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  1. #1
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    Concept Art 101

    So you like drawing characters, and monsters, and swords and guns and space-ships. It has come to your attention that there are people who do this professionally for movies, television, and games. You’ve got a sketchbook in your hands, and you are wondering how to get from the sketchbook to the job. What sorts of things should you draw? What sorts of mediums should you learn? Should you draw from photos? From life? From other artist’s work? From imagination?

    I can help you with these first steps. My name is Michelle Clay. I work at a company called Turbine, where I make 3D art assets for games, and (more recently) have been working as a designer building game levels. I’m not a concept artist, but I work with concept artists, and for a while in college it was my goal to become a concept artist. I graduated from RISD’s illustration department in 2000. So, I can’t tell you an awful lot about how to get a concept art job once your skills are ready for that, but I can tell you quite a bit about what you need to do to bring your skills up to that level.

    This thread is a classroom. I will be posting information and assignments. As far as possible, I will assume that all you have at your disposal are a sketchbook and a pencil, but a few will involve color. The assignments won’t be any particular order. Feel free to skip to the assignments that will help you the most! If you want to participate, feel free to post your results here. Or post your questions or comments. Or, if you are a professional concept artist, feel free to share your knowledge!

    For those interested, over in the Employment Discussion forum I have a similar thread on the games industry. The information there is more advanced and specialized, and includes assignments that require 2D and 3D art programs, but some of it is fairly low-tech, too.

    Okay, here we go. . .

    Table of Contents

    What is Concept Art?
    From Life to Imagination
    Assignment #1: From Still-Life to Imagination
    Assignment #2: From Self Portrait to Imagination
    Assignment #3: Half-Imagined Environment
    The Use of Photography in Illustration
    Assignment #4: Concept Art from Found Photographs
    Assignment #4: Concept Art from Your Own Photographs
    Art Direction
    Assignment #5: the Art Direction Game
    Perspective, From the Beginning
    Assignment #6: Cube Contortionism
    Assignment #7: Cube in 3D
    Atmospheric Perspective
    Assignment #8: Atmospheric Perspective Still-Life
    Assignment #9: Atmospheric Perspective From Imagination
    Perspective from Life
    Assignment #10: Furniture from Observation
    Assignment #11: the Back of the Building
    Color
    Color Assignments
    Assignment #12: Night and Day from Observation
    Assignment #13: Night and Day from Imagination
    Skin Tones
    Assignment #14: Self Portrait in Arbitrary Colors
    Drawing Humans
    Assignment #15: Researching Anatomy
    Assignment #16: Adding Bones to a Mastercopy
    Assignment #17: Constructing Humans from Spare Parts
    Still More about Drawing People
    Assignment #18: Sniping
    Assignment #19: Figure Drawing Class
    Assignment #20: After Figure Drawing Class: Costumes
    Assignment #21: After Figure Drawing Class: Spare Parts
    Some Ideas for Still-Lifes
    Power-Leveling for the Busy Artist
    Composition
    Assignment #22 - Studying Existing Compositions
    More About Composition
    Assignment #23 – Finding Compositions Within Compositions
    Assignment #24 - Non-Representational Composition
    Assignment #25 - Build a Composition with Perspective from Life
    Assignment #26 - Build a Composition with Perspective from Imagination
    Assignment #27 - Build a Composition with a Character from Imagination
    Communication
    Assignment #28 – Mood, Non-Representational
    Assignment #29 – Mood, Representational
    Assignment #29 – Acting, Facial Expression
    Assignment #30 – Acting, Body Language
    More on Perspective
    Setting Goals for Yourself
    Assignment #31 – Analyzing Art
    What Should I Include in my College Portfolio?
    Value
    Assignment #32 – Many Ways to Render Value
    Assignment #33 – Making Value Decisions
    Assignment #34 – Shading Non-White Objects
    Assignment #35 – Fun With Value
    Digital Painting Example
    Acrylic Painting Example
    Last edited by Seedling; July 10th, 2007 at 12:47 PM.
    I think you are awesome, and I wish you the best in your endeavors, but I am tired of repeating myself, I am very busy with my new baby, and I am no longer a regular participant here, so please do not contact me to ask for advice on your career or education. All of the advice that I have to offer can already be found in the following links. Thank you.

    Perspective 101, Concept Art 101, Games Industry info,Oil Paint info, Acrylic Paint info, my sketchbook.
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    What is Concept Art?

