Moon Stalkers - Personal project

Just an old piece that I finished over the weekend. I've been super busy with work since the beginning of the year so I wanted to do something for myself.

The original sketch from a while back can be seen below:

Interior art - Monte Cook Games / Numenera Character Options 2

I totally forgot to post this interior illustration I did for Numenera's Character Options 2 book that came out a while ago.

The Job part 6 - ILM / ArtStation Challenge

Part 6 was the last part of the challenge. Unfortunately I was quite busy around this point so I didn't have a lot of time to play around, and probably ended up 'playing it safe' as it mentions in the brief.

Design, develop and present images you feel best represents your skills. There is no minimum or maximum—just amaze us. Based off the previous challenges you should know what to do. Integrate some of your designs into your scenes. Remember: a strong story idea is the foundation to powerful emotional imagery. If time is critical then focus on something in the scenes that inspires you. play to your strengths.

Directors notes: "The third act of our film is stiff. The writers could use some inspiration. Lets get the Art Department to come up with some ideas for two of the scenes to help inspire them. Have them choose which they want to do and go nuts. (They don’t have to do both, pick one and make it incredible) Play up the drama and energy. Last round they did was, ”good”, I feel they can do better. I want cool dramatic lighting!! Has anyone ever watched film noir or a film shot by Roger Deakins?!! Sheesh ! This is the finale of our film. No one should be playing it safe!!!!"

MOST IMPORTANTLY – "Needs to be something we have never seen before. You know, but definitively Star Wars."

Choose a moment from one of the scenes to explore: Scene Option 1

I did a few quick thumbnails based on the first script option they gave as I did not have a design ready for the princess in the other script. I roughly tried to make the thumbnails follow the script as a sort of storyboard so I could pick out the moment I liked and work that out as a keyframe.

While I kind of liked the shot of the waitress strutting over to the table and I think she could be an interesting character to focus on, the script didn't really set her up as a character so instead I went with option B. I figured the build up to the action was more interesting than the actual fight scene, and this way I could pay a small homage to some of the bar scenes in Ravian & Laureline (a French sci fi comic that allegedly inspired some of the original Star Wars trilogy -I grew up with the comics and loved them) while telling the essential elements of the script in a single image.

I like the final result for this round, though I suspect it might be slightly too obvious and safe to fit the brief.

The Job part 5 - ILM / ArtStation Challenge

The fifth part of the last round of the ILM challenge was much more in my wheelhouse, and I had a lot of fun with it. The brief gave two options to chose from, one was to develop a Danji warrior princess design (which, considering my initial sketches of the Danji, would be challenging to make at all attractive) and one was to design a droid based on a rough sketch:

Design, develop and present your character with images you feel best represents your skills. There is no minimum or maximum—just amazing. Based off the previous challenges you should know what to do.

Droid Option

• There is a droid that accompanies the Danji. Lets see some sketches of what that might be.
• Director's notes (Droid option): We need more toys. I’d like to see the equivalent of R2D2 but from the Danji side. Personality-wise he should be a bit “younger brother” always pestering R2, and later in the story they bond. I did this sketch at lunch with the producers. Have the guys interpret what they think it might be. Maybe start with this then do some others ideas.
• Lets call him DD-3.

Before going into a lot of sketches, there were a few things I wanted to keep in the back of my mind with this one. Firstly, I thought it'd be neat to stick somewhat to the special effects possibilities available at the time of the original Star Wars trilogy and use that as a guideline for my design as well. R2D2 originally needed an actor inside to operate it, and this constrained the design naturally. Now, DD-3 is supposed to be R2D2's smaller brother so presumably this means it will be an RC prop but it still has to be able to navigate and operate on set with actors. Secondly, the director's note specifies the need for more toys so there are a few things to keep in mind when designing DD-3 -for example, the mono wheel sketch could be cool but would be really impractical in a toy as the droid would fall over constantly. With that in mind, I set out to do some quick sketches.

