Thursday, 26 December 2013

Attending 'Thought Bubble' with Business Cards

Last year I attended the 'Thought Bubble' comic book convention at the Royal Armouries is Leeds. This year instead of simply browsing and buying comics, I wanted to try and network with illustrators and writers. In preparation I printed a batch of business cards. I opted for a simply slick design inspired by the hilarious scene from 'American Psycho', where a group 'Yuppies' exchange very similar-looking yet competitive business card designs. On the back of my card I placed a piece of my concept art titled 'Nazis in the Himalayas', removing a swastika flag to avoid causing any potential offence:


I did manage to distribute a few cards to illustrators and digital artists, prompting them to view my work and leave feedback. I also discovered the work of illustrator Jeff Stokely, who was promoting his latest project 'Six Gun Gorilla'. Jeff has a very stylised approach, showing an incredible understanding of human anatomy, action poses, and line weight. I now have Jeff Stokely on facebook, and hope to share my page with him and share my enthusiasm regarding his own amazing work, as well as possibly receive some critique and feedback on my work.

Jeff Stokely's page: http://jeffstokely.com/

FZD Design School

I have been aware of Feng Zhu's work in entertainment design for a couple of years now, and I have learned from his videos in the past. Artist Feng Zhu established a school for entertainment design in the spring of 2009, Singapore. Monumentally fortunate for us aspiring concept artist, Feng has uploaded a library of helpful videos that share his methodology and give us access to the techniques and principles he teaches his paying students, all for free on Youtube!

As I am really trying to push my abilities and improve this year, I decided to visit his early videos and begin following them in order. Instead of tendiously talking about each of his videos, I will highlight some of the ones I found most helpful and talk about some of the key principles and techniques I have taken away from Feng Zhu's amazing work.

1. Learn to work fast:
Feng talks a lot about working in the industry and about the pipeline. The distinction between illustration and concept art is that sometimes concept artists are working to tight deadlines, in collaboration with a team working in different areas of the industry. This means that the work is greater than just the one person producing it. Sometimes in order for an environmental artist to meet their deadlines, the concept artists needs to get their work out to them fast. Sometimes this means compromising sharp renders for loose work that captures the scene and tells the story. One way of speeding up the pipe line is to use phototextures. Feng talks about using loose line drawings, bringing in photocollage to colour pick fast values, and letting elements of photographs bleed through the painting in order to bring in detail without tedious rendering:




2. It's all about the values:
Many artists begin their work in grayscale. This is because values take priority over the colours themselves. Not to dismiss colour theory as a means of achieving depth, put the distinction between light and dark, and the differentiation in contrast from the horizon to the foreground of an image is "king". One technique to constantly monitor the values of an image is to create a black layer set to the 'Saturation' blend mode, on top of your image. Here is an example of me attempting to control my values in response to Feng's videos:

Notice their is also primary photo refference taken during a trip to Normany, France, near the walker's legs

Even when crazy colours are added, the values still translate in the image is readable.


3. Think about composition:
Feng Zhu is the master of guiding the eyes around a composition. He talks about how in a good piece of concept art, there are a number of stories being told. The eyes never become board discovering new details, and are never allowed to escape the composition. There are tricks such as using people to establish scale, having a character look at the key subject in the image immediately prompting us to look, framing the image and and establishing curves to make the eyes follow the composition:



Finally, I like the format of Feng's tutorial videos. He usually paints over a students work, highlighting the elements he likes and his reasoning for choosing the work initially, to where they fail and they could be vastly improved. This gives an idea the level at which under graduates are working, and the benchmark for industry quality work. I have been incorporating many of his techniques in my own work, helping improve both its quality and the time I spend producing it.

Establishing an Online Presence.

In this final academic year, I hope to establish myself as a concept artist through developing an online presence. This could also potentially lead to job prospects if I am able to get my work in circulation among potential employers. My first step so far has been to break away from my student email, and set up a professional web address: 'andybaileyart@gmail.com'.  Using this email address I have created a professional Facebook page and a 'Deviant art' account:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/andybaileyart
Deviant art: www.andybaileyart.deviantart.com

I have been thus far regularly updating my art pages in the hopes of getting my work seen. I have had some interest from other users on deviant art, who have asked to feature some work in online galleries. Although this is only a small start, if I keep a healthy flow of work being put out there, hopefully I can build followers and generate interest in my work. So far my most successful piece has been an initial concept for my Extended Practice module, receiving so far 26 favourites from other users, three comments and has been added to 4 galleries. Again, this is no huge feet in comparison to other established artists who use 'DA', but uploading the particular image has generated some interest in my page, and given me an idea of the sort of work people find appealing:



Monday, 4 November 2013

Capitalist Superhero

I have recently developing concept work for my wealthy superhero/ dictator. In response to a traumatic 9/11 style attack, this character uses his capital to invest in surveillance equipment and establishes himself as the protector of the city. I want this venture to represent private military and surveillance groups profiting from the hysteria of 9/11. Perhaps my Capitalist hero could own a private military group contracted to survey the city, intimidate and interrogate its inhabitants. This character will be the embodiment of disaster capitalism and war propaganda, even going as far as setting up false terrorist attacks to further fuel the citizen's submission to his agenda.

I began my development with a mood board. I combined images of the wealthy, with distopian imagery and propaganda posters:


I made notes on the moodboard to help realise some of my initial approaches.

Silhouettes are always a good way to begin when creating characters, as a successful design should possess a recognisable form before the details:


I feel that these approaches look far too authoritative and sinister with the strong rigid forms and Nazi inspired head-ware. After all, I want the citizens of my Manhattan inspired distopia to idolise and worship this figure, and accept him as a symbol of patriotism national identity. 

I next moved on to some facial explorations:


At this stage I wasn't too focused on the age of the character. As you can see my designs range from relatively young to quite old. I ultimately decided on the final design, where I tried to produce a slightly older (mid to late 30s) Patrick Bateman from the American Psycho movie adaptation. On some level I want my audience to recognise this, to help communicate the idea of a successful business man exterior, with a dark fetishised need for control.

After this I began considering cyborg concepts, reflecting militarised figures such as Batman and Iron man. I decided that I wanted my character to glorify the military industrial complex with flashy high tech army and weaponry:


At this stage I felt I was working too polished for this early on in the design process, so I decided to revert back to some rougher silhouettes:


I have started dragging reference images into my work document instead of creating a separate moodboard when developing my ideas. I learned this from concept artist Erik Ryan, and it means I can grab the images quickly and dive in to my sketches, improving my workflow. I used other robot concept art taken from conceptartworld.com. Because of this, I feel my designs look a like generic 'Mech' concepts instead of superhero designs, so I wanted to produce something that combines more of a traditional comic approach.

