you for your responses!
H: And thank you for giving me this opportunity!
Last edited by SpaXe; June 20th, 2009 at 07:54 AM.
Jeez, thanks Xavier. Very much appreciated!
Damn, thats some nice work.. You've made a pretty nice evolution, especially with your colors. Keep on rocking with your colors!
Feel free to visit my sketchbook
thanks urusla and SpaXe for putting that up!
(and herman of course for doing the interview)
My works keep me busy again damn!!!, not enough proper consistent practices, I will be back on the studies now, I am slagging shit lol anyone has better way to keep you focus on learning something you don't like please shoot here
rebel rebel, I thanks them too
Nicky S, thanks I need to improve it
AlstonInk, me too
SpaXe, thanks for translation
kingkostas, me too haha
Holland, OneEyedJack, mary-cherry-me, D@niel, Bushido, The Tin Man Justin, MacTire, SpaXe, zweiDee, thanks
Alexandr Pascenko, haha don't try to hunt me
urusla, wow thanks a lot you saw that book much earlier than me I just get that book haha thanks
tallken, yeap my article is there
ImaGEEnation, sure I will do so
bumskee, nice meeting last time
Suira, I hope so too
Walid D, totally agree I am working on it now
sourgasm, cool you like sketches
Welcome back Herman! Long time no post!
Those sketches are looking badass, I really enjoy the one with you and the dancing red woman emerging from your wacom
So tired you're hallucinating?
Perhaps you should start joining all the Weekly competitions here?
I mean that way you get to practice most fields, you don't have to join them for the purpose of winning or even to make finished pieces, just use them as a motivational tool to draw something, they even tell you vaguely what they want! Less work for you
Drawing whatever is on your desk can be boring =) This way you get to use your splendid mind, even if its just a 40minute sketch!
You could even use the objects on your desk or photos to somehow make them fit the criteria of the competition!
I'm rambling, sorry. I love the work you do, It's very appreciated.
finally, I'd like you to add more contrast/saturation to your brightest colors. They sometimes look kind of washed out.
nice brush work mate!
i like the sketch done in the purple hue
Hey Herman, nice to have you back! (So when you coming to the city sketchgroup, ha ha).
Right, I don't know how serious you are and I might be wrong on this but you seem to come across as a little too negatively critical of yourself. You've got to sit back and try at least to see your art in the way others might, like those of us here at conceptart, because it is good. Don't get me wrong, I think everyone needs to be continually improving and striving to do so, that's what seperates the good from the brilliant, but you've got to do it constructively. You've got the ability to see where it is you need to improve, and that is a skill on it's own, especially at your level. What is it you don't enjoy/like doing exactly? Personally I don't know if there's an answer to how you do something you don't like, I just tell myself that I 'have' to do it if I want to improve on that thing. Actually, just recently someone's suggestion on how to do something helped me improve on something I was struggling with, and it was as simple as telling me not to complicate digital painting with too many custom brushes, just focus on the basics like hard and soft round!
Do you see your practices and studies as seperate from your 'work' work, (doing one to improve the other and vise versa)? I think you could benefit from differentiating more between the two. What I mean is that your studes are mostly painterly while your work is mostly consisted of very tight line work. Both are great, but you could take a different approach on rendering your line work instead of trying to 'paint' it, and you might find a greater appreciation or satisfaction doing it this way and avoid disappointment or getting frustrated with yourself, example refer to Dominance War picture, (so you're basically taking what you learn from your studies, like colour, light, form, reflections etc and applying that to your line work instead on using the technique used in those studies). The most common approach would be to use 'flats' or selections, whichever way you look at it. This would allow you to keep some of that beautiful line work in your concepts, although you may not enjoy the more technical approach to this method. Does any of this make sense? An axample of tight line work that is more rendered that painted is this guy: Carlos Huante.
I hope this was helpful. If I've completely missed the mark then I apologise .
Last edited by AlstonInk; July 1st, 2009 at 07:25 PM.
Have always loved your work
Your colour pieces have gotten soooooo much better! The studies are bloody inspiration!
Thanks, and keep sharing,
_^SlayeR^_, thanks not good enough
Mischeviouslittleelf, I hope I will
JailHouseRock2, yongs, The Tin Man Justin, Dav_W, thanks
agelaos, thanks that is huge i am not hero I just need some hero help me out on the color thing
AlstonInk, I will try to go there 1 day, take me long time to travel through, thanks for the detail suggestion I am appreciated, about chow I will do it I think it is necessary and I am still working on turn line to color, everything takes time, but thanks again for the suggestion
AvisNocturna, thanks more will come
OneEyedJack, thanks for the detail suggestion, I think I still need consistent studying more than designing some characters which I have done for long time already, but I need to come back to chow for sure, color is not my comfort zone and I think struggling in it makes sense just need to find a way to deal with it, my color is muddy and I am trying to make it not, thanks again
We're not worthy!!! we're not worthy!!!!
Wonderful studies, and congrats on the interview
気計 - Quike
"Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That is why it is called the present.."
The Spaniard's Sketchbook... No holds barred
I have to tell you first that your Stormrise concepts were sick! Amazing stuff, you're a big time inspiration. Thanks for sharing =)
Awesome to have you updating again regularly my friend
I think the bunny pic is great but could have some more contrast to push the depth a bit more? Just a suggestion
Hmmm something is messed up with your edges though recently and slightly your colour, they feel really stiff at the moment?
Let me upload something quickly, this is about linework crap but the edge stuff you can take from this still applies to painting, your edges feel like the top drawing a little bit, everything feels like a sharp, stiff transition at times. The bottom drawing edge management is what you want in your painting more, just ignore all this reading bs Just an idea, I dunno :0
Keep inspiring man, you kick ass!
oh man. had to skip a couple of pages cause your stuff was to much for me to handle. your stuff is AWESOME. thank you!
OOoh you've been busy! o_o So awesome. For the colorsssssss I think it's important to also keep doing stuff from head. A good exercise is to do a line sketch and then come up with four or so different palettes for it... like, one with strong temperature contrast, one that is more monochrome, or analogue, just lots of different blockins. Maybe play with how color also affects the mood. Keep doing the master studies and life paintings, they help tons! Materials are looking great too D: Maybe also try doing studies without using the opacity setting or blending, to force yourself to see the exact color and value more. You rule Herman!
algenpfleger, thanks man always give me some nice ideas about I should do next, I will defiantly do what you said thanks man
cristopher-B, Twisted Synapses, midknight523, Quikenobi, thanks
AmbientChroma, haha dude thanks, nice comment, digging your post for sure, I will keep my eyes more on edges control, thanks for kicking my ass all the time
sketcheth, that book called fantasy art unfortunately it is Chinese man