Film and video game con­cept artist Brian Yam of­fers a be­gin­ner-friendly guide to his craft that’s deeper than it seems

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This short and sweet video comes from Game School On­line as it branches out from its pop­u­lar pod­cast into video tu­to­ri­als. The First Sketch is of­fered through Vimeo’s On De­mand ser­vice: you can watch a trailer, then pay the small fee to keep the video. Un­for­tu­nately, there’s no down­load op­tion, so while the video stream is of a high qual­ity, you’re de­pen­dent on Game School On­line keep­ing the video on­line.

At less than £2 for this tu­to­rial, though, it’s hardly a high-stakes gam­ble; and de­spite its brevity, Brian Yam’s video of­fers plenty of food for thought, es­pe­cially if you’re rel­a­tively new to cre­at­ing art. Brian shows you how to progress from blank page (or screen) to com­plet­ing your first value sketch, and how to solve your big­gest cre­ative chal­lenges along the way.

Brian starts in quite sim­plis­tic fash­ion, rat­tling through some com­po­si­tional ba­sics such as the Rule of Thirds and paths of move­ment with some annotated ex­am­ples. This will be fa­mil­iar ground to most, but thank­fully his tour of thumb­nails has more meat to it, as he shows how var­i­ous choices of view­point af­fect the in­for­ma­tion the im­age con­veys. You’ll also dis­cover how you can es­tab­lish vis­ual rhythm within your thumb­nail.

The heart of the video awaits in the sec­ond half, how­ever, where Brian takes one thumb­nail and works it up into a value study. It’s a pocket-sized mas­ter­class in ma­nip­u­lat­ing light and shadow to direct the viewer around a scene, touch­ing on ideas like group­ing value ranges to keep the depth you achieved in your thumb­nail. By this stage, you’re even pre­pared to for­give the au­dio track’s oc­ca­sional scrapes as Brian knocks his mi­cro­phone and the con­stant back­ground mu­sic.

There are few artists whose work wouldn’t ben­e­fit from em­brac­ing the prin­ci­ples Brian presents here: it’s qui­etly bril­liant.

The early stages of the video present some ba­sic com­po­si­tional ideas in a direct way that be­gin­ners will cer­tainly ap­pre­ci­ate. As Brian draws th­ese thumb­nails, he talks about how bal­anc­ing big shapes against small ones in­jects en­ergy into the scene. Brian uses ex­am­ples drawn from across his ca­reer to show how he im­ple­ments the prin­ci­ples he dis­cusses on a daily ba­sis.

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