Sunday, November 13, 2011

on concept art

Everyone and their brother wants to get into concept art. And I suppose it's easy to see why, if most of the stuff I see is any indication it's a very nice field to make things WOOK PWETTY. Which is something an artist wants to do naturally, I understand, but there's something about the sleekness and "perfection" in most concept art that does the same thing to my brain as old documentaries. I'll try to get into them for the sake of wanting to seem informed and intelligent, but when it comes down to it I'm neither of those things, and my brain shuts off after about five minutes. Or to bring the analogy full circle, after about five drawings of the same bloody forest or the same bloody space station or the same bloody grungy ruined city.
a city AND a forest in one!
What sticks in my craw about concept art these days is very much a reflection of what sticks in my craw with movies and video games in general. There's so much stuff stuck in my craw, it's like a garbage bag full of bricks in the ocean (don't think too much about that simile, I certainly didn't).
At the risk of sounding incredibly snobbish (which I suppose I've already done by now so, screw it), mainstream products these days have become a real cess pool of creativity. Yeah, yeah, it's kind of obvious that the interesting stuff happens on the fringes... but that's not my point. Maybe I'm seeing the world through pixellated rose-colored glasses, but it seems to me like there was a lot more exploring being done back in the day, dagnabbit. When you think "shooter" these days, you're probably thinking of a brown and grey trudge through a ruined city. You can see every scratch on your iron sight, and when you get shot enough someone splashes strawberry jelly on your eyes. Compare it to 15 years ago or so. You could play Doom and fight your way through Hell itself, play Duke Nukem and visit a strip joint before blasting the alien of the month... or maybe Wolfenstein, kill yourself a bunch of blue Nazis in a big blue castle!
A very roundabout way of saying it, but my point is, which do you think is more conducive to interesting concept art?
imagine Mecha Hitler in one of the myriad WW2 shooters these days. Instantly cooler.
It's not hard to do interesting things with digital art, which is what leads me to believe that stagnation in concept art isn't the fault of the artists, but rather the environment we're being brought up under. Hell, computers in and of themselves are prime creative real estate because, generally speaking of course, no artist really knows how they work. There's so much exploration still to be done, whether it's "glitch" art (basically, taking an axe to the "codes" which make up a digital image), or just fooling around with settings until you stumble upon something you didn't expect. The issue is, these days video game and movie companies are playing their cards so close to the chest, the concepts and stories have become suffocatingly samey. Mainstream properties have basically limited creative aspirations to "how many bumps can we show on this building?" There's only so many ways one can realistically render a post-apocalyptic city and make it interesting. I think they would do well to allow a little branching out. I mean, a cartoony Fallout 3? Can I even begin to describe how awesome that would be? ...I mean, I know I totally just exposed my bias, but still!

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