I’ve been working on creating 20 hand painted digital Illustrations for a story driven jigsaw puzzle computer game. I was commissioned to do so by the project manager Tim Waskett last year. Writer Elena Johnston has written the story and the computer game is being made in the Unity game engine by lead developer and programmer Tim Waskett of Stone Baked Games.
Now that I’m in the final stages for the art, I am writing a short series of blog posts about the art development. This first one will focus on story. There are lots of early sketches and studies in this post so please keep reading if you would like to see them.
There are different aspects to this project but the first and most important is the story. I don’t want to spoil anything so I won’t go into many details about the story at this stage. The predominant genre of the story is fairytale. It incorporates some famous characters including Red Riding Hood.
The reading and understanding of the story is the starting point for my art development. First I read the story and wrote little notes and ideas down for the pictures in the margins. I worked out how best I could show what was going on in each scene, thinking about the storytelling and main focal point required for each scene to best express this.
I checked what I needed for the environment, props and characters for each scene and brainstormed ideas.
I made small thumbnail sketches for my initial ideas for each scene. These early sketches were made before any character design or research into environments took place. At first they are very basic with no heed to anatomy or details but they help me start thinking in more detail about the direction to go in. In the form of a storyboard they are my roadmap or plan for the Illustrations. I wanted to have a general overview so that I could link the scenes and work out how the scenes would flow into each other and be consistent.
I made a rough storyboard for the whole story. I tried different ideas for each scene- you can see alternate ideas for some of the scenes on the right hand side in the picture above. Each sketch starts really rough, but details are worked on as I go and the scenes changed a lot as the project developed. Here is a rough thumbnail for scene 1 with more detail from later on. The Illustration changed a little from this as I developed the characters more, but I was happy with the overall composition at this stage.
I wanted to make sure I did not lose sight of the overall story. I approached this project much like a children’s picture book, but I also considered that each image would have to work as a jigsaw puzzle. Each scene is very detailed and must fill the entire canvas with a composition that takes your eye around the image for one thing. I made a folder for each scene on my computer for organisation.
Here are some images for the early development of the first scene of the story.
At first I wanted to get a feel for fairy tales and get creative. Early sketches are generally small and rough to help the imagination get going and to try out a lot of different ideas quickly.
I read different fairy tales and looked at folk art and old school fairy tale Illustrators such as John Bauer and Arthur Rackham for inspiration. I also raided my parents library of walking in the British countryside and nature books as well as looking online and getting outdoors to get a sense for the environments I would have to Illustrate.
Although the final art is digital, generally I like to work in my sketchbooks for early stages. The computer is a wonderful tool for doing colour studies, experimenting and working with reference material to make sure things look correct.