Saturday, October 15, 2016

Client Update: Millzone - Resillience Satelle

This is a production painting for a 3d Animation movie from Portugal. More on that in the future.

Monday, October 10, 2016

DProject 02: Drawing Tools

This video is about Drawing Tools and Techniques. I will show you some tools traditional and digital like copic markers, brush pitt pens, graphite pencil, charcoal and polychromos.
I am not necessarily promote any of the tools but instead I will try to give you some pros and cons for each.

Drawing: what is it actually? Drawing is a form of visual art in which a person uses various drawing instruments to mark paper or another two-dimensional medium with graphite, ink or charcoal and so on. A drawing instrument releases small amount of material onto a surface, leaving a visible mark….
Drawing is not painting. Painting is the practice of applying paint, pigment, color or other medium[1] to a solid surface (support base). The medium is commonly applied to the base with a brush, but aA common example of mixing both might be drawing outlines and adding the color later on.

There is a wide range of tools for us available like pencils, pens, charcoal, brush pens, ink and markers. Other tools will be erasers and different types of papers, cartboard and other surfaces to draw on which can make a significant difference.

More tools that I use can be lineal, circle templates, a compass, triangle and a mirror to check your drawing.

The first tool we are gonna look at is the pencil
One of the major differences in the applied material is contrast. So what you can see here is with graphite it is hard to create black. Therefore we can erase it. Pencils usually are available in different widths and  different  values for darkness and softness. There is graphite grading scales actually two for the graphite inside the pencil. I recommend you go to your local art supplier and try different pencils before you buy one.

Next tool is the copic marker which is presented here in cool gray and as you can see You can create black with it. You can only work from light to dark with them and creating gradients can be a little bit tricky. However with some practice it will work. This is what I started using after using pencil only… When you use them a lot you they will go empty quickly but you can refill them.

Next slide shows you what you can do with charcoal and polychromos pencils in comparison with copic and graphite pencil. Polychromos pencils have some colored pigment and some oil in it. You can use a copic blender to smudge around with them… Polychromos and charcoal can achieve darker values than graphite. I like charcoal but that is just personal preference. There are different types of charcoal pencils as well. You can try them out at you well sorted art supply store. I will provide links to what tools I have on my website….

Alright this does not belong to drawing but there are still artists out there in the field of concept art that use Gouache. I did not really work with it just tried it out at my sisters for one afternoon. But from what I know it is like a mix of oil paint and aquarelle and combines the benfits of those too.

Next is digital tools.
First tool ist the Cintiq. I have an older one 21 UX and I bought that instead of a 22HD after getting seing it being recommended on the forums by almost anyone and here is why.
Pros of the old one
No weird anti glare coat which makes it not look so pixelated well only if it is actual pixels.
More colors.
Different format (which I think is better).

Les resolution
I assume the distance between surface and actual screen is longer so you need to take recalibrate mor often or sit always in the same position…

There are others bigger and smaller this is just 2 examples.

The Intuos in this case 3 is a good old friend of mine and I have the old version which I just dug out for this photo and people who have a tablet can see that this is not the original plastic sheet on where I draw on. After mine got broken because I painted it to death I saw that the good Wacom does not sell the sheets anymore. So what I did now was I went to some hardware store and got me some plastic sheet and glue it onto my tablet… and it feels much better than the original. All it does is it does not hold for 6 years but 6 months and then you have to apply a new one which costs 1 euro instead of 50. So I am fairly happy with it. It’s called poly bi carbonate or something…

I also have an Intuos pro here which I never opened because I don’t need it. I did use one at work and I know it uses the pen tips up very quickly so there you need to rebuy that more often….
Also for the Cintiq you need to pay attention to the tips to not create scratches on the display too quickly.

Then there are the tablets and Convertables like my Surface Pro 3. I got me the SP3 Pro cause Youtube told me it is cool to work with in Photoshop but actually it isn’t . The technology behind the pen is not Wacom and not as good I say. Also the performance is not as good as expected. For doing some design sketches and giving presentations on the go it works perfectly fine but for the actual production work it does not have the perdormance by far that I was hoping for. There seem to be a number of people saying they use it for work and stopped using anything else but for my High quality multilayered PSD files I cannot recommend it.
Then there are a bunch of problems with support from Microsoft and Windows 10… but I don’t wann  go more into detail. There are other tools like the Wacom companion or the iPad Pro which you can use with a stylus.

