Vehicle and prop designer, Eric Lloyd Brown talks about his inspirations and his favorite projects…
Eric Lloyd Brown has been working in concept art and prop design for live action and animation for most of his career. He got his start in the movie industry doing miniature effects, model-making and some set construction.
3dtotal: Who or what are your big inspirations as an artist?
Eric Lloyd Brown:
It's a bit varied. Recently it seems I'm very inspired by a lot of the artists coming up and established that I see putting their stuff out there. It's hard not to get excited by such a strong community of creatives doing their thing.
I'd say earlier on, before I became a professional, I was very inspired by science fiction and historical books I read. Whatever got my imagination going. As for specific artists, I was originally inspired by Ron Cobb
, Syd Mead
, Ralph McQuarrie
and Joe Johnston
. They were heavy influences during my youth and still are in many ways.
Eric's latest piece - Exodrone
3dt: What are your favourite tools and software packages, and why?
Software-wise I'm using MODO
. I'm also learning ZBrush
, which I absolutely love, but MODO is great as well. I want to devote more time to being more adept with those packages.
A design for a futuristic race car driver for a personal project of mine
3dt: Could you describe to us your typical 3D workflow?
I usually start out designing a scene or object inside the actual 3D program, but I'm trying to get away from that now. I miss the traditional sketching process and think it's important, even as a 3D artist, to keep your 2D skill set up to snuff. Once I fully realize a design in 3D, I will do test renders in both KeyShot and Vue to see what I'll get. Vue is fantastic for vehicle renders in an outside environment! It's a grossly underestimated program that started out shaky in earlier versions but has really come into its own as of late. Once I figure out what package I'm rendering in, I'll output the render and do post-work in Photoshop.
A vehicle used to explore various alien environments
3dt: You've worked in a diverse number of creative fields, not all of them related to 3D. How have they all informed your work? What have you learned along the way?
That's a great question. I'm fortunate to have been immersed in various creative disciplines. When I was doing miniatures, there was a call to keep the process we used as streamlined as possible, because the earlier movies I worked on had very small budgets. Making sure the designs could be easily and quickly built but still look cool was mandatory. We did that by selling the design with a strong, iconic form language, without having to rely heavily on exotic, curved surfaces or high amounts of detail. The second you introduce compound curves it becomes a sculpting issue, versus quickly slapping down a flat panel of styrene. It was ultimately about time efficiency and design economy.
As for my 2D animation style, I haven't allowed it to influence my photo-realistic 3D work too much but it has creeped in there a bit! In animation, objects are much wilder and the form contrasts a bit more out there. It's good to push boundaries in unexpected ways.
A rough sketch of an exploration vehicle, using both 2D and 3D
3dt: What's your process for devising vehicle or sci-fi designs? What makes a design strong and memorable to you?
As before, using strong form language. I also make sure the function makes sense. Placement of engines, cockpit, weapons, portals, etc…if the form is inhibiting the function; I'll walk the form back until those two things are in harmony. I also try to be careful about placement of details and shapes. Most times I'll group details next to larger, low-detail areas for nice contrast. Making sure the design is visually appealing from all angles is paramount as well.
A vehicle used in harsh industrial environments
3dt: Which project (personal or professional) are you the proudest to have worked on, and what made it so special?
They all have had something fun about them but I'd say Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within
ever so slightly edges out TRON: Uprising
, but just by a hair! Final Fantasy
, despite how it was critically received, was an absolute joy to work on as it was the first full-on realistic CG movie of its kind. Working side by side with top Japanese mech artists and American concept artists was both a mind-blowing and humbling experience. The movie was very design-focused and in that regard it turned out beautifully. I also got a prominent vehicle design in there: the four-legged Quatro. Of course, it also didn't hurt that we were in Honolulu in a skyscraper with a view of the Pacific Ocean!
A parking meter from the somewhat near future
3dt: You've covered a lot of different ground already, but there's always something new to explore out there. What techniques, tools, or skills are you planning to work on next?
Movies are my first love. I would like to get back to making short films and writing scripts again. I did a couple of shorts and a PSA a while back and really fell in love with the process. I did one short that has Anthony Ray Parker (Dozer from the first Matrix
movie) in it! I realized immediately that I love working with actors and what they bring to the collaboration process.
A remote research base in an Arctic setting, created with SketchUp and Photoshop
3dt: If you could offer a key piece of advice to artists hoping to pursue a career in concept design or the entertainment industry in general, what would it be?
Get your work out there in front of people, and when you do, make sure it is your best effort. Be honest with where your skill level is at and ask professional artists for feedback so that you can always learn and improve. Feedback from your non-artist friends or mom is fine, but you really need to get pro critiques. Network and meet people, go to events, workshops, etc., and make friends. It's a crowded industry. Being a great artist is essential but finding people who want to hire and keep working with you is even more important.
An engine design that produces temporal displacement. Mostly SketchUp, rendered in Vue
3dt: Finally, and most importantly: if you could be any cartoon character who would you be?
He's more of a comic strip character but I would say Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes
! With his imagination, the sky's the limit!
A garage servicing a coalition fighter squad
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