    Concept art is a subset of illustration.

    What is illustration? Dictionary.com says this of the word “illustrate”:

    1. to furnish (a book, magazine, etc.) with drawings, pictures, or other artwork intended for explanation, elucidation, or adornment
    2. to make clear or intelligible, as by examples or analogies; exemplify
    3. 3. Archaic. to enlighten
    4. to clarify one's words, writings, etc., with examples: To prevent misunderstandings, let me illustrate.

    So, an “illustration” is art that communicates something.

    There is much of fine art that falls into the category of illustration. Any imagine that tells a story or represents an object is illustrative, whether it is communicating something as complex as a scene from the Lord of the Rings, or as simple a thing as “a horse” or “a man”.

    What makes concept art different from illustration is that the audience isn’t the person who reads a book, plays a game, or watches a movie. The primary audience of concept art is other artists, and other people involved in the making of the final product. Concept art is the blueprint that is used to make more art. It is also used to communicate with the holder of the intellectual property rights involved in a project, and it can also be the leverage that is used to get funding for a project.

    If you want a formal education that will prepare you for being a concept artist, then study illustration.
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    From Life to Imagination

    So you’ve got your sketchbook. You’ve been having fun drawing Spider Man, and you’ve had some folks tell you that you should draw from life, but dang it, still lifes are dull! Why bother with them? How is a drawing of a shoe supposed to help you to draw better superheroes?

    These assignments should help you to answer those questions.

    *********Assignment #1: From Still-Life to Imagination************

    Pick a real-life object to draw. It can be a shoe, a car, a tree – anything that is available to you for direct observation. Take your sketchbook to it and draw it. Leave space on the same page or a facing page for the second part of the assignment.

    Using that first drawing as a guide, draw the same object from the same position – but change it somehow. Add an imagined element. If it’s a car, you could change the curves of the lines to make it look like it belongs in a science-fiction movie. Or turn it into a hovercraft. Or give it a crazy flame paint job and fins and monster truck wheels. Or make it steam-punk, or aquatic, or turn it into a thousand-year-old rusted wreck.

    By doing this in two steps, you have both the benefit of direct observation, and you get the challenge of coming up with something from imagination and communicating that thing.


    ********Assignment #2: From Self Portrait to Imagination************

    Self portraits are hard! They are also the best way to prepare yourself for drawing one of the most difficult and yet ubiquitous subjects that every illustrator must draw: the human. If you want to be an illustrator of any stripe, then you must learn to draw people. Don’t be afraid of messing up; just try it and keep trying it until your results don’t stink.

    For this assignment, set up a mirror and draw yourself. No, don't use a photograph, use a mirror. All drawn? Great! Now add some invented element to your drawing. It could be a crazy hat, or a plate-mail shirt, or a crazy facial tattoo. You can turn yourself into a Klingon, or add faerie wings.

    Whatever you add, the challenge will be to make the imagined elements look like they belong in the drawing. It should look like the entire image was drawn from observation.


    *********Assignment #3: Half-Imagined Environment***********

    This assignment is just like the Self Portrait assignment, except instead of drawing yourself, draw a landscape or interior space. Add in an element from imagination. For instance, you could draw a hallway in your home, but draw in a giant crack across the floor filled with lava. Or draw the buildings along your street, but give them turrets and towers and cannons. Or draw a field with trees, and add a herd of invented animals.

    Once again, the challenge will be to make the imagined elements look like they were observed along with the observed elements.
    Last edited by Seedling; December 15th, 2006 at 11:25 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Seedling View Post
    *********Assignment #1: From Still-Life to Imagination************

    Pick a real-life object to draw. It can be a shoe, a car, a tree – anything that is available to you for direct observation. Take your sketchbook to it and draw it. Leave space on the same page or a facing page for the second part of the assignment.

    Using that first drawing as a guide, draw the same object from the same position – but change it somehow. Add an imagined element. If it’s a car, you could change the curves of the lines to make it look like it belongs in a science-fiction movie. Or turn it into a hovercraft. Or give it a crazy flame paint job and fins and monster truck wheels. Or make it steam-punk, or aquatic, or turn it into a thousand-year-old rusted wreck.

    By doing this in two steps, you have both the benefit of direct observation, and you get the challenge of coming up with something from imagination and communicating that thing.
    First off, This is great Seedling!

    I'll do these!

