Saturday, June 22, 2013

Seeing the big picture.

    This past month I've been receiving many offers for concept positions.  The only issue with this is that they are looking for characters, and not environments.  Many prospective employers look at my environmental work, complement me on it, then ask me if I can do characters.
    I was never really into designing characters, and I intentionally stayed away from designing characters, because when somebody sees a human figure it doesn't  take much effort to notice when things aren't quite right about them.  This was a fear I had, until recently.  For people that are asking why I don't just fix those simple LOOKING mistakes, my answer is that I personally don't see the mistakes I make, usually.  Recently I've been flipping the canvas to help mitigate the issues, but this doesn't always fix everything.
    The first potential employer was looking for comic book art.  He had an awesome back-story as well as an entire universe set up, but he just needed an artist to make his comic book a reality.  When he asked if I could do characters for him, I told him yes.  Was I lying when I told him that?  Not entirely.  I've recently taken into consideration that once you understand the fundamentals of anything, you can accomplish that particular anything.  How long it takes to really learn and apply those fundamentals, depends on what you are trying to learn.  If it's something physical, like learning to properly throw a baseball , it may take anywhere from a few weeks to months.  For character concepts, I researched the fundamentals of designing a character from scratch.  What are the fundamentals of character designs?  Here is the route I took:
    1.  Learn the proportions of the human figure.  Ex.   How many heads tall and wide are major masses of the body?
    2.  Learn the individual muscle structure, however it also helps to know the bones beneath as well.  An awesome resource for this:
    3.  Come up with a formula for figuring out the human figure so that you can take this formula, use it,  and become quicker every time you apply it.  These tutorials have a formula:
    4.  Gestural drawing is KEY to understanding the physiology of the body.   This is where you define overlapping lines and truly understand how the body works.  Here is an amazing website made just for this:
    5.  Every body part deserves studies, but the head has taken up most of my time.

After applying these principals, I have noticed that indeed, I can concept out characters that aren't stiff and boring and almost look correct.  After applying a few of these fundamentals for a couple of days I came out with characters along the lines of this:
    You can probably point out flaws of the character concepts right off the bat.  For me, it's a bit harder since I've stared at the damn things for so long that there was a point that I stopped seeing the flaws in them.  I did notice that I was being a lazy designer though.  You can tell that not much thought was put into the actual design of any of the characters except the dude on the left.  Although, I had fun coming up with his wardrobe.  The other characters are bland, I mean, the laziness shouts at me.  They were also a clear indication that I've been watching too much anime.  Instead of turning this in, I decided I needed another couple of days working on the fundamentals, so in the end I came up with this:
    Am I happy with this piece?  At the time I was.  I had already noticed improvements from after just a couple more days of practicing the fundamentals.  The fellow on the right is in more of a dynamic pose, which makes me feel like the character has meaning now.  The lady is also showing a bit more personality herself and not stiff like a board.  The neanderthal in the middle though, he stayed the same.  I spent enough time on him the first time that I felt he was ok.
    This is what I ended up turning in to the employer.  I know I had done my best, and that even though that's the case, I knew it wasn't good enough.  Am I down about it?  The money would have been nice, but I also realized that the piece wasn't a complete failure.  It helped show me that I have the potential to learn the trade, if I keep applying myself to use the fundamental listed above.


    After failing with this employer, another contacted me a week later, and again he wanted character concepts.  Except he wanted pixel art...  I said SURE.  I ended up giving birth to this weird creature:

    This brings me to my next point, and that's that I can apply these fundamentals to any medium I want now.    This particular job would have brought in a good cash flow for me.  I was projected to make around 1500 in a months work, which would have been awesome for me.  In the end I wrote an email to the company asking if they could detail why I didn't make the roster.  Was my art not at the quality they were looking for?  Was my asking price too high?  Their response was actually better than I expected.  My art was up to par with what they were looking for, and even my asking price was good.  In the end it came down to the artist who was able to represent their vision of the games style the best.  They said that I had made it to the final 3, out of 15 they had contacted.  This bit of information gave me more hope, that I can succeed in this industry, I just have to keep working hard at it.
    The last job opportunity I received was only a couple of days ago, and so far I'm in the green.  They came at me wanting something realistic looking, which I haven't exactly attempted yet.  They asked me to recreate  Joel from "The Last Of Us". Although I altered him a bit here and there, I was happy with the results:
    Although I had Joel as a reference photo, I still managed to mess some of the details up such as the hair is actually darker, and his eyes are more brown.  Easy fixes...  After completing this piece, I blew my own mind.  I didn't realize I had the potential to reach such a quality.  Even though it's only the head of Joel, I was able to again realize that I am indeed learning and not spinning my wheels.  Here is my latest, original piece a day later(Although I kept the same lighting sources):  

    I hope there was at least some helpful information to anybody doubting themselves and struggling with similar things that I am.  Just keep pushing and remember to not stop practicing on your fundamentals.  

Helpful links in the article:
Gesture Drawing: