Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Almost every moment my pencil touches paper I'm either working (on confidential game stuff) or drawing stuff for my kids (which for now will be special stuff just for them). To be honest, I'm loving it. I think I can settle for showing more creative work once every three or four years (however long a game takes to make). What I can still post are my throw-away practice pages.




Tuesday, May 12, 2015

World of Thedas Volume 2

The second lore book is out, and it's kind of ridiculous. It's heavy, stacked to the gills with lore, stories, recipes, songs, and juicy gossip. It also includes some never-before-seen concept art, as well as a large amount of new content we made specifically for this book. I honestly can't even believe we made this thing.

Here are a few of the original pieces I was fortunate enough to contribute to this ludicrous tome:

Darinius, first Archon of Tevinter


Garahel and Isseya 


Garahel slays the Archdemon


Some of the cast of Dragon Age: Origins


Illustration for Mir Da'len Somniar, a traditional Dalish lullaby


Also, be sure to check out Nick Thornborrow’s post about this as well. Not only did he curate the art for this book, he also created a ton of original content for it. 

For those who are interested:

you can pick up the hardcover on Amazon

Or pick up the special edition on the Bioware store.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Jaws of Hakkon sketches

Some early drawings done for the Jaws of Hakkon DLC




Thursday, February 19, 2015

Life drawing - female figure

Some day I'll post creative stuff again. Right now, all my will is bent on work. The best I can do is periodically slide these out.


Friday, February 6, 2015

FAQ

Over the years I've endeavored to answer as many emails and specific comments as time allowed. There have been enough repeats that I think I feel comfortable starting a list.

First, some general information:

My name is Matt Rhodes. I graduated with my Bachelor of Design at ACAD (Alberta College of Art and Design) majoring in illustration. Before graduation some ACAD alumni from Bioware came to look at portfolios and I was brought in as an art intern. I’ve been with the company ever since, working on Jade Empire, the Mass Effect series, the Dragon Age series, and other projects.

How do I become a concept artist? What do?

There are many ways to become a concept artist. I’m trained as a graphic designer but I’ve known concept artists who were animators, architects, industrial designers, even one former opera production designer. There are as many ways to become a concept artist as there are concept artists. The secret is in the name: concept artist. You’re drawing ideas. Every day you’re taking abstract and ethereal ideas (often from multiple brains) and translating those into tangible blueprints and inspiration. There’s no prescribed way to do that. However you chose communicate, learn to do it clearly and quickly. Put your work up constantly so people can see it and then listen to their interpretations.  Absorb critiques and keep refining your skills until people start to understand your intent. Do that for thousands of hours and then check to see if you’re a concept artist yet.

 Where should I go to school? Should I go to school?

I don’t know. Sorry. The best I can advise is to look for a school that offers a reputable program in the field that interests you (design, illustration, traditional painting, animation, sculpture, etc…) and that offers some strong fundamentals. As to whether you should go to school or not, I’ve heard our own HR gurus say many times that having a degree makes border crossing much easier. If you’d like to work in another country then having a degree makes it easier for a company to prove that you’re worth importing.
Where or whether you chose to go to school, you’re really only going to get out of it what you put in. College, university, night-school diploma course, self-taught… you’re going to have to bust your ass.
If this is one of your questions then I sympathize. It’s not always fun to stare into the unknown.
I liked ACAD a lot though.

What should I put in my portfolio? Is my portfolio good enough? What should I be working on? What do companies want to see?

If you’re not already following concept artists’ work online, do it. Collect (or at the very least regularly flip through) concept art books. Does your work look like that? Well… then it’s time to give yourself hand cramps by trying. Push yourself to work in a broad range of genres and subject matter. Environments, characters, props, creatures, UI elements, effects, storyboards, production paintings... a well-rounded portfolio likely includes them all. “Show your work” and include development work to the level that it’s appropriate. People like to see an artist’s thought process. If there’s a specific company you’d like to apply for, what sort of genres/subject matter/styles are they working with? Are there ways you can make yourself more valuable to them? It helps a lot to see a portfolio that makes you think “we could sit this person at a desk today and they’d be able to add to the project.”

How do I develop a style? Will my style be an obstacle to getting a job at a studio?

I get style questions a lot because my work is more simple and exaggerated than our games. My “style” (I always struggle not to say that with a sneer) is just the byproduct of being very busy. There are a million things to draw for every game, and you’ll only ever be able to draw a quarter of them. I’d rather sketch a thousand things than beautifully render ten. To me, line is the most effective tool I can use to communicate an idea quickly and clearly. If more information is needed then flat color and simple lighting will usually help. Very rarely is more needed. Metal is metal, leather is leather, carbon fibre is carbon fibre. Working like that for years, as well as keeping up my fundamentals and life drawing has created the style I currently have. Focus on the work, on learning and developing yourself, focus on communicating concepts and you’ll find out what your style is eventually. If you find yourself on a project that has a distinct visual style, that’s just another form of visual communication that you can learn. Oh, and most good art directors will know the difference between polished rendering and solid design, so “style” really won’t be a concern if you’ve shown you can get your point across.


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

DA:I - Blackwall


DA:I - Inquisitor development


Sifting through the design fog until you start seeing light in the distance. These were just some of my drawings, there are even more from other members of the concept team. 

DA:I - Divine Heretic


Another one of those moments that never saw the light of day, but made for some interesting and heated discussion internally. We thought it would be interesting if you gained enough power you could name yourself Divine. It would be twice as hard to do if you played as a male, and for the hardcore player it would twice as hard again to do it as a male Qunari. An effectively game and lore breaking act of heresy. Not even a little bit surprised we backed away from this one. 

DA:I - Assassination


Envisioning one possible outcome. 

DA:I - Greater Wilderness Creatures


A couple of my favorites, which to me will always be the Dragon Bear and the Hyena Vulture. The idea was that an ecosystem that included flying tyrannosauruses would be different from the one we know today. In this case, a breed of bear that targets wyverns and dragonlings, but in the spring may even go after a high dragon. Alternately, a scavenger that has grown large and confident living off the scraps of the high dragon. 

DA:I - Anders


This did not make it into the game. It was just one of those things that got painted between DA2 and DA:I

DA:I - Storyboard for the Coronation


We had the opportunity to work with the cinematics team for several months working on storyboards. We worked fast and dirty, and rarely did less than five versions of a scene.

DA:I - Story Illustrations


DA:I - Adamant Fortress



The first drawings of Adamant portrayed it as more of a monastery, so that it would appear to be self-sustaining. The Wardens who are posted there would cultivate their own food, weave their own fabric, etc. 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Back to life drawing


It had been entirely too long.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

DA:I - Dragon Armor


The iconic dragon helmet was designed by the marketing department. It was the only time on the project that we were handed a design. This presented a unique opportunity: create a suit of armor that puts the dragon helmet in context. This was an attempt to say "dragon" without being too obvious about it (my first attempt looked like a ridiculous mess of spikes and scales).

(and no, that mubari didn't make it into the game)

Thursday, November 20, 2014

DA:I - The War Table

Of all the props I got to design for Inquisition, my favorite is the War Table. We knew that we'd be coming back to the table time and time again, so I tried to treat it like a character design and give it some history. I thought that perhaps the War Table was made from a tree that once served as a symbol for peace. It was then cut down and slabbed, polished from centuries of use. The lofty branches that once shaded diplomatic talks were desecrated, inverted to illuminate machinations of conflict.


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

DA:I - Frozen Wastes


We were discussing some of the many stories you might come across as you explore the wilderness and this one begged to be drawn.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

DA:I - Desert Rider

Dragon Age: Inquisition has been released at last! Which means we finally get to show a sliver of the artwork that went into its creation. To kick it off, today I'm posting the desert rider "beatboard" (I'll start with spoiler free images).


A lot of these images will be in the art book (available now), and some may not.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Stop, Dragon!


For our first real collaboration, my little art director was very specific about the look of her armour and the dragon.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Trying to level up

...and the only way to force a level up is to grind.



Thursday, May 29, 2014

Monday, May 5, 2014

The Art of Dragon Age: Inquisition




I'm excited to finally talk about this. We've been writing commentary for it and there's so much in here that it's almost ridiculous.

