söndag 27 januari 2013

Review - Creature Design with Anthony Jones

Anthony Jones is a senior concept artist who's worked for clients such as Sony Santa Monica, Hasbro, and Wizards of the Coast. He currently teaches at Red Engine Studios and the online-based Schoolism, while freelancing on the side.
For more information on Anthony Jones and his work, check out this extensive interview on Schoolism, or visit his blog at Robotpencil.org

Creature Design with Anthony Jones is, like most other classes at Schoolism, an online based course that can be taken either fulltime with recorded video feedback from the instructor, or as a self-taught course where you only gain access to the video lessons and other fulltime student's video critiques.
This review will cover my experiences with the self-taught version of the class.

There are a total of 9 lessons for the class, each encompassing a lecture ranging from 1-2 hours, and also an assignment that cover the subject matter of the lesson. Each lesson covers elements of design from thumbnailing, comparative anatomy to color and gesturing. The lessons will allow you to gain an insight into the workflow and visual brainstorming Anthony uses to design and paint his creatures in the entertainment industry.
He'll introduce each lesson with important principles and theories covering the subject at hand, and goes on to paint and demonstrate while explaining his techniques and thought processes. In some lessons he'll also end by showing a quick time-lapsed painting demo, summarizing all the techniques and theories he had previously talked about.

Thumbnails for the first assignment
Aside from the lectures, there are also student critique videos you can watch, often ranging from 20-30 videos for each lesson. I've found that the ability to watch these critique videos are what makes Schoolism such a unique addition to online classes, since they add so much more value to the class than what you already get in the lectures. Since every student is different, you get a very diverse pedagogical experience. Teacher feedback ranges from both beginner artists to real professionals.

When I took the class, the overall objective of the course was to design a new dragon-like creature, that was supposed to remind you of the majestic elements of the typical fantasy dragon, but encompass a completely unique visual design.
The course was designed in such a way that every other lecture would be based on design aspects, while the other half would be based on practical usage. We went from designing with thumbnails to constructing with sketches, studying animal anatomy and gestures to posing our creatures in a fitting environment, making color studies of real animals to coloring our own creatures. The final lessons were based on finalizing our creatures while Anthony shared some in-depth insight into the industry he's worked in.

The class focuses on design, not on the technicalities of drawing or painting, and although Anthony gave plenty of great pointers on how to improve your digital painting skills (I probably learned more photoshop effects, hotkeys, digital workflows to speed up my drawings than in any other prior course I've taken), the main focus is on how to design and come up with unique creatures. I would not recommend that you take this class if you don't already have some drawing experience. That said, Anthony doesn't shy away from giving his best critiques even to the most inexperienced artists. Regardless of your skill level, most artists who entered the class with some rough work, ended up leaving with really great final pieces.

From thumbnails to value sketches
Anthony's teaching and critiques lean more towards a laid back and down-to-earth teaching style, which makes his lectures feel a bit more personal than the typical teacher that tends to be a bit monotonous and impersonal. Anthony manages to avoid this, but at the same time he never steps away from taking his work highly serious. If you've ever watched his his broadcasts on his personal livestream channel, then you know what kind of personality to expect from his critiques. At times it almost feels like you're drawing along with a really skilled art buddy. There were a few times where this trait could cause his messages he wanted to convey become a bit vague, for example it sounded like he would struggle a bit with his choice of words, but you never really failed to understand the overall points he wanted to come across. I think this is where taking his full class with video critiques comes handy since you can ask him as many questions as you want, which he highly encourages throughout the class.

Posing your creature in an environment

A really great thing about Anthony is his willingness to talk about his prior experiences from way back when he was still a student, to his more recent discoveries as a professional artist. He talks about numerous inspiring stories of both his own journey when working hard to improve his skills, and encouraging tales handed down to him from his teachers and co-workers.

He continuously makes some great points on that drawing skills are bound to the artist and not to the tools we use. Drawing digitally or traditionally, what brushes or what tablet you use shouldn't affect whether you can turn out great work. There's a really great video critique where he basically searches for a picture of a toddler on google image, pastes it into photoshop, turns it into a custom brush, and then goes on to paint this really awesome looking dragon head with it. Just to reiterate, he accomplishes this with "a baby brush". Not a bad way to prove a point.

I think that the most important thing I walked away with from this course was the concept of reiteration. Anthony stressed numerous times the importance of reiterating on your designs, and I could see how much it changed when applying this method to my workflow. It was a real eye-opener, to see a method I had previously taken for granted invigorate so much improvement to my own work.

Could you paint a dragon with
this as your brush?

I need to point out that it does seem like Schoolism has some issues with their student critique videos. Just as I mentioned in my previous Schoolism review, Advanced Lighting with Sam Nielson, I came across some technical difficulties with some of the critique videos. Every once in a while some of them would just stop playing halfway through and some would not load at all. I suspect this might be an issue with the Schoolism dashboard system, since it's not tied to just one class, and I did try it with different web browsers without any luck. In any case I've forwarded this problem to them in hopes that they will fix it. Since there are so many of the critiques you can watch, it's hardly an obstacle to your learning process, but it really does stink when a video just suddenly stops playing, especially if it's in the middle of an important story or point the teacher wants to express. This never ever happens with the actual lectures, just with a few of the student critiques. If anyone who reads this review decides to take the class, or already has done so, please let me know if you experienced similar issues with the critique videos.

To sum things up, Creature Design with Anthony Jones is a great introduction into the world of creature design. You'll need some prior drawing experience before taking the class, but the class is primarily aimed towards artists who haven't dealt with creature design on a professional level previously. Although I would say Anthony's fascinating insights on the industry, stories of his artistic journey, his down-to-earth lecturing and his efficient painting techniques makes this class interesting for artists of all kinds.

My final 3 dragon designs for the class:


I want to end by providing a couple of really nice resources and websites that I used, both for studying and for inspirational boosts:

This was my choice for a animal anatomy book, it's shock full of wonderful pictures and charts of animal anatomy, primarily focused on four-legged animals. The only downside is that it only features one or two flight-based animals.

I would highly recommend that you study animal anatomy alongside human anatomy, it's so much easier to remember the skeletal structure and muscles when having something to compare with. It might sound like twice the amount of work, but I would say this is one of those rare cases where more is less.

Kate is an artist I found while searching for artistic interpretations of dragon anatomy, her anatomical accuracy in creature design is truly inspirational. Check out this cool dragon diagram she drew.

Brent pumps out new creature illustrations and concepts every day, his work ethic and discipline is really something to behold. I always get inspired whenever I see new work from him every morning.

Muddy Colors, a collective of professional artists had a Dragon special earlier last year on their blog. Check out their work for some jaw-dropping material!

In addition, Anthony Jones has a few more free videos on Schoolism you can watch where he explains and demonstrates some of the tools he uses in photoshop.

2 kommentarer:

  1. Hi! thanks for dropping by my blog - i really appreciate the comment! It looks like youre doing a great job here too. Keep it up!

    1. Thanks a lot Aidan, please do keep in touch :)