Increasing Creativity and the "Artistic Eye?"

Elarionus
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Elarionus null

I’m trying to get into environment design type stuff, especially in the sci-fi realm, but I run into a problem that I’ve often hit in the past: my brain thinks analytically, and not so visually. I’m able to do math and all the stuff like that, but when I look at something I’ve made, I have a hard time going “here’s what’s wrong with this, and here’s how I can fix it.” I can tell there’s something wrong. But I don’t know where to go.

That problem is extrapolated in environments, especially these sci-fi ones. There are fantastic sci fi environments out there, with amazing designs, and I can look at those and replicate them…but what good am I if all I can do is copy a hallway from Doom? How can I get better at coming up with my own ideas for environments, and how can I start identifying how to make my designs better? Thanks.

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  • Wendy de Boer
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    Wendy de Boer polycounter lvl 14
    I don't design environments, as I'm a character artist. However, I do also have the problem of being very analytically minded. Some stuff that I found to be immensely helpful with my designs is the following:

    - Collect an insane amount of reference of real-life stuff that is as close as possible to the sci-fi or fantasy stuff you are trying to design. You'd be surprised to find how unusual or even sci-fi real world objects can appear if you bother to take a serious look.
    - When designing something, find out as much as possible about how similar items in the real world function, and how they are manufactured.
    - When designing something, look up specific reference of even the tiniest aspect of the design.

    Finding out how stuff works in the real world can be overwhelming, so I would start with one subject that you are very interested in. Focus your studies on just that for a while. Once you feel more comfortable designing in that area, try to add additional related subjects to your study, and slowly expand your knowledge from there.
  • Amsterdam Hilton Hotel
    Some things just take time and practice to sink in. So long as you don't think you know everything you're in a good place.

    You say you think analytically. Analysis is a process of negation, where you interrogate something by removing elements. If you find that you suffer paralysis by analysis, the solution is to just start something, and get something out on the 3D canvas that you can then apply your analytic taste to, and tweak and improve it. The analytic mindset is editorial, so step back, allow yourself to just generate material, like a brainstorm, and then apply that editorial decisionmaking process to it, making it progressively better and better. Create content and then iterate on it.

    Don't start a hallway design by copying a Doom hallway, or thinking a bunch about what a cool hallway looks like. Just block out a hallway. The very first pass will be basic and perhaps bad. That's when you start analyzing: is it too blocky? Break up some of the forms. Is it too even? Add some contrast elements. Is it too noisy? Isolate some focal elements. You'll figure out heuristics just in the process of looking at where you are, analyzing why it looks bad or good (what the reasons are), and trying things.
  • Eric Chadwick
    It also helps immensely to post your work in progress, and seek critique. Polycount is a perfect place for this, in fact that's the heart and soul of this place.
  • BIGTIMEMASTER
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    BIGTIMEMASTER sublime tool
    I think looking at other peoples art and analyzing it is a great way to improve yourself technically. However, if you only draw inspiration for art from art, I think you will be stunted, or at least not as inspired as you could be. 

    For inspiration, I believe quiet time in nature delivers everything you need. It's not so much about the natural beauty, stunning vista's, all of that. When you are in q quiet place, alone, without any distractions, it's a chance for your mind and your eyes and everything to just truly relax. You can just sit and be without anything else going on. It's like, the opposite of analysis. 

    And what I've found is that, during this quiet time, all sorts of ideas and inspiration just pop up. When I finally get around to creating half the things I want to create, most of it will probably be crap and not as beautiful as I imagined, but having plenty of fuel to keep me working like an ant certainly isn't going to make me a worse artist.

    If you live in a big city and don't have easy access to the outdoors, even a long walk or some similar ritual can deliver similar results. 

    I know this isn't exactly what was being asked about, but maybe it can help.


    Here is an excellent GDC talk I just discovered. At first watch it may seem totally disconnected to the subject, but I think with some careful analysis you may see why I think it's relevant. 

  • garcellano
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    garcellano polycounter lvl 4
    I think I understandi what you're saying. I'd recommend looking into how environments work for games. The more you see it, it makes sense. Doing it, or making things on your own is different (I'm trying to dive into world machine myself, getting familiar with that). The more you post stuff around, and get crits from it, you'll get the eye for it. I'm also learning stuff at work that I never really looked into much, when it comes to making something for console or PC (a whole different topic). But yeah, just post your stuff and look up how environments work in games.
  • jStins
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    jStins polycounter lvl 6
    I think this is an area where getting away from your core discipline can really help push past creative plateaus. I few years ago I took a figure sculpture class (oil based clay from a live model), which is far away from my day to day, but it really helped improve the ability to see and interpret form correctly in 3D. Around that time I also did the free section (value studies) of the conceptart.org 'Level Up' workshop (looks like that's behind a paywall now unfortunately -but there are other options for this kind of stuff out there). Again, not directly related to my work, but it helped improve my eye for values and composition (important in environment work obviously!). You can see some examples from that time here: http://joelmakesart.tumblr.com/ Earliest study is at the bottom and it was really cool to see the improvement over a relatively short period of time. 

