Thursday, 2 July 2015

Confidence in Art and Life

It's been a long, long time since I last updated, there's a reason for that.

Since last I posted I did some intern work for Wales Interactive and did some free work in my spare time for Irontown Interactive on their iPad game Iron. Both of these gave me experience and confidence in my work as well as some essential industry connections. Ultimately it helped land me my current job as Junior Environment Artist at Oysterworld!

I've been at Oysterworld for around about 9 months and it's been pretty great all round. I've been working on a number of unreleased projects and it's great to be part of an awesome team. It's also helped greatly in one other aspect and the subject of this post...


Confidence has always had a strange place in my life, I've always struggled with it in almost every aspect of my life but at the same time it's never been overwhelmingly crippling. My art has always been a part that was particularly bad, never really producing anything I've been proud of for more than a day or so before resigning it to being awful. I know I'm not alone among artists in this respect, it's a hurdle every artist faces and one that many fall at, and I'm far from over it yet.

I have however, improved. It's partly down to having an industry job, where I can get real, honest, face to face feedback on my work. It also helps to see everyone else's work and your place in the chain. Sure, I'm not the best artist, far from it, but I'm a Junior, nobody expects perfection from me other than myself. I've come to see where I stand in the grand scheme of things and it's helped me be confident in what I do at the level I'm at and to seek to improve to rival the people around me.

There's also the personal side to things. I would say my confidence overall in life has seen an improvement. I've been through a lot of the last few months, I've had to face a lot of demons, some of which I didn't even realise were there, and I have many more to face in the near future. I went to the doctors about my anxiety and have been put on medication for that, which has been a life saver really, it's allowed me to 'come out of my shell' a little more, less terrified of every little thing in life. This helped reinforce the idea that I already knew, everything wont fall apart from that little thing you said the other day, that thing you almost did but decided against. No, actually things are better not worse. This has helped me no end in many aspects of my life, but within the context of this blog I think this carries over to the art I produce.

Confidence. Confidence in what I am doing, what I can do, what I should do. All of it is essential in art. Whether it's that one confident brush stroke or the belief that you CAN reach that level of detail if you take the time and think about it. Confidence and belief in yourself. It's not easy, it takes a lifetime of effort to achieve, but if you really want it, you will put in the effort.

I'm not saying all this from a position of complete confidence or self security. Not at all. I've just managed to take a peek over the wall to the other side and seen the light, I still have to climb over the wall to reap the benefits.

Christ that was wordy... and a little heavy...

Let's have some images to remedy that. I've finally got round to practising my Photoshop drawing/painting again, an area which fascinates me but one I consider to be a weak point of mine. To help learn some new techniques and ways of working I've been watching and attempting to replicate the art of Aaron Blaise. He's a personal favourite artist of mine and has some awesome videos on his channel. I took the video step by step, pausing every few seconds and trying to replicate that on my image. I found this much less intimidating than trying to outright copy it and it also offers an interesting insight into other artists workflows.

Anyway! Here they are:

Ultimately I think they are both massive improvements over previous work, and not half bad for someone who hasn't practised this kind of painting in a few months. One of the main things I can chalk it down to is... CONFIDENCE! And guess what, because they turned out well, it's given me more confidence! Time to ride the confidence wave while it lasts...

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Get Over Here!

Quick update as I haven't done one in a while.

I started doing a quick sculpting sketch which then ended up becoming a bit of a project. As for now I have other, bigger things in the works so I will have to leave this one, hopefully I can come back to finish it.

This is my take on Scorpion from Mortal Kombat:

I'm really starting to enjoy using zbrush and I think every sculpt I do is quite a large improvement over the last which is great for keeping me motivated to carry on. When time allows I would like to practice some more hard surface techniques as I think this is a weaker area of mine.

Monday, 21 October 2013

The Return Of Dean!

So I always said I wouldn't let it get this long between blog posts, but I guess I failed that one...

Work dropped off quite a bit since finishing uni, I took some nice well deserved breaks after finishing my showreel and applied for a few jobs. In the end nothing came back so I'm still searching while working an agency temp job on the side. Working 8+ hours a week 7 days a week for a while I wasn't in the mood to start any big projects but now I have a few days off I'm getting back into that working spirit.

But enough about my personal life, I don't have a whole lot to show but here area  few digital painting I did to practice new techniques.

The first image is my first real attempt at drawing anime, I've recently gotten into some Visual Novels (Katawa Shoujo and Fate/Stay Night) and absolutely loving them at the moment so it was only natural for me to want to give the art style a try.