The next video is about techniques.
If you want links to the tools go to my educational resources page.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

DProject 01: The Fundamentals of Digital Art - Practical Intro

This is based on what I teach at the SAE but more in depth and with my own examples

For the links to videos and stuff go look into the description.


This is the first video of a series based on what I learned over the past 12 years since I first started using Photoshop, including my experience as web designer, from bachelors study in media systems, from my experience as level designer, M.A. in Games, concept designer, 2d artist and from my experience as educator.

I thought a lot about how to begin this series and I already prepared a few videos but even I learn more and more new stuff the digger I dive into a topic. When you look at other videos they talk about graphic tablets and painting softwares because that is what a "digital" artist needs for a basic. I don't think so. I think at first we need to learn the fundamentals and it is best to do that by working traditional with our brains and eyes and hands with a pencil on a piece of paper.

This video is a practical approach to the basic drawing skills for the first timers (I get that as well) and it will show you that even the more advanced artist practice and improve their skills because most of the job ads still in the games and industry will still ask you to be able to draw on paper.

We will then go more and more into the fundamentals of digital and real art and design with each video.

But the first thing that I think is great to learn is that anyone can draw even if you think you can't. Yes you can. And I want you to take out pencil and paper or any tools you like and draw with me.

I will show you and you follow along. The lessons you can see are videos I use for my lectures in order to talk about it to my students.

The first thing we are going to do is drawing characters.
Follow along...

We are going to do is relax and completely focus on drawing lines by combining 2 dots.

The goal is to hit the dots instead of drawing through them. You will improve your motor skills a lot if you try to be as good as possible.

Let it be known that this a warmup that even Professionals do. As a student you will practice this for a long time.

Some people say draw the lines slow and controlled others say draw fast and determined. Try for yourself and see what works best for you.

Practice with ghosting. Ghosting means you move your pencil or tool of choice from start point to finishing point without drawing the line.

Focus and imagine drawing the line before you actually draw it. Do not think you are not makeing a mistake instead visualize drawing the line correctly.

Draw the dots and look in between them. Practice peripheral vision and then draw the line. I find it a good approach because I know where the line is supposed to go. The closer you get to the finishing point the more you can focus on it.

Make sure you have enough room in order to move your entire arm and do not draw from the wrist.

Also not to move your body while drawing the line. Instead move you arm only.

Practice not just drawing from side to side but also from top to bottom and all the other directions.

Have a flat surface so that you don't get interefered by things stopping you from drawing your line. Get some artists glove if you tend to get sweaty hands or draw on a touch display.

If you practice this 20 minutes for 20 days and you will see improvements...

After practicing straight lines it is time to start drawing curves. try drawing 3 points and combine them with a line.Don't draw from point to point.Practzice drawing one line that goes through all of them.

If you ike you can also increase the number of points.

Use your tablet or paper or whatever you want to practice. You will notice huge differenceswhen working on a tablet.

Also instead of erazing you simply want to make it better with the next try.


With the same basic principles we can now draw ellipses and circles. Try to look into the center of the circle and practice your peripheral vision. At this point using a tablet may make it especially challenging. At least for me it does.

The next idea is draw a line and make this the minor axis of you ellipse. The minor axis is the shorter one.

Another practice is drawing a cone and aligning the circles inside.

When you think you are ready you can start  thinking in 3d.

You can try to create a cone with lines and align ellipses inside of them and imagine them in perspective.

 The following ideas comes from a concept artist i found on Youtube. His Youtube Channel is Marks Drawing Tutorials..

The most interesting thing from Marks Tutorials is draw  an ellipse and try to align circles of equal size around is. This is meant to help you think in 3d and get basic shapes down without many lines.

And now what you can do is Create some basic squiggly lines and make a 3d shape out of it as if it was made out of polygons

This concludes the Basic Training practices which and now here are a few things that I like to practice drawing at the moment.
One thing that I do is drawing cars. Cars have some specific design formulas and this what we might lean in a different lecture.

