Monthly Archives: October 2014
I took advantage of recent presentations in Creative Research to get some more Live Drawing done. Drawing those people presenting was a good experience as they were animated enough to have interesting poses but not so much that they were too quick to draw. It was also nice to have time limits on each person, as presentations were variation of the Pecha Kucha format and limited to 10x 20 second slides.
My plan for this task was simple: DRAW DRAW DRAW. I wanted to get at least one sketch of each presenter, although I would also wait for interesting poses to arise and so sometimes missed people. Sitting at the back of the room gave me a good view and meant I could more easily view the whole person, but many stood behind a desk and so all I could see was the head and shoulders. When this happened I would focus on an audience member.
I started in pencil whilst I loosened up but then switched to pen as a more permanent mark left me motivated to make less mistakes and consider my strokes. I feel this worked out well and you can see more confidence and clarity in my sketches below. With the messiness of my pencil work however I did make some quite nice angular/abstract figures which I may look into in the future.
My focus on realism is something I need to work on. This task highlighted that I often get too caught up in details and thus lose the pose and figure as they move around. Towards the end of the presentations I began to force myself away from this nitpicking and focused more on the general shapes and structures present in the subjects. Whilst more cartoony I feel it captures more of each persons personality/character, especially in areas which have been exaggerated (not always intentionally, but always with effect).
When people eventually strayed from the obstructing desk I was able to get full body poses and this is something I would like to practice more as I sometimes struggle with weight/anatomy. In future I plan to make this a point of focus alongside wandering away from detail and realism, as these practices resulted in the best works in my eyes.
I plan to make this a regular task for the remaining presentations throughout the year.
So with my idea of how the final style would look firmly in place I set about one final media test to see how it would look. To save time I chose to redraw Dark Jak as my subject (although I did this only using references so as to better understand the shapes). I began my work in grey scale, using the techniques implemented by Dota 2 to create a gradient value up the character and use greater contrast near the upper areas to draw the eye. Next I quickly shaded the character in (still working in greyscale) to see the full range of tone that would be needed and adjust areas as needed to prevent any areas of unwanted contrast, or areas where the character blended into the background. This then allowed me to create my full range of colours, which was based primarily around the 3 most prominent colours on the character. The vibrancy/saturation of these colours was heavily influenced by Ashley Wood, with all but one spot colour (red) being washed out a bit. With my colour and tonal references ready I began work on the final render, using the brushes I had used in my previous Ashley Wood test to attempt to recreate his traditional brush work. Its not exact but its enough to make the final piece more dynamic and unique, and I think it works quite well with Rafei’s strong shapes and silhouette. I also made sure to desaturated the image every now and then to check the tones and fix any mistakes.
I am very pleased with this final result. The strong shapes, spot colour, and shadows work well to create a dynamic and eye-catching character. At the same time the desaturated tones make sure the image isn’t an eyesore or too distracting.
So after a bit of encouragement I went back to earlier attempt at converting an Ashley Wood character into the Dota 2 style. I didn’t attempt the colour scheme (mostly because this piece is annoying me and the more I spend on it the worse I make it) but I did practice the values techniques I mentioned before. As a reminder here is the Ashley Wood character:
And here is my second attempt:
I approached this new piece keeping in mind the philosophy of using value and detail to draw the eye to the top of the character. Focusing on the values aspect first, I desaturated the original attempt to find my highest and lowest values. This is where I found my first problem.
In my first attempt the overall value range was very narrow, and so I found that the character was actually very dull and close to monotone. Thus I expanded my value range to points which I though suitable and created a little gradient chart for reference.
This worked very well for me as, even as I loosely blocked in the character using the increased value range I found the silhouette becoming much more dynamic and appealing. The reference chart was also very useful for keeping in my boundaries and for finding and comparing new shades (using the colour picker).
One part of the design I struggled with was the armour. Partly because I struggle with drawing armour, but mostly because it was all one colour which made it hard to create a contrast between the upper and lower body as Dota suggests. I will bear this in mind when designing characters in the future and be sure to incorporate more complicated and visually interesting clothing/armour.
I am glad I did this task as it has allowed me to greater understand some of the techniques I though I knew Dota used. Also the comparison to my previous attempt from before I knew these techniques meant that I could more obviously see where I was going wrong and how to correct myself. In the future I will need to think more about how values are placed on the character and how they direct the eye. Contrasting these values is also important, and it is vital to have a range of different areas across the character (something this example sadly lacks) to create visual interest and diversity. Knowing all this I feel much more confidant in my future work now.
So I might have completely forgotten that I had to post this. My self evaluation have been a bit all over the place in the past and so I’ve written this as a template to follow in the future. I’m not sure if that’s how it was to be presented but I cant think of any other way of doing it that isn’t overly complicated.
