Friday, November 26, 2010

End of the Line for Cradle

The Games Development Course I have been doing for the last two years has now come to an end. Cradle, my major games project I have been planning and producing for the last year was finally handed over for the end of year graduation exhibition, and I am now awaiting my results. A great, numbing weight has been lifted from my shoulders, and I feel as though I had been putting so much time, so much thinking and so much effort into this project that I almost forgot who I was for a little while. With the pressures of Uni gone, it's good to be able to breath again and concentrate on me, my relationships with friends and family. Despite this, part of me is still saddened to be leaving. I have met some great people, and made some valued friends in these last two years, not to mention the invaluable knowledge I will take away with me thanks to the teachers who taught me all I ever wanted and set out to know. Without those teachers and the support of my friends and family there is no way my skills would have evolved to the point at which they are now, and I want to thank all of them for that because my artistic abilities are really what my life is about.

Cradle was a great learning experience. I think the biggest thing I learned though was how much time and hard work goes into making a game, and what is realistically achievable  within a given time span. When I was first given the assignment I had some really big ideas. I was going to create the best Horror Survival game out there, with heaps of hideous creatures lurking in numerous dark and dangerous levels, with only a few weapons/tools to defend yourself as the player. Well. Let me tell you, the final game ended up being about 10% of my overall plan. Soon enough I was cutting back more and more on levels, characters, weapons and gameplay ideas. I worked day and night and still there were just not enough hours in the day to give me the time I needed to do all the things I had hoped to do with this project. To really get everything done that I had written up in Cradle's 50 page game design document I would have needed a small team and even then I'd probably be struggling to get it all done in that small time gap of six months. I hated cutting away my characters, such as the Mauler, an infected mutant dog with a bite much worse then its bark. Those ideas and concepts were my babies, but I needed to do what needed to be done in order to actually get this assignment in on time and looking half decent.

I pleased to say that I did win an award on the night of our graduation for Cradle being the Most Outstanding Major Project. This award was something I had set my sights on from the beginning. In fact it was possibly my biggest motivation at first but it soon came to be that I was no longer making this game for myself, I was doing it for the teachers and the people who believed in me, because I didn't want to disappoint them.

Well enough keeping you in suspense, here are some screen shots from the game itself. This particular level was based inside a large waste processing plant where the player was required to turn on power to the main pumps in order to progress to the next level via an over flow outlet.  The player would come up against deadly enemies which had been infected and mutated by the alien virus, and the only hope the player had of surviving these fiends was to play a hide and seek game with them, avoiding the creatures at all cost.

Another thing I have realized after doing this course is how much my heart belongs in games. I'm not sure why I didn't see it years ago. Working as a games artist I'm able to design my own characters, my own worlds and then bring them to life in a virtual, interactive environment. I have also realized how closely related 2D and 3D art work is, both helping to develop skills in the other.

So what now that I have finished Uni? There is so much I want to do. Well first up I want to get the updates happening more frequently on my blog. And I'm pleased to say it's straight into full time work for me now, doing what I love. I feel extremely lucky. I'm now working for a really great games company called Fraktalvoid, along with another talented class mate of mine who was also picked up for his excellent art skills. Besides that, I've started doing some more drawing, training up hard with plans for a graphic novel in mind next year. Who knows, maybe I'll turn Cradle into a comic book series. At some point, hopefully sooner rather then later I want to release some tutorials on my blog regarding drawing and 3D modeling, and maybe even some tutorials on other areas of game development that I am competent in. I'm also planning on entering Dominance War next year, it's a long shot, but I'm going to have a go. If nothing else, Dominance War will help me build up my folio with my latest and highest quality of work. And there is so much more I want to do. Best of all though, it's just really great to be able to go home at night and leave work at work. And now I have my weekends back as well. So I'll definitely have some time to make up with friends, family, and most importantly my beautiful partner Scarlett who has been a great support to me throughout this entire journey.

Alas I enter a new chapter of my life, excited at the thought of what the future may bring.
Take care everyone.
- Clayton

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Are You a Quitter or an Achiever?

