Thursday, December 30, 2010

What's My Purpose?

This is the first question I ask myself when starting a painting or drawing.  You can't make intelligent decisions on a painting until you've decided what you're trying to accomplish, and have some idea of how you're going to accomplish it.  That may sound simple, but there are several facets to this idea and you should be able to answer most of the questions below BEFORE you start drawing/painting:

Audience:  Who am I making this for?  Am I trying to make something that my audience feels more comfortable with, or something that feels more innovative and new?
Some audiences are inherently hard to please and have to be
won over.  Like hipsters, unless you're Wes Anderson.

Format:  How will the audience experience this image/character/environment/etc.?  Does the format affect the scope of what I can communicate?
Fringe's mad scientist is a great character that probably wouldn't work in a video game.
Or in a stand-alone illustration.  Internet images have a unique format problem also:
everybody sees them at a different size!

Purpose: What needs does this painting/character/environment need to fill?  Are there special or arbitrary parameters from the publisher/art director/marketing/writers/technicians/etc. that need to be included?
The house in UP had to function as an interior and exterior
environment, hold a storehouse of props, work as a vehicle,
and be something audiences came to care about as a symbol
for Carl's deceased wife.

Story (technically an extension of purpose): What role does this character/environment/etc. play in the property?  What emotional chord do I want to strike with the viewer?  Are there additional story/moodsetting things I could layer into the piece without distracting from the primary purpose/story?
Jack Sparrow's costume design is great---an iconic "first read," with lots of
suggested history in the details, yet all of it supports his personality
and the core idea of his character.  

Premise:  Which of the many ways of expressing the above purpose and story will feel most fresh and interesting to my audience?  Is there a way of integrating the publisher's/art director's/etc.'s parameters in a way that "feels right" or gives things an unexpected twist?

Let me reiterate what I said earlier but add something:  If you can't answer all of the above questions, DON'T START PAINTING UNTIL YOU CAN.  In fact, if you can't answer them in a way that makes you feel inspired about your illustration or whatever you're working on, I'd recommend that you either do some brainstorming or start over with a drawing that inspires some of these things!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

What does design have to do with painting?

As crazy as the version on the left seems, it's not far off from something I see fairly often:
thoughtlessly placed colors and values, ruining a perfectly fine drawing
Many of the students who take my painting class at BYU have limited training in painting.  Because of this, I expect to find a lot of structure or technique-related problems.  Surprisingly, while those other problems sometimes show up, the flaws that hurt students' paintings the most are usually design problems!

Some things I see all the time:
- A badly-designed drawing ruining what would otherwise be a fine painting
- Poorly-designed values resulting in visual chaos
- Unappealing renders of character designs that look great as drawings
- Ugly color schemes
- Workable color schemes ruined by poor distribution of colors
- Weak or confusing value/color composition
- Arbitrary or default decision-making, resulting in a generic image

While good structure and technique are essential up to a point, design seems to affect most whether or not a painting is successful and appealing.  The problem with design is that while the tenets are simple, the principles are so interconnected and expressive that there are endless ways to convey any single idea using completely different design principles. 

Because of this, implementing good design into painting isn't a simple thing to learn.  I've studied design a lot, yet I still struggle with some pretty basic things all the time.  I confess this is part of the reason why I want to do this series of posts.  If I can work through some of these complex ideas some more, maybe I'll get better.  If not, at least some of you will get a peek into how I think about art as I work.

Now that I've introduced the subject, we're going to dig into specifics.  We'll systematically break down each of the above subjects, in addition to some other things that are affected by design in painting: texture, silhouette, dimensionality, and communication of ideas or emotion.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays

Did this cover for the December issue of The Friend.  The next post on painting and design is taking a back seat to a bunch of other things going on right now, but I'll finish it up and post soon.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Epic Mickey

I did a little work for this game, for which I will never receive any credit (thanks Mr. Guy-Who-Messed-Up-The-Credits).  I did a bit of work on this project, but these are the pieces I was happiest with.  The line art/character design in the second one was by my talented coworker Jon Diesta.  Sadly, they went a different direction on that character in the final game.