Working from more interesting real-life reference, I wanted my hero to combine high tech surveillance gear with traditional latex hero approach. I found this interesting night vision goggle design:


I like the huge cyclopse-like camera between the goggles. Reflecting back on my previous designs, I had a running theme of an all seeing eye as a sort of brand logo for my wealthy capitalist hero:


Here, the hero's helmet looks high tech, whereas the rest of the suit is simple and eye catching, using patriotic colours. Perhaps the 'Cyclops' helmet could see through walls, reflecting the open plan city presented in 'Batman: The Dark Knight', where every corner of every office room is visible. In this city, nobody can hide from the scrutinising gaze of the Cyclops (this is a working name that could be subject to change). The helmet is the main focus in this design, so I did a few head studies from different angles. Perhaps I need to include some form of flying mechanism with his suit, as to truly survey the city, he must be able to transcend the metropolitan landscape in a way that civilians cannot. overall, I am happy with this character concept as I feel the presentation is portfolio quality.

With this final piece of concept art at this stage, I wanted to show the 'Cyclops' as the buisness CEO, surveying the city from the confines of his office. I applied a very authoritative pose to the character, making him appear like a bond villain:


In a recent personal tutorial, my tutor and I discussed drawing characters in interesting positions as oppose to the generic t pose. I feel that I achieved this with the seated positions, hands locked together. I also like the strong edge light given from the monitors behind the character. I still need to expand on my concept art for the Cyclops, as well as exploring his nemesis the left wing activist, and also the landscape in which they exist. I also need to further develop the back story of the traumatic event that fuelled the surveillance culture within the western city.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Internships Bad Idea?

I have been following 'Concept Art World' on Facebook lately, and they have been sharing some interesting links. They linked a page where concept artist Marc Taro Holmes responds to an email asking about internships: tarosan.wordpress.com

The article raises some interesting points about concept art and the industry. Firstly, Holmes talks about productivity. Interestingly, a concept artist is expected to be working at the highest level from the start of their career. Their artwork is crucial throughout production in  driving the visuals. For this reason, employers would expect to see a portfolio that fits seamlessly with the work their current concept artists are producing. The message here is simply work on producing an impressive portfolio!

Holmes also talks about focusing on your goals. Find companies you want to work for, and produce artwork that fits the style of work they are already producing. If your strength is hyper realistic AAA title artwork, don't take up a job with an indie company that produce 2D stylized games. Again, this comes back to not wasting your time.

The key message with Marc Taro Holmes' response is to basically practice, create a industry standard portfolio and start from the very begging with experience. It seems that unlike most other job titles, being a concept artist does not necessarily require you to work your way up from the bottom. If you are producing high quality artwork, you can apply for work as a professional concept artist.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Important Dates

There are a few events that I plan to attend which I have entered into my Google calendar. The first of these is 'Thought Bubble' the comic book convention that runs in partnership with 'Leeds International Film Festival'. I attended this event last year, where I explored the conference halls and saw artist's work on display. This year however, I hope to attend talks and discussions where possible, that might relate to my extended essay topic.

As part of the film festival there are also some screenings that I am interested in. Firstly 'Batman: The Dark Knight Returns' will be screening on Monday the 18th of November, 6:00pm at the Everyman venue. With relevance to this, 'Masterpiece: Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns' will be screening at the same venue, same time on Wednesday the 20th of November. This is a documentary features Frank Miller himself and discusses the creation of the 'classic work'.


I look forward to attending these events in the hopes of further informing my Cop3 study.

Citing More Academic Texts

After my second Cop3 tutorial, my tutor and I discussed the fact that I had lots of web articles (which are informative and relevant), but it would be beneficial to look at more academic and reliable texts. I have been looking at various online library resources within college to aid me in expanding my sources.

I had a free set up for 'Athens', an ebook database. This is very useful as it allows users to read and even download full ebooks. Unfortunately, the content mainly consists of art theory and tutorial books. I couldn't really find anything relevant to superheroes and their cultural political impact. Despite this, I will keep checking back to see if any relevant ebooks are added.

Perhaps the most useful resource I have used yet is 'JSTOR'. This is an online academic journal database that we fortunately have access to through our college. There are plenty of relevant results when searching the key words 'politics' and 'superheroes'. Another useful feature is that you can save texts onto your account and access them through a list. I have began gathering relevant academic journals to inform my extended essay:



Monday, 14 October 2013

Florian De Gesincourt (Deges Art)


Florain is a freelance concept artist and illustrator from France. He gained his concept art abilities over the course of three years, with an existing knowledge of Photoshop and perspective drawing. He plans to release a series of Youtube videos documenting how he broke into the industry in a short space of time, which will be very helpful for me as an aspiring concept artist. People have been contacting Florain through the video thread, and he has been responding. Due to the fast rising success of the video however, I imagine he will be receiving lots of questions, perhaps too many to respond to individually. I would be interested to know what custom brushes he uses (if any). Sometimes artists upload their brush sets online. On one of the his other videos, a user asked about a water colour looking brush used for the background. Floren replied:

'For the brushes, It must be one I made, or the other one I use are the basic one.'

Perhaps I need not go much further that the basic brushes within Photoshop:


Here Florain uses the canvas rotating function to control the direction and flow of his strokes. I am reminded that when working with pencil and paper on a flat surface, I am constantly rotating my work, sometimes to the point where my subject is almost upside down from my perspective. Perhaps if I experiment with this function in photoshop, I can achieve smoother line work, with more controlled weighting. I know that in another video from http://www.youtube.com/user/FZDSCHOOL/, the artist talked about creating line art with a calligraphy brush and constantly flipping the canvas to control the line weight.

Again, Florain demonstrates in his videos the fundamental importance of values (black and grey) and perspective. I learned in my last academic year that these principles are key, and colour can be experimented with subtly through blend layers. In these videos, other interesting points are made, the freelance artist sometimes including primary photographs in his environment pieces. Also the contsant sketching and life drawing is something I need to push myself to do, which will help improve my observational and perspective skills.

Admittedly, if I am serious about trying to reach an industry level with my art work, I need to be more driven. I need be constantly experimenting with in photoshop, and extending my visual vocabulary. With this third academic year I will really try and push my abilities. I feel I still haven't made that comfortable transition between traditional media and digital painting. This is most evident when painting landscapes, an area I really hope to improve on.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Politics & Superheroes: Practical response ideas

In response to my research on various post 9/11 political superhero narratives, I have began writing down ideas for a narrative on my own. I began with possible political themes, and a few key character ideas that I plan to develop further:

Possible Themes: 

Surveillance culture,
Disaster capitalism/ war profiting,
Fascism,
Neoliberalism/ globalisation,
Ambiguity of the superhero (conflicting views and ideologies),
The origin story,
What is right and wrong?
Vigilantism vs. government (outlawed heroes and heroes that work with the law),

Initial character ideas:

Wealthy CEO of major enterprise. His superhero Identity helps endorse his business, as his true identity is known to all. Has the city covered with advanced surveillance equipment meaning he is omniscient. Capitalises on the fear of terror, by investing in surveillance technology (microphones in lampposts, UAVs in the sky). Convinces citizens that these measures are necessary in keeping the city safe. Enforces idea that he is watching over the people through billboard adds and television commercials (using the media to create sympathy toward his capital). Ruthless, handsome, self-centred ‘Yuppie’ type. Seen in the media as a patriot, yet is selfish and greedy in his actions.

