Sunday, 13 April 2014

Monument Valley

Here's a trailer for Monument Valley, an exploration puzzlery game thing that seems a mix of surreal ambient meditation and an M.C. Escher inspired platformer. Think Fez meets Echochrome. Made by UsTwo Games, it released on iOS devices on April 3rd and will arrive later this month on for Android users. Unfortunately, I'm on an Android device, so I've yet to play the game. But the trailer and visuals below already promise some atmospheric and memorable moments.
"An illusory adventure of impossible architecture and forgiveness"

The mobile space seems to be hit and miss these days, a mix of spam, free to play con games or strange little artifacts of genre or style. Monument Valley seems to fit into that last category. Its nostalgic roots for a different era are apparent and heartwarming, with the soundscape of something lost on previous platforms. I'll pick the game up when it comes to Android and update with impressions, but from these glimpses, it looks like an interesting and beautiful little experience.

Concept Art - Ken Wong

For more info, visit the website, or follow the UsTwo Games blog. Keep an eye on my blog in the next month or so for my impressions and more.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Animating in Photoshop - Test #01

I've been meaning to start experiments with traditional animation in recent months but hoped to test out alternative methods digitally. Flash has never quite clicked with me aesthetically and since I use Photoshop so often, it seemed like an obvious test bed. So, here's the first test sequence.

The method of animating in Photoshop is actually really simple and super intuitive, despite some of the hatred I'm sure it garners from the internet Flash enthusiasts. It has a lot of the benefits of traditional light box animation but with the pros and cons of digital media. My 2D animation skills need a lot of work but this is the start of some experiments in something new. And it may be worth noting, if anyone would like a more in depth tutorial on how to use Photoshop in this way, let me know in the comments and I'll try my best to put something together.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

The Blog Returns / What Am I Doing?

In the last few months, my blog has become strangely quiet. In fact, since graduation, my posts have dropped rapidly. In many ways this has simply been due to the constraints of freelance projects. Much of the work I do these days is unavailable for display on the web or is on show in some other form, making it difficult to really talk about much. It's about time I started to change that and so this marks the start of something new.

Firstly, I've redesigned my site. The old blog was a bit of a mess, so it was time for a spring clean. This allows me to start collecting all of my work in one space and also provides me with a platform in which I can share projects, discuss filmy arty type things and hopefully post some tutorials.

I tried to be clever with a poster at University of Portsmouth...I think it failed.

This year has started with an explosion of work, seeing me finish projects for multiple artists and teaching at UCA, University of Portmouth and University of Brighton. It has been an incredibly rewarding experience; finally being as busy as I'd always hoped and working on a broad range of projects, from sculptural pieces generated from ochestral music to photo-realistic, refined animation. Now that I'm getting the hang of working on multiple projects at once, it's time to start making my own things again. This won't necessarily be anything specific, but will hopefully cover a broad range of mediums. Whether it is 2d animation, CG models or good old fashioned oil painting, I'll be trying my best to document more of what I do and why I do it.

This also means I'll be trying to enter into a discourse on the subject areas that I work in. So I'll use this space to talk more broadly about things I feel need discussion, from video game design to film impressions. All the things that I am influenced or outraged by will probably make an appearance. This will hopefully lead to more writing, more discussion and more critique of the mediums I hold dear, if not just to enter into these discussions, but also to clarify and develop my own understanding of certain issues.

Coming engines, zBrush sculpting, painting tutorials and more.

My own ideas and thoughts concerning animation have changed greatly in the last year. Maybe it is the effect of the art world taking it's toll on me, or maybe I'm just fed up of spending so long on personal projects, only to be disappointed by how watered down and safe they become. I've had a lot of ideas and projects that feel very big at the time, but now looking back, seem so bland and uninspired. Almost as though made with the expectations of an audience in mind, or with fear of breaking from formula and process. I don't know what the answer to this problem is, but I'm prepared to explore it by making different things and seeing where they go, rather than worrying about who this should be for or what step is best for the career. 

So, this isn't really a post. It's just me saying, keep looking at what I do. I'm going to try and make some good things and hopefully show a lot more behind the scenes. So, please take a look around and stay tuned for much more.

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Merry Christmas! - Zbrush Sculpt

Merry Christmas one and all! Here's my Christmas card to rival John-bloody-Lewis and their bloody adverts.

Have an awesome day and a big thank you to anyone who helped me over the last year. May the next be filled with even odder and cooler projects.

Monday, 23 December 2013

Abstract in Amiens - La Création du Monde

In July 2013, I was lucky enough to work as a Creative Lead on an animation project like no other. Together with Tom Beg, we produced 16 minutes of abstract animation to perform live alongside Darius Milhaud's 1923 ballet, La Création du Monde.

