Away From Home

It’s the weekend! And I’m in Wales! I see no sheep yet! Will post updates!

My mum is doing a course here in Newport (not Cardiff like I thought), and so I’m just hanging out in the hotel breakfast room and doing some worky stuff so I don’t feel bad. It smells distinctly of burning toast here.

I thought before I settle into some 3dsMax modelling work, I’d just sum up my week and talk about what I’ll be doing next.

At the start of the week I chose 3 briefs from the provided list that I could see myself working on. I’m keeping this list open to change depending on how I feel as the projects progress, but for now my favourites are;

-Stylised shop (2D/3D stylised); Concept and model an interesting shop front.

– Isometric environment (2D stylised); Concept at least 6 stylised isometric environment tiles that are all part of the same universe and sit nicely together. Can optionally visualise in 3D.

-Epic city (2D semi stylised); Concept 4 epically scaled cities, including 3 different views of each city, rougher sketches, residents, and hero buildings.

This list is looking pretty 2D heavy. As I’m still not sure whether I want to choose a 2D or 3D route for my career I’ve chosen a 2D/3D combination project to get started; the stylised shop. I think I’ll then make up my mind whether I’ll choose a more 2D or 3D heavy project afterwards depending on what I enjoyed most. Currently my thoughts are that a 3D project where you have to model off an existing concept is pretty soul destroying to me, and doing an exclusively 2D project may make me cry from pure stress and frustration. But hey! It’s all fun and games. I like doing both elements, but I’m happy to try specialising for the short 3 week project blocks and see how I handle doing just one or the other.

1- Sketching 2- Sketching

Don’t worry, I haven’t cheated and just carried over my concept from my stylised shop project that I started the other week. I’ve started fresh, and now I’ll show you how I went about concepting from the very beginning. Because a large portion of the marking criteria (20%) is about idea generation and communication, I’ve spent longer than I would normally on the concepting side of things. I’ve begun to feel a bit worried about whether 10 days is enough time in my schedule to model everything, but I think that extra day I’ve given myself to concept is essential because I can really solidify my idea and avoid confusion later in the pipeline when it comes to material properties and fine details. Last year I would completely blaze through the concepting process, make maybe 15 variations, not think much about the final product, and get on with the modelling only to stall when I realised I didn’t really know what I was making.

Up above you can see my starting scribbles. I got next to nothing done on the first day because I was feeling very blocked and under pressure to create a masterpiece. After a some (literal) crying at Photoshop for running slow, and wondering what on earth I was going to make, I ended up being forced to calm down and take a step back. I cried to the IT technician (sorry Craig!) and whined to the course leader (sorry Mike!) and eventually sat down and went from the very beginning. I scrapped all my botched attempts at shitting a diamond and went to basics; paper! I set myself a loose starting point, which I have now moved far far away from but it really helped me to imagine that I was creating a worship supplies shop near to a temple in a forest at first.

3- Developing

I chose 4 ideas that I liked, and went from left to right remixing and changing the ideas until some of them were unrecognisable.

4- Further Developing

Then I went again! I wanted to generate as many variations as possible so I could have elements to choose from for my final design.

5- Final Development B&W

I chose 3 ideas I liked, and then narrowed it down to a final one. This is obviously a really rough scribble but it was something I could make colour roughs out of, and think about refining it later once I had decided on what sort of materials and colour the final design would be.

6- Colour Roughs

7- Quick Colour Development

Once again, made a load of variations and then narrowed down to two, then just tried to refine those a little. At this point I was lost and confused and this definitely was NOT an apothecary/herbalist/worship supply/hippy whatever the hell I was thinking shop. I spoke to my air support (Jonah) and he was feeling a blacksmith’s shop.

Yes! How did I not see it before? The chimney-like formation on top was definitely not making sense. But if it was a blacksmith’s..? Of course! I changed my direction immediately.