Wealthy hero has a nemesis, a left wing ‘Che Guavara’ style revolutionary who opposes surveillance culture. Whereas CEO flaunts his business man/ masked avenger persona, Left-Wing activist must remain anonymous. Constant power struggle between government control and revolution among streets. Perhaps activist could obstruct rich hero’s surveillance network, but in doing so making the city more vulnerable to terrorist attacks. In brief window system is down, a large bombing takes place and the media instantly suggests the attack was pre meditated and orchestrated by left-wing hero and religious extremists. Possible twist: the catastrophe was actually orchestrated by rich CEO in order to both create witch hunt for left-wing hero and scare public into believing that had the surveillance equipment been operating, the attack would have been prevented, creating a demand for even more surveillance technology (disaster capitalism at work).

Other thoughts: 

Could be set in the aftermath of a terrorist attack similar to 9/11, in a paranoid and frightened culture. The world could have contained an array of masked crusaders previously, but their failure to prevent the catastrophe made their street level crime fighting seem redundant, when the much bigger threat became relevant. Left Wing activist could have always been slightly out of place within the superhero community, focusing on bringing down the wealthy, existing at the source of street level angst and acts of desperation, whereas other heroes were simply seeking adventure and their motives were more transparent. Most other heroes have retired after the arrival of rich CEO and his surveillance agenda, making them feel powerless and obsolete. 


I am initially focusing on a hopefully rich narrative, along with developed character concepts. It was also discussed in my first tutorial that there is transmedia potential with this direction. I raised a theory of synopticism, which is the idea of the many watching the few. Through various forms of media, we (the observers) become the many observing the protagonists within the narrative. This sometimes creates balance with the theory of panopticism, particularly with the television series ‘24’, where we watch and scrutinise Jack Bauer's every move until we reach the conclusion that he can be trusted with this power of omnipotence. The optimistic conclusions within the show act as reassurance for the government’s drastic surveillance measures in preventing terrorism. Perhaps this could be applied to a video game, where a third person perspective gives us the feeling that we are surveying the character’s every move, giving the sense that they can hide nothing from us.

My main aim at this stage is to produce some conceptual artwork, and a well developed narrative.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Superheroes and Neoliberal Surveillance Culture


Reflecting further on how the 9/11 attacks have influenced politics and the superhero genre, I have been studying the legitimisation of panopticism with modern protagonists. above is a clip from Christopher Nolan's 'Batman: The Dark Knight'. Here, Bruce Wayne (Batman) has used his wealth and access to military technology to develop a device that not only hacks telephones, but also uses the information to map out a virtual environment, giving him an all seeing edge. Dan Hassler-Forest wrote a chapter on theory of this authoritative gaze in his book 'Capitalist Superheroes: Caped Crusaders in the Neoliberal age.' He mentioned that although Morgan Freeman's character vocalises his concern on the ethics of Wayne's intrusive device, the outcome (where batman secures a building full of hostages) clearly suggests that the protagonists controversial actions were necessary. Bruce Wayne is also shown destroying the device after the job is complete. 'Hassler-Forest' also discussed the phenomenon of the 'Cyborg' with heroes such as 'Iron Man' and 'RoboCop' creating glamourous fantasies of future military technology. Iron Man's advanced weapons and armour allows him to quickly distinguish terrorists from civilians, defusing a hostage situation with zero casualties:


Again we are presented with idealistic situations where wealthy protagonists use their advanced visualisation  capabilities to prevent catastrophe. 'Jack Bauer' from the '24' television series is perhaps the strongest example of the media legitimising surveillance. Bauer uses his panoptic capabilities to monitor terrorism, the show also necessitating torture as a means of extracting information. Where these potentially controversial methods could be questioned and explored in the show, they are simply glorified. Bauer never accidentally spies on or interrogates an innocent civilian. Viewers are in fact encouraged to intrust this large responsibility in the hands of the protagonist.

Hassler-Forest went on to discuss Alan Moore's 'Watchmen' graphic novel. With the character 'Adrien Veidt', Moore explores the panoptic gaze of the entrusted superhero and places it under scrutiny. Veidt uses a wall of screens to monitor both television broadcasts and surveillance footage simultaneously. By analysing trends in advertising, Veidt in one sequence decides a war is imminent so tells a servant to invest appropriately. This depicts Veidt as a Neoliberal, partaking in disaster capitalism. Although he is entrusted with his great wealth and power, he ultimately destroys Manhattan and arguably betrays its citizens.


I plan to elaborate on this concept of panopticism within the superhero genre in my extended essay.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Watchmen Review


Whilst studying political narratives within the graphic novel genre, I read Alan Moore's highly acclaimed 'Watchmen'. The story is set in the 1980s, in an alternative reality where Nixon is still president. Two superhero groups are followed in the series, the 1950s minute men, and the Watchmen. Moore's work interestingly discusses how masked vigilantes would exist within society. Through fictional autobiographical snippets and magazine articles, Moore discusses the whole mentally of becoming a 'masked adventurer'. Hollis Mason (Nite Owl) was already working in law enforcement, while 'Dollar Bill' was a college athlete who was actually commissioned by a bank chain as an 'in-house' superhero, reassuring the public that there money was safe. Some of the minutemen's legacy was carried on through the next generation of heroes, with Dan Drieberg (a fan) adopting the Nite Owl persona, with the 'Silk Spectre' alias being passed from mother to daughter.

Moore offers some very well crafted characters in his graphic novel, particularly among the most recent generation of masked vigilantes. 'Rorschach' is an unhinged Travis Bickle-esque character. His narratives are depicted with a film noir style, narrated by entries from his own journal. After the passing of the Keen act (which banned costumed adventuring apart from those who operate for the government) Rorschach is the only vigilante to refuse to hang up his costume. Because of his conservative views, Rorschach sees the world in black and white, and when Eddie Blake (The Comedian) is murdered, Rorschach becomes obsessed with tracking down the killer. 'The Comedian' is one of two adventurers to continue his work under the rulings of the government. He becomes of kind of cultural icon, his costume incorporating the stars and stripes of the American flag. Despite being marketed as a 'Hero', Blake is a very violent individual guilty of rape. The second Hero to operate under government ruling after the Keene act is 'Dr. Manhattan'. His arrival among the other adventurers was significant, as he was the first to posses superpowers. After a lab accident, Jon Osterman became a living embodiment America's defenses during the Nuclear arms race. He becomes a government weapon, his existence causing a leap in scientific development, notably, genetic engineering. Another Key character is Adrien Veidt (Ozymandias). Hailed as the smartest man on the planet, Veidt seems to be the most liberal of the former group. Despite inheriting his family’s wealth, he chose to give the money to charity. Veidt realized that his intervention in the world of organized crime was futile with a massive nuclear threat looming, so decided he would devote himself to ending the much larger threat at hand.



