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 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.

Schaeffer Value Study


Mead Schaeffer and Value Study

I think that looking at other artists’ use of value might help me make more diverse concept paintings. At the moment I feel that I rely on the same value arrangements a lot, with dark in the foreground receding to light. In saying that, I still need to improve on that arrangement also!

Scaeffer study: The light is low contrast but the shapes stand out due to the local values. The two figures strike dramatic silhouettes with their high contrast dark clothes against almost white skin/fur/cloth. The values in the background are made up of lower contrast, smaller and more complex arrangements; this makes the larger block values of the figures stand out. Low contrast details are suggested in low contrast shapes.

Values aside, this proves that I really need to practice my proportions also!

Thomas Moran Colour Study

Doing these master studies make me realise how little I know about colour! Below is the section of the colour wheel that I thought applied to Moran’s painting.


Thomas Moran (1912) Grand Canyon with Rainboows

These are some of the points that I try to think of while studying:

  • What are the midtones, highlights and darks?
  • What are the warm and cool hues for a particular area versus the entire painting?
  • What are the value arrangements for a particular area versus the entire painting?
  • Why do Moran’s colours look so vibrant in comparison to mine?
  • How can this study be applied to my own high fantasy concept art project?
  • Can I apply this process to my own paintings of; finding a suitable reference palette, observing and creating a palette from this, blocking in the colours and then refining with more subtle additions of colour i.e. painting directly with colours?
  • Why is a shadow a particular hue? Where is the light being bounced from? Is it from the ground or the sky?
  • How can I abstract forms from real life to use in my concept art in a convincing/believable way?

This is my attempt at the painting:

Concept Art Team and Ideation

For the concept part of the multi-part project I’m in a team with Molly, Danny and Anna. Molly and Anna wanted to work on their own worlds but agreed to give critique/feedback.

Danny and I developed our own worlds separately and then combined our ideas later into the project. We did this partly because we were separated over the Christmas break. We agreed that this way wasn’t ideal and we would have preferred to be working more closely from the start.

When working by myself, I tried ideating by writing 3 word combinations in my skecthbook, a method I’d heard in a podcast/livestream from Dave Rapoza. I then narrowed down the ideas that I liked until I found one word combination in particular that sparked more ideas than the rest which was :stormy oceans x jousting x bird tyrants‘.

This sparked the idea of using birds and fish as a basis for the design of two different races/species that live together. However, I wanted to challenge myself to make original designs and avoid defaulting to bird heads on human bodies or slightly modified humans with wings or fins.

I tried creating some back story to design from:

The Beaks are a race of sky creatures resulting from an alchemy experiment. After the great alchemy disaster the Beaks took over the ruined Alchemist’s city and from there set up a tyrannical rule over the sea (amphibious?) dwelling Beasts, enslaving them and forcing them to fight for entertainment. The madness from the alchemy disaster still affects the land and minds of the inhabitants. (?Medicine is rare and expensive, making the trade around the Beast tournaments even more popular?)

The story has since changed a little after combining ideas with Danny. The alchemy has been changed with Danny’s magic which is more developed and plays a more important part in the story. We also developed the history between the Beaks (sky creatures) and the Beasts/Fins (sea creatures) which I’ve wrote about in my sketchbook.

Once I had a loose back story to work from I started to think about how I could vary the 4 concepts required for the project (for practice) and also capture important story elements of the world. I tried making a list to choose ideas from:

Find Key Four Ideas for thumbnailing (story moments):

At sea/exploring for Beasts

  • Capturing the Beasts at far sea: far reaches, desolation shores, the Hunters of Beak, exotic Beasts, ice lands swamps, inland corruption. Sun spears, snake charmers, branding, teams of acolytes.
  • Cave/sea creature
  • Sea creature hives
  • Submarines


  • Fighting in the arena – spectators, excitement, ritual, ceremony, theatrics, entertainment, tyranny.
  • Opening the big Beast doors underwater. Special doors for recurring show – the Dread Beast?
  • Ritual fights for the Beak Goddesses – prevent the sickness
  • Perches for viewing the battles.
  • The royal audience chamber.

Beak City

  • The nesting/living quarters of Beak – repurposed ruins, nesting in roofs of Chinese/European/Nordic/Celtic/Aztec/etc. designed ruins?
  • Perches
  • Markets and day to day life.
  • Beasts as art shows and symbols of status. Nest tanks, containment rings, tree bubbles,
  • children with toys of Beasts.
  • Beast slavery – powering the generators – special light system.
  • Beasts behind bars and in cages – show their plight.
  • Symbols for religious worship.
  • Run by a council/a 3 faced Beak deity/ royal house
  • Living requirements – water ducts etc.
  • Beast activists – uprising, campaigning against Beast cruelty.
  • The death penalty – Beast activists on display.

Effects of the Alchemy Disaster on the Beaks

  • Sick Beaks
  • The mad rulers?
  • Using the forbidden art, alchemy, to exchange sickness for life/sanity.

Character roles

  • A Beast inspector/purchaser/patron inspecting the new intake of Beasts. Keeper Beaks holding them still for the merchant with long harnesses/nets/stun stings/long clamps.
  • Beggars on streets, begging for credits for medicine to stay the sickness. Mad beggars. (Transient Man “can you see me”)
  • Beak guards – keeping order, keeping the people oppressed under the rulers’ tyranny. Disposing of sick Beaks.

I also made a list of some of the variables as a reminder to learn/observe more:


Terrain: Above/underground, volcanic, sea, tree, swamp, indoors, aquarium

Light Source: Moon, sun, lanterns, spotlights, fireworks, fireflies, different times of day/night

Different situations/scenes: fighting, capturing, at merchants, exploring

Camera Angles, closeness/distance