Issue 16    



The Pangalactic Bazaar

cute aliens The Birth of a Concept

Much like Happy Hour, this new project developed out of a basic idea. I needed a scene of daily life that would involve lots of characters. I knew that I wanted this new scene to be set in a science fiction world. The idea of a marketplace sounded like an interesting and fun project, so the next step was to write out a laundry list of a variety of different characters, objects and scenes that could be included in the piece. The list included items such as flying cop-bot, flock of alien birds, haggling fight between merchant and human customer, religious freak w/ sign, family of small customers, and on and on.

But having a laundry list of possibilities and a workable concept are two separate issues. I had to address several issues before I could make sketches. What would the focus of the piece be? What dimensions do I want for the piece? I knew that I wanted to do the piece as an acrylic painting so going larger than the barroom brawl was possible. As an additional constraint, I decided to make the piece one that could be used for a wrap-around book cover. This meant that the main action had to take place on the right side with "dead space" on the top third of that section for titles. The "haggling fight" seemed like a good focus, though I changed it to a fight between two merchants, a human fruit seller and an alien pack animal merchant who's animals found the fruit too juicy to resist. The "back of the book" space had to be interesting but without a focus so that large areas could be covered with text. The area where the spine would fall had to have a couple full characters, not simply a lot of half-creatures. A traditional fiction book is just slightly taller than a 2:3 aspect ratio. So with that in mind, I played around with possible dimensions and finally decided on 29" x 18.5".

So what came next was a set of small concept drawings only a couple inches wide for figuring out how the scene could be laid out. As you can see below, they are little more than visual shorthand that only I can understand.

concept sketches
Click the image above for a closer look.


Putting That Computer to Work

The next step of the concept process took place on the computer. In order to avoid perspective problems and to get some help in figuring out the lighting, I put 3D Studio Max to work. Basically I created a rough version of the whole scene in 3D on the computer- some basic architecture and some lights. I roughed up a couple quick mannequins or "dummies" to stand in for all of the characters. I could then duplicate the dummies and, playing window dresser, position them all over the scene, playing around until I felt good with the arrangement. A little more toying with the lights, a quick render, and we're rolling. I add a quick grid over the image in Photoshop and end up with the image below:

3D dummy scene
Click the image above for a closer look.


The Final Drawing
The grid provides a way to transfer the layout from the rendered image to the final piece. I measured out the dimensions on a piece of Crescent Super-Smooth Technical Illustration Board. Why am I using that as the support? Because it is light enough to be easily portable, heavy enough to take the acrylic without warping, big enough for the desired dimensions, and it was laying around waiting to be used for something. The smooth surface will be nice for details, but a rougher surface would work just as well. Any number of supports would work as well.

Once the dimensions were measured out, I covered the whole piece with the same grid I laid over the rendered image. Using the grid as a guide, I transferred the architectural lines to the illustration board. Then, using the render as a reference, I started to draw in the characters. You may remember that, with Happy Hour, I sketched out almost every character before drawing it on the final drawing. This time I simply started drawing and did my creature concepts directly on the final drawing.

As I drew, I kept a blank, white sheet of typing paper under my right hand. This prevented the drawing from smearing as my palm rested and moved. In addition, it also provided me with some blank space for testing out ideas or, when I didn't have a clear idea of the next creature, a space to doodle in until an idea came. Through the course of the drawing I probably went through four or five sheets. Then again, just the drawing phase took me a good four or five full days of work.

At the end of it all, I had a big outline drawing of a pangalactic open-air marketplace in what is probably the poor side of a backward planet:

final marketplace drawing
Click the image above for a MUCH larger version.


Wouldn't you know that, in revisiting the original concepts, I have realized that a few details have been left off the final drawing? I have a little more work to do before I can move on! Once those last few details have been added, what comes next? Well, in preparation of painting I have to...

...Ah, well, let's leave that for next time.



    Issue 16    


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This document last updated Mon Oct 2 11:00:31 2006.