Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Aviatrix Study

One of the great things about working at Weta Workshop is the chance to go to amazing Conventions and then hang out and site see afterwards. 

New York really lived up to its reputation and after a trip to the Met and the Society of Illustrators I got home all inspired to do more traditional painting. So here goes a quick study in quick drying oils, approx 5 x 6 inches on board. Quite the learning curve as you see from the GIF, I started in acrylics but then changed to oils....








Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Smaug : Unleashing the Dragon

So my friend and fellow Weta Workshop designer  Daniel Falconer has just released the next Hobbit Chronicle about a wee dragon named Smaug. Its an awesome book that showcases all the countless people's hard work in bringing the most iconic dragon ever to life!

Here are a few sneak peeks of some of my Smaug concepts as well. Most of these were inspired by the idea of a more wyrm like body - not unlike the more sinuous sketch Tolkien drew. For us this direction was interesting as it departed away from the many dragons we had seen previously in other films. Like all concept design the main purpose in an initial round like this is to offer plenty of options and variety of approach.









Monday, March 24, 2014

Concept Art and Concept Design

Typically, I am working full-time at Weta Workshp, and in the course of my job (and running my own workshops), I end up reviewing a mountain of student concept design portfolios. Over the last few years I have noticed a lot of portfolios are filled more with concept art rather than concept design and for me that raises a rather good question: is there a difference between the two?

Of course, for many people, there is no difference between concept art and design, they are interchangeable terms. And that’s cool. If you were embarking on a portfolio for concept design, however, it might be worth thinking of them in a different light. I love concept art, I have folders upon folders of it. But I define it very specifically as a visual exploration of an idea where the concept starts and finishes with the artwork. The artwork is the outcome. 

Concept design is about exploring ideas visually through a design process to a brief. If successful, the outcome continues past the design or art phase and into production. A piece of concept art might explore what an armoured character looks like, but concept design would be focused not just on what they look like but also the required outcome for the armour.  For example, for a live action film, a piece of armour would need to be functional and further designs would be required to resolve details and cross sections to enable someone to build it accurately. As a newbie, my earliest armour designs featured big, wide breast plates, because it looked more powerful. But in the proto-typing phase, the actor could not close their arms to hold a weapon two handed. It looked great on paper, but all that power the design suggested was lost when the actor couldn’t act in it.  It was embarrassing, but you learn from your mistakes and the process. So with the process in mind I thought it might be helpful to run through a typical example of how to step beyond the art and into design.

Orcrist - Sword of Gondolin
Research: 
It’s hard to generate ideas for a brief without learning about the design subject matter and that’s where research comes in handy - especially when you are dealing with a property as beloved as The Hobbit.
I always start with the descriptions from the book.

“Two caught their eyes particularly, because of their beautiful scabbards and jewelled hilts.”

“These are not troll-make. They are old swords, very old swords of the High Elves of the West, my kin. They were made in Gondolin for the Goblin-wars...This Thorin, the ruins name Orcrist, the Goblin-cleaver”

“...but the goblins called it simply Biter.”

 I also draw upon my own experience as well. If you are designing weapons its useful to know how they work in the real world. I joined a medieval martial arts class for a couple of years and came to appreciate how heavy armour was and how important blade balance and shape can dictate fighting style and energy conservation. 

Mood Boards:
 I went beyond just Tolkien’s books and looked at weapons from the cultures he was inspired by and the previous LOTR movies.  I pile all my notes and reference images into ideally a single page so I can reference it at a glance on my second monitor. If your reference is not available at a glance you tend not to use it or waste a lot of time rummaging to find it.

Shape Language:
You can explore a lot of ideas just in silhouette studies and its amazing how a silhouette can also convey culture. For example organic forms for elven, geometric for dwarves or spiky for Orcs.




Options and Variations
The most common line from a client in concept design is “give me something I have never seen before”.
You don’t get to that place without working up plenty of options. Options need to be different approaches to the brief rather than just working up variations around one idea. Both myself and Daniel Falconer wanted to offer options that related to the previously existing  Gondolin Swords. We also had to take into consideration the end outcome that Orcrist is an elvish weapon that would be used by a bulky, squat  Dwarf who in wide shots shrinks down when standing next to a human.  It was for that reason I played off  the heavier blade shape of Sting and the idea of more of a “cleaver” blade. Otherwise the sword in Thorin’s hands looks less imposing and when Elrond handles the blade in the film it would look like he was handling a letter opener.