I was afraid to look at the time on my clock when I got out of bed today. I was right to feel slightly ashamed when it read 12:26 PM. I can't remember the last time I slept in that long. But after almost dosing off even after consuming a V, Rock Star and Red Bull at work yesterday, it was very clear my body, and my brain needed some good rest. I love my work. I love Uni. And part of me even loves staying up all night to work on my projects. But the rest of this year I am looking at a giant boulder of work, with it's deadlines rapidly rolling downhill toward me. I am lucky to get five hours of sleep at night because there is honestly just so much to do.

So what pushes me on? Why do I put so much time and effort into my work, when I know what the odds are of getting through it all? Why do I sacrifice the time I could be spending with Scarlett, friends or family? It would be so easy to throw in the towel. Well I am who I am, and I believe in never giving up, in being persistent in doing what you're doing to the very end no matter how bleak the situation. Because if you give up once when things get tough, you will give up the next time things get tough. You see giving up means you're accepting defeat in what you're doing. And it's not even really about anyone else, because in accepting defeat you let yourself down. I believe in pushing yourself beyond your limits. The more you sacrifice, the more pain you go through, the more time and effort and passion you put into something, you will be repaid equally in achieving something great and amazing. The saying 'You get out what you put in' just seems so obviously true to me, I see it in everyday life all the time.

I'll use myself as an example. Lets say I sit down with a great idea in my head that I want to communicate through a drawing. Maybe it's an awesome new idea for a character. So I draw for five minutes, maybe ten, and this picture just isn't working out for me. Oh and look, I tipped some coffee all over it. Now, I could give up and go and play the new computer game I just bought today. Or I could get another piece of paper and redraw my character all over again. It would be easy to give up and go and play computer games instead, it doesn't require any effort, and going by what I said earlier about getting out what you put in, I will achieve absolutely nothing. So I decide to put in the effort and start the drawing over again. Four or five hours later I have a magnificent new character to behold. I have achieved my goal, I have something to show which measures up equally to the amount of effort I put into it. I am proud of myself, and as I show my new character to others they are proud of me too. You see that sense of achievement is what is important, it does so much for a person, while the sense of defeat through quitting can be very detrimental to how a person acts in the future.

I understand that I have been given this life and I am going to make the most of it. I can't waste my time here on Earth just to quit every time I think I can't reach my goals. Instead I will try and try and eventually I will reach my goals, I will reach my dreams, and hopefully look back on my life as an old man with no regrets about the things I could have done. As for the quitters they will never even come close to achieving there dreams, if they even have any at all. And maybe they are content with that, but only because it's easy and that is a shame. Ask yourself, are you a quitter or an achiever?

Anyway, my point is never give up. Now onto some art work! Since I made two mixed CD's for Scarlett's birthday gift, I decided to make another album cover at the last minute.

Basically the meaning I am trying to convey in this illustration is to - open up your mind. Believe in the unseen, take chances on the things which seem uncertain. Don't follow the rest of the crowd because of some unspoken assumption they know how to live life better then you. Open up your mind up to new ideas, open it up to who you really are. From the moment we are born we are told no, you can't do this, or you can't do that. We become programmed in such a way that prevents us from reaching our full potential, that prevents us from looking at our dreams and saying yes, I can achieve that.

Well I think it's about time for a coffee. So until next time, take care everyone.

Monday, October 11, 2010

A Small Update

Just thought I would post a quick update on what I've been up to over the last few months, just to let you know I'm still alive. I know I haven't posted anything on my blog for a while, this is due in a large part to this being my final months of Uni. My games assignment is due in on the 11th of November, and I still have a load of work to do on it. Not only this, but my two other jobs, both of which are also games projects, have deadlines in November too. So as you can imagine, amongst juggling all the work I have to do, there is little time to do much else, even to sleep. But it's all good fun. And although sometimes I look at this pile of work and just say to myself that there's no way I'm going to get it all done, I know by some miracle that I will. You know you're alive when you're busy.

It is my partners birthday on Wednesday, and amongst the flowers and boxes of chocolate I decided to do an album cover for a mixed CD I'm making for her. This painting has been really great to work on because over the last few months I have been doing a lot of 3D work and it's just good to have a break from it and mix things up a little. Since Scarlett rarely takes a look at my blog, I thought I would post her picture up a few days before her birthday. Hope she likes it.

