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Glasgow, United Kingdom
An illustrator and games artist living and working in Scotland. I have various hobbies: coding, travel, art and games; and I enjoy writing about them.

10 March 2013

The Skillful Huntsman

Many people talk about this book, and many think that this book is the best thing since peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, but with all this hype somehow no one bothered to write about it in detail. Considering that this book was the main inspiration behind this project I think it's a huge mistake. In this post I will write a short overview of the book and explain why exactly it is so inspirational and informative. I will analyse the artists' pipeline and workflow and explain how it fits into the bigger framework of video game creation.

So let's talk about what this book actually is. This book is essentially a sketchbook, filled with development work by three talented artists on a Brother's Grimm fairy tale. Three artists are showing their process in creating characters, props, vehicles and environments for an imaginary production.

The process begins with pages and pages of thumbnails. Mike Yamada says, "I often start a character design with quite a few quick exploratory sketches. I use it as a way to get all the cliche and preconceived ideas out of my system.". If you look at one of my earlier sketches of the prince you will see how samey and cliche most of them are. A truly unique design emerges towards the end of the process.


Once the artist is happy with the thumbnail and how abstract shapes appear next to one another he is ready to move on to the next stage, which is sketching.


Khang Le explains this stage, "Once the basic silhouette is established, the next stage is rough sketching. These drawings are larger, so the smaller details can be given more attention. Everything the character carries can help tell a story about him. Story suggests design, and design can also spark new ideas for story."

Finally the artist is confident in the design and chooses one sketch as the final concept. This is then coloured and presented.


There can be one or two variations on the basic silhouette, with one of them chosen to be the final one. Each stage poses a thousand possible deviations and directions. That is when an art director role comes in. He would work closely with PR Staff, the producer and the director to pick the best direction for the art to go into.

As you can see the artists' methods and pipelines are discussed in detail, sometimes with some great insights into the technical nuances of concept design. Most memorable for my was when Khang Le was talking about how to create forests. More on that can be seen in this post.

According to the critical framework proposed in semester one, which states that a piece of work is to display a strong sense of authenticity and "place" in its aesthetic details, this book fits right in. It is invaluable to see how different artists interpret the same story and how each of them creates an authentic world filled with life and interesting characters. This book is the main inspiration behind my project, along with Alice: Madness Returns art book.