***SPOILERS AHEAD***



This leads us to the challenging ending of the story. We learn that Veidt was responsible for the death of Eddie Blake and the earlier exhile of Dr. Manhattan. This was to ensure nothing stood in the way of his plan. Veidt decides that the only way to end the imminent nuclear threat is to unite the planet against a larger more incomprehensible threat. Utilizing the advances in genetic engineering and teleportation technology, Veidt creates a colossal squid-like atrocity. Knowing that the teleportation process has not been perfected, and that the monster will explode on arrival, Vedit sends the squid to Manhattan, where thousands are killed. When the other Heroes witness Veidt’s actions, they are understandably shocked. Veidt then explains that the media will interpret this attack as a potential alien threat, causing the Russians to pull out of Afghanistan and aid America until the alien threat is dealt with. Veidt conceives that by sacrificing one city, he is ultimately saving the planet. The other adventurers present begin come to terms with this. Unfortunately Rorschach, who operates on strict principles, understands only that Veidt has commitment an act of terrorism, and is determined to inform the masses. Dr. Manhatten, knowing that the news of an American orchestrating an attack will abolish the peace, decides he must kill Rorschach.

What is brilliant about the conclusion of this story is that we have to ask ourselves, who given the situation was right? Veidt killed thousands, yet he claimed it was in the interest of world peace. Rorschach’s conservative moral code meant that he couldn’t accept Veidt’s sacrifice, and was willing to risk reigniting the nuclear arms race in order to maintain his values.

In conclusion, Moore takes an insightful and sometimes satirical look at the Superhero concept. I am reminded of a sequence where Dan Drieberg (Nite Owl) can only perform sexually after he and Laurie Juspeczyk (Silke Specter) suit up and head out on a nostalgia trip (one which involves rescuing reidents from a burning building). Moore also amusingly satires right wing tabloids with the fictional ‘ New Frontier man’, where one article tries to justify the actions of the Klu Klux Klan clan as acting out of fear. Also, the finely crafted characters (my favorite perhaps being Rorschach for the stylized film noir narratives and an ever-changing mask that resembles the Rorschach ink blot test) really add depth and help the reader become invested in the events within the narrative.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Cop 3 Introduction (Key Practitioners)

Over the summer I have been reading texts in preparation for the extended essay element of our 'Context of Practice 3' module. Through beginning to study a combination of both academic texts and graphic novels, I am starting to realise some key practitioners that will prove important in realising my current working title: 'The Politics of Superheroes.'



Firstly, the university professor and author 'Dan Hassler-Forest' has produced a body of essays investigating comic books and graphic novels. I purchased his latest book 'Capitalist Superheroes: Caped Crusaders In The Neo Liberal Age', which focuses on post 9/11 politics, and its relationship with the trending superhero movie genre. The book raises various issues, examples being disaster capitalism in response to the attacks and the representation of the traumatised hero, the 'victimisation' of America portrayed through the trend in the origin story (9/11 allegedly launching America into a new age), and the concept of surveillance culture within the 'Neoliberal City'. Hassler-Forest writes with a very analytical style, linking relating political and cultural theories seamlessly with the entertainment genre that is the Superhero movie. His insights will be crucial in exploring the political connotations behind the superhero phenomenon. To gain further insight, I will follow 'Dr. Dan's' word press: http://danhf.wordpress.com/author/danhf/

A second practitioner is renowned comic book writer 'Alan Moore'. He has produced a celebrated body of work within the comic book genre, his most famous being the 'Watchmen' series. He is recognised as a left-wing writer. This contrasts with the alleged right-wing writings of 'Mark Millar', another hugely influential figure in the genre, recognised for works such as 'Kick-Ass' and the Marvel 'Civil War' series. Over the summer I read Millar's 'Superman: Red Son', a re-imagining of the classic tale where Superman lands in Soviet Russia, and is raised as a communist by Joseph Stailin. By comparing and contrasting some of the works of these two writers, whose views lie on both ends of the political spectrum, I can accomplish a broad understanding of some of the themes that appear in Superhero narratives.

I partake in these studies as a person who is relatively new to the superhero genre. I was original enticed by the idea of political undertones within superhero narratives, through Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy. Christopher Nolan is a recognised conservative, ideologies which are apparently presented in his movies. With the awareness of political agendas often glorified through this popular action genre, I look forward to analysing both film and texts to produce an analytical and informative study.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Games Republic Mascot Competition

A few months back I created a games republic mascot to be used as branding for the event. As the event was being hosted at our college, we were fortunate enough to be given this opportunity to have our work seen by hundreds of industry practitioners. The rules were that we had to stick to the colour pallet provided (blue, black and white), and our character had to have some reference to gaming. I chose to create a mean looking outlaw, holding a console controller like a revolver:


I was quite happy with the composition, the circular backdrop tying the image together create a logo. I was trying to consider the mascot as a small voting slip header or t-shirt design. Perhaps I could have utilised the white more to make the image pop, as it feels quite flat. Also maybe I could have been more expressive with the pose or used a more interesting perspective. This would have certainly made my image more exciting.

Overall, I am happy to have taken part. This graphic design work was a venture away from my usual concept work, and it pushed me to consider branding.

Indie Game The Movie


Indie Game the movie documents the journey of three different indie game developers. This particular clip shows Edmund McMillan discussing his childhood. McMillan was reclusive, and loved to draw monsters. These two aspects of his childhood are reflected in the indie game 'Aether' which he discusses in the video, symbolic of his feelings of detachment. We see how deep and personal this indie game is to the creator, far apart from large game titles designed by huge teams. The film shows the indie developer as an auteur, with full creative control. Perhaps the speculation as as to whether the auteur still exists within film and game, is challenged with this very personal art form. What makes indie games so interesting is that they are created by tiny teams (sometimes one individual) on low budgets, so they rely on innovation and originality, as appose to extravagant hyperreal graphics. The film follows the drama surrounding the devotion, trials and tribulations that producing a title with such little resources brings, yet also the rewarding outcome. 

however, I feel the question can be raised: 'how long will indie gaming remain a personal and expressive art form?' I am reminded of points raised during our context of practice module, discussing the idea that every subculture begins as a movement, but is eventually branded and exploited to the masses. An example used was punk music, which began as a form of music anyone regardless of having no musical training could pick up a guitar and start a band. Eventually record labels began capitalising on this movement until punk became a novelty, creating profit for the business minded. This new app generation is seeing small indie game developers find success in a very personal creative industry. In the future will larger developers see they money in creating apps? Perhaps as android technology grows more advanced, larger teams will be required to push the boundaries and smaller indie developers will no longer be able to compete. This will be both an interest and scary development.