    Here is assignment one. Still Life was an Energizer Rechargeable Battery Charger.
    meh @ attachment: Program saved it as Assignment2 cause I had something named Assignment1
    in that folder already <.<; But it's #1 >.>

    http://oneapiprod.synnex.com/image_t...I190212322.jpg

    Pic of it, but I used an Actual Still Life of the one I own.
    Last edited by Genko; August 8th, 2008 at 12:08 AM. Reason: Note
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    Hello again I went ahead and did assignment two. I am very busy at the moment but I had time to draw these two 10 min sketches. I was looking into a tiny makeup mirror, so I thought that it would be fun to draw myself much older.

    I suppose I missed the point of the assignment by not actually adding something. But the sketch was to small and cramped so there was not any room to make any alterations of that kind. I think I will try again sometime.

    Assignment #2: From Self Portrait to Imagination
    Last edited by Frida Bergholtz; August 9th, 2008 at 07:55 AM.
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    Seedling, this is a really great thread, thank you!
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    Really helpful tutorials! Thanks a LOT!
    I've began to draw some in my holiday yesterday, and here's for the first assignment...
    a lamp in my hotel room, drawn into a futuristic lamp (sorta), which was inspired by a talk about WALL-E
    was colored with photoshop a bit, to illustrate more...
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    The Use of Photography in Illustration

    There are four ways in which photography can be useful to illustrators: direct copy, inspiration, reference, and inclusion.

    There is a lot of talk on conceptart.org about using photographs as “reference” when what is actually meant is “direct copy”. Since the invention of the camera, many famous artists have made museum-quality art by copying directly from photographs. But what gets overlooked by novice artists is that A. these artists took the photographs themselves, B. these artists already knew how to successfully paint the subject, and C. these artists were in most cases not concept artists.

    Copying photographs is a shortcut for illustrators who have already mastered a subject and who need to hurry. For a novice, a habit of copying photographs is a crutch that will hinder your progress.

    But this does not mean you should never go near a photograph. On the contrary, it is through photographs that we are allowed to see parts of the world that would never be visible to us otherwise. Use photographs for inspiration liberally!

    By “inclusion” I mean using a photograph directly in your art. This applies to collage, and also applies to making photorealistic textures for 3D models. Inclusion isn’t useful to you if you are trying to learn the basic skills necessary to a concept artist.

    And what about that abused word “reference”? Reference doesn’t mean copying. It means using the information contained in an image to better understand a subject. For instance, if you are going to draw a manatee, and you don’t happen to have either a live manatee or model of a manatee on hand. The next thing to do would be to find photographs of manatees, and use those images to gain an understanding of the shape of a manatee in 3D. Using that 3D mental image, you can then draw a manatee from any angle, in any pose.

    ********Assignment #4: Concept Art from Found Photographs****************

    Pick a subject, such as a llama, or an antique car, or a preying mantis. Use either the library or the internet to find photographs of that subject from different angles. Study the subject until you feel that you have a good understanding of it. Then, draw the object from a perspective not used in any of your reference photographs. Refer back to the photos at any time for information you might need, such as the shape of a preying mantis’ leg joints, or the proportions of the car’s wheels to the car’s length.

    ********Assignment #4: Concept Art from Your Own Photographs*************

    For this, you will need a camera.

    Hunt down an interesting subject and photograph it from several angles. Repeat the previous assignment using these photographs that you took yourself.

    If you ever intend to use photographs as a part of your art-making process, then you need to get in the habit of taking your own pictures. The internet is full of pictures of the darndest things, but the quality is often awful – and you do not own the rights to those images. So get yourself a camera and learn the basics of photography.
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    More to come, later. . .
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    Very cool.. guess I'd better quit playing guitar and start to draw again!

    Peace
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    Nice, great incentive!

    I gotta tell ya, when i was reading the first post, and saw your name, I was listening to Futurama in the background, and the VERY same second I read your name, Fry introduced Michelle to his unfrozen girlfriend. Made me shiver!
    [url=http://galleryonefone.blogspot.com[/url] This would be my gallery in Sweden

    This would be my Pleine Air blog
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    Many many thanks Seedling, I can tell already this is going to be a truly great thread.
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    Seedling!! You´re great! I´ll take part on this class of yours! Thanks a lot!!
    My website

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    New CA Sketchbook

    " The scientific and generally accepted-in-art term for this is "You're fuckin' screwed, dude..." " Ilaekae - May 16th, 2009
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