The painting was a copy of a random image I found on google search:

The second image I have done was a more personal project, it is a copy of some of the official artwork for Final Fantasy X-2. I never really got into X-2 but FFX was one of my favourite games of all time and the character design for Rikku in X-2 is really nice, so I thought it would be a fun project.

I have done a few other small digital painting projects just to improve my technique but most of them are just quick sketches. My next project is a top secret game. I'm currently blocking it out and getting the practical side of it down, making sure the gameplay is reasonably solid so that I can tell how far I can take this. At the moment it is going much better than I expected and I may draft some other people on to the project if they're interested in joining, but I want to get the idea down more so I can give a proper pitch.

In short the game is a side scrolling shooter which uses 2D sprites generated from 3D models.

The ultimate goal of the game would be to get it released on the app store, just as a free downloadable thing that can be a laugh, it may not get that far, but that's the goal I'm currently aiming towards.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013


I have finally finished my showreel after quite a lot of stress and fixing problems. Who would have thought it would have been so much hassle.

The video will not upload on here for some reason, probably the file size, but you can view it on me website here.

Now it's time to find a job. Wish me luck.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Busy Busy Busy....

Wow... almost two months since my last blog post, I used to be so good at keeping these up to date. I've been so busy that it has been slightly neglected so I imagine this blog post is going to be a biggy.

My last blog posted showed the end of my major project work at university, despite numerous difficulties the grade eventually came out as a 68, a high 2:1, which is what I wanted to get as this left me with a 2:1 overall for the year.

The last week I graduated, woo hoo! It was a pretty surreal experience, it feels like only yesterday that I believed I was never going to get into uni and here I am graduating with an upper second class honours. When I first got into uni I obviously wanted a first, but knew it would be difficult, my ultimate goal was to get a 2:1, so overall I'm pretty happy, and a high 2:1, although it doesn't show up on the grade, gives me a confidence boost in my work.

The hats are still stupid though...

Between finishing my major project and graduating I had the amazing experinece of doing a two week Erasmus program called Inform.Animation in Sardinia where students from universities around Europe worked together to produce an informative animation for a client. I had the pleasure of working with students from The University of Liverpool, Universidade Do Algarve in Portugal, Facolta Di Architettura Di Alghero in Italy and The Technological Education Institute of Athens in Greece. I met some truly amazing and inspiring people while I was there and it was a once in a lifetime experience. We had to generate a short informative video about the positive aspects of natural cork and highlight why wine buyers should by bottles of wine with natural cork to support in industry and protect endangered animals. The brief was from Portugal and we had constant feedback throughout the project so we knew exactly what the client wanted. My role within the team was to use After Effects to animate the drawings given to me by other members of the team.

So... where does this leave me now?

I'm currently getting my CV and showreel sorted out so that I can start applying for jobs as soon as possible. I'm getting really excited seeing all the jobs I can apply for, I expect it will be a while before any show interest but I might as well stick with the motivation while it's still here. I've also got a summer project planned with some of the other graduates from The University of Glamorgan, or University of South Wales as it's now known. This project is going to be a short movie although it is still very early on in it's infancy.

I'm also creating a mermaid designed by Jess to help me with female anatomy, as somehow I've managed to avoid female characters up until this point. I was a bit intimidated as I always find the more subtle forms of the female body harder to draw than the male body, but I'm pretty pleased with how this has turned out for only a few days work. This is still very much a WIP and the face and tail fins are still very undeveloped but it seems to be going fairly well so far.

After the mermaid is completed I intend to look further into scripting as it';s something I've touched on quite a bit but something I think could be worked on to help improve my work.

So, I have plenty to keep me busy, and fingers crossed I might get an interview or two sometime in the near future. Who knows what the future holds, but I have a feeling it's going to be good.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

And it's done...

I can't actually believe I'm saying this but I have completed all of my university assignments. With the hand in of my major project work for the game Echoes I say goodbye to uni work all together. It seems like only yesterday I was convinced I would never get into uni at all and now it's finished. Really surreal stuff.

Overall  during the final major project I think it went surprisingly well, although it wasn't without it's problems. A lot happened during the production period, which is to be expected over such a long time, that threw me off course and distracted me, but in the end I managed to keep focused and keep on top of it all. The work never overwhelmed me as it did in last year's major project as I worked hard right from the beginning rather than taking it easy and leaving too much until the last minute.