To finish on a less pessimistic note, Indie Game The Movie was very captivating and moving documentary with some beautiful cinematography.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Susan Everett and Character Development

We recently had a talk from scriptwriter Susan Everett. She wrote a short film titled 'Mother, Mine' in 2008, about an adoptee who loses her foster mother, and attempts to reconnect with her natural mother. The film was very dark, and Susan spoke of how he she likes to explore ordinary people being pushed to extreme measures. She spoke of characters having layers which can be peeled away, and how she likes to give her characters baggage. This discussion on creating characters interested me, particularly with my interests lying in character development for games.

*Spoilers*

The troubled Girl in 'Mother, Mine' was a killer, yet we as an audience felt sympathy for her, as she tried to find a mother figure to accept her. This got me thinking of other complex characters and the layers that create their deep personalities. I am currently watching the Showtime series 'Dexter', and was reminded of Michael C. Hall's lead role as the killer turned avenger by Susan's adoptee character.


'Dexter' is a blood spatter analysts working for Miami Metro. We learn in the series that when he was a small boy, his mother was executed with a chainsaw right in front of him. Police detective Harry Morgan found young Dexter in a shipping container filled with his mother's blood. Although Dexter barely remembers the ordeal, it leaves him with a obsession with blood, and the desire to kill and chop up his victims. Harry Morgan, who sees this killer inside his adopted son Dexter, enforces a code, teaching him to kill only those who deserve to die. The series follows dexter as an adult. His stepfather Harry has deceased, yet his code still keeps Dexter's 'dark passenger' (desire to kill) in check. Because of this, Dexter becomes something a vigilante, an antihero. What is challenging about this concept is that dexter doesn't desire justice when he kills serial killers, he simply has a thirst for blood, yet has been taught how to channel it into arguably doing good.

Through the series, Dexters bond with his girlfriend Rita (original sought out as a disguise to hide Dexter's detached and monstrous true self) and her children grows stronger. Harry convinced Dexter that he was monster through his childhood. He made him feel damaged beyond repair. Dexter grows gradually more human through the series, and begins to ask himself whether he is destined to kill to keep his darkness at bay, or whether some day he can be rid of the dark passenger and live like a normal human.

With Dexters complex character comes various themes: Is there a dark passenger in all of us sitting dormant? Who deserves to live or die? How well do we know the ones close to us?  We all have our secrets and Dexter's character really explores these key themes.

Tom Evans

We recently had a talk from Tom Evans, who gave a 'Top Tips for Getting ahead in the Digital Industry' talk.

Tom has spent 8 years in the industry, and is currently a creative freelancer. Bellow are the tips he shared with us regarding pursuing a career in the digital industry. Although some may seem to contradict themselves, collectively the tips were both informative and inspiring:

1. Specialise.

2. Diversity - don't specialise too much.

3. Don't expect to get a job instantly.

4. Work experience is awesome.

5. Work experience can also be rubbish.

6. With work experience, be sure to make an effort (ask questions, make an impression).

7. Don't expect your first job to be glamorous.

8. Practice being fast.

9. Keep learning.

10. Think about what you want (research as there are more roles than you know).

Tom advised us to wait until you are ready to go freelance. This seems to be the general view shared also by digital tutor Antony Ward. He spoke how it can feel more creative for some, but not necessarily everyone. He advised us to learn to talk and write intelligently, and to be able to discuss our ideas. He explained that recruitment agencies can be 'iffy' as you don't know what they are doing on your behalf. It is also important to be proactive, and not to wait for work to come to you. This could be Blogging, entering competitions, setting up websites etc. He also advised us to network and meet interesting people who could potentially offer jobs in the future. He advised against working with friends, and to always agree a price upfront. Finally, he told us to enjoy ourselves and not to give up.

We have been very fortunate to receive talks from people who have found success in the industry, and have shared with us their journeys and wisdom on getting ahead. It seems that finding work is never an effortless and straight forward venture. You may find yourself doing less glamorous work and having to work your way up to a job that your are happy in. It seems that the ultimate outcome is to be able to work as a freelancer, although this isn't necessarily the case as some may prefer working within a company with support from a team. It seems that experience from working within companies is valuable in improving your skills as a practitioner, and making friends within the industry who could later offer you work.

Antony Ward


We recently had a talk from freelance digital artist, animator and digital tutor 'Antony Ward' (ant-online.co.uk) He spoke about his beginnings working in his bedroom with an Omega computer, right up to his work as a digital tutor.

Anthony spent two years studying Art & Design, where he actually used 'DPaint Anim' for his final project. He later dropped out during the second year.

He first joined 'Freestyle Software', a small games company based in Chesterfield, and then later Sheffield, where he took his Omega in to work with him. He left just as 3D came into the industry.

He also worked for 'Krisalis Software' based in Rotherham, who were working on an ambitious 'Lego Fantasy' game, which was later canned.

Next, he moved to 'Gremlin' in Sheffield, the first project he worked on being 'Wacky Races.' With this project we had out first introduction to Anthony's programming capitulates, as he created a piece of software called 'Creature Tools' speeding up the process of rigging 60 characters. This made Antony head of the creature department. This innovativeness demonstrates how a broader understanding of the industry pipeline and versatility as well as specialty skills can help within the game industry.

After this, Antony moved to EA, where he worked from home. In 2004, he published his first book 'Game Character Development with Maya'.

On his work with Sumo Digital as lead artist on 'Outrun', Antony spoke about how his higher role compromised his artwork input and meant he spent more time organising his team and working with spreadsheets. This may suit some, but Anthony left to peruse a freelance career.

He spoke about freelance work being a 'scary move', as there was no regular guaranteed work. He did receive more varied work, some where the poly limit he he'd grown used to within the game industry was not present, giving him more freedom. Fortunately, because of his experience in various companies and the contacts he had built up, Antony was able to find good work. he recommended gaining some experience with companies before going freelance, as experience gained from a skilled team can be valuable, and friends made in the process may be offering you work during your freelance career.

Antony published another two successful books, and now creates tutorials and video guids for '3D World' and 'Digital Tutors'.

