Welcome to our… erm, restaurant? (I’ve been watching some cooking shows lately). Choose a table and make yourselves at home…
…Alright, enough hot air! I’ve worked on a vast and informative post about Composition in drawing, but some parts of it are not completely clear to me and it’s gonna be ready when I am ready. So I decided go back to the very bases of concept drawing and make another post, mainly for the beginners who are just starting or haven’t event started yet and are wondering where to start, what to pick for a career path and what it would be like.
In this part of the post (there would be two more parts), I’m going to write about the Character concept part of the “menu”.
There are basically two types of character concept artists, and yes, you can be both at the same time. Once you learn the base, it’s easy to expand your skills and knowledge to another level. But first:
1. Proportions. This is something you have to know before everything else! Even before anatomy. Artist Wei gives a great advice on how to better you hand-eye coordination and train yourself in proportions. Right proportions are just enough for silhouette sketches of characters, but they won’t be complete without…
2. Gesture drawing. Gestures are essential for making your characters’ action poses more fluid and animated, alive if you will. Right gestures can turn a stiff and boring concept into a lively personage with character and flavor. Mister Prokopenko here explains gesture drawing in under 10 minutes.
3. Anatomy. You expected this to be the first one, didn’t you? I thought just so when I was starting to learn how to draw. And I started from the very bottom of anatomy (all bones) and quit few times, because it is veeeery difficult. This is not for beginners. So I’d advise you not to learn ALL THE ANATOMY, at least not all at once. Remember what I told you about how to study in this old post? So don’t throw yourselves into the deep and start simple with George Bridgeman’s Constructive Anatomy.
4. Volumes. You’ve gone through Proportions, Gestures and Anatomy, you can now create anatomically accurate and believable silhouettes of your characters. Now it’s time to add volume to them and make them pop up and look realistic. If your understanding of Anatomy is good, then determining where to put light and shadow would be a piece of cake for you.
5. Costume, weapon and hair design. So your characters are still naked, eh? They need clothes and you need lots of studying (yep, we are far from over with studying). I suggest you don’t treat lightly costume and weapon designs. Yes, we all wear clothes every day, and we’ve all watched historical movies and sci-fi movies and have read comic books and such. But that does not make us competent in costume design, nor armor design. Clothes and especially armor look a certain way because they have certain functions. If you want your characters to look believable, you have to learn how clothes, armor and weapons work… Oh, and hair as well!… Unless you want to draw anime -.- Just browse “medieval clothes,” “hipster fashion,” “sci-fi nurse costume” or whatever you feel like adding to your visual gallery and study it. Draw it, write down notes and explain to yourself simple and obvious things about the functional design you find in everything – that would really help you remember it.
Same goes for weapons. If you want to draw fantasy characters, they mostly use medieval types of weapons. Sure you can play with a certain design of a sword or axe, but first you have to learn its real proportions and functions. No artist just sits down and starts to draw fantasy or sci-fi characters without accumulating a large number of reference photos and knowledge about the era.
6. Textures and Materials. You are finally allowed to use your super spacial custom Photoshop brushes you have been gathering for so long, but don’t know when to use. But first… that’s right, STUDYING 😀 Again gather some photo references and through observing and drawing, learn how light works with different materials. Metal can be smooth and shiny, or nicked, or rusty. Leather can be oiled, or matt, wrinkly, smooth. Clothes can be cotton or silk. Skin can be smooth, young, torn, bruised, dirty, wrinkled, dry, wet and so on. Textures make your characters look less like clay figures and more like real people dressed in a diversity of materials that their environment provides.
And when it comes to texturing, don’t just drop textures from Google images and set the layer to Overlay. You can do that, but it should be the last thing you do with your characters. First draw in the textures yourself. Learn how to do it with a basic brush and make sure you understand different types of materials before you start using custom brushes and photo textures.
As for Creature concepts, repeat the same steps, but add animal proportions, gesture and anatomy, and animal textures such as fur, horns, scales, hooves, feathers and so on. Study the diversity of life around us before creating life on your own. The most appealing creature and character designs are those that are closely related to reality. People can easily relate to something familiar, than to something completely new.
TIME IS RELATIVE
You are probably wondering how much time it takes to become at least good at concept art? A lot! A TON! Drawing is not easy and like every other profession it take lots of time to become good at your field and even more to become a master. If you think that concept art is the career path for you just because you love to draw and are better than your peers
On the other hand, of you are really passionate about art and drawing and don’t mind drawing your day away, don’t mind hard work, pressure and harsh feedback; feel the urge to constantly improve yourself and your skills and knowledge, I don’t think there is a better career path for you.
Good luck, fellas!
ps. – If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to comment or contact me bellow: