The Ride part 1 - ILM / ArtStation Challenge
Round 2 of the ILM Art Department challenge on ArtStation was called "The Ride" and the brief was:
"Design two new Star Wars vehicles within the aesthetic of Episodes IV - VI. They can be Rebel, Imperial, or utilitarian — your choice; anything from a giant starship to a land speeder. Be sure to finish your images by placing the vehicles within the context of an environment. We want to see the story — not the blueprints."
As with the last fairly open brief, I did not have a clear idea at first what I wanted to tackle so I just started sketching to see what came up. Since there was plenty of time for this round I ended up doing quite a few sketches (and ditched a number of ideas that might have worked perfectly fine) before arriving to the two final entries, so this post is going to be quite lengthy.
After a day or two of penning down some ideas I still didn't really feel I had nailed anything worthwhile quite yet, though I had a few ideas that with some more sketching might work out. At the same time I thought it was important to have something to fall back on if I ended up short on time later, so I gave the TIE fighter thingy I did early on a shot resulting in the sketch below (originally inspired by the German WWII rocket propelled prototype the Lippisch P.13a)
While I liked the sketch, I have personally never been a huge fan of the plethora of knock-off designs the initial TIE fighter inspired. Most of these designs never get beyond just slightly changing the shape of the solar panels, and rarely do they ever come close to the iconic simplicity of the original. With the already existing TIE Interceptor and Bomber variants, as well as Darth Vader's special one-of I have always felt there simply isn't a lot more room to expand the line further in a meaningful way. Either way, I had a design I could probably take to final if necessary but I wasn't quite happy with the direction -yet. Time for more sketches.
I vaguely wanted to try and design a new type of freighter, but I couldn't quite make my earlier sketch to work in the Star Wars universe and ended up with something I felt was becoming too similar to the Blockade Runner in Episode 1: A New Hope, so instead I started to focus on another idea that had potential but wasn't quite there yet in the first batch of sketches: the Rebel Fighter/Hero ship. While I took this design almost to final, again starting from a weak basis with no clear goals set out before jumping into polishing the design I ended up abandoning this idea as well even though by that point I was one week down with only one design that I was somewhat happy with.
As seen above, I tried a few variations on the first color sketch of the design. The initial design was alright, but again it felt like it was trying to hard to fit into the 'Alphabet-fighter' mold rather than actually push the Star Wars brand forwards. After playing around with the idea a little more I also thought the design had more potential as a hero ship rather than as a large fighter, so I did some more refining to change the scale of the design.
At this point, I was fairly happy with the overall design. I changed the cockpit to pull the design away from the already existing Millenium Falcon and gave it extra 'fins' to enhance the complement the whole fish vibe the design already possessed. There was still some refining to do but the major issues were resolved and it has some character to it that would make it stand out from the crowd. All that was really left to do at this point is to place it in a scene within the Star Wars story as per the second part of the brief, and yet I wasn't quite satisfied somehow.
The above sketches were done while working on the Rebel hero ship, and again it's a design I could've probably stuck with but somehow I wasn't quite sure it was what I wanted. At this point, I realized I needed to specify what I wanted out of this challenge. By now I had enough material that fit the brief and the Star Wars universe, but I realized most of them lacked a 'hook' to the story in the movies. Most of them were essentially just 'a' spaceship.
One could argue that the TIE fighter falls into the same category, but my own justification for sticking with it in the end was that to me it felt much more like a different generation of TIE fighter rather than a 'variant of' (an in-universe development to replace the original TIE fighter rather than a spin-off to fulfill just specific tasks like the Bomber or Interceptor if you will). So, rather than try to stick too much with the visual characteristics of the TIE fighter it has a completely different silhouette (triangular, much like the Star Destroyers) yet still retains enough of the original to make it recognizable. It's still a cheap, expendable and agile fighter but with some improvements to make it fly better in atmosphere and be able to carry slightly more technology on board in the fuselage as well as having less struts in the canopy to improve visibility for the pilot.