I always enjoy learning how other artists work and seeing how images come together. In that spirit I have taken to a habit of saving periodic work in progress shots of my own pieces as I spend time on them. Here’s a rundown on a piece of concept art relating to a more run down part of Martinaise.
(Absolutely masterful punwork there if I do say so myself.)
There’s a general back and forth over many quick and ugly thumbnails where we get a basic idea of what’s what with the writers. This is where most of the level design gets worked out. We talk through what the main plot points dictate for the area, we figure out pathways how the player should move through the location and make sure there’s elevation changes so the bare geometry of the area looks good and casts interesting shadows. The player is free to pan the camera around as they please but each location is designed with a certain composition in mind. There’s a an abstract shape to each area that subconsciously feeds into the atmosphere and how the player perceives a location. There’s an asymmetric balance to the region where the center of mass lies on the field amidst the huddle of houses with a protrusion leaping out. In artist-speak there’s “tension” in that.
I block the level with basic 3d shapes and we test it in engine to see how good the distances and sense of scale feel. From here it’s pretty useful to just screencap the block-in from the viewport, run a find edges filter on it in Photoshop and use that as the underlay on which to start drawing. The light grey lines up there are just that.
This is the “draw the rest of the fucking owl” step. Finishing up on the linework. When thinking about what exactly to draw and what reference material to gather I want to avoid generic finishing village photos lest it becomes another place you’ve already been. Instead I look for photos of old dachas. Point is that poor people live here, not ye old timey fisherman cosplayers.
Once the drawing is sufficiently far along I start blocking in the shapes with flat fill colors. As I go along I go back and draw some more bits and pieces here and there since I’m impatient like that. But the idea is to start getting some sense of what the scene might actually look like. For convenience I keep every shape on its own layer so I can search around for colours by just dragging the hue slider around on each individual shape and layer.
Another bonus to keeping stuff on seperate layers is I can lock the opacity for each of them which allows me to take a wild textured brush to the canvas without fear of ruining the edges. It’s a good technique in general for more illustrative pieces where the point is to convey practical information rather than to show off the brush stroke of a painting.
The shadows here come from the 3d block in I made earlier. I multiply it over the image and clean up where needed and add bits and pieces to the shadow layer where I’ve drawn new stuff not present in the block in. There’s a bit more to do but it’s mostly just detailwork and cleanup, it’s pretty much done by now.
And here’s the final piece: