Been doing a fair amount of client work this month actually, which is awesome. Here’s some personal stuff I can share.
I’ve been going through a bit of a “Dark Forest” vibe this last week or so, here are some of the images I’ve created :)
Nothing really to say, except here are a couple of spaceship images I worked on this week :)
So, for a little over a month, I’ve been working on an “urban fantasy” style story idea, where a boy gets into a fight with his stepdad in Toronto in 1990, goes out to a rave, and wakes up in a park in Vancouver in 2018….no memories of how, but now he can see fae beings living alongside the humans. Here is some of the work I’ve been doing :)
Whew! There’s a month’s worth of personal work on this project :) If you are interested in the stories behind these images, my Patreon (link on the top bar) is free to read, and has writeups for each individual painting. Thanks for following along!
Here’s the results of this week’s work, including a couple of things I did in the speed painting rounds for Aethercon :)
I’ve been doing a bit more freelance work the last couple of weeks, most of which I can’t share, and that has lowered my personal work output for a bit, but I’ve still managed to do some images, and here they are :)
Last weekend (Oct 12th-14th), I tabled in artist alley for FanExpo Vancouver, a yearly convention held downtown in the Vancouver Convention Center.
This year, the convention was held in the west building of the convention center, downstairs. It was the same location that Siggraph used in August, and where Wizards of the Coast holds the Vancouver Grand Prix Magic the Gathering event.
As convention centers go, it is functional, but plain. Unlike some cities I’ve been to events in, this space doesn’t have any food purchasing options inside the room, which is a little inconvenient if you just need a quick bite for lunch but don’t want to leave your table for a long time. Worse, there is no easy access to coffee! (Though there was a lemonade stand outside the entrance doors) Seemed like enough easy access bathrooms for that not to be a problem, and there is fairly easy load-in and out capabilities from the outside.
As another thing to be aware of, it is downstairs, underground. My girlfriend’s phone worked fine, but mine basically didn’t work for the entire con, and there was no free wi-fi. Something to keep in mind if you plan on using your LTE/4G for credit card processing!
FanExpo Vancouver 2018 was a 3-day con, starting at 2:00pm on Friday for VIP badge holders and then opening up to everyone at 4:00pm, and staying open until 9:00pm that night. Saturday and Sunday started at 9:30am for VIP, 10:00am for regulars, and then went until 7:00pm and 5:00pm respectively. Friday was a LONG day, as I worked a half day in the studio before I came to the event. My scheduled setup time was from 10:00am-noon on Friday, but I didn’t get off work until 12, so I actually set up in the hour between 1 and 2. Not a big deal for me, and it worked out ok since my setup is not complex.
They only had one staff member handing out exhibitor badges when I arrived, and I’m glad there were only about 6 people in front of me in the line, as it wasn’t moving super fast. Slightly worrisome was that badge pickup was in the back of the exhibit hall itself, so we were permitted to walk right through everything with no proof that we were actually supposed to be there! The rest of the event, security seemed fine, but during setup, anyone could have walked in and taken anything from the many tables that were set up but didn’t have people watching them.
Like many smaller for-profit conventions, there weren’t a lot of panels or things to do except shop and get pictures taken with celebrities. Frankly, I have no idea what someone with a 3 day pass would do for the entire weekend. While not tiny as these events go, I could easily have walked through the entire hall and seen all the exhibitors in about 2 hours. It seemed like most people just bought a one-day pass, which I believe hurt my sales. Buying seemed focused on things people knew they wanted, and they weren’t there long enough to think things over and come back to a table that they might have shopped at if they were there for multiple days. It also meant that no one was holding out for Sunday to buy, so if you sell fan art that is in high demand, that might actually work out in your favor. Tickets weren’t that expensive in comparison to some other conventions, but given the relative youth of the attendees, might have taken spending money away from teens. My impression was that for many people, the event was the entertainment more than a vehicle for purchasing more things. If you are just looking to get into cons, nervous about crowds, or otherwise like things slower, this might also be a good con for you. Personally, I’m trying to maximize sales, so the larger the crowd, the better my chances.
I heard from several vendors that it felt slower than the year before. As I was operating my table, I don’t know how other rows faired, and sometimes things are not evenly trafficked, but our row felt pretty quiet. Using cosplayers as a measure, there was never a time when traffic was bad enough that a cosplayer stopping for photos blocked view or movement.
The entire con had a very anime vibe to it. Most of the cosplayers were anime characters, and most of the vendors outside of artist alley seemed focused that direction as well. There were some other cosplay booths, and a couple of ones catering to video games and computer equipment, but I would have liked to see some more book sellers and comic book shops. Vancouver already has 2 other anime conventions, and I was hoping this would bring out more fans of other forms of the entertainment industry. It did not. Again, if your work sells well at those sorts of events, it might be a great thing for you, but I didn’t see a lot of the demographics that buy my work, and my sales were reflected in that way. I don’t do fan art, and primarily create more environment-based images, so my audience is not the same as those who are looking for pictures of their favorite character in a cool pose.