Anyway, although I have much that I would like to write about I must unfortunatly get back to work. Once November comes to an end I will be posting lot of the work I've been doing throughout the year.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Practice of Anatomy

What greater puzzle is there for a male artist then the Female Anatomy? I've heard that women find it easier, then men to draw women, and men find it easier to draw men, or maybe it's just that we're comfortable drawing people who are of the same sex as our selves. I don't know about the rest of you guys, but the female body is so puzzling to me, it seems so elegant and simple compared to that of a male subject who's bulky stereotype typically consists of bulging veins and muscles. Why then is it so hard to capture the beauty of a woman on to the canvas? It's almost like trying to complete a jigsaw with a shortage of puzzle pieces.

So when I feel like I need to improve my skill, or keep it up to scratch, I like to do a speed paint every now and then. Now I could do some sort of ghastly creature, a killer robot, or even a martian warrior, but lately the subjects of these practice paintings have been, you guessed it, women - mostly of whom are drawn from some sort of reference material whether it be other artists work, or photo references. Now let me turn that last comment on it's head and say that I am personally against using reference material but only for myself, I don't have any problem what so ever if other people do it. It's just a little rule I put in place for myself, I'm not quite sure why, I think it just comes down to the simple fact that I want to be able to draw anything straight from my imagination at will, where ever I am, whenever I want. To draw without having to use reference is indeed hard and does take an amazing amount of skill and practice to confidently get a grasp of, ultimately though, it's what I'm aiming for. However there are exceptions to this personnel little rule and they apply in one of two cases - When I began drawing and when I practice my drawing in an attempt to build upon the skills I already possess. So in this entry I would just like to offer some advice, and share with you a little insight into starting out as an artist. With a little experience under my belt I feel I'm able to share with you this information based on the journey I've taken as an artist, the research I've done coupled with the techniques I've found most useful in attaining a firm understanding of human anatomy.

Now if you're a new comer the first thing you'll want to do is get a grasp on 'perspective', then you'll want to begin experimenting with simple shapes such as spheres, cubes etc... And there's a bunch of other areas you'll need to read up on and research but in this blog entry I'd like to focus on Characters, the relatively realistic, humanoid kind. Now whats the best way to learn to draw characters? The simple answer is this - Use REFERENCES! I sound like I'm contradicting myself here, so I'll step back and explain why you need to use reference material. You see to be able to draw without reference, you must first learn this skill by doing the exact opposite. We learn how do do things through repetitiveness or practice if you will. Do something over and over and over again, day in and day out, and your brain will quite literally store all of the information it gains from these experiences. In other words you learn to become a good drawer in much the same way you learn to walk or ride a bike, it's just with drawing it can take a little longer to get to the level of expertise you might be aiming to reach. And what better way to start learning then to learn from references! Todd Mcfarlane, the founder of Image comics and creator of Spawn, started out drawing by referencing some of his favorite comic books. One week he would work on drawing a torso, then the next he'd focus on drawing a torso and an arm, then an arm and a hand, then a torso and a leg, then a leg and a foot, and through the weeks that followed he began to create a basic but solid understanding of human anatomy. From there it was just more practice.

As well as comics and illustrations, photographic references are another excellent source of knowledge for anatomy. Don't be coy about using nude photography either, female or male, because before you can successfully cover a character in clothing, putting the folds and creases in the right place, determining the weight and thickness of each item of clothing and how to then accurately lay that over the body of every unique character you come up with, you need to first understand what is underneath it. I'm in no way condoning the use of pornography (still your choice), instead gather references of more tasteful nude photography, or even bikini or underwear models. All I am saying is that nudity is nothing to be afraid of, so for goodness sake use it and study it intently because the benefits will pay off in the end and this will be evident in your drawings. Also, it doesn't just stop at knowing what lies beneath the clothing, you need to know what lies beneath the flesh and the numerous muscle groups until you reach the very basic physicality of what we are - the human Skeleton. Obviously, basic knowledge in human anatomy, such as proportions and basic shapes will do, and should be studied first and foremost before jumping into the deep end. But knowing the basic muscles and form of the skeleton is also a very important must as you take the journey toward becoming a better artist. Bottom line is, if you have no experience drawing and want to learn how, and want to be good at it, practice makes perfect. That is the best advice one artist could give to another. Draw from life, draw from reference material and never trace. Read lots and lots of how to draw and anatomy books. Some excellent books for beginners which I highly recommend are Christopher Hart's 'Drawing Cutting Edge Anatomy' and 'How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way' with Stan Lee. Also check the Video tutorial series, 'Dynamic Figure Drawing' created by David Finch. I personally found these videos to be the biggest help of all in understanding human anatomy, going into basic structure, muscle groups, composition and posing, movement and more. David Finch explains the entire process as he draws so you don't get left behind.

