The Agrarian Utopia "One Page"

Hey guys!  So something a little different today, I know I've posted a couple of paintings and process work from my "Agrarian Utopia" project, and I thought it might be cool to talk a bit about how I go about starting an IP, and some of the thinking that goes into it.

The initial spark idea can come from almost anywhere.  In this case, I was participating in Tom Scholes #maysketchaday challenge, and I did about 6 rough matte-painting style pieces based on photos I took in Cambodia in 2007.  I think it is super important to do rough things like this, because they trigger new ideas!  I knew I wanted to show the contrast between poverty and cyberpunk-rich megacorporations.  There was no story yet, but there was interest!

I took one of those sketch paintings and worked it to a more complete state:

Working on this made me decide that my story was going to be about the teenage boy on the top of the barge.  I researched Cambodian boys' names, and decided on "Arun."  I knew I wanted to do several keyframe and environment design paintings around this world, and I decided that the next one would be Arun's home - a hut on stilts balanced on top of the foundations of a Cambodian temple that had been mostly submerged by the rising oceans of the 2nd half of the 21st century.

Arun's home

Arun's home

All the while this was going on, I was sketching ideas for characters, and thinking of story.  By the time I'd finished the 2nd painting, I had enough information to create a simple "One Page" for the IP.  A One Page should have your elevator pitch, the key plot elements, and enough world information to give a feeling for your project.

First draft of my One-Page

First draft of my One-Page

If this was going out to a client or for an actual pitch document, I'd make it prettier and think a little more about it, but it's great for keeping me on track, and for focusing my attention.

Now that I have all that stuff, I've created a private board for references.  I'm looking up all kinds of things, from Cambodia pictures to factories, technology and costume.  I'm looking at the contrasts and mood stuff I laid out in the document as inspiration and keywords for what sorts of things I should save.  I already posted the thumbnails I've been creating from those reference photos for the unloading area inside the Receiving Facility.

For me, having the written stuff is critically important.  It keeps me going the right direction, and helps me decide what to paint next, and how things should fit together.  The research stored on pinterest is also crucial.  I create one of these "mood boards" for every IP I start, and they have always helped me to both expand the visual language beyond what I was comfortable with and to keep a consistent look and feel to the projects.

From this point, it really comes down to how far you want to take the project.  If I end up making a pitch document, I'll want 5-10 paintings, as well as several character designs and maybe a vehicle or two if they are cool looking :)  I'll spend a bit more time writing up the character bios and doing a couple of design drawings for them as well.  The final pitch package will probably end up around 10 pages, unless the funding agency or target studio requests a different format.  Beyond the creative, it will also require some financial estimates and a team bio, but that's a bit beyond the scope of the art side of this post :)

This particular IP started from a sketch, but I've had other ones that started from dreams, from ideas that grew out of D&D games, or from just talking to friends about what we'd like to see....regardless of how they started, all of them seem to progress about the same way - create some blue-sky stuff until you get a firm direction, then write down that as a one page, then create more imagery based on the document.  I find this technique works very well for me, and I think it might be helpful for you too, if you get lost in endless possibilities, or can't figure out what you should be painting.

Oh - I'm completely not worried about sharing my idea.  Ideas are great, but without the work that goes into them, they are just that, ideas.  Very few people are going to steal your idea, and if they are, there's nothing you can do about it, so you might as well just keep going.  Honestly, as a creative person, you should be able to come up with ideas like this pretty much on command.  There's nothing particularly innovative here, what will make it or break it is the execution!

I don't think there's anything special about my formatting, but if you like it, I've attached a blank form you can fill out for your own IP projects :)


Thanks for reading, I hope it was helpful!  Please share!