Friday, September 21, 2012

Gold Rush!

Seems like Berliner seasons skip on autumn and dive from summer straight into winter - it's chilly over here! Reason enough to stay indoors and to work on a new Stammtisch Battle. I finished last week's assignment a bit late, but still I'm happy I finished anything at all. You know, with all the cute guys keeping me from my work and all.

The given elements list as follows:

character: a sailor
side-kick: a goat in a suit
object: a cart
location, location, location: under a table
time/era: goldrush

Sounds like fun? It was!

The above sketch shows the treatment I intended for the two game-playing deities. Mixing hand drawn lines with slick polygons seemed like a good idea on paper (actually, it still does), but I didn't take into account the absence of an Undo-button here in the real world and that I hadn't actually made a final drawing in years (I'm not counting sketches). So after a few retries I decided to simplify the characters and to stick to polygons.

There’s some Levi van Veluw in the original designs of the deities. Found out about his series ‘Origin of the Beginning’ only a few weeks ago - really amazing stuff. Definitely worth checking out!

UPDATE: Fellow Stammtischers Dana and Bart posted their pieces on flickr - have a look here and here!

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Monday, September 10, 2012

Building a Cosmos...

Some months ago Revista Göoo Magazine sent out an open call for their 12th issue, and this time the participating artists were asked to serve a new image under the theme 'COSMOS'. Now, seriously, how could I resist? After some deliberation Göoo selected a hundred (out of 805 candidates) artists for the publication and I was excited to hear my contribution made it as well!

The #12 issue will be launched at the TMDG Event in Buenos Aires in Mid-October, so I can't show you the final piece just yet. But I do have a bunch of sketches that I thought would be nice to share. Drawings and ramblings after the jump!

After dabbling with Greek cosmology and its deities (and listening to a very interesting Radiolab podcast on how fetal cells remain inside the mother's bloodstream) I decided to have a go with an old unfinished render from my imaginary astronaut game. The big creature you see sitting here was actually based on a little statue that was briefly shown on some TV-show on ancient astronauts (we all know how earth was visited in the past by powerful beings in flying saucers and how these god-like creatures guided the evolution of man-kind, right?). Throw in some H. R. Giger Alien design, Flight of the Navigator and weird forcefield pyramid ships like the ones from The Tripods and you end up with the above sketch.
Maybe the final image could be a poster for a rather dark sci-fi childrens' story? A sort of Doctor Who meets Prometheus? The kid would be the main character, tagging along with this ancient eternal statue-shaped god during its trip through the multiverse.

But every main character needs a side-kick! I don't know at what point I decided there should also be a canine fellow traveler, but the idea for an evolved humanoid horseshoe crab came after I read an article on horseshoe crab blood harvesting. These ancient looking creatures seemed like a perfect companion for such a bizarre trip; their earliest fossils have been dated at about 450 million years and their blue blood is often used in the pharmacy industry to detect impurities in the medicines.

The different universes were initially to be carried in large globes, carried on the backs and bellies (like egg yolks on newborn critters) by all kinds of creatures, like tortoises, elephants and humanoids, as if the characters were flying through ancient cosmology legends. But as I started building that in low-poly, I just couldn't get the feel right. It felt like the picture was getting too crowded and I couldn't get the image clear enough to show what each universe looked like. So, in the end I decided to have the universes simply represented by large spheres containing stars.

Here's two work-in-progress renders of the ancient alien pilot statue and the canine side-kick in his spacesuit. Playing with the phong tag to smooth certain surfaces allows for a nice distinction between organic and non-organic surfaces. Little lights that only use their specular channel were used to highlight the eyes, just for that little extra liveliness.

A little preview of the basic setup, which closely matches the original sketch. The spherical universes didn't really hold the picture together that well, so they were also changed to something a bit more interesting. More on that when the new Revista Göoo comes out.

To be continued!

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Friday, September 7, 2012

Where no illustrator has gone before...

Well, it's been a while! Blame it on Berlin to keep me from making new works. I've been madly enjoying the quirks and perks of this wonderful city, where I will hang out for another six weeks. In between bar-hopping, whiskeys and late night curry wursts I've been meeting up with my good friend Mark Verhaagen and his notorious group of Berlin-based illustrators at their Friday afternoon Stammtisch Drawing Club.

Two weeks ago Mark and I decided to do a little game: to each make an illustration, based on the same ingredients. In this case, a little sketch that Mark did of a spaceship on the surface of a volcano planet.

The final image should also contain some stacked boulders, just because they are so alien and cool, a subtitle of some sort and be presented in a 16:9 film format. Inspired by vintage sci-fi art and fueled by half a dozen latte macchiatos we both started setting up our respective projects. The above image is my final output and after the jump you'll find some behind-the-scenes stuff. Hope you enjoy it!

Pen sketch of the basic setup, based of Mark's drawing: a volcano planet with piled up rocks and a UFO. And, since I *love* spaceships, some mind wanderings on other types of spacecraft.

The first composition didn't really turn out too exciting. I liked the idea of the cliff, and the spaceship had a nice retro feel to it, but in its entirety it still missed something. Maybe it was the boulders. Maybe I should've stayed away from coloring the sky until much later in the process. In any case: back to the drawing board!

More exotic spaceships! I'd been re-reading Alastair Reynolds' mindblowing conclusion of the Revelation Space trilogy, titled Absolution Gap, which features descriptions of some truly other-worldly technologies and spacecraft, so those influences did bleed through. And I wanted the ship to have a very 60s feel to it, like it could feature in some old Star Trek episode. Along with that are some ideas for alien vegetation, but those didn't make it further down the line. And yes, there is a note on the very sexy song Until We Bleed by Kleerup & Lykke Li. Look it up!

The composition already feels a lot better in this new render. There's a better view on the planet surface and the gully for the lava stream on the left makes for some interesting landscape sculpturing. Here the old UFO was still used as I had not yet decided on a new design.

(Generating GI points)

The lava lighting up the overhanging rocks looks pretty nifty already! And the new spidery shaped spaceship makes a welcome debut.

Form here on it's just about adding details and making the scene more lively. The piled up rocks are actually three different objects rotated and scaled to different degrees to cut down on modeling time without making the overall scene too repetitive. Handy!

Little tryout with some local flora. Decided they'd just clutter up the scene, but I'm sure they will make a come-back in some future image.

This is what the final render looks like after some color balancing and with a new sky, which was done in Illustrator. All that's left are some detail light effects. Dailymail has some awesome pictures of volcanic lightning, where the charged ejected particles cause electric currents in the air (as I understood it).

Some stars in the background, volumetric spots on the spaceship (all done in Illustrator) and a cryptic dialogue and voilá: das Bild ist fertig!

Wanna see what Mr. Verhaagen came up with? Have a look on his flickr!

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