Friday, July 08, 2011

Concept Art

In this post I talk about concept art, another example of why you would use an illustration as opposed to a photograph. Concept art is the physical form of an idea, used in my job to make a case for funding, for fellow employee's to visualize what they're planning, and for fabricators to visualize what the aquarium would like in the final product. The concept art that I do is usually quick and dirty and isn't as beautiful and thorough as that found in the breathtaking vistas of the concept art for games; it's mostly to have something physical to look at to get a better idea of what everyone is looking for. Most of the time, the final product doesn't resemble the original art and sometimes the image is as far as the idea goes.

To make the process faster, I've used Google Sketchup as a base for most of my concept art. Sketchup is very useful for plugging in real-life measurements and being able to get perspective lines and a sense of the space. The final art is mostly digital for the ease of revisions, but sometimes, I also get to use watercolor for that traditional architectural rendering look. Here's just a few of the projects I've worked on over the past few years.

This is the Sketchup version of our now open Ocean Science Center. Done 2 years before the actual space was opened.

Here is the Photoshop rendering, based on the Sketchup model. You can see that the overall layout and positions of most of the people are based on the model. I had a lot of fun trolling through the internet for fashion ideas to clothe the simple Sketchup models. Also, as requested, the people in the final rendering reflect the diversity of our guests. I had more time than usual to render this one, about 2 weeks. This image was used as part of the funding request and as a glimpse of the up-and-coming exhibit.

Another simple Sketchup model used as the base for the final rendering. This is of a potential otter play structure.

I've learned a lot about rendering rocks in this job. This one was a little experimental, trying out some Photoshop brush techniques that I first worked with on the Harbor Reef computer mural. This one was fairly rough, maybe a week or less to render with a few revisions thrown in. So far, I haven't actually seen this structure made.

Here is a Sketchup model of our new rock shrimp habitat. The Sketchup rocks gave me a rough idea of how much space a particular-sized rock would take up.

The final Photoshop rendering. I'm pleased with the way this one turned out because the real-life structure actually resembles my rendering.

We are changing out an existing exhibit to make way for penguins! Here is the Sketchup rendering that I used as the basis for my final rendering.

One of the few times I got to break out the watercolors. This rendering is done in watercolor and graphite and was shown at our fundraising event "Aquarium After Dark" to give everyone a glimpse of what the penguin exhibit might look like when it is finished next year.

I have a lot of fun with these concept renderings because they are a challenge to make sure I get everything the client wants in the image and because it's a little like making your own world in miniature.


Glendon Mellow said...

Fascinating and excellent post - I love it. Great illustrations for the rock shrimp habitat. The first one, were the rocks you sketched in to a certain scale? And the second one is just pretty.

Kathy! said...

Interesting post! Seeing the process is neat. Do you ever stick a little you in the mock-ups?

Changewinds said...

@Glendon: Everything is to scale. :p All the measurements are precise to real-life dimensions so that when we finally build the actual exhibit, everything fits! In the case of the rock shrimp habitat, I just needed to get a general idea of what size to make the rocks, because of the narrow depth, and then fit all the rocks into the dimensions.

@Kathy: I have no desire to put myself in my art! Apparently the penguin keeper in the concept art actually resembles the real-life penguin keeper despite the fact that I modeled him after a completely different photos!