He spoke about what's next for him, hoping to become a better artist, particularly with his drawing skills. It is inspiring to see someone with such a successful career in the creative industry, still striving to improve their craft.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Interesting Perspective

I wanted to create a final render showing my hero in his environment. Instead of a generic straight eye level angle, I wanted to attempt something more dramatic:


I chose a low shot looking up at Ram standing on a dirt mound. I gave my hero a folded arm posture, leaning over slightly creating a sense of intimidation. Again I worked with grey values and applied the initial colour using blend layers and masks. Composition wise, I almost feel that this piece has a comic book cover approach. This is due to the dark line art and crisp bold highlights. Still my perspective needs work, the character not quite sitting in the composition. It almost feels as if he is jetting out at an angle, not conforming correctly to the perspective of the environment around him. When I presented this piece in a final critique, it was suggested that to become more accurate with my perspective and even anatomy, I begin working from reference. It was also suggested that I show John Ramsey in his home:


As I want my character to contradict the tradition western superhero, Ramsey doesn't live a large mansion with a huge secret lair for his superhero actives. John lives in a trailer, which he tows from construction sight to construction sight. He keeps his RAM uniform in the chest at the far end of the room. He has basic living appliances such as stoves, a sink, a toilet and a bed. I found an online image of a trailer with his high perspective looking down. I imitated this same angle for my piece. In complete contrast to the other image in this post, this trailer scene shows Ramsey in a more vulnerable state. Like some heros who have vast wealth and in their true identities are great public figures, Ramsey is very anonymous construction worker.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Construction Site Environment

I wanted to create an environment that reflects my hero. As he works in construction, I thought a city construction site would be appropriate. In the context of gaming, this location could perhaps contain a safehouse where the player can rest and save his game progress. Cinematically, I liked the idea of having the scene set at dusk as the sun descends in the distance.  By day this area is lively and occupied by busy workers, by night there is only John Ramsey, preparing to disembark into the night and confront his corrupt adversaries:


With this piece I wanted to try and improve on my perspective drawing. To achieve this I set up a grid layer with a vanishing point. I also created a separate rule of thirds grid layer for composition purposes. I grabbed reference from the web of construction assets such as scaffolding and diggers and of course reference for the portaloo. I worked in greyscale initially to lay down the values (light to dark). Next, inspired by previously mentioned concept artist Erik Ryan, I applied blend layers to introduce light to the image. The orange light from the sun exists on a 'vivid light' blend layer, where the blue shadows are on an overlay layer. Together this creates a nice cinematic orange and teal colour bridge used often when colour grading film. I needed to add further colour dodge blend layers to add the turquoise tint to the portaloo and the subtle red tint to the barrels in the mid ground. The light layers were knocked down to around 30%, whereas the asset layers were knocked right down to around 10%. This maintains a gritty desaturated feel to the concept piece, reflecting the bleak 'anti-hero' theme surrounding my arguably unstable character.

Defiance 'Groundbreaking' Transmedia Innovation


Whilst researching 'transmedia storytelling', I found an online news article talking about 'Syky' channel's ground breaking convergence of television and MMO (massive Multiplayer Online) gaming.
Within the plot Villain 'Rynn', when escorted to a Las Vegas Prison, will apparently 'enter the game world', and unleashes a new enemy called the 'Hellbug' for players to defeat.

This demonstrates expanding the narrative outside of the hour long television spot. Once the show has ended fans of the online game will be able to continue building their own experiences, keeping them immersed in this fictional world.

This wouldn't be the first time that the platform of television and gaming have crossed over. 'Walking Dead: Survival Instinct' was a game released as a prequel to the Walking Dead TV series (comic book adaptation), where you play as Daryl Dixon, and realise his story prior to finding the group of survivors that feature in the television series. It seems that the player is given choices, whether to be stealthy or high profile, ad which survivors to join or leave. In a sense the player is given the ability to shape Daryl's back story within the timeline of the zombie apocalypse, expanding on the universe outside of the platform of television. Where this differs from Defiance's approach, is that the MMO includes enemies that are currently dictated by the plot of the weekly TV spot. In this sense fans are in the moment, experiencing and existing within this fictional narrative.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Turnarounds and Colour Tests

As I am developing a character for the platform of game, I produced some turnarounds which in theory could be handed over to a 3D modeller. For me this was a challenge of accuracy and consistency. My past turnarounds have been subtly floored in the past when taken into Maya, so I really tried to focus, using the guides in photoshop as reference. I also looked at muscle anatomy:

(image found online)


I combined elements that I liked form initial Ram designs. I liked the simplicity of the brace wearing concept, whereas I thought the utility belt form the first design would be a practical place for my character to store interrogation tools and makeshift explosives. I also amended the anatomy, taking a less top heavy approach. I do feel that the side on view appears as if the character is slightly leaning forwards. Perhaps I should have had hi less blot up right and sitting more on his lower back for a more natural relaxed pose. I also produced a turnaround for the head:


I experimented with a pressure sensitive charcoal brush for the shading with this piece. Although ultimately it gave good results, I found some elements of it to be unefficient. For example when applying pressure to create a dark shadow, once lifted, the decreasing pressure on the stylus would leave a tiny light bleed on top of the shadow.

Using my front perspective full body image, I began some quick colour tests:


The primary red and blue with a pastel-like saturation was an obvious choice. The second design looks too kaki and holds military connotations. I ultimately went for the final colour scheme. I began with the subtle greyish blue and brown scheme. I wanted to include a third interesting colour to complete the colour scheme, so confronter 'Adobe Kuler'. I found a blue and brown colour scheme with the inclusion of green, so added a very subdued green to my design. I also added a final subtle purple tint to Ram's shades to tie the design together.

Head Development and Dynamic Poses

At this stage, I wanted to turn my focus on to my hero's head. I began with some sketches:


I chose to go with the belt buckle headpiece and glasses design at the top right. Although this doesn't offer  much disguise, I feel it is memorable. When intimidating his targets attention will likely be drawn to RAM's demonic horns. The laziness of Ramsey's disguise is also a testament to his boldness. He doesn't fear his wealthy and powerful target's, and also there is nobody close to him that could  be hurt through his masked activities if his true identity were to be exposed. Perhaps the glasses should have arms to rest on Ramsey's ears as although the minimalistic glasses look stylish, perhaps they don't meet my realistic game approach.

I also wanted to consider Ram's movement. I needed poses showing his aggression when confronting his adversaries. I used silhouettes to do this:


I had the idea of equipping Ram with a handheld double wrecking ball. I thought this would be an interesting way of giving my character a range attack whilst reflecting his interest in demolition. Notice also that I am attempting more varied angles inspired by Don Bluth's character explorations. I feel that by doing this the character becomes more three dimensional. I also began to do this with facial expressions:


Although I haven't presented my work in the form of a character sheet, I feel I am beginning to demonstrate my character's personality through these dynamic poses and expressions. I feel that my understanding of facial anatomy needs improvement. I like the top three expressions, as they present interesting angles as well as portraying personality. I feel that the Bottom two designs don't meet their captions, the 'snigger' looking more like an over emphasised grin and the 'in pain' expression looking more sad and mournful. Perhaps if time permits, I could compile my design work into portfolio worthy development sheets.

Don Bluth Character Sheets

Whilst preparing to study some dynamic poses and facial expressions, I was pointed in the direction of animator Don Blooth. His approach is very stylised and exaggerated, which although contrasting with my desired realistic game approach, really captures his character's personalities:



Bluth's specialty as an animator really comes through in the facial explorations within the top image. You can see a very exaggerated use of squash and stretch. Although very cartoony, Bluth manages to capture a variety of different emotions. He also works from different angles and perspectives, showing all of the contours of the character's head. His Knight concept goes into lots of detail, even demonstrating the characters consistent height in a measurement of heads. We even see some breakdowns of the character's atire and weaponry, as well as footnotes containing measurements and points on consistency. It could be said Bluth's designs are more cluttered and chaotic than those of Thierry Doizon, yet there is still something very visually appealing and presentable about Bluth's creative design processes. 