    This is making me anxious to get back into another round of painting and whatnot ... Good time for a new year's resolution I guess!
  • Elarionus
    Some things just take time and practice to sink in. So long as you don't think you know everything you're in a good place.

    You say you think analytically. Analysis is a process of negation, where you interrogate something by removing elements. If you find that you suffer paralysis by analysis, the solution is to just start something, and get something out on the 3D canvas that you can then apply your analytic taste to, and tweak and improve it. The analytic mindset is editorial, so step back, allow yourself to just generate material, like a brainstorm, and then apply that editorial decisionmaking process to it, making it progressively better and better. Create content and then iterate on it.

    Don't start a hallway design by copying a Doom hallway, or thinking a bunch about what a cool hallway looks like. Just block out a hallway. The very first pass will be basic and perhaps bad. That's when you start analyzing: is it too blocky? Break up some of the forms. Is it too even? Add some contrast elements. Is it too noisy? Isolate some focal elements. You'll figure out heuristics just in the process of looking at where you are, analyzing why it looks bad or good (what the reasons are), and trying things.

    I quoted this one, because I feel it's probably the most relevant to me...but thank you everyone for the responses. I always struggle during my classes to persevere through this major, because it just comes so naturally to others. I'll take a bit of everyone's advice and keep pushing forward. :) 

    And I'll start posting more of my work, starting here! (I'll post in the proper feedback forum too, I promise! This is just an update for you guys :) )




  • oraeles77
    I just spent the last 4 days making a railway wagon. to make it look 'real' detail is the key, instead of making a box with some simple wheels, I've made the chassis using girder shapes, some of them I've beveld, I've added bolts and rivets in places where plates meet, and all the extra details where the suspension thing holds the wheels and the axel to the wagon. although it looks complicated its all just simple primitive shapes arranged in different orders.



     the render you posted above is nice but its a little plain, I'd suggest ignoring doing a 'scene' and instead focus on an object, for example  a bloodstained futuristic gauntlet/helmet, or a computer terminal, and render that in marmoset, then make an industrial walkway, a detailed one, copying directly from google images, you know the grid pattern, with a hand rail, keep an eye for the detail such as how a real hand rail intersects with other pieces of the walk way, etc. does that make sense?

    and then practice in whatever software you use to make some cables from nurbs, and have a load of cables either handing loose or bundled up neatly, and then see how you could arrange the industrial walkway, cables and that piece of space suit, and then play around with the lighting. etc,


    (assuming you do this for a hobby in the evenings)

    making the gauntlet could take 2 days another day for texturing,

    the cables and walkway could take 1 day for both of them

    then another day for playing about arranging and rendering, I reckon you should try that.


  • Elarionus
    oraeles77 said:
    I just spent the last 4 days making a railway wagon. to make it look 'real' detail is the key, instead of making a box with some simple wheels, I've made the chassis using girder shapes, some of them I've beveld, I've added bolts and rivets in places where plates meet, and all the extra details where the suspension thing holds the wheels and the axel to the wagon. although it looks complicated its all just simple primitive shapes arranged in different orders.



     the render you posted above is nice but its a little plain, I'd suggest ignoring doing a 'scene' and instead focus on an object, for example  a bloodstained futuristic gauntlet/helmet, or a computer terminal, and render that in marmoset, then make an industrial walkway, a detailed one, copying directly from google images, you know the grid pattern, with a hand rail, keep an eye for the detail such as how a real hand rail intersects with other pieces of the walk way, etc. does that make sense?

    and then practice in whatever software you use to make some cables from nurbs, and have a load of cables either handing loose or bundled up neatly, and then see how you could arrange the industrial walkway, cables and that piece of space suit, and then play around with the lighting. etc,


    (assuming you do this for a hobby in the evenings)

    making the gauntlet could take 2 days another day for texturing,

    the cables and walkway could take 1 day for both of them

    then another day for playing about arranging and rendering, I reckon you should try that.


