Windy Day concept art by Kenny Callicutt

Creating Professional Keyframe Concept Art with PixelSquid

PixelSquid has so many uses for hobby artists and professional artists alike! This month, we sat down with film and video game concept artist, Kenny Callicutt, for a short Q&A, and a walkthrough of his creative process. His humorously titled piece, “Windy Day” uses a combination of 3D modeling, PixelSquid objects, and Photoshop paint-over to conceive a post-apocalyptic character, vehicle, environment, and overall mood.

PixelSquid: Hi Kenny, thanks so much for sharing your work with us today. For readers who may be unfamiliar with the concept art process, what are the key elements you try to portray in a piece of your concept art?
Kenny Callicutt: So, concept art for games and film need to help clarify the directors vision and provide a foundation for the elements that make up that vision, be it characters, environments or props. Concept artist help define the design and look, shape color, proportion etc. Equal to the visual elements is a consideration for what can be done to reinforce the storytelling.

PS: Wow, that can really influence the direction of a project. How much information are you given before creating a piece like Windy Day?
KC: “Windy Day,” like most of my personal work, will start with a general idea that will evolve as I do thumbnails and gather references. In work I have done for clients or my day job, it ranges from working along specific guidelines and templates to exploration guided by only a few keywords.

PS: Sounds like it’s a pretty creatively intensive process. When you’re creating concept art for a game or film project, how much time are you typically given for turnaround? How tight/loose are your deadlines?
KC: It usually depends on how complex the assignment regarding how much time is granted. Where things are in production also affects time allotments. Something like a character will be given more time in pre-production, and later on, after the style is established, the time frame is much shorter.

PS: Thanks again for sitting down with us. Here’s one last question for you.  We have a lot of readers who are aspiring concept artists. What would you consider the most important skills for someone looking to break into your field to refine?
KC: Learn to enjoy the process of getting to your final piece of art as much as creating it. Collect references; do studies, and iterate on thumbnails. Enjoy learning about new subjects, tools and workflows. Be curious and flexible. The foundational stuff of drawing, painting, and design is pretty important as well.

 

The making of ‘Windy Day’ by Kenny Callicutt

When beginning the project, I had a loose idea of a survivor exploring on a hover bike. To start, I put together a mood board to inspire me as I work.

Mood Board for Windy Day by Kenny Callicut

Next, I started thumbnailing out different scenarios and story moments. I imagined an abandoned highway clogged with old cars, a destroyed city, speeding across barren farmland looking for communication equipment that still works, and more. These were some of the scenes in which I pictured the subject. I like to start off this way as a method of triggering ideas.

I chose some PixelSquid assets that struck me as apocalyptic to help flesh out the narrative and find different compositions. Being able to rotate the objects would spark new ideas on how I could arrange my final piece.

Kenny Callicut concept art thumbnails

Select objects from PixelSquid

The thumbnail process also included roughing out my design for our survivor’s hover bike. You can see I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted generally, and I was just exploring different arrangements. I made a rough sculpt in Zbrush to use in my 3D scene.

Kenny Callicut hover bike sketches

hover bike model for Windy Day

In addition to the hover bike, I also made a basic sculpt for the character. I like to set up a 3D scene after thumbnailing because I can quickly explore different lighting arrangements and variations on the composition. Lately I have been using the Blender 2.8 beta with Eevee.

I try to keep the 3D scenes as light and sparse as possible and to add smaller props and details later in 2D. In the 3D scene, I’m just looking for ideas, and I usually end up painting over everything.

Kenny Callicut 3D scene 1Kenny Callicut 3D scene 2Kenny Callicut 3D scene 3

The 3D base will usually get me about halfway to a finished image, and the rest is drawing, painting and photobashing in Photoshop.

The assets from the PixelSquid rubble collection helped me quickly populate my painting with props that I can rotate like 3D objects.

Select objects from the PixelSquid Rubble Collection

Kenny Callicut WIP time-lapse

PixelSquid is very helpful when I am creating illustrations, key frames, and environment concepts. The props can be dropped in with minimal changes or act as a base inspiration for a new design.

In fact, while working on my first concept image with the survivor in the foreground, I found several vehicle objects that inspired a second image with the hover bike as the main focus.

PixelSquid Vehicles and select objects

I used the same workflow on this image. Painting and drawing over a 3D base mixed with the vehicle assets from PixelSquid to set the mood in the background environment, and in no time, I had two pieces of concept art ready for submission. 

Kenny Callicut hover bike time-lapse

Hover bike final by Kenny Callicut

Kenny Callicutt is a concept artist working in games and film. He is an Alumnus of VCU and Academy Award-winning Moonbot Studios. That tall guy who draws, more of Kenny’s work can be viewed at www.callicuttart.com.

If you’re interested in being featured in our artist tutorials and spotlights, you can reach our team by emailing me, the team’s Brand Engagement Specialist, at cfontenot@turbosquid.com.

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