Gnomon Competition: Space Anomaly

This is my work for the Gnomon January competition, themed ‘space anomaly’.

My Pinterest boards for study/reference:

Motorcycles and Space Bikes

Space: Suits and Robots

A google slides idea dump:

Favourite idea: a moon mechanic servicing a robot head moon!

My sketchbook studies of references from Pinterest:


My concepts:


Progress: line art, colour palette

I’m finding it hard to decide between the more comic look or the one with more rendered light. Either way, it still feels like there’s a lot to improve upon!


I got some feedback from Sorcha and of course I needed to add more shading to the mechanical moon. It was in the back of my head but I didn’t realise it would make such a dramatic difference.


Jill Box Lift Progress

I started by creating a GIF of the video reference that I found (front reference and side reference) and then I made frames from the GIF using the GIF Scrubber app for Chrome. This created 70 frames from my 6.4 second reference. I took every 8th pose and posed my model in Maya the same way. I forgot the do the math and finished on frame 70 in Maya but of course I should have check the length of my reference first and realised that I should have had around 154 frames. Once I had the poses on the correct frames I went back and started to adjust the timing between each pose.

This is my animation before I added the box to the action:

Jill Box Lift (Without Box) Side View:

Jill Box Lift (Without Box) Front View:

This is where I tried including the box with the action. Of course, the arm spacing to begin with wasn’t correct to hold the volume of the box the whole way throughout, so I had to go back and tweak the translate/rotation values for the shoulders, elbows and arms. This was quite difficult as the hands would often move away from the box between the poses so I ended up setting quite a few keyframes. There is still a lot of slipping and sliding that I need to fix and I think that I could also work on the weight a lot more. For example, there could be more anticipation/gathering of energy before she lifts the box above head height.

Jill Box Lift Front View:

Jill Box Lift Side View:

Beak Tower Progress

These are the rough colour palettes that I blocked in to get an idea of the mood direction. I looked at other paintings for reference and also tried playing with the colour balance in Photoshop. This was made easier by blocking in some value masks which I could make channel selections from. I had Jeremy Vickery’s tutorial in mind (posted about here: link) but I didn’t refine each palette as much as he did.

I wanted to create a setting/mood that took place after the magical fallout in the story where the Beaks have become somewhat corrupted and crazy from the magic. I choose the greener palette to develop as I felt it suited this mood (and also because of that inspiring scene in Lord of the Rings where the Nazgul are riding out from Minas Morgul).

This is my progress so far but I haven’t painted some areas yet such as the sky and wooden perches/walkways.

These two versions are with/without a focus pass (a blurred version masked over a sharpened version).

Creative Development Portfolio


Modeled scene render from Christian Johnston on Vimeo.


Marv Walk Feedback Playblast 01 Front:

Marv Walk Feedback Playblast 02 Side:

Marv Walk Feedback Playblast 03 3/4-view:

Marv Walk Feedback Playblast 04 Top:

Blue Alien Walk Cycle Side Playblast:

Blue Alien Walk Cycle Front Playblast:

Blue Alien Walk Cycle Top Playblast:

Blue Alien Walk Cycle Translated Playblast:

Jill Box Lift Front View:

Jill Box Lift Side View:

Creative Development Reflection

I think from the beginning of this project I over estimated the amount of work that I could get done in the time given. As a result there are a lot of areas I didn’t get completed for the deadline even though I’ve been working a lot. I’m not sure if this is because I focused on the wrong areas – like maybe I should have taken time away from research and development and put it into final polish. At the same time though I keep coming across talks where the importance of strong design over a nice image is stressed. Maybe my problem is more to do with using time efficiently and getting ideas out quickly.

Even though this project was more self directed I think we could have benefited as teams to find a way to be more organised as a unit from the beginning. For example, perhaps we should have made a more defined list of tasks to work through together and set frequent mini-deadlines for feedback sessions. This is probably easier said than done though as we did agree to do certain tasks but didn’t set strict deadlines.


Beak World Thumbnails and Drawing

After I had an idea of what the world’s story could be I jumped into making thumbnails. I found this very difficult though as I was jumping into designing an entire shot before getting a feel of the world’s smaller forms. It helped to spend a while in my sketchbook first and then when I returned to the thumbnails a few days later, I could start to apply form and function to the masses that I had randomly blocked in.