1. What wast the task and goal?
- A brief description of the task at hand
- Any limitations in place such as time
- Only those placed upon me
- Not including a lack of any resource on my part
2. How did I plan to accomplish the goal?
- Briefly describe how I planned to finish the task
- How I began my approach
- Where I planned it to take me
3. Did the approach achieve the desired effects?
- What parts of the plan did work?
- How well did they work?
- What parts of the plan did not work?
- Why did they not work
4. How can I improve?
- What other approaches can be taken?
- What can be done instead of the practices that did not work?
5. How do I feel about the task now it is completed?
- Not the end result but the task itself.
- Do I feel I have learned anything?
- If so what?
[[This template should be accompanied by images of the work as well as images which have been drawn over and annotated to highlight areas which worked or did not.]]
Basically, I see self evaluation as a series of questions which can be grouped into several main questions to be answered. Each of these should have an amount written on it depending on its importance. For instance questions 1 and 2 can be brief paragraphs, whereas questions 3 and 4 should make up the main body of the evaluation.
This should help me to understand my work better and also make further self evaluations more uniform to read.
Following on from my earlier brainstorming, ice is to be the theme for my Antagonist. However in similar fashion to my Protagonist I am thinking more of the concept of ice (the cold, the arctic, tundras, etc.). It would be easy to create an ice monster and be done with it but also a bit dull. Most of my research focused on Inuit/Eskimo culture, but again I broadened mys search into fantasy. There wasn’t as much to go on for ice themes however so I found myself looking a lot more into the environment too and how that might effect a character.
I am particularly interested in adding polar bears to the design in some fashion to make my Antagonist large and brutish, but I also want to stay away from Ice Monsters, Yeti’s, and Frost Giants. Furthermore, as I mused on the idea of arcane technology being incorporated I began to think down the lines of a Mr Freeze type character who uses tech to spread winter (thus making him the perfect villain for a hot environment). In particular the idea of frost-gauntlets took my fancy, but I intend to remain open in this design aspect (preferably I would avoid guns though).
So as I mentioned previously I want to theme my Protagonist around fire. I decided however that I want them to be more about the concept of fire rather than the literal element. With that in mind I began compiling images related to the ideas of fire and heat, both from fantasy/sci-fi and from the real world. I was really interested in taking inspiration from the tribes found in central Africa and maybe combining them with something they are not usually compared to, such as blacksmithing or dragons. In the end I refined my idea down to the idea of tribes loosely based off of the Maasai or perhaps Dothraki (Game of Thrones) who roam an arid desert landscape inhabited by drakes, dragons and salamanders. The thought also occurred (after thinking about my Antagonist) to wield fire/heat as some sort of weapon, like a blade that glows hot, or a brazier mace for instance. This came about because I am still thinking about the idea of arcane technology being used in the world.
Having researched and analysed each of the main sources of inspiration, as well as some of their off-shoots, I think I am at good point to start making decisions on how my inspiration will take shape and form its own style.
From Bob Rafei’s work I especially like his silhouetting and the exaggeration he puts into the shape of his characters (seen most obviously in the shoulder to waist ratio). However I am not overly fond of how his characters look when finally rendered, particularly the heavy line work present on them. Thus I have decided that Bob Rafei’s work will mostly influence the silhouettes and shapes of my characters, but not much else.
Dota 2 has a very nice style overall, but given that I must combine it with the other inspirations I must narrow down its influence (also plagiarism is a big no no). Given that silhouetting will be heavily influenced by Rafei’s work I have decided to let Dota be the main influence for my application of colour. I will pay particular attention to the techniques mentioned in my previous post (Understanding Dota 2) and how they direct the players attention.
Being the wild card of the inspirations I spent a long time thinking about what I would take from Ashley Wood’s work, as there were so many possibilities but I didn’t want it to overshadow the other inspirations. In the end I decided that Wood’s work will be used alongside Dota to influence the colour schemes. In particular, his exaggerated use of contrasting vibrancy with desaturation/monotones to really catch the eye and make the character more dynamic.
While this is my main plan for generating a new style, I will be allowing for the inspirations to flow and overlap so that the designs can evolve and adapt and become their own style rather than imitations. I will have to be careful with this however as too much overlap could result in an ugly, mutated mess of stitched together designs.
So after my attempt at understanding Dota 2’s style through practice, I gave myself time to rest and instead sought to understand it through research. I found the Art Guide released by Valve for public viewing and read through it in the hopes that it would enlighten me to the finer aspects of Dota’s designs. Here is what I found to be of particular importance and interest. (Apart from the colour mixing sheet, all images are pulled directly from the document without alteration).
