Sifting the Sands – Part 1
A beginning is a delicate time.
Whenever I approach a new design, the most difficult part is before pen ever touches paper. (Yes, I still do use paper, in addition to digital tools). No matter what I’m designing, the first part of any design needs to be an idea. Sometimes ideas come quickly, unbidden, the kind of thing that you have to scribble down before it slips out of your mind on a passing breeze. Sometime you have to work at it and keep shaking that piggy bank until some shiny change falls out.
For both of these occasions there is no greater tool than a sketchbook. I always have one on hand. If you’ve trying to choose a sketchbook, pick one that fits easily into a piece of clothing that you wear often: a jacket, a backpack or, in my case, the leg pocket of my cargo pants. The smaller, the better. Working small not only means you can work anywhere, but you can work out a lot of ideas more quickly if they’re too small for you to get lost in the details. Always carry a pen too, or your sketchbook isn’t really much use. You could draw in blood, but I wouldn’t recommend it.
I use one similar to this:
But you can pick whatever form factor and page configuration works best for you.
When I sit down to sketch I always ask myself questions which I must then answer through design. Questions like: “How does this vehicle move?”, “What does this creature eat?”, “What kind of life does this character have?” etc. Since design should always illuminate story, answering these questions visually allows the audience to connect with your creations beyond their surface appearance and makes them more believable, since the design gives them additional information that they may not even be consciously aware of. This kind of thinking needs to happen before and during the actual drawing process. Always think about these basic considerations and the forms that answer them before you work on styling. Style can always be adapted to fit whatever genre you want this design to match, but form is the structure that has to be beneath it.
The freedom of filling a book with small “thumbnail” sketches is that you can explore and iterate ideas very quickly in order to pick a direction in which to focus your efforts. This is the result:
Not all of what you produce is going to make the cut. This page contains many alternate designs which were abandoned for various reasons and some ideas that are not yet fully developed. Never throw any of this stuff away, often looking back at pages like these will help spur new ideas and remind you of things you’ve already tried.
Next time I’ll show you how a design goes from this chaotic rough state to a detailed drawing, and then to a final painting.
D:WS Art Director, Concept Artist