If you want a simple solution to jumping that imaginary hurdle we call a creative block, just simply begin writing down ideas in your sketchbook as you would write your random thoughts down in a journal. If you wake up and had a crazy dream, make sure you have a small book available at your bedside to grab it and write it down. The same goes for watching a movie, or talking to a friend. As soon as an interesting concept or illustration idea pops in your head, realize that you don't need to take the time to draw the entire thing then and there. The frustration that might come with trying to jot it down in such detail at that very moment might sabotage you. You merely need to just write a few sentences or key words, or at the very most a tiny doodle of a thumbnail as a reminder. This type of artist's journal can be a resource similar to an encyclopedia worth of inspiration and material that are your own original thoughts and ideas, something you can refer to at anytime when you feel like you've hit a block. It's often more affective to write out a little description of a back story for your design so you have something to work with before you begin drawing. You might also try revisiting old sketchbooks and producing updated versions and re-designs of old concepts.Another simple solution is to use a topic generator. One of which was made very popular by artists Hydropix, Vyle, Viag, Sparth and Barontieri called 3CH. You can download the 3CH topic generator here: http://3ch.redwhirlpool.com/3CH/3CHMODS.zip You'll see a few sample topics below.
- A gigantic golem embraces a woman in a desert.
- An ectoplasmic scorpion flees a sentinel in a landscape of bubbles.
- A dark shaman bombs a carnivorous plant in the abyssals zone.
If you've ever stared into the sky and seen images in clouds that don't really exist the same principal goes for staring at patterns in decorated rugs or photo textures - Mayang Texture Library - of things like mossy grass or dry cracked dirt. We're capable of seeing "something" more than most other people because we can 'connect the dots' so to speak. We can more quickly identify what appears to be an eye, mouth, nose, a body of an animal or a cartoon character and other similar imagery. All we need is a vague starting point in order to begin the creative process. So why do we stare at a blank white page? By taking this same idea and incorporating it into your sketchbook or your digital canvas, it will help to get the creative juices of your mind flowing. You can see some samples below that use what I like to call "Cloud Lines" or photo textures which you can use in order to get past that white page. Anything to break up the blank white space will help.Draw a bunch of very light scribbles, doodles and random fluid or geometric shapes. If you're doing this digitally, you can just continuously duplicate, free-transform and paste these scribbles and shapes all over a canvas as a starting point. Aside from this Cloud-Like effect as a base point to start with, you could either use a photo texture and just obscure the imagery, pattern or what have you, and then lower the opacity, flip and rotate or modify the original content so it no longer becomes recognizable.Simplicity is key. In using a simple silhouette of an inanimate object, or merely drawing a simple oblong shape you can give yourself a challenge or a little puzzle to exercise your brain and your imagination. Take this oblong shape and try to determine what could be a head, where the main torso is, what can you add to it at this point to continue the process? In the process of trying to create a living creature out of a random unplanned shape you've already overcome the dreaded blank page and creative block that causes so much frustration among artists.Where are you more likely to be inspired; In a stark blank white room with no doors or windows? Or out in the open at a zoo or park surrounded by animals, people, vegetation, colors, life, noise and motion? Perhaps take your sketchbook outdoors rather than inside a quiet room you've become used to. You can find inspiration by talking to people, reading a good book, heading out to the park for a walk or a jog, interacting with life, observing indigenous animals, how light affects the color of leaves, plants, flowers and trees. The way shadows fall on surface textures of bricks, cracked stone, pebbles and bark. Expose yourself to new surroundings.Abstraction, Subtraction, Addition & Imagination; It's better to sketch anything at all over just waiting for ideas to pop in your head while staring at a white sheet of paper.
If you still find it intolerable and frustrating to come up with anything at all; When in doubt just do some research and studies. It's important to draw studies of human or animal anatomy to begin with, so it may help to drag 3 or 4 photos of various animals on to your screen and observe their anatomy. A little exercise that comes in handy is to draw two animals with reference and then a third animal or "creature" based off of what you just learned from the two studies you produced. It works best if you draw two animals from completely different "Classes" in the Animal Kingdom IE; A water buffalo - Class: Mammal & an Anole - Class: Reptile. In this specific design I used anatomy of Iguana, Cattle, Water Buffalo etc.
I'll touch more upon the Animal Kingdom, on mixing and matching various animal anatomy and how important it is to use reference, to research and read, study and observe and understand the biology of these studies rather than just trying to re-draw line for line what you're looking at in a photo. (We'll get to that next time). A few other subjects for future topics will include body structures, line weight, use of color, skin texture & patterns, thumbnails, Sketch to Final Color, symmetrical & asymmetrical designs, Focal Points, Use of Silhouettes etc..
Guest blogger Mike Corriero is a character, creature, and conceptual designer and illustrator living in New Jersey. Since graduating from Pratt Institute in 2003, Mike's client list has included Breakaway Games, Fantasy Flight Games, Allied Studios, Kingsisle Entertainment, Radical entertainment/ Vivendi Universal Games, Liquid Development, Zynga Inc, Challenge Games, Paizo Publishing and Hasbro Inc, among others. Mike's book "PLANET to PLANET creatures and strange worlds" includes hundreds of his sketches of creatures, robots, alien life forms and their environments. I recommend it for students focusing on visual development for games, or anyone who loves creature design. - J. G. O.