Con staff was wandering around but never talked to me while I was tabling - I also never needed anything, so that was fine. I do wish that our tables had a trash can, but it wasn’t that far to the walk my garbage to one at the end of the row. We did have the form to signup for next year waiting on our table Sunday morning, so that was well handled. One thing I did find frustrating was that both exhibitors and attendees were forced in a very spiral path to get down to the convention floor by foot, which was a pain when carrying heavy supplies or trying to make a quick run for food or coffee, since there were none in the hall itself.
Overall, it felt like a reasonably well run con, but not one where my target audience attends. It was actually my worst convention of the year, sales-wise. People were very friendly and complimentary of my work, but it wasn’t what they were looking to spend money on. It’s always fun to meet people and share the work I’ve been doing, but currently I do not have plans to exhibit next year. That said, I did make a few industry connections with people who walked by my table, and names on my mailing list that did convert into more Patreon support.
One other thing to note is that time time of year seems to fluctuate. Last year it was mid-November, the year before that I believe it was in Spring. This time it was middle of October, and in 2019 it will be in March! Moving a con around like that makes it harder to plan your events, and is probably not helping FanExpo any.
I was prepping for Fan Expo Vancouver, so not quite as productive as other weeks on my personal work, but here’s what I did this week!
I didn’t realize I forgot to post last weekend, so here is a large dump of two week’s worth of warm-up sketches, renders and things I did to learn new stuff in software. This week, as part of #inktober, I modeled and rendered my scenes that I drew in pen, so I’ve included those drawings as well :)
Another week of rapid 3D sketching, mostly using Gravity Sketch, Oculus Medium and Octane, with a bit of Photoshop to tie things together. I try to keep my working time on these to about an hour each, so that I can learn things without getting hung up on little details.
When I don't have a lot of time to make personal work, I try to make environment sketches, either drawn or in 3D. They help keep me sharp, they let me practice and try new compositions and ways to handle textures and surfacing. Here are a couple I've done in the last little while.
What do you do to practice and keep yourself sharp?
I decided to spend a couple of days unpacking the character design logic from Gears of War. My own personal characters have tended towards a minimalism that I got from Alex Toth being a huge influence on me, and I'm trying to broaden my style to make it a bit more current. The GoW style is *too* micro-detail for my personal tastes, but I thought pushing past my comfort zone might be a good way to learn.
I started with a relatively simple design from the GoW3 art book, and did a master copy.
Next, I was interested in how they portrayed women as well as men, so I found a picture of a 3D model of one of the characters, and drew that as well.
As my third and final (for now) master copy, I found one of the characters that was "bursting" with micro-detail, and copied him.
Only after those 3 studies did I attempt to apply the design language to my own character. I didn't try to slavishly copy exactly, but rather to learn the ideas of the master copies and apply them my way.
I had a lot of fun with this process, and I recommend it for anyone who is trying to stretch their visual libraries and sense of design. Learn first by observing and copying, and then try to take that to your own idea.
Thanks for reading!
I'm super happy to announce that I will be teaching an "In-Person" class on environment design in Vancouver at the Vault 100 starting on Saturday, March 10th and running for 8 weeks. I've wanted to do this for a while now, and I'm very passionate about the idea!
Here's the syllabus overview for my class:
What makes an effective environment design? How much perspective do you really need to know? How can you create an interesting and relatable space that meets the needs of your project? How can you reuse your existing work to build up a library and increase your speed and effectiveness?
What you will get out of this class:
In addition to demos, critiques, paint-overs and methodologies, by the end of this class, students should have 2 finished pieces for their portfolio, as well as supporting sketches, 3D models, texture libraries and style guides.
A quick dump of some of the sketches I've done on my iPad in Painstorm Studio over the last couple of weeks.
Click to cycle through the images.
I end up writing this on so many crits every day on FB group crits, I thought I would just make a post out of it.
Always ask yourself - What is this work that I am doing for?
There is (almost) no such thing as a personal piece. If you share it with the world and care what people think, it’s not a personal piece.
If it goes in your portfolio, it is an advertisement for the kind of work you can and want to do....so think of it that way when you are making it. It doesn’t matter if you did it for a client or not, people are going to see it and ask, “Does this kind of image solve the problems I need to pay an artist for?”
Every image should be made to solve a problem. Even the simplest study is made to solve problems of lighting, or anatomy, or architectural design. If your work doesn’t solve a problem, why would someone pay you for it?
If you know the problems you are trying to show that you know how to solve with your image, it is MUCH easier to figure out how to proceed with the work itself.
If you don’t know, you’re just guessing, or trying to make something “cool”. Art Directors don’t pay for “cool” unless it also solves their problems, be those story or design related.
Illustrations for games are used to show the mood of the game, and what the creatures and characters look like, and what the environments are for. Illustrations for card art are made to be very clear and read even when super small.
Video game environment paintings are used to show how a player could traverse a space, and what some potentially exciting play options would be.
Film environments are made to show the world that the actors will be interacting with.
It goes on and on. Book covers have different problems that need solving than interior art or online splash pages.
Know how your image could solve an ADs problem, and you are MUCH more likely to get hired.