Development Work of Thierry Doizon

I have been looking at the work of Concept artist Thierry Doizon. What really gravitates me towards his work in particular, is the presentation of his development work. This includes silhouettes and character sheets. It seems he really explores his characters in the development stages, produces an array of different variations within one concept. This piece bellow is a character sheet for 'Harry', a character produced for a Gnomon Workshop DVD:



I love the very stylised yet realistic feel to the work. I am really captured by the anatomy work with the muscle tone and the characters upright confident posture. The silhouette of the character is also memorable, the baggy trousers contrasting with the tight boots and skin tight shirt. Combine with this with the characters wild hair and you have a very strong design. Within the designs we see a turnaround for modelling where the character is positioned efficiently. The main front and back angle at the right of the sheet who's a more natural relaxed pose, telling us more about this cool character. From these design I imaging 'Harry' to have a laid back, witty and perhaps slightly arrogant personality. The sense humour comes through with the slightly smug expression on the characters face in with the main image, which simultaneously suggests an arrogance. In relevance to my transmedia project, we see a very cartoon representation of Harry within the character sheet. While much more minimalist, this cartoon design still captures what I perceive to be Harry's smug and cocky persona, demonstrating a successful translation across to a very different style.

Dozion also demonstrates great creature work:


I really love the experimentation aspect of this design sheet. Dozion is clearly experimenting with the the silhouette of the creature, carrying the same consistent style across vastly varying shapes. It really gives insight into how a concept artists develops lots of interesting ideas efficiently.

Another thing about Dozion's work is that it's very portfolio worthy. Not only does he create great concepts but he lays them out in a way that makes them even more visually appealing. This not only helps entice you in his great painting work, but also gives a sense of professionalism and perhaps organisation. His concepts aren't scattered all over the place, but arranged so that we even begin to understand his process.

Monday, 13 May 2013

The 'RAM' Concept

Building on my horn wielding character sketch, I have begun to consider the character I will be creating in more depth. Here is a short paragraph describing my hero:

'John Ramsey is a Briton living in a Manhattan-like city. Ramsey works on construction sites, operating diggers and other heavy machinery. His left wing views means that he mostly hates his job, often building large corporate buildings. He prefers being assigned to demolition, a passion of his, seeing office buildings torn apart. This obsession carries over into private life, taking on the role of the masked avenger known by his adversaries as ‘Ram’. Unlike most ‘Superheroes’, Ram steers clear of street-level crime, targeting the powerful and corrupt. Ramsey has a very reclusive personality, only when wearing his mask does he begin to express himself. As Ram his personality shifts, and he becomes a very angry and frightening figure. He uses his sculpted horns as a form of intimidation, many of the people he confronts remembering him as a demon-like entity. His horns are also used to force entry through solid walls, and also as powerful weapons should his targets fight back.'

I am currently developing a 'RAM' concept which could be applied in in a game context. I feel that console gaming generally reaches out to a more mature audience. I also feel gamers enjoy a realistic approach, so I wanted RAM's attire to reflect his construction (more significantly demolition) work, as appose to a cartoon-like spandex approach. For this I gathered reference and tried some practical approaches, as well as hi-tech suited option:


I wanted my character initially to have a top-heavy gorilla-like posture, but in hindsight this compromises realism. Of the three I like the middle approach as I feel it is simple yet memorable. I do also like elements of the first, particularly the thickness of the horns and the utility belt. The armoured suit design feels almost insect-like with the large alien eyes. Also, my hero fights against the corrupt who use their wealth to cover their tracks and hide in plain sight. It seems unlikely that he would wear or even be able to afford a hi-tech expensive suit.

Practically, with the first design I experimented with a Mark Molnar custom brush collection featuring brushes form various artists. This was introduced to me by a classmate and was very helpful in creating different textures. There were soft brushes which worked well for the skin, and plenty of dry media brushes which worked well for fabric. I also applied a rust transparent render to add a grimy effect. 

Friday, 10 May 2013

Erik Ryan: Talks and Guides

While researching new techniques for my own art, I discovered some very helpful videos featuring the film and game concept artist Erik Ryan, who has been in the industry for over 8 years. It seems that one of his unique selling points is creature concepts, demonstrating a very strong understanding of animal anatomy. In this first three part video, Erik demonstrates some of the process behind a 'Darth Vader' character concept he created, as well as critiquing a student's work:






Interestingly it seems that Erik when through a very explorative silhouette phase with his 'Star Wars' Vader concept. From these thumbnail sketches he picked out successful elements to create his final piece. Later in the videos he discusses rendering, collecting images of wounds and cuts from the web and applying them to very transparent blend layers. This adds real texture and depth to image, that would be hard to achieve from brushes alone.

He really demonstrates his ability to create successful creature concepts with a critique session of a students domesticated lizard creature. The student explains that the creature should be predatory and egressive, yet tameable to be kept as a bet. This leads Erik onto to gathering lots of reference images online to refer to. He is very critical of the work, breaking it down extremely thoroughly, commenting n everything from the herbivorous hippo-like legs, to the inaccurate darker underbelly. This enforces the fact that there is a very critical benchmark within the industry. Every concept should be extremely well considered.

It is also great to see an established artist sharing the secrets of his trade. Erik discusses this during the talk, expressing the importance of team work and development through sharing tools and techniques. I have recently been picking my friends brain, who I feel is becoming a force to be reckoned with in terms of conceptual art. He has happily shared with me the new approaches he has been picking up on, and likewise I always try and share new tools and techniques that I discover. Through being critical of each others work and offering advice and pointers, I feel that one can learn far more than being reclusive and protective over your practice.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Studying the Work of Mike Mignola

In my interim Critique it was suggested that I look at the illustration work of Mike Mignola. This is likely as I stated my interest in creating a memorable hero with horns, perhaps Mignola's most recognised character being 'Hellboy', a devil-like demon detective. His work is also very gritty and macabre, which could be on some level informative towards my work as I have decided that I want to present a bleak narrative with my hero. I often take a cynical outlook on society, so am always fascinated by narratives that include political corruption and exploitation of the people. I am considering  the left-wing 'We the 99%' idea as potential focus for my hero's motives, so Mignola's macabre art could inspire my development work:





When looking at Mignola's work you can detect a very recognisable style. Interestingly, on his website the bio section describes his work as containing: 'thin lines, clunky shapes and lots of black'. On a personal development note, I should be aiming to ultimately establish my own style to make my work stand apart from other talented artists within the game art industry. I imagine each concept artist will include personal flair in their designs. It is also important to relfect on the fact that Mignola is an illustrator and comic book artist. The stylised approach to his work exists very well within the flat two-dimensional media platform, but arguably the bold jagged shapes and heavy ink shadows may not translate well in the more dynamic fluid media of animation or game. Perhaps they would need to be addapted. Considering this, I searched to find out if Hellboy had ever been adapted into an animation. In fact there was an animated series, and I found this clip:



As expected, the approach here is different. The lines and shapes although still stylised feel softer and less rigid making the animation flow better and everything appear more three dimensional. These adaptations will have to be considered when I reflect on how my hero could be adapted into different areas of the media, or if in fact get time to visually present my character in two different transmedia formats.