The animation originated from a multi-participant collaboration in response to ACT- A Common Territory, a project funded by the European Union's Interreg IVA Channel Programme, which aims to engage the creative and cultural industries in the UK and France. Over a period of ten consecutive week days, the students, staff & alumni of BA (Hons) CG Arts & Animation were challenged to produce abstract digital paintings in synesthetic response to segments of Milhaud's ballet. The CGAA community were asked to listen to each musical extract and then respond to it visually through the creation of original digital paintings in Photoshop.

After the success of the July performance, we were asked to show the animation again with the Ochestra, this time at the Maison de la Culture in Amiens, France. A little after 9.30pm on December 19th, after a very long day of set-up and back-stage preparation, the house lights dimmed and the musicians of the Orchestre de Picardie began to play the first, melancholy notes of Milhaud's ballet. Behind them, rear-projected onto the theatre's pristine twelve metre screen, our animation began to play too - with an audience of 600 people looking on.

It was an incredible experience. A trip filled with helpful and polite people who consistently aided us as we bumbled through our broken French. The live performance was smoother than ever before and synced beautifully with those parts that needed emphasis. It was a true joy and a spine tingling moment. Standing backstage behind a giant screen, our work projected large for the audience, attempting to control the timings of the animation in sync with the music was a strangely moving moment. It was a pleasure to show the animation again, and alongside such incredible music and performance felt truly special and magical in it's tonality. A rare moment on synchronisation and mixed media. I am sure I will be posting more on this and similar projects in the future, but for now, I shall just leave you with the animation in it's entirety. Joyeux Noël!

Monday, 25 November 2013

The Lost - Zbrush Sculpt

I've been using Zbrush pretty heavily over the last week or so and it has been an astounding trip into the sculptural artistic side of CG. Last Tuesday evening I started a new sculpt, and yesterday I managed to finish the piece within a deadline and to a level of finish that I was happy with.  So, it is with this that I am very proud to present my latest piece, The Lost.

The whole process of moulding digital clay is similar to painting concept art, it becomes very meditative and self involved. I find myself locked away for hours at my desk just adding the smallest details until it all comes together. The turnaround of work within Zbrush is part of what makes the process so enjoyable. Having such instant feedback to an image is both motivating and exciting. It pushes you ahead with the knowledge that you understand how forms read, how textures appear and how detail suggests expression. It's been an extremely positive experience and one that I'll be discussing in detail soon with some breakdown of the process. But for now, these few shots will have to do.

This piece was created for application to Digital Art Masters Volume 9 and in turn pushed me to learn a lot about the software in a very short space of time. It was a great experience and I'll be doing plenty more Zbrush work in the near future. I'll update soon with some details on the making of this project and plenty of other work soon.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Concept Art - The Priest - 3D Paint Over

More concept art this week, this time another class demo which demonstrates the process of painting over 3D block models. This isn't a technique I've used before, but it's a great addition to the toolbox to help speed up work flow or deal with tricky perspective issues. The final image can be seen below and although not fully refined conveys the concept well enough for a client to give feedback.

It all starts in Maya. This example was a very quickly built block model which I roughly assembled according to the wooden Baptist churches of the U.S. It shouldn't be a perfect model or full of detail, just the key forms blocked out with primitive objects. Next, play around with the camera, explore interesting compositions and perspectives. The most revealing aspect of this approach was simply the exploration of composition using the virtual camera within Maya. The great thing about 3D software is that you can explore a space as if a cinematographer or film maker were setting up a shot. Finally, render out a few images that seem most compelling to you. In this case, the render was as follows...

This specific piece was created with the simple theme that it would be within a church. I've been reading Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian so that played a factor in the reference, but if I were to spend more time on development, this would need more research and attention to real world detail. Anyhow, this video demonstrates the overall painting process.

One problem that became apparent was how restricted and set this approach can seem, so I'd actually recommend working on multiple studies at once in order to kick some energy into the process. It will just help you generate ideas with less worry and also provide a great range of shots for you to then develop further. So, that may be a thing I do this weekend if time permits. Either way, I hope this provides a little insight into another approach. More painting thingys coming soon!

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Concept Art and the Process of Painting

It's been a while since I updated my blog, largely because some freelance projects have been coming to an end and time has been limited. But now that things are slowing down a little I have a chance to post some concept art work completed for class demonstration purposes. So I thought I'd quickly post a breakdown of my painting process.

The final piece above was a test bed for a few ideas, largely just to experiment with applying colour and detailing a simple comp, but also to see how I could go about a more architectural and commercial image. It suffers from generic sci fi design due to it being a demo piece, but it is an every going journey into refining a process.