Another thing that I like to practice is drawing humans and especially anatomy because there is so much to remember that I tend to forget if I don't practice regularly.

Even if I have jobs as a character concept artist I tend to use 3d or other tools instead of forcing me to draw the muscles all the time. Usually the character I have to design is wearing clothes anyway. So practicing it is a good habit.

The way I draw the characters is based on the Drawing course by riven phoenix. His new remastered course has a so called mannequin system. So based on the initial landmarks I draw a mannequin and add in some muscles.

I like to draw them in different poses each day and from my mind. Later I look up what I forgot or how the muscles tend to behave according to that pose....

And the last thing I do is Speedpainting. Go to the Daily Spitpaint Group for new topics every day and draw for 30 minutes...

Let me know what you think and the next video will be about techniques and tools used in the industry and what I started with.


Friday, July 15, 2016

New Effects - Edge Adversaries

Many of my clients (long term) who are in the gaming field ask me for effects. So here are some handcrafted effects for you.

The game these are made for is called Edge Adversaries and it is a Beat Em Up with antropomorphoids fighting each other in a somewhat futuristic world I believe.. The style is Anime like and I think the Developer is still working on that. We have several artists and they all have their own style and when I started I got no direction to make it look like anime but like something different. I am responsible for the UI ...and effects.

He is currently investing a ton of money into polishing the effects. We were going to set up a more simplistic prototype but after receiving some feedback we are polishing things up quite a bit. I spent several days into creating the effects now and I hope that it works out for him.

The hardest part was that he wanted only 4 frames for some animations and blend them together in his engine later.

 Wow, you have no idea how hard it is to get these image set up in one row. Basically not at all! So I keep it like that. :)

Monday, June 13, 2016

How to blow away an Art Director with your Art Test and why they don't realize the effort.

Did you ever feel you don't get the Job because the Art Director missed the point in your art test? Do you have to do tests as often as I do? I have to do it all the time even as a freelancer and often times I don't do it because it does not seem to be worth it.  I already had to spend a week of work for a company that turned out couldn't even afford me... so I pick the ones I want to work with. Also passing the test still doesn't mean they get the job.

Let me show you some Art Tests I did for companies recently and try to learn from that.

First of all some nice pictures for a huge company and a test still in progress so I have no idea if I passed it or not. They gave me a week but I could only use 6 days due to a business trip. I will later get back to that in this post.

And here an older test for Inno Games:

Inno Games is a Browser Game Company and they created Games like Forge of Empires an Elvenar here in Hamburg. I applied to them a couple of times before and I already worked with them here in Hamburg where I live.

In fact I think they are my favorite company here.

So in this case the test situation was kind like create a mill and make two versions out of it. They sent me a photo of a mill with the tasks to make a nice candy version and a evil version, plus an upgraded version of each.

They also sent a sketch with outlines only of an asset exactly like what you would see in the media section from FOE.

Notice the details around the actual building.

The HR person told me to look at their games when I asked if they have a specific style in mind so I looked at Elvenar.

So I looked into that and I looked up the only concept art piece for Elvenar I could find online. Check it out here:

I felt really confident I could do better than that.

I gathered a lot of references for different architectural styles candy houses, mills etc. and I created mood boards of it like this one.

Then I created a lot of sketches with different architectural styles like the following. For me this was the part where I tried to be most creative because I thought the design part is what is actually most important so I spent a lot of time into creating different shapes and different architectures.

From the different styles I picked some ideas and made bigger versions of them

I then placed small and big next to each other all in A3 for print so one can zoom in nicely for presentation like these. Pay attention to the notes, detail drawings, surroundings and backgrounds. This will be important when it comes to the feedback part. The good version produces stars and the bad version some some kind of black ooze.

I colored and detailed them all simultaneously. so they were all equaly polished. While I did use custom brushes for the details on the evil version I tried to use a hand painted style for the nice one. i created some background mountains cause I thought  if we want to make a mill at a river it might come from somewhere.. if they are not a good idea it wouldn't matter which is why I placed the mill part on the back side... For the upgraded version I added extra wind mills which wasn't part of the instructions but I thought it looks cool..

