I have spent endless hours just letting my mind wander while drawing. Nothing really in my head before I started. Just raw imagination. This page is from one of these frequent nights of exploration.
Concept Art - Creature Sketches
Creating these concept art creature sketches is sometimes very rewarding. This page from my sketchbook is one of my favorites. One of those rare times when several of the characters portrayed are interesting and worth expanding upon. For whatever reason things were clicking well the night I created these characters. I really wish I could capture that capacity and unleash it at will. But creating interesting concept art is… well an art, not a science.
Two of the characters I really enjoy. The guy top left with the feather head-dress and the one middle right. I feel that they might be characters who I could build a story around.
I am coming to the end of my use of the samurai sketch sessions. I have learned from them what I hoped for and I am finding little challenge in the efforts. This is good, it means I can move on to the next challenge, which I have already set for myself. I am going to start creating locations, landscapes, props and machines without reference. Time to move from the abstract soft to the imagine hard.
Concept Art as a Career
As a child I was enthralled by the original Star Wars trilogy. Watching the movies over and over, and the making of videos. I have probably seen every single making of, behind the scenes video for every sci-fi motion picture of note. Oh and the books, so many books. All of this lead me to believe that the ultimate career is to create concept art professionally, to be a concept artist.
For whatever reason, this has been pushed into my brain as a dream that is unattainable. By the time I was in Junior High School I was no longer thinking of concept art as a career, but instead was looking to become an architect. Oddly this path, becoming an architect, is a great one for the aspiring concept artist. You learn great design, technique, the ideation process. You become an expert in design, flow and color. Thankfully my time at university in the architecture program also taught me some of the tools of the trade, such as Maya.
My Path to Concept Art
By the time I graduated university I had moved majors to Fine Arts and had 4 years professional experience in graphic design. Graduating from university in the late nineties with a Fine Arts degree lead you down one of two paths, web design or flipping burgers ;-) I chose the one with a dental plan. Right in the middle of the dot com storm I jumped into the maelstrom. Concept Art would be a hobby at best.
After graduating my wife and I moved to Portland, our home town, both growing up here. My long held belief that Portland was a artist wasteland, was not diminished by going down the technical career path. over time I moved further away from design and more towards the tech. By 2002 I was a full on back-end programmer. In 2004, one morning I woke up, looked at myself in the mirror and could not determine how I arrived at the place I then was. How does someone with a Fine Arts degree in digital imaging end up a programmer working on huge government systems?
It is often odd how opportunity comes at the seemingly darkest hour. My employer was doing a lay-off and I was one of the lucky ones (Getting the pink slip). It was time to re-evaluate my career path.
I landed a new job doing multimedia for a start-up of sorts. They were looking for a designer who could code. they knew I could do the tech thing from my resume, it was the design side they were unsure of. So they gave me a test, creating a shot animation. I knocked it out of the park and got the job. This new direction cost me quite a bit, the new role paid half what the prior one had, but it was fun and worth the price.
My friends are great, and being the people they are I was introduced to the fabulous Lee Moyer. Lee is a great illustrator, painter and artist. He is also the most well connected artist I have ever met and the founder of the Illustrators Open. Growing up in a town gives you certain preconceived notions of your city. In mine Portland was a artist's wasteland. When I had left for university there were no major studios, no comic industry giants, no major ad agencies and Nike had not become the dominant brand it is today. By the time I graduated and came home, all of those things were here, but I did not see it. Lee opened my eyes to what my hometown had become.
Doing Multimedia was fun, and gave me a broad range of experience. I was doing web design, graphic design, 3d modeling, animation, medical illustration, interface design and game development. Over time the company grew and changed, and the wide freedoms I had enjoyed narrowed as more people were added and the overall need expanded. Every good thing must come to and end and it was time for me to move on.
I went back to my roots, starting a company and running it. I also started making a deliberate effort to make myself a better artist, and that is how I get to today.
Concept Art, My Future
Every night that I can, I sketch. I try to only work on things I find myself struggling with. Most of these creature sketches have been done because I was not good at drawing anything without reference and I like drawing creatures. Having done medical illustration for 4 years, I am tired of drawing things inside out. This page represents the last, for a while at least, of creatures. There is more to concept art than creatures. Next up, environments, with character design to follow.
I am not worried about landing concept art work today, if I can, I will be excited and throw every bit of my being into it,. However I am concerned with improving my craft and abilities. For most of my life art, drawing and design was the province of raw talent, not of practice and work. I look at the wider world and see that I am not the best, not even in the top 1000, maybe not the top 100,000 artists… it is time to get to work.
Concept Art resources:
I will some day create concept art as a profession.