It'd be difficult to overstate how excited we were to hear Scott Robertson talk about his work live and in person...though a little apprehensive given the presentation bore a thoroughly non-specific name like "Creativity and Narrative Imagery," and much of the audience wasn't all that familiar with his work.
Not to worry; he blew everyone away, despite hardly referencing the incredible digital concept paintings for which he is so justly famous. Instead, he took the audience on an hour and a half trip through the cognitive process that he uses to generate concepts like this alien noggin...out of a crumpled paper bag.
No, really--a good fraction of the talk had Scott explaining how he uses cheap or free software for ideation; like Mac's Photobooth program (below), which turns into a phenomenal rapid concept development tool when you activate the symmetry setting and start snapping photos of just about anything, from cabbages...
to the aforementioned paper bag, which he used as the basis for the mustachioed extra-terrestrial above, and the weird-as-hell living baloon concept seen below:
Like a number of other wildly free conceptual designers we've heard from, Robertson is a non-stop sponge for images. He admits to taking his camera with him wherever he goes, shooting dozens or sometimes hundreds of photos in a day in a non-stop quest for interesting backgrounds, textures, forms and palettes.
Some of these, like the vegetables and papers above, are actively manipulated to create subtly different but related forms ("I wanted to come up with whole families of these guys, so they need to look distinct, but related...like people...") that get used as painting underlays. The symmetrical nature of the image means the human eye will naturally try to look for a face in it, regardless of how otherworldly it appears.
Others are simply snapshots of streets and landscapes, although even these are often manipulated; Scott's become quite proficient at zoom and sweeping his camera on long exposures to generate abstract compositions that still bear photographic realism.
In addition to using such imagery as underlays for creature and vehicle design, he also manipulates them into backgrounds and bases for larger-scale illustrations, as the follow 4-step progression on a photographic base shows--note the extensive collection of custom brushes he chooses from to paint in the structures in step 3.
Anyone care to take a guess as to the source of the background?
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