Ex­pres­sive wa­ter­colours

Fan­tasy RPG con­cept artist Marc Taro Holmes shows you how to turn the un­pre­dictable na­ture of tra­di­tional me­dia to your ad­van­tage

ImagineFX - - Editor’s Letter - Marc is the au­thor of De­sign­ing Crea­tures and Char­ac­ters and has been a con­cept artist on epic fan­tasy RPGs from Bal­dur’s Gate to Dragon Age: In­qui­si­tion. You can see more of his art at www.cit­i­zens­ketcher.com.

The in­sight­ful wa­ter­colours work­shop from multi-tal­ented artist Marc Taro Holmes is a great read.

My background is in con­cept art for video games and fea­ture an­i­ma­tion, an art form that’s greatly ben­e­fited from the ar­rival of dig­i­tal paint­ing. Yet as visual ef­fects be­come more im­pres­sive, they also be­come more tech­ni­cal. Nat­u­rally, I want to meet ris­ing stan­dards. But I worry about los­ing touch with the sim­ple en­joy­ment of mak­ing art. It’s a job. There’s some­thing to be said for con­cept artists – who are sup­posed to in­spire the team – need­ing to first be in­spired them­selves.

What I love about ink and water­colour is the way the me­dia it­self sets ground rules. You can’t wan­der through end­less vari­a­tions. Once the brush goes down, by-and­large that mark is for­ever. You need to go with your first state­ment and stop wor­ry­ing about per­fec­tion.

At the same time, sim­plic­ity has hid­den depths. The brush is a sub­tle tool, much more sen­si­tive than tablet and sty­lus. It can change in­stantly from a point, to a broadly tex­tured drag, to a splayed ratty bris­tle. Not to men­tion the ex­cite­ment of truly ran­dom events. You can’t pre­dict when a pen might splat­ter. Dig­i­tal artists are al­ways try­ing to add grain, to pro­gram brushes to em­u­late ran­dom­ness. But it’s im­pos­si­ble for soft­ware to be truly out of con­trol – you’ve al­ready told it what to do. Nat­u­ral me­dia will do things with a mind of its own.

Here, I’m go­ing to go old school. I’ll be draw­ing with an­tique dip­ping nibs, paint­ing with sable hair brushes and work­ing on a tex­tured water­colour pa­per. You’ll see what I do to safe­guard against un­for­giv­able mis­takes, and when I just go for it and let the ink splat­ter where it may.

And at the end though, I’ll prob­a­bly go back to the com­puter to make some fi­nal re­vi­sions. I’m not crazy! This is the real world. You’re only hurt­ing your­self if you fight the soft­ware. Let’s use it in part­ner­ship with some fly­ing paint.

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