You've practiced and practiced, you've filled sketch books full of observational drawings. Now you want to be able to draw from your head, the mind, the machine of all creation. Well to start with, you're going to need to buy a new sketch book (or two) and fill it with lots and lots of stick figures in every single pose you can think of an more. That's right, 'stick figures'. Now by stick figures I mean the basic structure of the skeleton (circle for the rib cage, circle for the head and hips, and lines for the limbs). Now if you like, continue to look at references, in fact I recommend it, because by doing so you'll gain a better understanding about the limits of the human body. After all, just because our skeleton might roughly resemble a stick figure doesn't mean it can bend in any direction and as far back as it wants. Why not use yourself to reference this? Ask yourself how far you can bend your shoulder back, how far can you lift your leg up in the air, how much can you twist you torso around? Unless you're made of illastic, or are a contortionist, chances are you'll discover that you do have limits in regards to what you can do to your body, and applying this knowledge to your drawings will make your characters more realistic from their poses alone. After a few weeks of drawing stick people, you'll want to start to flesh your poses out a bit by drawing the simple structure of the body and it's various muscle groups. Now remember, start simple. Simple shapes for the arms, simple shapes for the legs, even cylinders will do at first. When you arrive at this point you're pretty well on the right track. Surprisingly detail is the easiest part, so don't dwell on it too much to begin with, just really concentrate on the basic shapes and structure of the body. Keep practicing and in time you will get the hang of it.

Maybe you might ask why I still use references, considering I've been drawing for the last 15 years. Well, you still want to feed your brain with information on anatomy. Because lets face it, a lot of the time we forget how to do things, or how things work, not entirely, but still enough that you may find a deterioration of quality in your work over time. Doing quick sketches, speed paintings, poses, for practice regularly keep the ball in your court. Think of it as exercise for an artist, regularly practicing anatomy, regularly drawing from the world around you, regularly drawing from reference helps to keep you in shape as an artist. So that when you do come to drawing straight from your head, from the imagination, or there is no reference anywhere to be found the process becomes almost instantaneous as you create an image purely original - an image from pure thought.

Lastly I'd just like to share some of the 'practices' I've been doing lately. Really, I should be doing this every night, but unfortunately I can only wish in the busy life I seem to be leading this year. You notice the subjects I've chosen for these art works are women, and yes, they are based from photo references. Which brings me full circle back to the first paragraph. I think I draw so many female subjects because that's what I find the most uncomfortable to draw, it's what I feel I need the most practice in. There is a way in which society views women. Some say that the ideal female image is an unfortunate allusion which we all seem to be fixated on, whether it be that you find these seemingly perfect looking women attractive, or you envy them, or you want to be like them, you can't deny or change the fact that this is the way the world sees an ideal woman. I wish I could change it, I do think that it's an unhealthy and delusional way to see women, but woman have always been the face of beauty and to me that is something every woman should be proud of. Lets face it when we think of women we think of femininity, delicacy, beauty in much the same way we might see the stereotypical image of a man to be muscly, handsome, and strong. Who knows where these assumptions came from, who knows why we think about our selves is this way. Could it be just in our nature? Is it our simple way of thinking and categorizing information just as we do with the vast amount of knowledge that feeds into our minds daily. Maybe it's simply our way of dealing with thought management - Or - Is it to do with this fascination we've had with a higher being since the dawn of man? We look up to these idealizations of ourselves, we want to be like them - We want to be beautiful, we want to be handsome, the brave man wants to save the damsel in distress and she wants to be saved. We want that smoking hot woman in the Cadbury Milk Chocolate ad, or the drop dead gorgeous guy in the Mens underwear ad. But we can't be them or have them, because they don't exist. We can't help it though, we'll always view everything in a certain light, positive or negative, it's our nature.