This is also the perfect opportunity to highlight/embarrass some people. I've been credited for too much concept art on Dragon Age. It's partly my natural aptitude for shameless self-promotion, but I suspect it's mostly just ignorance.  It's time to put an end to that. These are some of the incredibly talented concept artists whose work is practically bursting out of The Art of Dragon Age: Inquisition:



Nick is an exceptional visual storyteller. His work is clean-yet-textural, and cuts to the emotional core of whatever it is he's illustrating. From the incredible fresco load-screens of DAII, to Inquisitions stained glass Chant of Light, to some of the best storyboards I've seen, he can handle just about anything you throw at him. He's also curator, managing both the World of Thedas and the Art of Dragon Age: Inquisition.



Casper is an anomaly to me. He's some kind of wizard. In all the years of working with him, I've never been anything but surprised and delighted when I see his work. Each element is carefully considered, layered with meaning, referencing sources I never could have imagined, and coming together in its own elegant way. If the concept art of Inquisition was a stew, the team would be the meat and potatoes, Casper would be the salt. He gives the whole thing flavor. 

Steve Klit



Steve is a beast. He's a constant reminder to me of how important it is to work for it. While his many many many character and creature designs are fantastic, he's found this amazing niche with environments. I don't know how he does it, but his output is incredible and they're all full of story details and nuanced atmosphere. He doesn't have a gallery online at the moment, so I can't send you to see for yourself, but when he does, I'll tell you immediately.  



Tom is a classic illustrator reborn for the modern age. His passion for anatomical accuracy, character integrity and story-telling whimsy are the perfect combination for a Dragon Age concept artist. Tom designed both the Nug and Inquisition's High Dragon. His work has a "truthiness" to it that I've always admired and have never been able to successfully rip off. 

Ramil Sunga


Ramil is more talented than any one person should be allowed to be. His paintings are gobsmackingly beautiful. His character designs are fascinating and elegant. He's a talented 3D sculptor, and moved his desk to take point on creating the head system for Inquisition, one of the most complicated and challenging tasks on any Bioware game. Since CGHub went down, he doesn't have a gallery, but as with Steve, the moment he has something up I'll be sending you straight to it. 

That's the main team, but there are a few more artists who have moved on, but made huge contributions to the visual language of Dragon Age. Here are some more of them:



DA:I - Chaos

This is only 2/3rds of the image. I'll upload the spoilerific version some day.


DA:I - The Bog

A couple more images have been released through facebook/twitter, which means I get to set them loose.


Saturday, March 29, 2014

Dune doodles

For the couple of people who asked, here's some process work for those Dune characters. I doodled these while I listened to the audio book.






Friday, February 28, 2014

Dune

I finally gave in to the siren song of Dune and was dashed upon the rocks like so many concept artists before me. There just isn't time to render these, but I’m reasonably pleased with the linework, so here they are!

Some context: I fell into a Dune-hole recently which started by stumbling across the INCREDIBLE art from what would have been Jodorowsky’s Dune film. That inspired me to re-watch the David Lynch movie again (one of my favorites). At that point, I had to read the book again. In the middle of my read-through, I watched a couple Tarsem Singh movies and my brain made a connection that I couldn’t shake loose:

I want a 4 hour Dune movie designed by Tarsem Singh’s crew (production designer, art director, costume designer, cinematographer, etc…)


So, in order to get that thought out of my brain, I took a clumsy swing at designing the cast of Dune through the lens of Tarsem Singh’s crew. To me, that meant making each character an operatic or theatrical expression of their role in the story. Visual storytelling cranked to eleven. 


Caladan

I thought the Atreides  on Caladan should look “water rich”. I wanted to design a visual language that looked like it was born out of generations of ruling a tropical paradise.

Dr. Yueh – The diamond mark of his conditioning becomes a mask, but it’s not %100 effective so it doesn’t cover one eye.

Thufir Hawat – The Juice of Sapho is held in a small vial near his mouth, always near him. He may once have fit his ceremonial armor better, but he’s no less dangerous.

Gurney Halleck – Patrick Stewart was perfect in this role, but in the book he’s described as being a pretty ugly guy. He has blades all over him, and his clothing is tied down tightly for sparring.

Paul – He wears the Atreides Hawke at his breast, with one “red wing” cape over his shoulder. He is dressed for life on his water-rich homeland.

Reverend Mother Helen Gaius Mohiam – She carries branching staff to represent diverging bloodlines.  Her collar echoes the Emperor’s own crest. I wanted to design a motif for the Bene Gesserit with several meanings. Her hair is tonsured like a monk’s, but they wear a braided mohawk like a horses mane to make reference to their ongoing breeding program. They also wear fine chains connected to piercings from their eyes, ears and mouths. This is a visual representation of their constant focus on observation, listening and influence through speech.