    I'll definitely give that a shot! It's not so much an evening hobby, as just practice for what I want to work on. I spend around 90 hours a week between homework and classes, so wherever I can, I put in a little practice on things that I'd like to work on, since a lot of our projects are 2D animations, a bit of world building, a bit of graphic design....we basically come out of the program as ultimate generalists, but not super duper good at any one thing. So I decided I wanted to get really good at Sci Fi, with Luis Perez and Andrew Hodgson's Artstations serving as large amounts of inspiration.

    Anyways, when I get the chance, probably sometime during this upcoming winter break, I'll give your methods a shot. I have a laptop that I bring home with me that can't render, but I'll be able to remote to my desktop to do something like that.
  • Zocky
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    Zocky polycounter lvl 8
    ok i just had to come here and post this;
    was watching that vid you posted, and also looked at what little i could into parts of that book (getting myself one soon), about pattern language; this might just be single most awesome source of information on environemnt design i've seen so far; such an amazing stuff, really tnx for linking it! I'm genuinely mind blown how much awesome information is just in that vid, let alone in the book(s). Dayum...
  • BIGTIMEMASTER
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    BIGTIMEMASTER sublime tool
    Glad you found it useful. I thought it was unusually helpful for a GDC presentation, and just had to share it. It's really high-level stuff and the kind of thing some people might roll their eyes at, but I think it's getting at the heart of what makes great art great. 

    I thought at some point during the talk the speaker would mention this book . It's not about art really, it's an ancient book of philosophy that has become something of a religion, but I think it has a pretty clear connection to the suggested reading in that GDC talk. Maybe has little practical value in making ones art better, but who knows. I linked a specific translation of the book because it is filled with some really nice ancient chinese artwork that I like alot, and besides that it's a very lucid and modern translation, compared to others.
  • Zocky
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    Zocky polycounter lvl 8
    Hm, link doesn't seems to work, but is it this one (looking at your url):

    Anyhow, yeah, that's what surprised me so much. I have to admit, i like to listenting to GDC presentations but, more ofthen than not, they don't feel THAT useful at the end of the day.

    But this one is gold mine. I mean, a lot of these things you kinda know in some way, you just feel that for example it's good to break paths (mentioned in vid) to "make things interesting". But i feel like knowing exactly why this actuall works, like the whole having series of goals on the way to your actual goal, still kinda gives you more ideas, how to put maybe put certain small landmarks that not only breaks path into multiple goals, but it also maybe provides some other narative strucure in that way.

    Anyhow, man, i was really looking for something like this, but was really hard to find any article or anything, now i know what to read for a long time, hah.

    And yeah btw, i do like a lot asian cultures in general, so that book does sound very intersting, could you maybe just check the link again, or maybe it's something on my end or something, for it not to work...
  • BIGTIMEMASTER
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    BIGTIMEMASTER sublime tool
    Same author, but this one has the nice art. Sorry about the link, not sure what's up with it.



    I know what you mean. A lot of the discussion kind of substantiated some vague notions I've had for years, but mostly it made me realize that I should put more trust in some of my natural instincts about what looks good, as I found so many of my childhood doodles respected a lot of these "rules." So I think then developing yourself as an artist is more about honing this natural sense and bringing it out of yourself with confidence as much as possible, more so than adhering to standardized practices or whatever. I mean, you got to do what you got to do to keep a job and get work, but I find myself more motivated when my ideals are loftier than mercenary goals.


     but of course, continuing to study art in a traditional sense as well. Not an excuse to just wing it, more just a realization of the intrinsic nature of art and it's connection to life, the universe, and everything. *cue epic drum roll* 
  • Zocky
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    Zocky polycounter lvl 8
    Well, i took enough of your time, tnx a lot , will for sure check that book!
  • renocrade
    I usually look a bunch of art and designs in pinterest and videogames i play and kind of mix them together, or i add my own design on top of it. 
  • Kwramm
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    Kwramm greentooth
    I'm mostly an analytical person - what helps me to make spaces interesting is to think about context. What's the setting the place exists in? What's the primary function? How are people going to use a space? What are the spaces utilitarian and aesthetic requirements for the imaginary people that are supposed to inhabit it? Make up your own background story, then design the space to fit into it. You might not end up with the most bizarre and fantastic design, but your design will be appropriate and believable for your context.
  • Ashervisalis
  • poopipe
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    poopipe interpolator
    The one thing that stands out to me above all the other lessons I've learned from art directors and other artists is that there has to be a reason for every element in a design.  If you cant explain why something is there, it doesn't belong there.   Build everything as if it were real and as if it has to fulfil a purpose. 

    Tldr:   Scifi bevels are bullshit
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