I'm getting a bit off track here, but the reason I brought this up is because I wanted to let any ladies reading this blog know that just because I draw 'super-model' like women instead of 'real women' isn't because I view women as sexual objects or anything like that, I draw beautiful women because they seem to be the universal view of what beauty is. Don't get me wrong either, I think my partner is the most beautiful woman in the world, but does that mean you do? She may see me as the hottest hunk in town, does that mean you do? The answer is probably going to be no or differ in some way. Remember I said the 'universal view' meaning that if I then draw the stereotypical, ideal woman or man suddenly everybody agrees that yes, to some extent, the subject this illustration is depicting is attractive to me. If we want our work to appeal to a viewer through something aesthetically pleasing is it any wonder then that we use beautiful men or women to reach out to a broad range of audiences, whether that be in advertisements, comics, video games, movies, or any other media outlet? It's hard to create a connection to people you've never met on a personnel level, throw an element that everybody recognizes and agrees on into the mix and you've just made that connection, you've grabbed their attention. As people we have this need to attach images to things such as beauty, and we have found what that is very thing is, unfortunately it's often misunderstood or cause to take offense.

Here's the pics.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Cradle Game Project

his year is my final year of a two year Uni course in Games Design. As a final Major Assignment we a required to create a ,computer game on our own, this includes the game design document, the concept art, the modelling, the texuring, the animating, the sound production, the level building and *cringe* the programming. Now most sensible people, knowing we only had 6 or so months to build a game solo would have gone for a smaller idea, something simple, along the lines of Mario or Doodle Jump. But not me. No, for some reason I love stress, so I decided to sacrifice my life for the next 4-6 months to work on a fully 3D first person Horror survival, with Normal and Specular mapping, complex puzzles, and gigantic levels. What can I say, I think big. This is my chance to make my own game, so I've decided to go all out.

Now the pay off is, not only am I going to be mega stressed, I have no choice but to cut out of lot of the stuff I would otherwise have incorporated into the game. Basically, I can only afford to do two, three levels max, three characters, and maybe two weapons if that. If I had my way I would have more then doubled the content in each category. So 'Cradle' (the name I've decided to call my game) has been virtually cut down to a demo. But that's okay because the work I do produce for this game is going to be my best yet which will of course contribute to my folio and resume'.

Without further ado, I would like to present two of the main characters I've developed for the game so far.

Final Concept for the Interfector

One of the many versions of the Interfector I came up with

Among the many characters and environments I've brain stormed lurks the Interfector. As you can probably tell it is indeed a hostile creature, but it cannot be blamed for it's actions. This entity was once a human however after being exposed to a mysterious alien parasite, there is little left of his mind or body that resembles anything of the sort.

This grotesque looking creature you see before you is known as a Mauler, and once used to be a dog. The first subjects of experimentation with the alien virus at the Alcina Luna Base was our lucky canine friend here. After many years of exposure to the parasite, the Mauler has been taken under full control as a host, mutilated both mentally and physically beyond recognition.

Currently I've created a finished model of the Interfector, and have so far managed to get him running around in Game with some basic AI. Which is all a zombie really needs right? As for the Mauler, he's currently in the process of being modelled. After some redesigning of our canine zombie I decided to go for a more beefed up version of the Mauler and it now resembles something along the lines of a very angry, alien parasite riddled, overgrown pit bull who would love nothing more then to eat you alive...

Anyway, here's some more screeshots of the final Interfector. Modelled the base mesh, rig and animations were done in 3DS Max, and I Sculpted the Highpoly mesh in ZBrush. Textures were done in Photoshop.

 Keep an eye on the Blog because I'm sure there will be much more to come on the Cradle Game project. I'm in the process of building the first level for the game at the moment. Hopefully be the end of this week I'll have finished it and the second one and with any luck have some screen shots to post.

First Post

Welcome to my blog. For those who don't know me, my name is Clayton, and I'm creating this blog as a place to share and discuss my art work, thoughts and ideas.

