Hello, my name is Ioan Dumitrescu (aka Jonone); I'm a 20-year old self-taught concept designer and currently a student of architecture. In this article I'm going to try explaining a little about the working process and thoughts behind a picture which I created for the Uplift Universe challenge over CGTalk.
First of all, the brief stated "alien interaction", and I knew pretty much right away that everyone would create creatures standing besides humans, interacting in one way or another (not that there's anything wrong with that - very cool images can and did result from this kind of concept!), but I had something different in mind...
I had heard of David Brin's award-winning series before, but had never gotten around to reading them. So I went off and started getting my references for it. Whilst reading some of the texts provided by D.B. and CGTalk, an idea came to mind, and so I started with a loose sketch on paper. I sketched what I knew I wanted to be included: a huge wreckage, a human ship trying to escape alien scouts and a crew member watching. In short, I wanted a story. The easiest way to create an image is if you have a story to work with (Fig01).
I took the drawing into Photoshop and did a quick colour sketch of what I had in mind over the sketch layer. At this stage I was just looking for the right shapes, composition and values - still searching with nothing carved in stone, letting everything reveal itself as I went along (Fig02).
I kept on increasing the ship, trying to make it something really huge, but it just didn't feel right (Fig03). I knew this would be a turning point: either I would keep trying to make it work or go somewhere different with it. As usual, I wasn't too afraid of starting over, so I brought up a new layer and started something huge and overwhelming (at least it was in my mind, at this stage) (Fig04). I opted for something with more weight, something that could stand on top of the camera and give a huge, crushing feeling. I felt like I was on the right track with this and so I carried on with it (even though some comments suggested that it looked like a huge highway, not a ship, and to stay with the old one, but I didn't get discouraged by this and decided not to abandon the new image or forget what I thought was right). I changed the colour scheme to greens, browns and yellows to feel more like everything was happening on a metal planet, "Kithrup". I also abandoned the human ship as it was just too organic and had an alien-style feel to it. I knew it had to be a human ship which wasn't that advanced compared to the alien scouts.
With this new layout I started bringing in some detail. I often bring photos in as textures or I start erasing parts of the painting and painting-over, and basically just erasing back and forth till I'm happy with it. It still looked like a sketch at this stage but I had things popping in my head and leading me towards the shapes and forms I wanted. I wasn't happy with the character and action, though, as I felt there wasn't any emotion, no action - it was just too static! So I changed this and made the human race towards (into) the camera, and made one of the scouts attack the human ship (Fig05). From there on I knew it was just a matter of time till I would get it done. I started working on the human character, which ended up being a girl on a fast scooter. I kept on detailing, painting and erasing, using selections, masks - whatever was needed to get the job done! I added an explosion on the human ship too, as I wanted it to suggest, as strongly as possible, some kind of explosion with waves coming off the plasma shields after being struck by the green laser beam (Fig06).
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