Why Concept Art?
When I was five I noticed that the outlines around cartoons were black, and it became my favorite color. I saw black as the common thread and imagined its lines around everything. That was when I became an artist.
A good story entrances me in whatever form it takes – whether it is history or fiction; in literature, theater, film, graphic novel, television, song, or game; oral, written, or visual; classic or modern. I am engaged by stories because I am interested in people – what they do and why they do it. “What” led me to writing, acting in theater, and role-playing games; “why” led me to study psychology for my undergraduate degree. I am proud of the work I did to advance clinical research and along the way I learned many skills including how to research, be meticulous, meet deadlines, work in teams and with difficult people, present my ideas, and see long-term complex projects from inception to conclusion. Yet stories, like a black thread, have always united my art with psychology. The more evocative story the better.
A good story invokes the senses and it elicits a vision. It will paint a complete picture in the mind, yet that picture will not be the same exact one it paints for me as for you. This is a problem for media like television, film, and games in which the story elements require concrete visual forms. In these mediums the vision must be shared not only by those who receive it, but among those who produce it as well. The concept artist coordinates the pre-production team around that vision and may have a role to play in developing the story too. She will also solve the problems of illustrating difficult concepts such as Gollum, a thestral, the Jabberwock, a PipBoy, and the end of the universe.
I have been an artist my entire life, but was unsure how to employ my skills and potential. Not until the gaming industry developed the graphic technology to integrate its story-telling potential in games with art in psychologically dynamic ways. Of all of the visual story-telling media, games now have the most potential for growth and are the only ones that empower the audience to participate in the plot as the player – much like an actor – walks in the character’s shoes, sees through his eyes, and participates in changing the character. In Mass Effect 2 for example, the face of the player’s character heals or degrades to reflect his ethical alignment. This added dynamic integrates both story and psychology together artistically. In turn, the player returns again and again because he can develop his character in different ways and alter the plot with his choices.
This is the perfect medium for an artist captivated by why people behave the way they do because it enables me to bring the player into the mind of the character by tailoring the game art to the character’s perception of his environment and his state of mind. Games like Hitman and Eternal Darkness have already initiated the trend. In Hitman Agent 47 is asexual and his perception of other people is reinforced through the modeling of other characters into grotesque, hyper-sexualized beings. In Eternal Darkness the player is equipped with a sanity meter, which, when low, causes not only hallucinations for the character, but temporary “glitches” for the player to experience as well. Games are becoming more dynamic and psychologically interactive because they are taking advantage of the strong connection between a player and his character. I want to be a concept artist in order to lend my love of storytelling, experience in psychology, and illustration skills to this movement.
- Alexandra Bond