I've been lucky enough to find my passion in life, to find something to strive for, and though it may sound dramatic, something to live for. And although it's not the only thing, my art work is a big part of my life. The thirst to create something from nothing, the need to communicate an idea, the need to be recognized, are all part of why I love what I do.

I feel lucky that I've found my passion, because it gives me focus, direction, something to strive for and work toward. Unfortunately, many people don't have that, many people don't have that one thing they can hold onto. And so they finish high school, maybe go to University or TAFE afterward, others might not even get that far, instead dropping out of school at the end of 10th grade, and then they get sucked into a void with no idea what to do next. That saddens me. Because what happens next is that each day passes them by as they sit procrastinating, and at the end of each week they might look back and see that they have done nothing, that they have achieved nothing, and this continues as the months pass by, then eventually the years. What's sadder is that I know some of these people, some of them who are very close to me. I guess it's hard though, to look inward on yourself. People almost become hypnotized, trapped in their current situation, unable to see any change over the horizon, if they can see a horizon at all. And you can't say anything to them, nothing gets through. All they can do along with the people you care about them is wait for that click inside, that click that diverts there entire thinking pattern. I've been there, I know what it's like to be suddenly dropped in a very lonely and empty place in which you feel there's no way out of. Yet somehow I was able to pull myself out of the river I was drowning in. It seems so long ago now, but there's one thing I remember throughout the tough times and that is my art was always there and it was something I held onto dearly, for without it I would have been totally empty.

Of course that was back in my teens, and what kid doesn't go through such things right? It's easy to say that, but the reality is, that's where it starts. Some kids never recover, they never find that thing they can hold onto. So they turn to alcohol instead, or drugs, sex, maybe even self harm, and that's what their life becomes. By that point, it's almost impossible for them to see their true worth, there is nothing to pull them out of the dark despite the efforts of those who still might care for them.

I guess I'm just thankful that things turned out for me the way they did. I did stray from the path a little, but I got back on track, I became focused on what I really wanted to do. I couldn't settle for a normal job. I wanted my dream job, I wanted to create comic books and computer games, I wanted to bring my characters and stories to life! So I worked hard. More then anyone I knew I wasn't even close to being the best at what I do. I was never content or happy with the level of skill I possessed so I kept pushing. I looked at the amazing art of people I admired such as Todd McFarlane and Greg Capullo, Boris Vellego and Jullie Bell, David Finch and Simon Bisley and set myself a goal to get to that level of expertise. I'm still not there now, but because I've continually pushed myself to get to that level, I've improved.

And it's not just my drawing I use to create my ideas and other peoples with. From a very early age I knew I wanted to make games. To have the gift of bringing entire worlds to life, worlds where people could talk and interact with characters built entirely from the imagination. What more could I want? My drawing and painting ran hand in hand with this field of work. Now from a simple sketch, my creations evolve into a walking living entity within the virtual worlds I create.

Now it seems like things are finally falling into place. People see that I have talent, more then I give myself credit for. I'm being offered jobs and careers in what I love. My dream is coming true, and it's only because I dared to follow it. It's because I wouldn't settle for anything less, I knew I wanted this from the beginning. I don't know where this will all lead, or how much further I'll get, but I just want to let anyone who reads this blog know that there's nothing different from you and I but the will to persevere and follow your dreams. There's nothing different from you and I, or between you or the US president, or the Queen, or the person you admire most in the entire world. What one person can do you can do too! We're all made of the same stuff, born into this world with the gift of free will. Do not let anyone hold you back if you find that passion within you.

For everything to have lead me to this point in time, I owe a lot of people who are close to my heart. My Mum, my friends, the great people I now work with, but there is one person in particular who really turned my life around, the girl who threw me the rope and pulled me out of that river, who encouraged me and my art, who gave me a place to stay and convinced me to go to Uni and aim big. I just want to say thanks to my partner, who has been with me every step of the way through thick and thin, and always believed in me. There come's those times when I wonder how things might have turned out differently were it not for her. Where I might be. So thanks Scarlett, for helping me to turn my dreams into a reality, for all the wonderful times we've shared together, but most importantly for being a true best friend.

And with that rather lengthy, and sentimental introduction I leave you dear reader and encourage you to follow my blog, as I take this journey through my career, through my life, and let's just wait and see how my talents evolve along the way.