Wayne Haag’s guide to scale

Vet­eran con­cept artist Wayne Haag re­veals some of the prin­ci­ples he ap­plies to his sci-fi art­work, which en­able him to gen­er­ate a sense of epic scale

ImagineFX - - Editor’s Letter -

I re­ally loved this work­shop. Wayne’s thought­ful and hon­est ap­proach re­ally shone through.

Read­ers who have seen my work will be fa­mil­iar with the sense of scale I de­pict in my en­vi­ron­ments, both dig­i­tally and tra­di­tion­ally. In this work­shop we’ll will go over some ba­sic prin­ci­ples that will help com­mu­ni­cate the idea of large scale in your own pieces.

Con­vey­ing a sense of scale isn’t just a mat­ter of draw­ing huge ob­jects within your scene. Those ob­jects must ap­pear cor­rect rel­a­tive to other

Point of view

This is one of the most dif­fi­cult as­pects of all il­lus­tra­tion: where do I view my scene/sub­ject from? What point of view (POV) best com­mu­ni­cates the con­cept?

Would we paint a por­trait of a per­son from di­rectly above or from the floor? Of course not. How­ever, a lower an­gle look­ing up at a large ob­ject quickly con­veys height. This can also be com­mu­ni­cated from above, by in­duc­ing our own fear of fall­ing! Which one is right for the scene will de­pend upon the orig­i­nal idea for the work.

When cre­at­ing any scene, I do my best to vi­su­alise my­self within the en­vi­ron­ment and won­der where would I be if I were to ‘shoot’ the scene with my cam­era. Where would I be stand­ing as the ac­tion un­folds?

These two sketches show two takes on the same sce­nario. One is a lower view from the po­si­tion of the fig­ures trav­el­ling to­wards the rock for­ma­tion, while the sec­ond is from atop the rock look­ing down. Both con­vey scale, so it’s now a mat­ter of see­ing which POV best fits the story. el­e­ments, through the use of value, colour, rep­e­ti­tion, view­point and so on. Pho­to­graphic lenses and their re­la­tion­ship to ap­par­ent scale is a lit­tle-un­der­stood as­pect of il­lus­tra­tion and will also be cov­ered. As al­ways, ba­sic light­ing de­sign, colour choices and com­po­si­tion will strengthen your work.

A cou­ple of the matte paint­ings I worked on for the film The Fifth El­e­ment are, to my eye now, fail­ures of scale. Per­haps one day I’ll cor­rect them, but for now my goal is to help you avoid some of the mis­takes I made back then. This is by no means a com­pre­hen­sive study of scale, but hope­fully a good be­gin­ning. So let’s get started, shall we…? Wayne com­pleted a BA in pho­tog­ra­phy at RMIT Mel­bourne in 1994, be­fore start­ing his film ca­reer in 1996 on The Fifth El­e­ment. He now works as a con­cept artist, teacher and oil painter. See more of his art at www.ankaris.com.

Choose the right lens

This tip re­quires a whole ar­ti­cle for it­self, but suf­fice to say that longer fo­cal length lenses, for ex­am­ple a 150mm zoom, pro­vide a vis­ual com­pres­sion of per­spec­tive, a flat­ten­ing of el­e­ments within the scene and starts to show a truer in­di­ca­tion of rel­a­tive scale.

One side ef­fect is the crop­ping of ob­jects be­yond the pic­ture frame that would oth­er­wise be vis­i­ble with a wide-an­gle shot.

A longer lens en­ables you to vis­ually edit out most of the in­for­ma­tion in front of you, yet still show an enor­mous por­tion of the land­scape within the scene. Any­thing that breaks the frame can be left to the imag­i­na­tion and is usu­ally per­ceived to be larger than it might ac­tu­ally be. I use this to ef­fect in my paint­ing, Desert Wreck.

In the sketch be­low you can see the orig­i­nal paint­ing frame and the view if I had com­posed with an imag­i­nary wide-an­gle lens.

Rep­e­ti­tion of ob­jects

Here, you can see how the rep­e­ti­tion of ob­jects work in the scene. While we don’t see the fore­ground ship and land­ing plat­form as com­plete ob­jects, there’s enough vis­ual in­for­ma­tion to let the viewer know that the docked ship at the plat­form in the back­ground is a re­peat of the first. The tiny fig­ures seen on the fore­ground plat­form con­vey the size of the dock­ing en­vi­ron­ment.

You can also see this prin­ci­ple ap­plied in my paint­ing Ren­dezvous (tip 10).

Any­thing that breaks the frame can be left to the imag­i­na­tion

Val­ues and at­mos­phere

Value is one of the eas­i­est ways to help con­vey scale of ob­jects in the dis­tance. At­mos­phere through dust, pol­lu­tion and smoke lifts the value of shad­ows as they re­cede into the dis­tance. The amount varies de­pend­ing on how thick the at­mos­phere is and where it’s con­cen­trated. Light rays re­flect­ing off ob­jects within a shad­owed area don’t have the power to over­come the in­ten­sity of the light strik­ing the at­mos­phere it­self, which is be­tween you and the dis­tant shad­owed ar­eas. Light hit­ting count­less at­mo­spheric par­ti­cles over­rides any de­tail that might oth­er­wise be seen within those shad­ows. To see this prin­ci­ple in ac­tion, re­fer to the lighter shad­owed ar­eas of the back­ground wreck (the cir­cled #4 area in the paint­ing).

Size of sto­ry­telling de­tails

This re­lates to the rep­e­ti­tion of ob­jects within a scene. What looks like a small de­tail on a dis­tant ob­ject can turn out to be a large fea­ture when seen up close. The jux­ta­po­si­tion of a hu­man fig­ure against such ‘mi­nor’ de­tails will also strengthen the over­all sense of scale. Take the cir­cled #5 area: the fig­ures on the fore­ground plat­form at­tached to the heavy beam gives the viewer an idea of the scale of the beams seen within the belly of the mid-ground ship.

At­mos­phere through dust, pol­lu­tion and smoke lifts the value of shad­ows

Vary your line weight

This is re­lated to tip 4’s value and at­mos­phere ad­vice, in that you want to con­vey dis­tance and scale even at the small­est thumb­nail stage. Vary­ing your line thick­ness and weight of shad­ing will help quickly com­mu­ni­cate at­mos­phere and scale. Use a harder 4H pen­cil and a light touch for back­ground ob­jects, and go for a softer 4B for the fore­ground de­tails. To give you an idea of how much vis­ual in­for­ma­tion even a thumb­nail sketch with var­ied line weights can con­vey, this im­age is only 12cm across.

What looks like a small de­tail on a dis­tant ob­ject can turn out to be a large fea­ture when seen up close

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