I felt really good about it and thought they all look way better than the art I found online so in the end I took some sketches and made extra upgraded versions for them to show my creativity. My students who showed interest in my art confirmed that.  Unfortunately Inno Games did not seem to like it.

I did not pass the test and all I got was a standard email with a no reply address. It felt like a punch in the face.


I do have a few friends working at Inno. One of them is Denis Löbner who tried to come up with a reason for it.

The first and main reason was probably the style. It did not look enough like Elvenar which was probably not so bad cause they did not specify that in the test however it also did not look like Elvenar Concept Art which means i should have sent in the artworks not like a presentation but each hous on a plain background like the one I linked above.

I think that was a misunderstanding cause i sent it in A3 at 300 DPI and you can zoom in a lot.

However I think this is almost the most important aspect.

He showed me an artwork which I may show to my students but i don't know if i can publish it online...just look at the link in the beginning.

I decided to make another version together with Denis and send that in with my next application.

Later I talked to the Head of Art Alexander Raphelt who did give some portfolio reviews at the "The Art of Inno Games" event which was really interesting. Rest assured there is nothing confidential about this as we talked it all through at a big networking event. Here is what he said.

It worked like that. We went into a room (we means me, a number of artists and Alex). However came first and had the guts to show his folio could show it on the beamer and Alex tried to give some feedback.

I was the only one who prepared for it with this very specific question. Why did he not like it? And how does he like the one I made with Denis?

Unfortunately he did not say anything about the last one but he tried to criticise the other ones.

He totally seemed to dislike the candy version style. I loved it and it looked a lot like the references and i felt it was a good mix of them...

He said the mountains around it are too much (not noticing that I put a note for optional on it)

Too much other stuff around the houses. (check the sketch from FOE I linked on top)

On the good version he did not like it that I placed the wheel on the back side. Fair enough but I mentioned my reason for that... and I have a bunch of sketches with different options which he did not see.

Then there was the same thing Denis mentioned with the zoomed in "bigger" image of the house. Both only saw the online version I gave them. I believe here you should have access to the bigger files.

And now here is the most important part and his most helpful comment:
It did not wow the Art Director who looked at it and there mus have been someone who impressed him more than I did.

Also he did not like the rendering and did not really know why and I told him that I felt confident that I made it better than in the art I found (link on top).

That is it.

I simply did not wow them enough and it had to visit the Inno Games event to realize why not. Not just because of the review but because I could see some big printouts of the 3D renders and I saw some nice ideas and lots of details there. Not of mills but generally some nice stuff for random details.

So here is my learning:

It is really hard to wow someone and I really have to get to know the art from the studio I want to work at and I should think less and paint some more random good looking stuff because most directors won't see the actual effort behind that image if they don't know it.

And here is another example of  how that happens:

When I get to review my students art I experience the same thing but this time it is me who doesn't see all the effort and stuff the artist is particularly proud od.

In this case my former student showed me a rework of his old motorcycle and I did see his progress in better linework and I did see that he added color to it but then he got confused because I did not see that his motor engine is now much more realistic and works now much better and that he put a lot of effort into that.

So that is how it happened. I simply did not realize it. I looked at his lines and the colors and i did not even see the difference because I did not pay any attention to that. Maybe if I would have known beforehand. Maybe ...

And what did change based on that?

I did move on and I made art tests for other companies where I just focused on making some awesome art. I still put the effort in it to gather references and incorporate micro details the art directors will probably never know but I focused on making the final art look great and did this time not even bother sending in thumbnails and explanations.... The best part is that other companies liked my buildings and I had a few interviews where I already had the chance to explain how I worked and what no one will see from outside. I did spend the actual research time on the background of this character and the logo on his chest is actually a real "logo" from a clan that conquered the town where he lived etc. Nobody will know that unless he reads it here. I am sure of that. But it is still excellent research that I did and I think it contributes in a way to the awesomeness of the work and it was the other companies that got so impressed that I must point out the an art test for one company may be useful for another company as well sometimes even if you did not get the first job. :-)

Good Luck