Sketchbook: Nick Shardlow

Hey all

Planning to use this as an image dump-type thread mostly to force myself to show more work.

Currently doing a personal project which will involve some design for characters, architecture and environment all with a somewhat Nordic theme, hence the sameyness.

Comments and feedback are welcome.













  • LongJh
    Hey, great stuff man. Looks like it's gonna be all snow and frost and awesome going on. Really like that black and white cabin painting. It's cool.

    Quick question if you don't mind. When you're designing characters, how do you go about creating their faces? Do you already have an idea of what they look like and paint them from appropriate reference, or do you just wing it and paint it all out from "feel"?

    Hope you'll keep showing more!
  • n.s
    Yeah, I choose reference based on what I want kind of face I want to design. I use the ref for values and the structure of the main features so I can adjust the proportions and expression as needed.

    Stuff from today...working towards more architectural detail. Needs more refining but I reckon the direction is more or less coherently defined now.


  • Dani Holt
    Nice work, man. That burial caves scene is just begging to be modeled. Really interesting theme, looking forward to seeing more.
  • Two Listen
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    Two Listen polycounter lvl 8
    This stuff is ace! More plz.
  • Malin
    Hey! I'm really glad to see that you're showcasing your work for people to see, it's looking fantastic as usual. I like the Nordic-Inuit hybrid theme you've got going, will be very interesting to follow along!

    Love the character concepts, wish you'd have numbered the silhouettes though ;) Just a thought with regards to the character design, maybe you should be careful not to veer to closely into something that looks too oriental?

    Keep 'em coming, it's looking great!
  • [demonplay]
    This stuff is AWESOME. Really nice work on your values, I look forward to seeing more.
  • -Em'-
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    -Em'- polycounter lvl 6
    Just awesome sketches !
    All in my inspirations folder !
  • n.s
    Thanks for the comments guys :)

    Yo Malin! haha yeah I reffed some Chinese and Japanese faces there, my idea was to get some discontinuity between the architecture and the people..making some weird hybrid culture. May or may not work in the end!

    Today's thing. Last level of detail now - pushed myself to try for good quality of line and accurate perspective.

  • Malin
    The interior is looking great, it's obvious you've given it a lot of love! Even though there's no rendering or lighting you can already tell it would look deliciously awesome. Also, dat arch. I'm assuming it's made out of wood but I keep imagining carved bone in it.

    For some reason I didn't much like the banner hanging above the fireplace, for me it kind of gets in the way of my mind's eye when I imagine stepping into the building. Could be just me, of course. It usually is ;)

    As for the whole hybrid culture thingy, I definitely think it will work. I think I meant more the character design overall, not the faces per se ( didn't make that clear, sorry ). There's one dude among the four more finished full-body concepts whom I think looks a tad too much like a shaolin-ish monk ( second guy from the left ). Again, just my opinion. Also, couldn't help but feel he would freeze his feet off dressed like that, your environments look freakishly cold! ;)
  • n.s
    Man, bone arch is such a cool idea :o

    Ah I see what you mean now. Yeah, I don't think that guy will make the final cut. Deciding between furthest left or furthest right for my turnarounds..

    Today's. Really quick colour studies and a finished prop.


  • Malin
    Really sweet colour studies, there's a nice sense of scale and depth in them. The prop looks awesome but there's such an amount of detail that the glyphs are completely lost in there, I wouldn't even have noticed them unless you had pointed them out..

    Both of the characters look good but I like the one on the furthest left the best. Will be interesting to see the finished character later!
  • n.s
    Cheers! Yeah I guess they are unclear. Perhaps I should take out the close up of them and leave it at that. Ah well.

    Tried to push to a final on an enviro today.


    Crits still welcome.
  • Harleybone
    That's beautiful work, n.s. I'm trying to get into digital painting (background in physical fine arts here) but have no clue where to start - do you have any resources/places to send me so that I might start from a basic level?
  • n.s
    Hey Harleybone, I'm posting in a hurry right now but I can take some time soon to come up with a decent response. But I would say if you have a background in the fine arts you have a huge headstart!

    More character today

  • Harleybone
    Thanks for the response :) I'd critique your work, but even at its current state it looks far beyond my own skill and expectancy. What is the background going to be?
  • Maximiliaan
    Amazing project you've got going on here! Can't wait to see more.
  • n.s
    Cheers guys!

