School's Out!

6.7.2007 | Figuratively speaking, anyways. Well, not really, but it feels that way, now that I've finally had some time this past week to work on some new concepts for the Jade Moon story, after a self-imposed break to try and (slowly, painfully) learn SilverLight, Microsoft's Flash-killer (lots of nice features like built-in video and true 3D support; a slick GUI-based tool called Blend that can easily overwhelm newcomers with the sheer number of options available, and a steep learning curve). I like Silverlight, and I'm looking forward to slowly ramping up my skills in it, XAML and C#, but I missed doing concept art.

Any how, enough with the whining. The first one is a concept for a medium tank. It started off as an idea for a heavy tank, with hydraulic lifts to raise the wheels off the ground, similar to the seige tank in Starcraft (I'll probably explore that at a later date). I had an absolute blast drawing this one.

The second one is an early attempt at a truck design for the research team that first lands on the jade moon. Not too happy with it yet, but it looks better scanned in than it did on paper. Not sure why.

And finally, just a random airborne ship inspired by a drawing in ImagineFX, the UK magazine for hobbyist artists. This one looked better on paper. The design's a little conventional, which is the perfect excuse for me to do some research on WWII submarines and ships . And then, draw them . Lots of them.

Yes, but is it fast?

4.28.2007 | Concept for a low-profile, recon vehicle, armed with a heavy machine gun turret. The drivers seat in the middle, flanked by two seats for additional personnel to provide covering fire.

Slowly, the gears turn.

(If you want to, skip my whining and get to the more interesting, if still pedestrian, concepts below and in the archives. Or check out some really old concepts on my Art page.)

4.28.2007 | New tenative title: Jade Moon (replacing the old title: Emerald Moon). I originally thought of titling the story Chronicles of the Jade Moon, but I might save that for the back story (prequel, if that term makes sense in the context of prose).

I'm slowly, ever so slowly, drawing additional concept art for other elements of the story, viz. the ancient civilization, their structures, a crucial component of the story that provides the requisite antagonists, and of course, the truly fun part of this whole story, the human vehicles. For now this includes an orbital transporter, drop ships for the troops, drop pods for heavier vehicles (drop ships can be retrieved, drop pods are used once and then either abandoned or used as base stations), tanks, armored personnel carriers, recon vehicles/jump-suits, all-terrain vehicles, research vehicles, additional buildings for the moon base, hand-held weapons and even clothing. I want to give everything a very distinct look and I'm leaning towards a 40s-50s style retro-modern look for everything on the human side, and very Aztec-style appearance for the alien civilization, which is easier said than done, and I've been poring through tons of references to make sure everything looks right.

And therein lies the problem.

In my mind's eye, I can see the alien civilization, I have a pretty good idea of what the human vehicles will look like, heck I've even (in my mind) written about half of the story and to a certain degree, the conclusion and even the epilogue. I've run through a couple of action scenes, closed in on the humans' expressions when they first run into the antagonists and mentally sketched what the scene will look like. But somewhere between my brain and my fingers, there is a massive disconnect, a chasm that makes it difficult to faithfully translate what I can see so clearly in my mind's eye.

The end result is a series of sketches that rarely look like what I imagined them to be. On average it takes about an hour or two to draw a single concept art. Painting them would take several hours. It's a slow process, that can at times be very frustrating and tedious. I would have given up a long time ago, if I wasn't passionate about the story, and the fact that if I succeed with this story, well ... there are several other stories that have been swimming around in my mind that I'd love to illustrate, paint and write about (ah, the irony). Not all of them are good, but it's the process of bringing them to life that's important to me, not necessarily the end result.

I realize that part of the frustration stems from the fact that, at the same time that I'm struggling to develop concepts that look good, I'm still learning how to use the tools effectively, while trying to improve my drawing skills (perspective is my weakness), and hunting down references to make everything look believable. The irony is that, my original motivation for writing this story and illustrating it was to improve my design, drawing, painting and writing skills, among many others ( I'm also hoping to improve my web design skills -- HTML, JavaScript, Flash, etc. -- in the process of trying to showcase the work).

Any who, to cap this long, boring rant, it's been difficult, but I have no desire to give up now. I have to admit that despite the slow progres, I've had a blast doing the concept art, and even though the designs are quite rough around the edges and look a bit pedestrian, I'm happy with the way they turned out.

Now, on to the artwork. (Ah haha, artwork. art - ... yeah. Moving on ... )

First attempts to draw the habitats for the alien civ (I really need to come up with a name for them). The first one was an attempt to use acrylic paints instead of Prisma markers to create concept art, since the markers are a tad expensive and dry out quickly.

Click each drawing to enlarge.

Human orbital spaceship. Once again, evolving from "form follows function" to a bit more interesting shapes. Although, I think I achieved the opposite.

And some early attempts to paint in grayscale only, using acrylic paints. Takes the pressure off trying to figure out what colors to use to make the design look good (I'm lazy), and besides it results in a more atmospheric feel.

Or maybe it's because the photographs I used for reference were black and white.

Um. Yeah.

From top to bottom: a Russian IL-2 (I believe, I'm not sure. Help, Internet!) Romanian-designed and built IAR 80 (thanks to Mike Gladysz for the correction!), Messerschmitt Komet (one of many fascinating and bizarre concepts from Germany during WW2), and the Saab Tunen (the first Swedish-built jet, became operational soon after WW2).


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