As a Senior Concept Artist on Guildwars 2 I spent my time on a variety of exciting projects. The piece in this article was actually created for the Guildwars 2 cinematic. Often when I wasn't designing props, architecture, or environments I was tasked with creating paintings for the in-game cinematics. The creation of Guildwars 2 in-game cinematics consists of a multi-layered painting created by the concept artist which is then shipped over to the cinematics team. The cinematic team would then use their insane motion-graphic skills to create basically moving paintings. Creating the cinematic paintings can prove difficult at times because you can never flatten your image. You have to maintain a large number of layers that can later be moved around by the cinematics team. Any sort of color adjustment, contrast tweak or layer mode has to be applied to each individual layer.
This specific piece was created for a set of three different shots involving a massive dragon flying over the land causing destruction in its wake. In reality I made six full illustrations for about ten seconds of screen time! Each shot had a before and after state as the dragon passed through the image. I was given a loose storyboard to set me on the right path for this piece.
As with most of my work I never have a go-to process that I use to create an image. This keeps everything exploratory and allows me to stumble upon happy accidents and new techniques. For this piece I started by taking the previous background layer from the painting I did for the first shot in this sequence (Fig.01). I ran a simple motion blur filter on it to knock out all the detail but maintain the values and palette already established (Fig.02). I often like to reuse older paintings and layer in them in a variety of modes, along with brush strokes, to create an abstract base to begin with rather than a blank white canvas.
The next step in this piece was to begin with the foreground elements. In accordance with the established story board I would need a couple of characters placed in the foreground to view the oncoming destruction. To do this I simply painted an abstract chunk of land and a simple loose silhouette for the first character (Fig.03). After I had the base set up I began to render the first character, added a second one and then developed the chunk of land supporting them (Fig.04). I also threw in some quick brush strokes to block in the effect that could allude to a dragon flying by. I then decided to block in loosely what I imagined the dragon to look like (Fig.05). The fun thing about these cinematics is that they are super stylized so you can have fun with shapes and paint strokes to create everything. I also had to keep everything on layers so I could easily hop around the painting and be able to turn elements on and off. This helped maintain my interest and prevented me from spending too much time rendering anyone element.