Lew Jones and His Journey to Become a Concept Artist
Hello, my name is Lewis Jones and currently at the time of writing this, Having just finished my final major project waiting to graduate from **De Montfort University ( Game art design) **where I am training to become a concept artist.
This is a field I’m hoping to make a career out of it, it has been my aim for many years now even before university.** I’ve joined The Rookies competition to try and get my work out there** and seen by as many people as possible and hopefully see where it takes me.
The following walk-through features my process for one of my characters from the aforementioned project; Oz-World Warrior where I have taken L. Frank Baum’s novel ‘The Wonderful Wizard of Oz’ and used it as a foundation for designing the visuals for a hypothetical fighting game with a sci-fi flavour to it. As odd as it is, this project I really enjoyed the process and found many strange designs as I’m about to show you.
This character is the Scarecrow, a straw effigy of a man in the book, with a desire for himself to be complete. However, in my own brief, I wanted to pull away from the traditional straw and rags get-up and go with something more ‘out there’.
Anything goes and there’s no need to be especially neat and tidy, as long as you create some clear and interesting shapes
I had this idea originally for a sort of synthezoid type of guy, a manufactured security drone built to keep the space pirate-like Crows away from valuable cargo. His general physicality was decided very early on and would emulate the sort of ‘floppiness’ and almost fluidity of the original character , looking at martial arts icons , I wanted to create a robotic rubbery Bruce Lee, kind of like a sentient Kung-fu trained ‘stretch Armstrong’
For concept art there are loads of ways to create designs, and not really one particular work pipeline to rule all others. For this project I decided to start out with scribbling down some random silhouettes with a black brush in Photoshop with full opacity.
At this point anything goes and there’s no need to be especially neat and tidy, as long as you create some clear and interesting shapes. Also a quick tip ;if you’re like me and feel that after a few thumbs you find yourself scribbling very similar shapes, select and existing silhouette with the magic wand tool, copy and paste it on top of another and transform it around until something fresh comes out of it, Its all about experimentation, embrace the happy accidents!
Picking out the best from the rest
Here I take the silhouettes that convey the idea I have in my head the best and scribble over some secondary detail over the top of them with a shade of grey, this helps give a bit of form and fleshes out the silhouette, again be as scribbly as you want and be open to the shapes that appear.
Adding a bit more life
I now develop them a bit further (after discarding one of them) and see if I can bring anything that makes a particular one stand out before I pick one or two to go to the next stage. I render them out, still quite roughly suggesting at some value separation and graphic read (the basis for any good design).
Iterations of iterations
Now it gets more fun, I ‘ve picked the two design I like the most and in an effort to pick between them I start creating iterative variations of both of them below the more alien one:
And the more human martial artist inspired one:
At this point, I’m refining them and rendering them to a more polished level so I can make the next level of smaller details read better on top of this. I’m also trying to fiddle around with the silhouette still, just trying to push the design further.
I then decided to go ahead with the more humanoid design and decided it’s the perfect opportunity to play around with his face. At this point, he was starting to stray away from the Scarecrow of the novel . I decided to pull the design back to that without sacrificing the idea by playing off of the fact that the original character had a crude face painted directly onto the sack that was in place of a head.
Related link: Why you need to study the master illustrators first
My idea was to emulate this fake countenance by having this new scarecrow’s face be a digital representation of a face displayed on a screen placed in his head. You can see the variations of this idea below:
With the general design decided on I pressed forth with the colour scheme. Now 90% of the time I start my designs in grey scale this helps me think about the value read plus it helps a lot with rendering .With the grey scales rendered and designed I move onto colouring by using a mixture of curve adjustment layers and layers set to the ‘colour’ style on top of them. The curve layers allow me to add various shades and mixtures of red, green and blue into various values to give me a base on which I start glazing over colours subtly with the ‘colour’ layer (which preserves the values of the image underneath) I’d be careful at this point as some colours hold their own values so without proper care they may turn out a bit muddy .
The curve layers allow me to add various shades and mixtures of red, green and blue into various values to give me a base on which I start glazing over colours subtly with the ‘colour’ layer (which preserves the values of the image underneath) I’d be careful at this point as some colours hold their own values so without proper care they may turn out a bit muddy.
In this case, they’re all generally similar, I wanted the pants to be dark with the torso and arms to be a strange fleshy colour that would look unsettlingly like synthetic muscle I also wanted to add some accents of a weird colour in there to further show the android-ness of this character.
The Final Design… Or Is It?
Below you can see what was originally going to be the final design for the scarecrow …but it just didn’t feel right , it lacked punch.
After some great critique I received I went back into the design process again taking the best parts of the earlier designs and putting them together to create something with more visual flair , a much more alien-like character that had the unpredictableness to its physicality that I hoped to achieve when I started this process, with it’s bendy tube like arms and its four sets of hands.
I also kept the domed hat as I thought it added back into the silhouette and added some stitching and patched on its torso and limbs to allude to the rough a ragged ‘scarecrow’ origin.
Colour with punch
Here I set about making a much more eye-catching colour scheme than the previous design with a better value read.
We have the final design. The scarecrow was probably My favourite out of the characters I created for this project mostly due to the sudden U-turn taken within the process of creating him which forced to simplify and push the design into something a lot more fun. Fun designs are usually the best designs.
Thanks for reading!