Duke Leto – He is described as having a face like a bird of prey, so I exaggerated that. He wears the Atreides Hawke on his chest, with two red wing capes behind him.

The Lady Jessica – She has the Bene Gesserit hair (tonsured with a horses mane mowhawk) and piercings (connecting eyes, hears and mouth). She has a modified version of the Atreides Hawk crest, forming a more elegant cape. 


Antagonists

Feyd-Rautha – His build reflects his regular gladiatorial training. I wanted the Harkonnen’s to look like they hung around in their robes all day. I also gave them a consistent jewelry motif that was part viper-pit, part “plans within plans within plans” like a diagram of nefarious connections.

The Beast Rabban – He’s an animal, even less restrained than the Baron. You can see that it’s only a matter of time before he competes with the Baron for sheer scale. He’s adorned himself with cruel trinkets, and what may have once been luxurious furs have become rank tatters through neglect and abuse.

The Baron Vladimir Harkonnen - …yup.

Piter De Vris – Like Thufir Hawat, Piter keeps his Juice of Sahpo within regular sipping distance. His “rig” is built up into a flimsy collar, meant to look arrogant and hint at his aspirations to rule.

Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV – His royal armor is designed to reflect his paranoia (the same paranoia that inspired him to us the Harkonnens to crush the Atreides). Physical descriptions compare him to Duke Leto, so I wanted him to look like a lesser version of the Duke. His armor plates are all given to him by the various guilds and houses he rules.

Sardaukar – The Emperor’s elite soldiers. Their crests reflect the emperors, but are all built from reclaimed prison bars from their hellish prison-homeworld, Salusa Secondis. I wanted them to look completely opposite to the Fremen. They’re big, bulky, heavily armored. The glimpse of armor you can see was designed to look like it would react TERRIBLY to sand. 


Arrakis

To design the Fremen is to design the Stillsuit. To me, they were done perfectly in the David Lynch film, so I wanted to try to make a different statement.  Fremen don’t care that they smell awful, they accept the realities of their lives, so I wanted to design a suit that didn't shy away from its vulgar processes. It’s designed to process piss, shit and sweat into drinkable water. Seeing a person in their stillsuit should almost feel like seeing them naked.

Stilgar – Sturdy, reliable, and pretty much a surrogate father to Paul.

Muad’Dib – I kept it simple. His outfit is just a stillsuit and the red wing cape of the Atreides.

Chani – Just draping the stillsuit with something asymmetrical and soft.

Alia – She wears little red Atreides wings and a Gom Jabbar.

Great Mother Jessica – Her Bene Gesserit mane is exaggerated in a fabric crest. She holds the water of life in a bottle that isn't meant to be put down. 


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Kvothe in Tarbean



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I've been wanting to draw something from Patrick Rothfuss' The Name of the Wind books for a while now. Here's the protagonist, Kvothe in the city of Tarbean. 

Process wise, this was a self-inflicted exercise in patience. This image has been sitting in my head for months, but I've avoided it, knowing how much work would be required to do the city justice. I'm still on the fence as to whether or not this level of complexity helped or hindered. Something more abstracted/vague may have given me a better result, sooner. 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Gray Mouser at the Bazaar of the Bizarre


One of my favourite scenes from Fritz Leiber's Swords and Deviltry. I wanted to take my time with an image, and the intriguing, claustrophobic bazaar seemed like the ideal challenge.

This time around, I made sure to save some process images.
I started with simple two inch thumbnails until I found a composition I liked. Then I pencilled up the image at 11x17. Once the pencils were scanned, I did a "lighting sketch" to figure out some of the volumes and light sources. From there I did a clean line drawing (my favourite stage). Finally, I just spent some time moving around the image, cleaning up the values and adding little details.


Monday, January 20, 2014

Random reference

This daily upload of poor quality photos from my sketchbook is not to last. I'm coming to the end of my brief paternity leave (now a proud father of daughter number two). It's been a rare treat to find this much personal drawing time, and here I've been using it to study instead of have fun (it's still fun). Thanks for lookin' and stuff. This is just a random smattering of whatever reference material I had handy.