Tonal Composition

So, the groups have shifted and a new week begins. I’m still on the same project as last week which means now I get to create the environments that the creatures we developed would appear in. For this week, I had Holly, Derbhille and Lauren in my group.

Our task was to explore tone, light values and how they affect the composition of a shot; and in return how the shot’s composition affects them. Doing this task was something I had looked forward to, as I love concept art and now had a good excuse to make some with a set of characters that have been created to fit in to an established world.

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In the above slideshow are the six thumbnails I finished. I tried experimenting with a lot of different kinds of lighting with a wide range of values. I felt the chiaroscuro contrast of background and foreground helped create a strong image, and played with this contrast and the rule of thirds to position lighting and silhouettes in a way that would catch the eye of the viewer. A source I had in mind while creating a lot of these scenes was the island from Peter Jackson’s ‘King Kong’ (2005), due to the similarities in scale and mysticism about exploring a familiar yet unknown environment.


A screen grab from ‘King Kong’. The extreme geography of the terrain makes the characters feel small and lost.

The abandoned ship idea was brought on by the idea of the island’s geography being a culmination of natural sources as well as relics from Earth that ended up lost in the triangle. I didn’t use any reference images while creating this scene, instead relying on my memory of a ‘Call of Duty: Zombies’ map that takes place in an arctic environment with an abandoned ship. The narrow corridors and flooded environment make for a good setting for a horror themed habitat.


Screenshot of the abandoned ship in ‘Call of the Dead’; a ‘Call of Duty: Zombies’ map.

I feel like our team could have communicated a little better this week. I mean, it’s not anyone in particular’s fault for that; we just hadn’t been talking to each other as much and sharing ideas like we should have been and I feel like that has helped me identify a flaw with my own working style. I am like a cog in a machine with a motor turning me. I can work away with other cogs if they attach themselves to me, and the machine runs efficiently but if the cogs do not attach themselves to me then I’m content to keep turning independently which makes for a less efficient machine. I adapt to the enthusiasm of others in my team and will mimic the teamwork of enthusiastic people, but when no one is doing that then I work independently. The final result of my work is then therefore not a team combination, but mostly just my ideas which can lead to a disconnected final product. I’ll use this to try and engage with future teams to incorporate everyone’s ideas!

When creating these tonal thumbnails I can’t pin down any one direct source of inspiration. I mainly gathered what knowledge I have on composition by watching speedpaints and following concept artist’s work and picking out key phrases I heard that stuck with me such as when talking about ‘Values’, the ‘Golden Ratio’ and all the other standard malarkey.

I spend a lot of time following Marc Brunet and Atey Ghailan and I think I have learned a little from observing their art over the years. Both of them share an illustrative perspective when painting. I recently talked to Atey in a small livestream session he was hosting where he told me that even though he is a concept artist and focuses on creating ‘concepts’, he has been trying a more illustrative technique with his paintings where he tries to tell a story within a single frame. I believe this capture of narrative falls under the umbrella of ‘Capturing Motion with Art’ or whatever it is that Conann and Mike are always mentioning.

Some of Atey Ghailan’s “Sketches”. I find his work is a lot more confidently defined than most concept art; it’s more polished than necessary but achieves a high standard of illustration.

After studying Moving Image Arts for four years at school I’ve picked up a few tidbits of basic knowledge behind framing shots and certain angles to use; as well when and where to use them. I tried to portray this in my thumbnails to make for a more dynamic viewpoint. Who was looking through the lens? Why would they be at the angle they are? What am I trying to show? These were questions I subconsciously keep in the back of my head when sketching out the composition in my work. Overall I’m fairly happy with the turnout of my sketches, they’re more or less my first attempt at tonal composition. I’ll end with a few shots of my proper first attempt at tonal back when I was making my portfolio for this course. Thanks for reading!



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