    Things from today:


  • Malin
    You chose the left guy, hooray! I love the layered outfit and the fur. Also love the pattern on his clothing, it's subtle but adds a lot of, well, character to your character. I have to admit though, I'm kind of mesmerized by the two little thingys sticking out from the top of his cap. What are those! I want to try and balance stuff on top of them! ;D

    So, uh, the environment, I'm really glad that you added the opening of the ravine/gorge piece you made earlier in the background. It ties all your environments together neatly, which was sort of the only thing that I could think of feedback-wise for the ravine/gorge environment, it didn't hint at a story of some kind in the way the other environment paintings did, at least not for me. Of course, that might be because I'm claustrophobic and was busy feeling that those massive, narrow walls of rock were about to crush me ( take that as a compliment ;) ) Anyway.. Really liking the overall colour tweak you did to the painting, it feels more vibrant now.

    Looking forward to moar awesome!
  • n.s
    Malin! Haha, the hat was a spur of the moment thing, no real function to it. And glad you liked the tweaks to the enviros; it struck me as I was re-painting the last one to combine them somehow and it worked pretty well. By the way.. I need ideas for more concept projects :D

    Harleybone - I have some ideas for how you can get started. The first would be to make sure you have a good monitor and a good graphics tablet (Wacom Intuos for example). Then open Photoshop and get acquainted by doing lots of value study from photos and life if you can get out with a laptop or something. Photoshop is shipped with plenty of good brushes so only start looking for crazy texture brushes and stuff after you feel comfortable with the basic ones. After that start with colour studies from photos and life and get a feel for the colour mixing (additive when working with monitors as opposed to subtractive like oils).

    As I said, if you have learnt to paint traditionally, just follow the same process of study and you should be more than ok.

    Read plenty of forums too., and have oceans of information and inspiring stuff!

    Last pic for this project:
  • Harleybone
    Thanks for the advice, Nick, I will do that :) I have a Wacom Imtuos4 Med. and a 17" Macbook Pro. The additive will take getting used to but that's minor. I live in a beautiful place so no complaints on your suggestion.

    The lighting made by the fire in that picture is pretty sick and looks well placed. However, I can't seem to put my finger on how that fire makes such a large splotch of light to the left and seemingly only one such concentrated area. I'm sure there's an explanation but I'm just not seeing it at the moment.

    Thanks again!
  • roosterMAP
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    roosterMAP polycounter lvl 7
    Fantastic work! I love the loose watercolor look it has. Reminds me a bit of sparths look. Keep it up!
  • Malin
    Hey man! Another really nice pic, though I'll have to agree with Harleybone with regards to the lighting. The reflection from the fire on the left wall seems very bright. It attracts the viewer's eye a bit too much methinks, since the lighting on the opposite wall is much more subdued which makes the left wall stand out even more.

    Haha, I'd love to help out with concept ideas, give us a shout when you're in the mood for a little concept grind mate :)
  • n.s
    Cheers guys :)

    So, my explanation for the firelight would be along the lines of the angle of the viewing plane relative to the angle of the planes of the planks along that wall creating a Fresnel reflection. But if it looks wrong it's probably wrong no matter what fancy stuff I can come up with!

  • Malin
    Personally I imagined the planks in that scene as being old and matte and not able to cause such an amount of reflection, unless the viewing angle was kind of extreme. But my experience of firelight on wooden planks is sadly limited! Also, for thinking that actively about the fresnel effect in your painting I hereby declare thee weird and wonderful in equal parts, good sir ;D

    The experimenting is looking nice, I guess you're sticking to the snowy theme then? :)
  • n.s
    Heh, you're right about the matte surface on old planks; I had a look today. More research next time!! If anything I'm too keen on the fresnel effect :D

    Short value studies today, thinking about settings:
  • Malin
    Ooh, totally new setting, approved! I like the second and the third one.

