Wednesday, 3 November 2010


As a small child, my Dad always loved photography – he took me along on walks through the patchy woodland near our house. Armed with his old camera, he allowed me to explore and actively encouraged every photograph that I took. I remember hundreds of photo albums brimming with pictures of great oaks and autumnal forest scenes that he had shot, and in between these beautiful photos sat my masterpieces – mostly out of focus  ladybugs and spiders. With his help I learnt a lot about composition and lighting and I blame him for my true respect of nature…. mainly trees!

Whilst continuing on with my A-levels, I took a Photography foundation class at my local college. Here they taught me the technical jargon and how to work an SLR. The composition lessons worked a treat too – I learnt how to lead the eye through a scene with horizontal and vertical lines, and how to add interest to a dull piece by using nearby objects as framework .

When I began this Game Art course, I forgot all of the lessons learnt throughout my childhood/education… perhaps because I was so nervous and eager to please or just constantly running out of time! Now my second year of uni is in full swing, I have noticed a few changes in my work flow and decision making. The way I think about planning and composition has completely changed from those first spidery sketches I made in the first year. I feel far less hassled by my lack of planning and can now concentrate on being the best I can be. I am re-learning to recognise an aesthetically pleasing shot, rather than jumping straight into the work to get it done. I am using my thumbnails as experimentation, instead of doing them because I was told too. I am working with the final piece in mind, and I can see a huge improvement in the finished work!

Tiny first year thumbs::

canalP Larger, far better second year thumbs:


Reading this article about art processing has really intrigued me. The article touches on aspects of planning I would love to get to grip with. She introduces the tutorial with:

“ This entire lesson is about why (in this image) there is a tree. Why there is snow. And why they are in their precise positions. It’s about the thought process surrounding the understanding of purpose and discerning detail to create a mood to achieve your concept. ”

The point of the article is the importance of using references. She mentions using them for every last detail you paint, because drawing from your imagination is hard work, time consuming and often flawed. I need to get in the habit of taking more pictures and looking out for inspirational scenes. Luckily, I have done a lot of photography before the course and over the summer managed to sort all of my pictures into some sort of filing system. Turns out I have a LOT of tree pictures and bark textures. But.. I need MOAR!

A further two quotes from the article that I particularly agree with:

“ If the thumbnail is not successful, it does not matter how
good the painting is, it will be less than it can be ”

“ If I squint my ‘minds eye,’ what shapes do I see? ”


I have only just started implementing this in my own work. Before, thumbnail just spurted out of my pencil in a hurry to get themselves done. I then just ad-libbed a final with hardly any reference and a lame little sketch. Now I only do a final once I am happy with a chosen thumbnail. Editing composition and perspective is far easier in a crumby sketch then a fully rendered final piece!

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