God help the outcasts

Blog update! I’ve updated the pages to the right with permanent links to my internship portfolio and my old Ringling admissions portfolio. It’s that time of year again for the Ringling prospectives, so I’m thinking I’ll update the portfolio in the next few days with some explanation on my choices, and tips for planning your own portfolio. :)

Also, I wanna give a quick shot-out to my homey (and roommate) Yezi who’s also got some concept art up, as well as photos of our annual Mandatory Fun Time outings!

The senior class load is a little lighter than previous years, with only nine required credits. To stay full-time, I needed another class. Rather than taking another liberal arts course (my last degree was in liberal arts, I have a ton of those credits), I decided I wanted a class that would benefit my spring portfolio and my future career. So I got with one of the CA teachers and constructed an Independent Study course in story and visual development.

The class is organized into three-week-long story development assignments. I’m onto my second assignment – all about vespas and motorcycles. I noticed as I was gathering reference photos, and in discussing the idea with my teacher on Tuesday, just how into it I was. I was coming up with really strong ideas for all the characters – including the vehicles, who are characters as well. I was getting a sense of their personalities and their motivations without much effort. I was eager to start exploring their designs, to come up with ways to show character through the design, to tie everything together in one cohesive visual style. I was so excited about getting started.

Not so with my first assignment. That story had been a struggle. The concept was a criminal who enters a church for the first time. There was only one character, and he was bland, without much appeal, IMO. Even when I sat down and tried to devise an interesting design, I just couldn’t come up with anything unique.

Designing the church was even worse. I’ve never been very good with environments, or how to make them interesting. My teacher and I agreed that my final image just didn’t carry the story as well as my exploratory sketches did.

Well, I knew exactly why the second assignment seemed more appealing. It was all about the characters. It was totally a character piece, driven by interaction, by relationships. That was the whole story; and that’s what I like to focus on in my work. But hey, the first story had a character too, so why wasn’t I as excited about him as I am about vespas and motorcyles?

And that’s when it hit me. Because the criminal story wasn’t just about the criminal. There was another character I completely left out.

The church.

Okay, so I’ve heard this idea before. Environments and props need to show personality in their designs, too. I always think about it when I’m designing, but sometimes it takes a while for a concept to really sink in. This was totally an environment piece – but the environment was a character. Much like Notre Dame served as a character in Victor Hugo’s Hunchback of Notre Dame. And it’s the idea of what this church is, and what it is to the criminal, that I wasn’t pushing in my final piece.

I’ll need to revisit the piece later before I call the assignment complete. I’ve got some new reference pieces that I think will help me capture the moment. But for now, it’s on to vespas and motorcycles.

6 thoughts on “God help the outcasts

  1. Interesting to read! Also, I think with environment, lighting is key to character. That and the opposition of hidden and clearly visual spaces. Both, I think, are some of the strongest elements in determining a basic fight or flight sense of safety versus… wariness? Material choice too. A stucco church seems more quant and comfortable or suggests geography. Or you could have one of those crazy Rococo cherub fests, which could either be terrifying… sparkly and “good” or sort of the “demented child” deal. And would suggest your dude is in Europe. What if he was a French convict? Would he wear a beret? Would he take it off to go in the church? Is it an intimate space or does it provoke an awe inspiring sense of losing oneself in space (high ceiling, etc.). No fair, Nilah! Now I want to design it too!

  2. Or or or… A storefront church! One of those weee urban churches tucked into old convenience marts and gas stations, etc. What culture? We talking full out Mary and the Trinity? Or the waters of life, which at least supposedly are big in Hispanic Christian iconography (so I’ve heard, anyway).

    Is it in good repair, or is it broken down? Does it match is psyche or oppose it?
    I want to talk churches with you for hours. In person.

  3. Now, I’m just playing with the idea (not picking on your work, just playing through my thoughts since I’ve randomly “engaged” here). Maybe make the guy less strong looking. More of a junkie kind of look, all bony with dark circles under his eyes. So he can psychologically be thought of as weak without a long set up. Or if he’s stronger, does he get in fights often? Maybe he has a limp, or a split lip? What’s his economic position, which would alter costume? Same with geography. Is he unkempt? Long, greasy hair? “Too cool for school”? Spikey? A soul patch?

    Ok. I’m going to stop now. But… These are fun projects! Can definitely see the appeal in film visualization.

  4. Hi Nilah,

    This is scottmcd from conceptart. Just dropped in on your blog to see what you’d been up to. Very nice stuff. :) For some reason the 3D model of the character from your internship portfolio really catches my eye. I’m glad it looks like you’re going to be able to finish at Ringling. The gestures I saw posted were awesome too. Is Mike Mattesi’s book on Force and figure drawing for animators part of the curriculum there? What do you think of it? I find myself going back to it.

    I’m still posting occasionally at conceptart, but I’m also doing other stuff as well. Check out http://www.scottmcd.net/artanalysis/ for some deconstruction or http://www.sequentialscott.deviantart.com for more recent pics. I also still go to that figure drawing session you pointed me to at Montgomery College.

    Take care!

    Scott McD.

  5. …Okay guys, I’m gonna be honest, I’m AWFUL at replying to entries. But I swear I read every single one and I really appreciate you taking the time to stop by and comment. :) Thanks Wayne, and Alaina for your detailed insight.

    And Scott, it’s been a while! I’m going to hit up your sketchbook ASAP. I’m glad to hear you’re still drawing and creating. I’ve actually never looked inside Mike Mattesi’s book, though I know CA students here do reference it. I’ve learned a lot from George Bridgman, Glen Vilppu, and Karl Gnass’s The Spirit of the Pose. I really should check out Force sometime.

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