I first settled on something like the above and even though I wasn't completely happy with it yet there were a few ideas I really liked. The Danji culture I had come up with so far come from a planet with a lot of water, so I figured DD-3 somehow needed to reflect this and be able to cope with an environment like that better than other droids in the Star Wars universe. I came up with the side wheels in a flipper-type housing, so that on land he could roll around on wheels while in the water he'd be able to paddle around (or use the thrusters!).

Much like the plethora of tools R2D2 hides inside, I thought it'd be neat if DD-3 had a set of crab like arms dropping out of the bottom of his head, a bit like jellyfish tentacles. I liked the general jellyfish shape of the head, but I wanted to set DD-3 apart from R2D2 and BB-8 a little so I played around with the head shape some more.

At this point, I realized I still wasn't happy with the design. I liked some features, but overall it felt too stiff and too much like a crappy R2D2. The proportions were off. I went back and did some more sketches and came up with the solution as seen at the top. The six swivel wheels give DD-3 a lot more motion than R2D2 which I felt would work really well for their brotherly rivalry, while at the same time allowed for DD-3 to express more emotion. It also gave him a bit of a crablike ability, which would work well as a reference to sea creatures again. I also changed his livery to match the Danji culture I'd come up with so far more while still retaining enough of the R2 type droids livery to make him part of the family.

The Job part 3 & 4 - ILM / ArtStation Challenge

The third and fourth part of the last round of the ILM Art Dep. challenge was kind of a two-parter, and since I don't have a lot of process images to go along with them I figured I'd combine them in a single post. The first brief was:

The Danji have established themselves as resourceful allies as they managed to prevent Threepio and R2-D2 from capture. Create a scene (one keyframe) where they are returning them to the new Rebel HQ on a cavernous planet called “Sookah”. Put some of your newly designed vehicles in the frame.

Directors notes: This is where we first see the Danji. We can go a little more alien with this race. Keep the humanoid design. I love the scene in Helms Deep when the Elven reinforcements arrive. I really don’t want that though. This has to be new, different, and better.

Include ONE SINGLE image you use for reference.

This is a favorite painting by Jacques – Louis David “ The Coronation of Napoleon”. However this is not a coronation it’s an alliance. I like power and scale of the moment though.

Since I had already come up with the idea that the Danji ships are designed to land in the water, I figured it would make sense to show this off by having the meeting take place in a sea cave. After scouring the Internet for reference images I settled on the Algarve Caves in Portugal. I also did a quick sketch for the Danji race themselves in the previous round, so that saved me some time here.

The second brief was aptly named 'the Director changes his mind':

The Director has changed his mind and wants a new keyframe (expanding on the Part 3—Keyframe 2 challenge). He would like to change locations to a stark and volcanic landscape similar to Iceland—but not Iceland. He also would like to see some of the rebel craft alongside the new ones.

This is a meeting place not a new home base. But a very important moment when the new faction shows allegiance with the rebels. A defining moment in our story. Give me drama!!! The sky should be something like a Turner painting or an amazing cloud break you would see after a storm !!!

Instead of going through a lengthy thumbnailing process for this round I immediately dove into the final painting after doing a rough sketch, partially because I wanted to reuse some of the previous painting to save time. I did do a quick design for a Danji shuttle since I hadn't actually come up with one in the previous rounds and I felt they needed a more utilitarian ship rather than a bomber/fighter.

Again, I also wanted to make sure to show off that the Danji prefer to land on water, so instead of going for dramatic pools of lava I figured a geothermal lake would be a neat backdrop here.

Frankly, I am not too fond of either of the keyframes I came up with for this round. I feel the last one could have really benefited from actually doing some thumbnails first, and the lighting and camera placement for both could have been much more dramatic. Mostly, I think I was constricting myself too much trying to stick to the initial painting style rather than mix it with more efficient methods to allow for more freedom to explore.

The Job part 2 - ILM / ArtStation Challenge

The second brief for the last round of the ILM Art Department challenge was reasonably straight forwards and allowed me to play around a bit more, since no final keyframe was required this time.

A new faction has joined the Rebel Alliance – the Danji. They’ve brought their armada of vessels and military ships. Do some quick sketches of some of those vehicles highlighting their function. Big and small.

Director’s Notes: “We can go a little more exotic with some of these forms, but they need to fit in the Star Wars universe. Keep to the ‘used world’ theme and utilitarian feel to everything.”

