Another ‘Strange Behavior’ CGChallenge entrant rises to become a Master Award winner in EXPOSÉ 6.
Mats Minnhagen shows us how he created his alternate world.
Years ago, when I played Dungeons & Dragons with friends, I came up with a gas-filled floating fish in an adventure that was particularly surreal.
I like playing around with evolutionary thought experiments; what would happen if nature had gone another way or adopted a different principle to the ones we're used to? What would it, for example, have done with wheels or balloons?
The idea stayed with me and when I was scratching my head over CGSociety’s ‘Strange Behaviour’ CGChallenge, the old fish popped up again. In this variant, floating fishes are cargo animals used by people in cramped oriental cities.
Usually quite docile creatures, they sometimes panic in the narrow passages, causing mayhem and destruction - which is, of course, a strange behaviour (although quite understandable under the circumstances I knew that the fish should be round and balloon-like and the city very much like an old Hong Kong or Shanghai. I also wanted the fish to be in focus and the background to provide a good sense of scale.
Other than that I hadn't decided much when I started scribbling in Photoshop, hoping something would emerge.
I had some reference photos of deep sea fish and oriental architecture to draw inspiration from. Eventually I landed on a composition with the city as big triangular shapes and the main fish as a circle.
This way the fish contrasted nicely, and, after reinforcing it with a few reddish fins, I decided to leave the sketch and move on.
Instead of detailing the sketch further, I opened a new document (4,000 x 3,000-pixels), drew up a perspective grid and began masking out shapes with the Lasso Tool in a rather orderly fashion. I separated them with flat colors, it didn't matter which at this point.
By doing this, I could then select surfaces with the Magic Wand Tool and paint inside the selections. But I didn't paint on this layer; I kept it intact throughout the painting process so I could always go back and select surfaces with the Wand whenever I needed.
A neat trick when masking architectural details is to draw them in front view and then tweak them into perspective using Transform. This is how I created the many doors in this painting. I just drew one, multiplied it into many and transformed them into perspective, so that I could later quickly select their silhouettes and paint inside them.
Having done the masks, I started the actual painting on a new layer. With my rough sketch as a guide, I blocked in the colors and started detailing. The general idea was two main colors - warm light and cool shadows on the buildings - and a more intensive red where I wanted the focus to be.
I also wanted a few touches of other colors here and there to give the city a lively feel. I used a lot of different textured brushes to get a painterly feel, but I also had a lot of use for the Hard Round Airbrush, which in my opinion has a nice simplicity to it.
Since I wanted the city to be bustling with life, there was
a lot of detailing to do. To speed things up, I masked out silhouettes of a ladder and an amphora, multiplied them, transformed them into place, and painted inside them.
I also masked out the columns on the left, and the abstract pattern on the right and tweaked them into perspective. I added people running around, and, after some hesitation, a second foreground figure.
As work progressed, a problem arose. The panicked fish in focus and his two friends slowly floating along in the back convey opposing moods. Are these creatures supposed to be wild or docile? In this particular story they need to display both possibilities, but in a sense it is a built-in conflict that could diffuse the impact of the painting. However, I decided to accept this ambiguity.
I like the rough look, and prefer not to render too much whenever I have a choice. So even though some areas were still pretty sketchy I felt the painting was done. I checked the levels and applied a subtle noise filter on top of everything. This little trick helps tying things together.
I'm a digital artist living in Sweden. I started out as an archaeologist, with drawing as a hobby, but discovered digital art in 2004 and decided to switch careers.
In 2004-2006, while attending a formal education in traditional art at Gotland's School of Art, I started to work as a freelance illustrator and then got a concept art job at EA DICE in Stockholm, where I stayed for about a year.
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