So, with this complete piece in mind, I thought I'd briefly demonstrate the basic strategy I follow to create a final image. Almost every project I do, whether 3d or 2d, normally starts with thumbnails. It's a quick form of getting ideas on the page and always helps loosen up the painting muscles. If a final painting is going terribly, it's normally because I didn't spend enough time thumbnailing the idea.

The process normally ends with a few pages similar to that shown above. It's part of the process that is of huge value because it gets all my awful ideas out before I put any real time into the work. It's quick and eye opening. It stops me from being boring and makes me less precious about my ideas. Many of these thumbnails are often messy blobs and smudges, but they read as forms and allow me to make decisions.

After this stage I normally start to develop an idea a little further using "colour comps." These tend to be larger studies with an emphasis on light and colour decisions. The composition should be working in the thumbnail form, but this stage allows you to think about the other key elements that you want to get right early on. The video below is a display of this process, with me blocking in colour and refining details to work out how I envision the final image. The video was a test to record some of my painting process, so it's sped up and without narration, but the more recording I do in the future, the more I shall post.

In this case, the final page of colour comps turns out like so...

I can then take one of these compositions, chuck it onto a new canvas, and push it forward as a final piece of concept art. These comps are all fairly generic purely because they were created for demonstration purposes and without real world reference. However, knowing that on a small level; the colour, composition and rough perspective all work, means I can then spend hours adding detail and finish without worrying about the final result have fundamental floors. The detailing stage of the final painting is fairly straight forward. It's just a case of painting in the details required to fill out the world. The one thing that often gets forgotten is tonal range. By desaturating your image, you can check to see if your tonal range is working correctly. I'll be posting more on this soon, but as you can see, the black and white image of my original painting has a fairly broad range of tones which is a big part of creating depth.

This is the basic breakdown of my painting process. I start with thumbnails, I develop with colour comps and then refine a final image. When time allows I'll be posting about a lot of this with more detail. I'll also be uploading more concept artwork and recorded video of how I create them. Some of my latest freelance projects should be on the blog soon, which have pushed me to do some really exciting and odd things, so keep checking back for a full range of work in the near future.

Monday, 23 September 2013

Concept Art - Old Country

After last week's master studies, I thought it best to work on some more finilised work again. This time however, I wanted to create a piece that demonstrates the thumbnail to finished comp process. So, first up, this is the finished piece.

Strangely enough, this was inspired by my home town, a mix of old English countryside and shit, grey industrial town. It's a pretty bleak place where little happens, so this spawned the concept of old and new, battling out in some bizarre sci fi landscape. The final piece is more speed painting than anything else, but it shows how I work from detailed thumbnail study to final outcome.

These thumbnail studies are always the way in which I plan out anything that may become final. It not only allows you to explore new ideas quickly, but keeps a record of potential work that may be developed in the future. I'll be posting more of this process stuff soon.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Colour Comps - Master Studies

There are some painting exercises that will always prove helpful, no matter the experience level. Master studies are one of these, as they not only help you digest and de-construct the works of old masters, but also help hone specific skills, whether they be colour understanding, or composition structure. Here is a page of quick paintings by myself exploring colour range.

I'll be posting more of these in a couple of weeks with some tutorial work to demonstrate certain ideas, but for anyone who is struggling with an aspect of digital painting, try this exercise out. It will really help you understand why a painting works and also allow you to explore the incredible works of your favourite artists. These colour studies shown purely concentrate on colour, there is no need to worry about perspective or rendering. The purpose was to see how accurately I could replicate colour, without ever using the colour picker tool. The same exercise can be used for compositional studies, or tonal value etc. More of this to come soon.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Concept Art - Midnight Delivery

Another new piece of concept art emerges! I know, it's another dark, gloomy alley way, but this one serves a different purpose. Contrast and tonal range are really important aspects of any painting, but they are especially important when creating work that has depth and atmosphere.

This is primarily the reason for this black and white piece, experimenting with atmosphere in dark lighting such as this, whilst still trying to convey form and detail. I've currently got a few other pieces in the works, plus some small studies which I'll be posting soon. 

At the risk of sounding like a tit, I'd like to share some of the influences. Partly inspired by Dickens and the horrors of Victorian England, but also by the superb book, Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. A cracking factual narrative about the Chicago World's Fair and the darkness therein.

In the coming weeks I'll be posting some tutorial related things, so keep an eye out for some free resources coming soon.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Concept Art - The Pass

Inspired by the films of Gasper Noé and Nicolas Winding Refn, along with a few dabs of Kubrick and Seijun Suzuki, this piece of concept art explores a few new techniques I've been playing around with. I completed this piece over the weekend after a small thumbnail from my sketchbook stuck out.

I'm also very happy to announce that this year I will be tutoring digital painting at UCA Rochester, so keep an eye on the blog for a lot of concept work, recorded paintings and tutorial extras. More filmic landscapes to come in the next few weeks.