    Second one with castle overlooking lake environment for some reason immediately made me think of Bram Stoker's Dracula novel, and the mention of Sholomance that is made in it. Sholomance was supposed to be a school for black magic if memory serves me right. Would be a cool concept to explore, in my opinion that is :)

    Third one made me think of some kind of temple city structure. Kind of Aztec-huge-obelisk-for-human-sacrifice-rivers-of-blood-thing ;)

    Looking forward to moar!
  • n.s
  • Malin
    I name it... the Hello Malin Tower ;D I really like the smoke, it adds movement to the image. Wouldn't mind seeing a little more smog in general though.
  • n.s
    stuff! finding my way towards the architectural themes for this next project



  • n.s
    study...stuff, practising to improve my lineweight, values..everything D:


  • n.s
    More enviro stuff. Any help on the composition would be appreciated!

  • Joenardo
    Awesome work. Great job.
  • n.s
    cheers :)

    more enviro studies and things, super rough; hopefully i can refine these two


  • n.s
  • n.s
  • SimonT
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    SimonT polycounter lvl 11
    wunderful these paintings!
  • n.s
    Thanks SimonT :)

    WIP design for a cheap old hoverbike

  • n.s
    Amended the design and did a render pass.

  • Xenia Stroganova
    Amazing stuff Nick!
    Gotta say, that vehicle is fantastic.
  • n.s
    Thanks Xenxen, i will fix the legs soon! :)

    Flying car today:

  • Malin
    Hey, it's looking fantastic as usual! ^^

    I like your city environment studies! Regarding your environment pic with the river, I think we talked about it already, that it feels a bit heavy compositionwise in the left corner. Dat corner man, it just steals my attention all the time, probably because there's another very similar building in the same corner. Maybe the repeating shapes of the skyscrapers get a bit too monotonous overall, would have been cool with some kind of superstructure with a more dynamic shape in the city skyline.

    Very exciting to see W.I.P of interiors! Are you going to keep it very strict designwise for the final version as well, or are you going to incorporate elements to hint at the cultural setting?

    Love the vehicles, any chance of stickers of some kind ( or some other ornamentation ) on the cheap old hoverbike? ;D

    Keep it up, looking forward to moar awesome!
  • n.s
    Yo Malin :)

    Yeah the comp on that river picture went to shite pretty quickly - I changed it a lot over the course of the painting so it never really had time to settle I guess. Oh well, onwards!

    Trying to keep a slightly minimalist feel for the apartment interior to contrast with the market shop interior I'm planning. But I want to have something colourful there, and possibly Egyptian.

    Stickers are a good idea, thanks! I shall add them if I ever find time..sure you can appreciate :<

    Today's painting: night-market entrance

  • Malin
    Sounds like a good idea to slap some contrasting colour into the apartment! I'd love to see some pillows on that couch too, it doesn't look very comfy right now ;)

    The night-market entrance painting looks awesome, love all the little spotlights near the wall and on the stairs! Some thoughts, there's a lot of reflected light on the ground? I could easily imagine this to be due to it having rained recently though. I also feel that the palm tree crowns should receive at least a little more light from the spotlights at their bases and the surrounding lightsources? ( I guess that depends on the strength of the spotlights of course but there's a bunch of trees that I usually pass by on my way home that are lit by spotlights in the ground, and they recieve a fair amount of light despite their height, so I might just be thinking about that too much )
  • n.s
    Good points man. The actual ground plane material was iffy in my mind and I didn't ref those trees so, you're right there! I'll go back in and correct them before deadlines if I can.

    Today's enviro

  • Malin
    Another great enviro, I really like that you're exploring the shanty town area of your city as well. And the fact that you put the cheap old hover bike there too ^^ What does the neon sign say?

    It might just be me but I thought that the light feels a bit 'washed out'? I could imagine that scene being set in strong sunlight with a bit more warmth :)
  • n.s
    hm, the sign's nonsense I think! nothing thought-through..

    yeah, you're right, now that I look at it it's lacking in highlight values.

    sketch today, didn't have time to take this to finish :<

  • Malin
    Really nice sketch, gets you curious about the environment it's depicting. Would also look awesome during night-time methinks :)
  • tsabszy
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    tsabszy polycounter lvl 7
    WOW! exceptional!! how did i miss this so far?
  • AimBiZ
    Great environments, and I dig your vehicles too.
  • aaron2
    Nordic theme is really a great concept...This work is really amazing.! the black and white painting is very great to watch! You have made this theme like a own feeling!
    Good job!
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