The order in which I did my work and how quickly I completed my work relied almost entirely upon what the team needed, I always tried to get everything out by when someone wanted it or when a director set a deadline, even if I had to have multiple projects on the go at once. The team members that needed my work seemed to be pleased with how quickly I completed it and I didn't get any negative feedback from the team.

The project started out with me having to quickly model, unwrap and create a high poly scuplt for two characters so they could be rigger, skinned and animated. This was quite a challenge as I would not consider myself a quick or strong character artist but I managed to get them done within 2-3 weeks and that allowed the rest of the team to get their parts done with plenty of time. The Centaur character which I made first turned out quite nicely, it had a pretty basic design which made it easy to make quickly but I also had a lot of fun making it as it took interesting aspects from humans and horses, allowing me some variety. My biggest problem with it was the high poly sculpt as I only had 1 day to complete the sculpt and I had never used zBrush prior to this character. This was a large task for me but I feel I did quite well considering the circumstances. Unfortunatly I was unable to do some of the finer work such as skin detail and some of the main forms looked a bit lacking and I would have liked to have been able to change that, but by the end of the project I ouldn't go back to change this. The textures worked quite nicely although I struggled getting the skin to look realistic again even though I think this is the closest I have gotten.

The next thing in the project I needed to complete was the Fae, the player character for the game. This was a big project as he was the central character to the entire game but I still had very little time to make him in, this was made even more difficult by the fact that I hadn't completely nailed down the design in pre-production and the team constantly suggested changes. This is good as the group feedback really helped to strengthen the character and we all got the character we wanted but at the time it was quite overwhelming and confusing. We got there eventually though. Similarly to the Centaur I only had a day to produce the high poly and although it was stronger this time round as I had more practice with zBrush it still could have been much better, high poly sculpts are certainly going to be quite a big focus of my work over the next few months The textures themselves could have been better, it seemed a bit bland simply having the bark texture and although the late addition of the moss helped make it more colourful and interesting I feel it still could have been more exciting. When I handed the mesh over to be skinned there didn't seem to be any major problems with the topology or scale of the model and it was nicely rigged and skinned by the end of it.

The props varied quite a lot in my opinion, things like the books, the church ruins and the staff I really enjoyed making and thought they turned out really well, but some like the Tholos ruins and the bow were not as strong. Most of the props took no longer than a day to model and I made sure I had lots of feedback from the team and the art director to make sure everything worked together within the environment and created a believable world. Although I had quite a few props to do this was the period in which I slacked off the most. After the initial rush of the characters and some personal issues I lost some of the motivation I had at the start, I still kept up the work but didn't work as much as before, sometimes as low as 6 hours a day, and the time I spent working didn't feel very productive. I consider texturing to be my weakest point and I think it shows on the props where textures are so important. They were acceptable but not very strong and I felt this was a shame as it was a bit of a weak spot in my work.

The Unity work is the most difficult to judge, I believe I got quite a bit done, some of it quite important to the overall feel of the game. I had to create the camera for the game which was essential and hard to get right. There were many bugs in the camera that I had to get ironed out before it was in a workable position. This took up the majority of my time in Unity and left only a small amount of time for the particle effects. I was not very pleased with what I had done but camera's are always a difficult one to get right, even big triple A games often fail to get the camera right. I believe if I had another week or so in there it would have been much better. The particles were much more successful than the camera in my opinion and they made a large impact on how the game worked especially the boss fights. The dust particles around the dragon helped sell the size of it quite a lot and my personal favourite was the Bark Basher snow particles as they worked really well with the animation to sell the weight of the Bark Basher and his shields.

All in all I think the project went quite well, it could certainly have gone better but at the same time nothing went particularly wrong. The game came out much better than I ever thought it could have been so that was a great surprise and really shows off how well the team worked together and the individual skill of everyone involved. I think this project has set me on the perfect path and I shall try my best to continue like this after uni. Getting more game projects under my belt and working on my weaker areas I feel I will eventually be good enough to get out there and get a job.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Final Renders

There are a few final renders coming out of my major project work now as I prefer the marking showreel for Friday. Not all of them are finish, some still need ambient occlusion and some have unfinished textures but this is where they are so far.

I have rendered them out as still frames to stop it from getting compressed twice and will not be putting them into a video until the showreel so I can only show still at the moment.

Here are the books:
The bow and arrow:

The Staff

Church ruins:

There are a few more props and the characters that still need to be finalised and rendered but it's coming along well so far, I've managed to pick up my work speed by spending as long in uni as possible so I should be all set to have my showreel rendered out by Friday, and then that's my 3rd year completed.