Monday, 29 April 2013

Reflecting on my Essay

For my context of practice essay, I looked at the representation of the female gender in contemporary gaming. Through my studies, I gained a more general understanding of exploitation within the media. I saw new media as an arguably low art form driven by profit. This did provide me with a moral dilemma. Should I be pursuing a career that often prays on fetishism to shift sales? A platform that some believe focuses solely on marketing aspects, and not on artistic creative values?

To counter this view, I did learn that modern film and game has arguably played a part in breaking gender convention and empowering the independent female. If this is true, then perhaps gaming could be used as a tool to break other prejudices toward certain races, classes and creeds in the future. Perhaps even virtual worlds like for example those created by 'Bethesda' and 'Bioware' could teach us about politics, tolerance across difference races and making the right choices. In essence, gaming could be said to be character building, simulating real potential situations so that we can in a sense experience them beforehand.

It comes down to a question of values. Does having some knowledge and awareness of the sinister side of advertising and marketing within the industry, mean that I would be void of all artistic integrity by following a career path in concept art for film and games? Would it be acceptable to use the industry as a platform for creativity? Cynicism aside, I am more aware that sex sells. Should I fight this idea as a person who is against exploitation and within advertising, or should I embrace it as an artist and work to master the female form with my concept drawings? These are questions I need to start asking myself as an artist. I need to start to build my values to shape me as an individual within the vast industry of films and games.

Interim Critique

For our first critique, we were divided into small groups consisting of around five or six people. We then displayed our work on a designated computer and shared our thoughts on each other's approaches and how they relate to both our chosen practices and transmedia. I felt this smaller group format worked quite well, as we were to able to discuss our thoughts more intimately and in depth, as appose to brief five minute presentations at the front of the class.

From the feedback I gained on my work, I now feel I have a strong idea of the steps I need to take to successfully respond to the module  brief. Firstly, I am missing the crucial back story of my character. For my character to be transmedia worthy, he must exist in an exciting world, and have a clear purpose, meaning the audience can potentially relate to the hero and be interested in his journey.

From a more technical view, I need to decide on the two media platforms that I wish to explore. If I am producing a character for games (which for me and my chosen area of practice would make sense) I need to consider character turnarounds. Colour is also an important element, and a memorable colour scheme can almost become a part of a character's trademark. I also need to look at dynamic poses for my character, exploring how he would move through his environment, and hopefully produce some high quality paintings to finalise my explorations. Also, a particular pose can help make a character recognisable in the state of a silhouette. We discussed the importance of a unique recognisable silhouette.

Responsive Brief: Initial Ideas

For our responsive brief, we have been given the oppertunity to work in our chosen area of practice within the context of transmedia storytelling. I personally am interested in concept art for film and game, and I feel that my strength at the moment is character design over detailed environments. My first though was to design a superhero character. Superheroes give great examples of transmedia storytelling. A comic book hero narrative can be adapted effectively into an animated television series. We often see heroes adapted into video game characters and see them appear on the big screen. Each time they are adapted. They are re-designed to fit the media, whilst still being recognisable almost as a brand mascot. For example, a gritty hyper realistic game adaptation of a hero would likely be unsuitable for a child's cuddly toy. The cuddly toy design would likely have to be less detailed, with no sharp points or violent connotations. A teen animation series might contain a simple narrative e.g hero prevents villain form taking over world, whereas a Hollywood adaptation may explore more political themes or psychoanalysis. Perhaps the hero will be depicted as flawed, reaching out to an audience who really want to peel away at the character and feel a more deep and emotional attachment, whereas younger teens would rather see a justing bringing knight in shining armour.

I began my project by collecting a moodboard showing selected heroes existing across different media platforms:


As you can see, I produced notes on top of the moodboard picking on the adaptations relevant to the particular media platforms.

To demonstrate my understanding of transmedia, I decided that for my project I would produce two designs. I will at first embark on a design for a currently undecided media platform, which I will then adapt to fit a different platform. This way I will show an understanding of how characters must be adapted in order to stretch across different areas of the media. To begin my exploration, I produced some generic non-media specified designs, drawing inspiration from my moodoard:


My first attempt was a particularly cliche cape wearing superhero. The second attempt shows a more simple spiderman-like design, yet is still rather undefined with no real memorable silhouette. Considering how I could give my character an effective silhouette, I thought of heroes with horns such as 'Daredevil' and 'Hellboy'. I ended producing something that reflected the male sheep or 'Ram'. I thought this could be an interesting approach as it bears british denotations instead of the usually americanised hero. I reflected on this idea with another moodboard:


Hopefully by considering an original 'Ram' horned design, I can achieve a very recognisable silhouette for my hero.

Friday, 12 April 2013

'Action Chick' Context of Practice: Essay Response

In response to my exploration of the female gender and their representation within contemporary gaming, for my media artefact I worked within the are of digital art. I felt this would be an appropriate way to both contextualise my findings whilst also offering me the chance to work in my chosen area of personal practice. My response depicts a faceless, athletic heroine, bound by ropes like a puppet:


The character in a sense satirises the character of Lara Croft, presenting a toned and slightly convention breaking character, who ironically is being controlled and scrutinised by the puppeteer.

Practically, I explored further uses for custom brushes, capturing the fabric of both the brown tight jeans and the tank top that my heroine wears. Linking both personal professional development with the contextualisation of my essay, I could have perhaps explored the composition of this piece further. In my personal and professional practice model, I have spoke about exploring life drawing, working on drawing objects from different perspectives considering depth of field. Possibly by depicting my character from an elevated angle looking down on the 'Action Chick', I could have given a more dominating feel, emphasising the presence of the male gaze. Taking this concept further, perhaps I could have moved from the two dimension media of digital painting to the a game engine, modelling my action heroine and giving the user the ability to orbit and assess the virtual character's form. This third person orbiting perspective is a subject that I have discussed briefly in my essay, and would really put the male gaze into action. At this stage, I feel my response is almost like a piece of conceptual design work, which could then be adapted into the platform of gaming, exploring my idea of gender representation in contemporary gaming further.

In conclusion, I feel I have merely scratched the surface, depicting this idea of cynical puppeteering in the media of painting. With the resources available within my course, and with perhaps some collaboration (working with people who specialise in different areas) I could have put this concept to work in a virtual three dimensional environment.