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  • On Game Design: The Designer

    [05.29.07]
    - Jason Weesner
  •  Interview with Goodson

    GCG: Where do you find inspiration for ideas for your original work (comics, sketches, etc.)? How do you use reference?

    Goodson: Artists derive almost everything they produce. If you can create and invent from the imagination it most likely looks like work you have done in the past. If it's artwork by Ellis, I get a very deja-vu feeling, thinking haven't I drawn that thing before, just like that. Reference can get you out of a rut, open some new paths and definitely lead to a stronger image. I can use reference for everything from a color scheme, a technique, a pose, perspective, or a composition. And other stuff I may not even be conscious I'm deriving. I sometimes envy the guys I work with that disavow possessing any art ability and then do a simple idea sketch that goes straight to the heart of communicating an idea as well as anything I'll do later with more draftsmanship and flair. Lately I'm deriving most of my inspiration from good character designers and caricaturists. Stephen Silver, Chris Sanders, Kruger. I went through a period where I was studying accomplished painters. The guy who made me an artist, Frank Frazetta, was an accomplished cartoonist but he does those incredible paintings. Looking at Frazetta always inspires me. It's the mojo I most want to emulate.

    GCG: As a concept artist, how are ideas presented to you? What's the optimal process for conveying an idea?

    Goodson: Ideas are generally hashed out in meetings. People communicate a character idea or a gameplay scenario. There may already be a style notion the game will be adhering to like Anime or Photo Real. If I'm comfortable and confident I have a handle on my goal I'll probably pin up a few reference pieces related to the game, look at the notes or document and decide where best to look into the picture plane. I do that by loosely starting a perspective grid for a footprint for whatever I'll sketch. Then I will do something skeletal that I'll start to hang a more finished rendering onto. I say skeletal but that can refer to architecture and level ideas as well as the figure and characters. Just something to make sure you have a good volume in your drawing. My optimal process is being asked to blue sky. Come up with ideas. For that sort of work I just invent. No reference other than the George Bridgeman and Frazetta in my head.


    Concept Art by Ellis Goodson

    GCG: As a concept artist, how do you build upon somebody else's idea?

    Goodson: It's amazing how much more you get out of someone else's idea by paying enough attention to it to copy it. I will do this, at least loosely, while I'm mulling someone else's idea. Fairly often it's also how I take notes, sketching someone else's sketch. Because I've been hired as an artist, and managed to acquire consistent skill after fortunate years of paid practice, I'll add a level of appeal to an idea that might need the extra oomph. We might know we want to do a Pirate character and that he's skin and bones. Drawing him in a rigging pose as a turn around won't get you excited about the character. A nice action pose with all the usual components of appeal, good silhouette, staging (looking at what's most important), composition, et cetera, that's what the concept artist can add to someone else's idea.

    An important concept brought up by Ellis is the use of reference. We've already talked about some basic forms of inspiration which are based on intrinsic stimulus. I like to think of these as indirect methods of inspiration since, many times, we may be inspired by personal experience when we least expect it. Conversely, reference generally falls into a more direct form of inspiration since we seek it out with some idea of what we're looking for already. I like to think of this as a trained or directed use of inspiration.

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