T = general territory

H/O = house exterior

A = arena

C = character

From there I picked some of the thumbnails that I liked and tried to develop them more.

My aim for the 4 concept pieces is to have:

  • an exterior design of a Beak’s dwelling area/house with surrounding environment.
  • an interior design of a Beak’s house
  • a design of the arena where the Fins fight
  • a character development sheet for a Beak or Fin
  • bonus: a wider shot of the Beak’s territory

My attempts so far at drawing the interior of a Beak’s house haven’t been very successful. I think this is both because of my perspective skills and my lack of experience drawing rooms and their clutter. I’ve been practicing drawing simple objects with Scott Robertson’s book How to Draw but I’ll need a lot more practice and observation of objects to make something usable.

This is my development for the shot and design I choose for the exterior of a Beak’s house. I decided to bring the line art to a clean finish so as to practice making good line quality in photoshop (like in my blog posts: Feng Zhu’s line and Scott Robertson’s video on line weight).

Danny and I were thinking of doing different colour versions of the same piece for practice and to show different moods before and after the magical fallout disaster in our story. Jeremy Vickery’s tutorial (which I mentioned in another post: link) would be a good guide for this.

The Art of Spirited Away

Hayao Miyazaki (2002) The Art of Spirited Away

I wrote simple observations of things that I liked underneath each image.


Cover – I like how so much information can be conveyed in a loose design sketch.


There is a distinction between the foreground and background lighting of the piece. The statue in the ground alludes to beliefs or other cultural related detail.


Roofs: Attention is paid to different types of roof construction. The light spilling from the windows is not overpowering, of high contrast or of high saturation but there is a clear distinction between the moonlight on the lower roofs.


The rough shorthand still conveys a lot of information.


The lighting adds warmth to this otherwise spooky nexus between Earth and the spirit world. The open space is simple but the mood is strong.


Alleyway: The warm lamp light has an inviting effect in the narrow claustrophobic space of the cold alley. The cracked and grungy textures give the sense of an old and long inhabited place. The exposed inside structures and bent air-vent give a sense of use.


Exterior/Boiler Room: There is an interesting mix of shape language. The Eastern styled architecture descends into more industrial shapes but the rounded window/arch shapes are still repeated at the bottom steps. The pipe leading into the image also creates an extra sense of depth without having to rely on a lot of atmospheric perspective.


Jeremy Vickery Colour Keys

Imagine FX (2015) Explore Colour Keys in Your Art

This tutorial and video has some helpful tips for quickly laying down colours and experimenting with the mood of your painting.

Jeremy Vickery chooses references that he can apply to his own concept depending on the mood and time of day. He picks colours from the references and lays them down in large strokes under the line art. After a few colours are blocked in, squint your eyes to get an impression if the scene is working. Stay loose and fast so as to discover the colours that you want. You can add a soft glow to areas of the painting using a low flow soft brush set to linear dodge.

FZD Line

FZDSCHOOL (2011) Design Cinema – EP 34 – Photoshop & Wacom Basics Part 02

I was working on the line of my design for the Beak house exterior. I didn’t like my photoshop line quality, especially compared to Zhu’s. I know this is mostly a matter of practice but it helped to test some brushes. I liked a calligraphic brush that changed thickness depending on pen pressure so as to give some line weight variation more naturally. Zhu recommends Corel Painter for line. I might re-download my old copy and try this out as I really like Zhu’s results:

Screen Shot 01-04-16 at 07.20 PM

Carapace and Perspective Observation

Carapace is a good free tool for creating perspective grids and it’s also useful for studying other artwork’s/pictures perspective. I had forgotten about it ever since I got my new laptop.

I was looking at the student designs of interiors, found on Feng Zhu’s blog, for inspiration:


Looking at these examples, objects are all naturally angled towards different vanishing points. This is something which I haven’t done very often in my own work. More often than not I make 2 to 3 vanishing points and make every object in the scene converge towards this same direction. Scott Robertson has some useful writings on this in his book How to Draw. He describes spacing vanishing points at particular angles and drawing within a ‘cone of vision’ for minimal distortion.

Also, familiar objects like tables and chairs are creating a sense of scale. My room is based on sky creatures so I’ll need to include objects that are recognisable for scale.

Line weight gives the detailed room drawings a clear read. Simple tone also helps the readability.