Tuesday, 22 April 2014

More Thumbnails

I've started working on a new project this week and I always find thumbnailing the best way to get things rolling. It is a good way to loosen up and get ready for the batch of work that needs to be generated. If all goes well, I should have some more developed concepts within the week.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Bank Holidy Thumbnails

It's a bank holiday weekend, which gave me some time to get back to painting. I thought I'd start with some random thumbnails and see where they went. I'm starting a new project this week which will probably mean these won't be developed, but the new work should be concept art based and it's exciting, so hopefully I'll have some lovely concepts to post over the next or so. Stay tuned.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Marmoset Toolbag - Test #01

Of late, I've really become interested in interactive experience and video games as a potential medium. I've always loved games, but in a kind of guilty pleasure way. I'd always have to justify the interest or ramble on about the potential of the art form. "No, they aren't all about killing people, there are good games about other things. Adults can play them too." It could be said that the video games industry is plagued with the problems of its audience, still fascinated with the same conventions and tropes that have been used for so long. As this audience diversifies, ages and expands, the work that comes from the industry becomes more unique, varied and ultimately more interesting. And so, in recent years, rather than turning away from video games because of their juvenile nature, they seem more and more like the area in which interesting things can be done. Whether it's the emerging, interactive narrative of Gone Home or the sublimely quiet and beautiful atmosphere of Journey, there are experiences out there that stand out as artistic achievements of a complete unique nature.

So, this potentially marks the start of something new. A new set of experiments and tests, exploring game engines and how my own work may evolve down a different route. Something interactive and experiential, rather than rendered, passive narrative. I'll also be trying to talk more about video games, both the good and the bad.  There is a lot to love concerning the art form, but there is also a whole lot of shit that needs to be talked about. Therefore, in an effort to dip my toe into the waters of video games for a CG artist, I've started with some super simple Marmoset Toolbag. Oh look, that old crying bloke makes an appearance again!

The Lost - Marmoset Test from Jordan Buckner on Vimeo.
Music by Kevin MacLeod

Essentially, Marmoset Tool bag is a real time renderer for 3d artists to test and explore games models. Lighting and materials can be changed and viewed immediately, rather than the usual render that us animators are used to. It's a rather incredible change, being able to load normal maps and models into one scene and see them instantly as a rendered image is a huge benefit from the usual Maya render wait. Obviously it's a very different approach, with an appreciation of polycount, texture size etc, but this one aspect is exciting nonetheless.

The image above is the basic breakdown of the scene setup. It's real simple, you start with a base model, add a normal map and a diffuse map and you're done. The normal map is generated from a higher polygon sculpt and in this case, the diffuse map was a Zbrush polypaint. In short, the complicated stuff is just making the model and making things look good. The next step is to start exploring Unity game engine. And then, from there, I don't really have a plan. I'm just going to make things and see what happens. You can get a 30 day trial of Marmoset or buy the software here.

Whatever happens, it'll hopefully be a break from this cycle of suburban output. This mix of worlds (animation, film, video games and contemporary arts) have collided and I look back at past work with a critical eye, so it's time to step up and make something good.

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 soon...game 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.