Real-world Inspiration: Much like the Model makers finding everyday common things and making a space ship from the basic shape, we are asking you to do the same. Find an industrial form/product that you think might work.

I looked at a few objects to serve as inspiration but in the end the toolshed offered the most interesting inspiration. I ended up using garden secateurs as the main source of inspiration as seen below.

I realized the odd bow shape would work really well for landing on water rather than land, and used that idea to define the Danji ships. Since the brief required sketches for both big and small ship designs I refined the initial sketch until I was happy enough with the outcome and then started figuring out what design ques to use to create a 'family' of spaceships for the Danji. I don't think each of the sketches below is as successful, but since there was limited time I felt it was more important to set a general course rather than finalize every single design.

The Job part 1 - ILM / ArtStation Challenge

The third round for the ILM Art Department challenge was a bit of a shock to the system, as suddenly the tempto went up and the amount of work that needed doing in essentially the same amount of time as before went up significantly as well. Since we were planning on moving out of our apartment by the end of the same month, I did actually consider dropping out. However, although I am not satisfied with everything I did for this round I'm glad I persisted simply for the experience.

There were going to be a total of six seperate briefs for the the third round, the first one was:

The Battle of Hoth is over… or is it? The captured Rebel forces break free and launch a counter-attack. Create a keyframe from this sequence. One image minimum. Sketches and storyboards are also welcomed if you choose to do so. But remember, tell the story.

Director’s Notes: “There is a prison break scene in Kurosawa’s Hidden Fortress – let’s use that as a template for scale and energy. There needs to be a diversion that happens and allows the Rebel fleet to gain some distance. Maybe some wild animals running around too!”

I did a few thumbnails based on the prison break scene, and though I really liked the shots of the rebels emerging from the cave entrances I felt it was much more in Kurosawa's style to put the camera a little closer to the action and have them run towards it so I went with the last option. I also felt it helped to have the destroyed shield generator in the background to mark the scene as a counter attack rather than the initial battle, and by zooming in I could put in some detail to show most rebels having been through the wringer once already.

I elaborated a little on my initial thumbnail with some notes to remember when working on the keyframe, and went from there. It took me a little to get up to speed with this one so I didn't manage to flesh everything out in great detail, but I'm quite okay with the shot in the end despite that. Had this been an actual production job I probably wouldn't have stuck to my initial painterly style though. I tried to keep some consistency between my entries but there are much more efficient ways to do crowd scenes like this.

The Ride part 2 - ILM / ArtStation Challenge

Greedo's ship is an old brawny muscle-car-inspired heap of rust that he barely manages to keep flying by working for Jabba as a bounty hunter and buying second hand parts from the Jawa's. The bold paint scheme resembles the paint job of Luke's land speeder as if it belongs to a particular vehicle modding culture on Tatooine. Since Greedo is just a second rate bounty hunter compared to the other bounty hunters in the movies, I thought it fitting if his ship is also more bark than actual bite and in a worse state of repair than the Millennium Falcon for example.

Greedo's ship was initially inspired by the amazing 1937 Cord design and partially by American muscle cars and the large cross continent freight locomotives.

As mentioned in the last post, I realized I wanted to create something that actually had some connection with the story line of the movies and I thought designing Greedo's ship might actually give a little more insight into a character that's only on screen for a single scene. Considering his role in the movie, I specifically did not want to make Greedo's ship 'beautiful' or even very functional -like a muscle car, it's great on the quarter mile and to impress your friends with but terrible for most anything else. It turned out I already had a tiny sketch on one of the earlier pages ready, which I quickly combined with the cockpit design I came up with for the Rebel hero ship from the last post into the rough painting above. While I considered some other grilles and detailing on the nose, trying to balance out the focus between engines and cockpit meant I actually had to keep the nose of the ship fairly simple since it stands out quite a bit already.

After the relatively large amount of sketches I did searching for something I liked earlier, this design actually came about really quickly. Looking back at it though, it could've probably benefited from a few more sketches before diving into the final painting.

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.