For my options I tried all manner blade shapes and materials and finally tried a more wild card idea based around the description of “biter” where I offered up an ivory handle, perhaps a dragons tooth (which, given the dragon-themed story, had a nice sense of symmetry). Peter loved the idea , possibly because it was so different to any other Elven swords we had seen before and, after looking at some historical ivory handles and a t-rex tooth, I worked up the preliminary designs. 



Prototyping: 
I made cardboard cutouts to explore size and function along with wooden versions that we sparred with. When it came to the scabbard I made no designs at all until I had a functional cardboard mock up that I could use as a starting point. The scabbard design was inspired in part from other designs John Howe and Alan Lee were creating for the elves. As you are part of a larger team you want to approach culture design holistically and sharing ideas and design aesthetics is important.



Detailing
Good design is in the broad strokes, great design is in the details. I still wanted to get more of the original description from the book into the piece. My research lead me to the likelihood that Ethalion of the Fountain  was the original owner of Orcrist. I designed a pommel detail that was his coat of arms, using diamonds to describe the fountain water. 

Production
No matter how good your design, an amazing artisan can always improve it.  Our master sword maker Peter Lyon carefully captured all of my work and then, with his expertise, excelled beyond it. Its a great moment when after spending weeks on a design you get to handle  something that had previously just existed in your imagination. I just wish I had a spare $10,000 to buy the Weta Collectible.....



If you want to see a whole book full of design process from the Hobbit,  check out the awesome Hobbit Chronicles my friend and fellow designer Daniel Falconer has put together.  I will also be at Spectrum Fantastic Art Live again this year so please drop by the White Cloud Worlds booth and bring your portfolio if you would like some feedback. I am also running a TLC Workshop in Seattle in May 16-18 with fellow Weta Workshop Designer Nick Keller. 

If you made it this far thanks for reading :)


PS. All images copyright of Weta Workshop, Wingnut Films and Warner Bros.

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Medallion of Auratus

My friend Carolyn Enting has just published her first children's fantasy book today on Amazon.

Its an an epic story that sees main character Sam and his best friend Jackson Brown swept up in an adventure after discovering a magical gold medallion on the beach. Not only did I have the fun of reading the drafts over the years but I also got to do my first children's book cover :)





Saturday, March 1, 2014

TLC Workshop and ArtStation Magazine Interview

Just a reminder that myself and fellow Weta Workshop Designer Nick Keller will be heading over to Seattle in May for a  TLC Workshop on Concept Design.

Also this week Jim Thacker at the ArtStation Magazine ran a short interview of yours truly.



Monday, February 17, 2014

Heroes and Villians

Over the years I have worked on a couple of superhero films that failed to make it to the big screen for one reason or another. I did however do some covers for Beyond Reality Media's Warden graphic novels. The characters of Warden and Doctor Merciless had already been established so it was more a case of applying my style and some refinements to the design. I have to admit the Warden cover was a lot of trial and error but I got there in the end.




Art from the comic

Friday, February 7, 2014

All things Spectrum!

Last year I had the honour of getting into Spectrum 20 with my Rivendell painting commissioned by the Weta Cave. Having collected the Spectrum Art books for years it was a real career high to get selected :)

Unfortunately I missed the entries for Spectrum 21 which just closed, but I will be hitting the Yellow Brick Road to Kansas for my favourite Art Convention - Spectrum Fantastic Art Live!

Like the books Arnie and Cathy Fenner (and their amazing team) have created a show where the very best fantastic artists hangout for three glorious days of art indulgence, award nights, art workshops, panels, portfolio reviews and late late nights swapping tall stories at the Aladdin Hotel bar!

As much as I love the spectacle of San Diego Comic Con, Spectrum is where the heart is. I was amazed by how relaxed and friendly everyone was. There are no long ques, its easy to just rock up to your favourite artist and have a chat and its very genuine. So if your creative batteries are running a bit low or you want to be inspired to a new level make your way to Kansas this year and drop by the White Cloud Worlds booth!



You can buy the Rivendell print from the Weta Cave here :)


2012 was the first show and White Clouds was there sharing a booth with Team Red Star.

An international shot 2013: Two of my favourite artists Paul Bonner (an Englishman from Denmark)  Jean-Baptiste Monge (a frenchman from Canada) signing up a storm. 

The LoveCrafty Travis Lewis who tends to help with the aforementioned drinking at the Aladdin.


Kiwis from all over: Me and Nick from Wellington, Stefan from Dubai and Rebecca from Melbourne joined by the amazing Fenners!! 

Perhaps one of the most dangerous things with going to this show...buying original art. This one is now hanging in the lounge courtesy of Justin Sweet.