Use of Value
Dota makes clever use of values to ensure the important parts of their characters draw the player’s attention. Given that it is a top down game, this means they emphasise focus to be on the upper areas of characters, but I feel that this is good practice for an character design as the lower part of a character generally has little need for interest.
As you can see they create a gradient on the character, with darker shades focusing towards the feet and lighter shades towards the head and shoulders. This draws our eye up to the head/torso of the character.
Use of Detail
Another important design point for video game characters which Dota highlights is use of detail. Too much detail on a character will just become distracting noise (especially in game) whereas too little detail renders a character bland and boring. Dota balances this by placing large areas of minor details alongside the areas containing a lot. Again values come into this as creating details using values close to that of the surface they are on mean that they can be moderately complex whilst remaining undistracting.
Another point is that the balance of complex to simple is executed in the same way as the balance in values. Areas of complex detail often focus on the upper areas of the character, whilst the lower areas are left looking plainer. This is even implemented in character’s items.
Use of Colour
The final important aspect to Dota Design is colour schemes. Dota uses techniques similar to Ashley Wood, but on a less exaggerated scale, in order to draw player focus towards the top of characters. They use colours with little saturation all over, but especially in the lower parts of the body. Also small areas are given higher levels of saturation to draw the eye while not overwhelming it.
Dota also makes use of a wide variety of colour techniques (as shown below), generally limiting character palettes to a maximum of three colours and then mixing these to create additional colours for the smaller areas. This works to create a unified colour scheme while maintaining areas of contrast.
Below is an example of how the main colours are desaturated and mixed, and how it differs for the spot colours. I have added my own diagrams for further explanation, showing the general curve of these colours in the colour picker.
Dota makes use of a range of techniques (primarily focusing on colour and values) to draw player focus to the upper areas of its characters. Being a top down game this is especially important, however it is good practice for any character design as it is unlikely that designers or players will want to focus on the characters feet.
So my final attempt at style analysis was to take Ashley Wood’s work and recreate it in the style of Dota 2. I decided to steer away from his work on Spawn as I am becoming too familiar with that and instead looked at another piece of his which caught my eye. It turns out this is actually for the Metal Gear franchise, but given that I am not familiar with the franchise I felt it safe to use for my analysis. The character is a bit too sci-fi for traditional Dota too, but I felt this would allow me to greater appreciate the style and techniques.
I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this piece. I did not enjoy creating it which resulted in me rushing myself so it’s not perfect. As you can see, I took some liberties in the final design due to the roughness of the original piece and how it missed out details. I also tried to add a bit more colour to make it more Dota-esque, while keeping with the original palette.
One thing that I learned to appreciate about the Dota art style is that, while all their characters are muscular, only those that are characterised by brute strength make use of wide and intimidating silhouettes. Those that rely more on speed or intellect have slimmer silhouettes and also have longer proportioned legs, which helps to connote their agile nature. I tried to make use of this in my creation above, however I feel the legs may be too buff and look out of place.
In the end, I don’t think I was in the right frame of mind when creating this piece of work to fully appreciate the style and techniques implemented into Dota’s characters. However, it came to my attention that Valve have released a PDF Visual Style Guide detailing much of what goes into their design process. I plan to read this tomorrow when I am refreshed and I hope that, combined with what vague ideas I had during this tasked, I will have a better understanding of Dota’s art style.
So I was not at all pleased with my previous attempt at combining Bob Rafei and Ashley Wood’s art style together, it was just awful and so much went wrong. So I took a break, went and looked at various tutorials on creating traditional-looking photoshop paintings and got some new brushes, and I sat down and tried again.
So I approached this style differently from the last time and from what I had orginally planned. Rather than start in greyscale and add the colours after I picked the general colours used in Jak to block in all the individual areas (the background was just general colours based off of Wood’s works). Then I decided what my spot colour would be (red) and desaturated the other colours a bit to pull the vibrancy of them. At the same time, I upped the vibrancy of the red to maximum.
When it came to shading I took my new (amazing) brushes designed to imitate oil painting and picked shades sticking mostly to the left hand side of the colour picker (although avoiding going fully grey) for the less saturated colours. I also pushed some of the browns from the background into certain areas to add a little bit more warmth to the character (especially the gun) whilst keeping the vibrancy low). For my spot colour I hugged the right hand side to really make the areas stand out and attract the viewers eye.
While the final piece is not an exact mirror of Ashley Wood’s brush techniques, I am still very pleased with it and believe it will play a part in my final style. Furthermore, his use of colour is a definite must for me as it creates a very unique and eye catching style. I will not however, be using his character silhouette/design as inspiration as I need to take more fro Bob Rafei and Dota 2.