The Moment part 2 - ILM / ArtStation Challenge

Second piece done for the first round of the ILM Art Department challenge. I wasn't quite sure what to do for the second piece at first, but after rewatching the original Star Wars trilogy I really wanted to see some redemption for the droids -they get treated so casually badly by almost all the characters in the movie!

So, instead of having the droids protect Princess Leia like in the initial thumbnail I did I figured the concept would be much stronger if they stood up for themselves, and the best point in the story to pick this up was obviously in the droid torture dungeon under Jabba's palace.

After some more thumbnails I discovered that it's fairly easy to turn C3P0 into a scary murderous robot like in thumbnail C once you hand him a blaster, which is very much not what I was going for. For such a major character turning point I also judged E too subtle, and F looked too accidental. I quite liked the simplicity of both A and D, while B was great too but perhaps too reminiscent of a piece by Ralph McQuarrie in the same setting.

After some more fiddling with the composition, zooming out and shifting R2D2 back and forth I ended up with the final piece. Since C3P0 only has one facial expression available to him, I found it was super important to get his pose right so I played around with the positioning of his arms a lot. In the end I decided not to include Jabba's right hand, Bib Fortuna, in the reflection on C3P0's chest piece. While it could be a neat camera trick to zoom out from it to reveal the entire scene, it somehow seemed not to fit with the overall cinematography of the original Star Wars trilogy and felt forced.

Again, trying to mimic McQuarrie's highly efficient painting style in this piece though I think I mixed it a little more with my own style in this one. Had a great time painting C3P0's shiny surfaces, though it helped that there was a lot of reference out there for it.

The Moment part 1 - ILM / ArtStation Challenge

This was my first entry for the ILM Art Department challenge over on ArtStation based around the original Star Wars trilogy -a massive three-part challenge that spanned several months. By coincident I had already set apart some time to work on my portfolio so I managed to actually make it all the way through to the end without having to scramble for time. I have a lot of work I did for this to upload but since I can actually show all of the work in progress as well I figured I'd dedicate a few posts to it and do a proper write up and overview of my process.

The brief for the first round was:

Create two keyframes – an emotive still image that tells a cinematic story – within the world of Star Wars Episodes IV – VI. Use only existing Star Wars worlds, vehicles, creatures and characters to create a new story moment.

I didn't have a clear idea of what I wanted to do at first, so I just started doing some thumbnails to see what came up -resulting in the below sheet. I realized I wanted to do something that potentially adds to the movies rather than just go off on a random tangent and decided I liked thumbnail 4. The scene is set in the third film, and the idea is to quickly show how far the characters have come from the very first opening shot in Star Wars: A New Hope by showing the Tantive IV in background of the ride to the Sarlacc Pit -the idea being that the Empire discarded the ship after taking Princess Leia prisoner and just dumped it on the planet where it's now decomposing in the desert.

Once I had my direction, and since there was plenty of time to play around, I did some more thumbnails to figure the composition out a little better. I ended up taking Jabba the Hutt's ship out and substituting it with the one skiff Han, Chewbacca and Luke are in simply to drive the whole point of the scene home better, but kept the side-on view of the skiff. While for a modern remake I'd probably go for thumbnail A from the sheet below, if the scene had to be done with physical models and composed together after the fact with the special effect tools of the 80's it is way more efficient to have the craft slide across the screen horizontally.

I also played around a bit with the positioning of the Blockade Runner but the initial shot of the engines was both the most iconic and shows the now discarded ship from the same angle it first flew into view in A New Hope in.

This particular scene also lend itself well to try and stick close to the style of the original concept art for the Star Wars movies done by Ralph McQuarrie, so rather than rely heavily on photobashing and 3D models I decided to paint most of it by hand -something I stuck with throughout the rest of the challenge as well because I wanted to maintain some consistency, though looking back I think I probably should've shifted my approach for the last round especially to save time. Still, had a blast working on these, more to follow soon!

Interior art - Kobold Press Tome of Beasts

Some interior illustrations I did a while ago for Kobold Press' 'Tome of Beasts'. I believe it's been out as a Kickstarter rewards for a little while but only got officially released yesterday. Had fun on working on some of these!