Wayne Haag - Scorch Trials concept art analysis

Wayne is a great guy; I met him a couple of years ago at IlluxCon, and I love his work.  I'm still working on my "subway" piece for my personal project, so I wanted to see how other artists handle pushing the background back when there isn't a lot of atmospheric perspective or depth.  I saw this piece and thought it would be worth a closer look.

The painting.

The painting.

Ok, this is *definitely* a low-key lighting scenario!  We've got our two characters in a pool of light, and a couple of other spots to lead our eyes around a bit and to sell why everything isn't just pitch dark...and that's about it.

Composition-wise, he's gone with a very centered piece...the characters are *just* off the middle.  It helps give the piece a sense of stillness - peace in a world gone mad.  The fact that the entire ruins are laid out diagonally further emphasizes that chaos.

Like a LOT of the concept art I've been looking at lately, it's basically monochromatic.  His shirt stands out as being saturated and green, while her paler clothes punch out from value.  The background has a very slight gradient from warm to cool as things come forward into the composition.

In terms of technique - Wayne is a matte painter, and you see that skillset here.  Lots of photo textures, and maybe some 3D?  It does get quite loose as you move into the darker corners, particularly to the left side of the image.

2 values

2 values

Wow!  Yeah, low-key lighting!  The girl is OBVIOUSLY the subject of this painting - everything else fades away to nothing.

3 values

3 values

Not a lot of difference from the 2-value read.

4 values

4 values

It isn't until we reach 4 values that the guy shows up at all.  We're getting a couple of nice grey spots to break up the composition, but this image was designed with a 2 value read in mind.

The people.

The people.

The two characters actually look a lot like 3D models (which is fine with me)  I would say they were lit in a 3D package and left pretty much alone, at least in terms of opaque paint.  There may be some overlay/softlight blending modes to punch up the lighting a bit, but I think this core part of the image was done with 3D and then not changed that much.  Nice to see, there is enough pushback from people who don't know better that sometimes I feel guilty not doing more photoshop work on top, but this is concept art, and it works.  Wayne can paint like a sonofabitch, so 3D is a choice for him, not a crutch.

The midground path to our characters.

The midground path to our characters.

I like this section, because it gives the viewer a way into the painting.  Wayne has simplified the chaos in this area to give us a space of rest and a place to understand the geometry of the world.  Lots of photo texturing, and I'd call this fairly tight, although the further back you go, the looser it becomes.

The left side.

The left side.

I know this is dark, but take a look at it, because it has the most obvious photoshop brush strokes.  Wayne has used them to simplify the noise, and to subconsciously make us *NOT* look at this part of the image carefully.

 

Learnings:

  • FRAME YOUR SUBJECT.  Your story/image has one point, make sure it is the important part.
  • Don't let your photos/textures take control.  Even when you want chaos, make sure it is organized where it needs to be for you.
  • 3D is fine in concept art.  You don't have to waste time hiding it *if* it works.

Thanks for examining the painting with me!  If you want to see more of Wayne's work, check out his artstation or his website.