I made a few changes to the colour palette and such, so that the colours had completely diverged from my original path. I think it’s really interesting how my design has changed with feedback and my changes of mind. Usually I would panic if I started to go off the beaten track with my concepts; I’ve jumped from apothecary to herbalist to worship supply shop to souvenir shop to blacksmith, and my colour palette and everything else has followed. But I think this is the most organic and beneficial way I’ve ever worked, and I feel like my design is improving a lot from this treatment. I’m including elements I would never have considered if I’d stayed rigid to my original shop idea, concept and colours.

By Friday I was feeling both positive and a little nervous about where my design was going. Basically at this point I was sporting a cutesy unfinished ‘blacksmith’ concept that had pretty pink curtains and was definitely nothing like your grimy neighbourhood Skyrim smith. Fortunately, Friday is scheduled tutor meeting time! Hooray! I spoke to Mike Kelly, a tutor on the course who used to work at Codemasters (I think). Anyway, he gave me a paintover and we talked about where I was at;

9- Progress at this point

So after all that I’ve finally reached the main reason I wrote this blog post. I just wanted to write about my feedback, jeez.

Like I said, I was feeling a little nervous about where my concept was going. I felt like it was a little unstable and people were going to look at it and go that’s a blacksmith? I still felt that I was going to stick to my guns on my cutesy design though. I want to make something that’s more original than your standard blacksmith. To start off, how often do you see a blacksmith based in an Asian-esque decorative building? How about one with pink curtains and a marble checkered floor? No? Green roof tiles? I didn’t think so! I hoped Mike would see potential and not push me to change too much.

And he did like it! Obviously he had advice about changes I could make, but he was optimistic about my unconventional approach to the building. My concept was just at the point where it wasn’t quite finished but I was running out of steam, so it was the perfect time to get an injection of inspiration and advice. He suggested that I;

-Make it more obviously a blacksmith.

-Add a focal point.

-Add some junk, make it lived in.

I’d like to say ‘yeah, I’d have totally done that. My concept’s not finished yet’, and I’d have probably added certain things like an anvil and junk to make it more… blacksmithy… but suggestions like ‘add some junk here to lead the eye into the piece and get rid of that harsh angle’ were things I wouldn’t have even thought about. It was really useful. He pointed out the empty space above the door and rightly said it was just too empty and needed something. I’d been noodling with that area and wasn’t sure what to do about it, but when he plonked a sketchy sign in there, it immediately made the place a blacksmith, took away the emptiness, and added a focal point to the building. Three birds with one stone!

8- Concept

Currently unfinished concept. Still needs a sign over the door, and just a bit more rendering and finish in general. I don’t want to go too overkill though; it’s a concept, not an illustration. Things like the rooftiles will probably remain unfinished (you get the idea what it is). I will also annotate the finished thing to really hammer home ideas about materials etc.

It’s Saturday today, so all this was only yesterday morning and then I spent the day travelling. This means I haven’t quite had chance to act on all this feedback and fully update my concept to a finished stage, but it’s a priority. My original plan had been to have a final concept by the end of Thursday, be away for Fri/Sat/Sun, and then model on Monday. This has changed because I didn’t get my concept finished on Thursday or even Friday morning. Luckily I’ve taken a laptop away with me, and I have enough time over the weekend to both finish my concept and start modelling a tiny bit. However it’s something I’ll bear in mind for my next project; pay attention to my schedule, concept faster, don’t let creative block get the better of me. Use paper to scribble ideas if Photoshop isn’t doing it for me!

Do something, just don’t waste time over thinking.

So. That’s what I learned this week.

8- Progress Image

Just showing how much my concept changed. The point at which I decided to make it a blacksmith is where the roof changes from clinical-esque blue to a more earthy green. I also played about with the platform because I didn’t want to create the stereotypical house-on-a-disk scene.

I guess I also learned that it’s ok to keep changing your idea until you’re completely happy, even if it means messing about loads with the final render of your concept. It’s not that my early concepts were completely useless, because I was constantly referring back to them for elements and colour schemes I liked. In the end all the work I did and advice I got was extremely useful and contributed to a better final concept.

Well, I’m done now. You may go about your day.

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