Hey guys n gals!
I’m participating in the “creature of the week” design event over at the artist forum Conceptart.org. CA is a place where a lot of aspiring game artist and other artsy people hang out. I think the forum has some issues (as I wrote about before), but it’s a place to talk to fellow artists, and that’s great!
Inspiration! A beautiful Jesus lizard with the ability to run on the surface of water.
C.O.W. (character of the week) is an weekly event that gives you a brief and asks you to make a creature design based on that. Anyone can participate! You have a deadline and you need to prove that you made the picture by posting some WIP (work in progress) pictures of your finished art. After a community voting there’s one winner and people give each other feedback along the way. I think this is an awesome initiative, and people have been doing this for a very long time. So when I joined my first C.O.W. last week it’s apparently the 300th round! This means the brief is very extensive this time around, and we got a month to craft our creatures, instead of the usual week.
My monarch/queen design, after some hard work this is what she currently looks like.
The theme for this COW is “Biodiverse Colony Creatures“. It asks us to design a species of animals living in a colony, where each type of animal has different functions and appearance based on what kind of task they perform. A bit like ants or bees. It should be the same species, but very diverse. Think about Zerg from StarCraft. All in all we are to design nine different types of this animal; the monarch, taskmaster, warrior, hunter/gatherer, nurser, architect, scout, breeder and miners. Each class has a short description we need to consider. We should also present out work in a nice and compelling way. Woah, that’s a lot of work, right!
I’m gonna share with you my creature concept process. I already learned tons from doing this, and roughly spend 3-4 hours a day on working towards the deadline. Without any further ado, here’s the process so far! Beware of crap.
1. My first brainstorming after reading the brief at CA. I did not want to make something like insects, since that’s the obvious choice for a colony of creatures, like the Zergs from StarCraft. So I was thinking of lizards and dinosaurs. Some kind of animal that can be very diverse but still the same species. Something based on creatures found on Earth.
2. Some color experiments and trying to put everything together. What I didn’t realize at this point was that I was moving too fast, not thinking trough my designs and experimenting. This would prove to be a mistake.
3. My rendering on the monarch/queen and a breeder that takes care of her eggs. I started to render the members of my colony before I even had a solid visual design for the whole pack of lizards. Wrong way to go. The other participants were kind enough to point this out to me, and I realized I needed to start all over. A big assignment like this needs planning. Creating good looking art is very much a question about patience and planning, work process and paying attention to details.
4. OK, back to the drawing board, start all over. I collected some ref and inspiration for my lizard creatures, and set out to do a lot of small silhouettes. These silhouettes serve the purpose of showing a basic visual icon for the design. A simplified version of the design. It makes it easy to brainstorm, to change or remove things easily and prevents you from early rendering or detail-fixation. Awesome! What I realized after this was that all my creatures still looked all the same, like different kinds of raptors.
5. Since all my other thumbnail figures looked to alike, I sat down and made concepts for all the nine classes. One by one. I tried to think really hard about what kind of body they should have, according to what kind of work they performed in the colony. A warrior should be able to defend the colony or attack other animals. The miner should have a body specialized for digging. All members for the colony must be visually different from each other. If these concepts were for a movie or a game, the viewer must be able to identify the different classes from far away or when thy move fast across the screen.
6. Finally decided my 9 creatures! I felt like these were able to communicate the purpose of each animal and its special abilities in the colony. I collected them all on the same image to see if they still looked like they were the same species. To see if they fit together. Read the brief one extra time, to make sure I understood it and wasn’t forgetting anything important.
7. When looking at my creature collection the next day I realized some of the colony members needed some tweaking, so I refined the design even more for the warrior and the hunter. When I got this far I have a solid base for the design. This makes it more likely that the rendering and the coloring will look nice later on! I don’t want to waste time rendering a bad design (lesson learned).
8. Time to decide on what the basic color palette should be for my lizard babies! Since the monarch should be “beautiful and significant” according to the given brief I started with her. Made a lot of different colored monarchs and pasted them next to each other on a neutral, grey background. I divided the body of the monarch into separate sections and gave them all their own layer in my PSD-file. This way I could easily tweak the colors of a certain area of her body. Saves plenty of time. Picked my finalists and then rendered a full monarch. Color palette for the rest of the colony is now set! I’m bad at colors, so I keep a color wheel with me to see what colors match with each other.
9. Next up is the taskmaster. This pack member is next in command after the monarch. She keeps the other in line. I designed the tail to be her weapon. She gives a poisonous sting to the colony members that doesn’t obey orders. Her colors resembles the monarch to reflect they are partners on crime. Since her tail is an important asset it’s made in bright orange to draw attention.
10. The warrior. My warrior fights with her hands and is covered in spikes. I gave the claws a bright red color to highlight them as her most important visual focal point.
11. Fail! After some feedback I decided my old warrior was too plain looking. So I picked up some concepts I made at the beginning of the design process and re-worked them again. This time my warrior blocks the entrance to the colony with her spiky body, waving her tail. The only thing the invader gets is a face full of pain. I made the warrior sand/dirt colored to reflect the fact my lizards live on the beach.
12. Working trough each member of my colony, exploring the color. This time I tried to speed up the process by not only giving each part of the body it’s own layer in PS, but to use masks to paint faster. Details are secondary here, I just want to get a grip on the scout’s coloring. I made the scouts eyes big to match the fact it scouts with its vision from up in the air.
This is how far I’ve got in one week. There’s still plenty of work left. I need to nail the coloring and design details of another five lizards, as well as think of a nice way to present them in my final composition. Not sure if I’m gonna render a cool looking version of them next to each other on a blank image, or put them together in a scene where they all perform their duties. The second option requires a lot of job, and I’m not very experienced with creature design. If I have the time I would go for it, since I guess I will learn tons from it. I already learned so much! I’m not expecting to win this event since the other artists are super talented and their rendering blows me out of the water, but it feels really, really good to work with something like this. It feels like I push myself in a totally new way, with deadlines and feedback < 3
My sketchbook at ConceptArt.org