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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:

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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.

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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

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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 Rhodes

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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

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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:

Joy Ang

Ben Huen

Ville Kinnunen

Kvothe in Tarbean

Large version

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. 

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. 

EDIT: Here’s a bigger version

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. 

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.

Fenris take 2.
Some time ago I decided to stop redesigning other peoples stuff (like my reboot cast for example). It’s so much fun, but so is shooting fish in a barrel (for people I probably don’t want in my life). It’s easy to design a character after you’ve seen their whole story arc play out, witnessed the nuances of writing, acting, animation, even their contribution to the overall atmosphere of the final product. For us, character design is done in the dark. We have descriptions, plans, and vague gestures, all of which will change, many of which will change BECAUSE of what we design.  So, to me it doesn’t feel like a “sporting chance” to redesign someone else’s finished character. They couldn’t see what you see now. They didn’t know that twist was planned, or that they’d get an extra season, or that marketing would favor an unexpected character.
But just for fun I’ll take a swing at our own stuff.
Given a chance to take another pass at Fenris, I would suggest something like this. Chunkier, bald, more of a warrior, with more Tevinter motifs (which we hadn’t yet established during DA2).

Fenris take 2.

Some time ago I decided to stop redesigning other peoples stuff (like my reboot cast for example). It’s so much fun, but so is shooting fish in a barrel (for people I probably don’t want in my life).
It’s easy to design a character after you’ve seen their whole story arc play out, witnessed the nuances of writing, acting, animation, even their contribution to the overall atmosphere of the final product. For us, character design is done in the dark. We have descriptions, plans, and vague gestures, all of which will change, many of which will change BECAUSE of what we design.
So, to me it doesn’t feel like a “sporting chance” to redesign someone else’s finished character. They couldn’t see what you see now. They didn’t know that twist was planned, or that they’d get an extra season, or that marketing would favor an unexpected character.

But just for fun I’ll take a swing at our own stuff.

Given a chance to take another pass at Fenris, I would suggest something like this. Chunkier, bald, more of a warrior, with more Tevinter motifs (which we hadn’t yet established during DA2).

cudathedas
cudathedas:

“Here lies the abyss, the well of all souls. From these emerald waters doth life begin anew.”
“And thus was mighty Arlathan cast down, its people swallowed by darkness—never to rise again.”

The ultimate hope for a concept artist is for the final in-game art to surpass its concept art. That has definitely the case with this image. Come Inquisition’s release, I think everyone will agree that the in-game version makes this image look restrained and quaint. 

cudathedas:

“Here lies the abyss, the well of all souls. From these emerald waters doth life begin anew.”

“And thus was mighty Arlathan cast down, its people swallowed by darkness—never to rise again.”

The ultimate hope for a concept artist is for the final in-game art to surpass its concept art. That has definitely the case with this image. Come Inquisition’s release, I think everyone will agree that the in-game version makes this image look restrained and quaint.