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