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Concept Artist and Illustrator Tanya Podolskaia took a few thumbnail sketches and transformed them into a terrifying, cursed knight. This breakdown is the perfect example of combing artistic and narrative skills for a compelling final product. Don’t miss out on Tanya’s steps, including:

  1. Dark Knight Research
  2. Client-Worthy Sketches
  3. Cursed Head Explorations
  4. Threatening Gestures
  5. Portfolio-Ready Product

My name is Tanya Podolskaia. I’m a 2D concept artist and illustrator based in Stuttgart, Germany. For several years, I had an office job and did watercolor illustrations. Then, I discovered the amazing world of game art. Total game changer! Since then, I’ve devoted all my time to digital art. It was a hard period of studying new skills but it was worth it! I am a concept artist in a Klasgame studio where I work on a new MMORPG game.

1. Dark Knight Research

At the very beginning of the course, we were given a list of character profiles. I picked a paladin/knight just because I didn’t have one in my portfolio yet. It was a choice more out of logic than anything, but the more I worked on this concept, the more its unique story came through.

One of the most crucial lessons we were taught during the course was the importance of research. Who is your character? What kind of clothes does he wear? Every detail is important and should be thought out. I realized that before this course, I never spent enough time on this step.

While scrolling through tons of garments, belts, and some architectural details I imagined a cursed knight, trapped in a fairy realm as a servant for the queen. Once I came up with this narrative, the design choices all clicked into place.

Enroll in Costume Concept Design taught by Phil Boutte and Greg Hopwood to make your character’s attire more accurate and impressive.

2. Client-Worthy Sketches

The second week was all about sketching our ideas. I made 10 thumbnails to figure out body proportions and the general silhouette of the character.  He is supposed to be a massive guy with a huge weapon. I tried different options such as hammer, sword, mace, or halberd. A lot of inspiration for the armor came from Celtic knots.

After the first round of sketching, I took the best four thumbnails and started more precise drawings. Previously, I really struggled with this step because I didn’t know how to achieve a good level of clarity. But the week 2 demo really helped me with that.

Scroll through these detailed sketches.

Read “7 Steps to Create a Dark Elf: Power in Posing” to see another cursed character from this course.

3. Cursed Head Explorations

Our attention is naturally drawn to faces. As the instructor told us “a good face can save mediocre concept, but a mediocre face can easily ruin everything”. We were advised to spend at least ¼ of the whole project time on the face exclusively.

As I described above, my character is a cursed knight who has served the Fairy Queen for ages and becomes undead. He still remembers his human life, but can’t resist the evil magic that makes him obey the Queen’s orders.

At first, I quickly sketched a few faces to figure out age, hairstyle, and the depth of decay. I wanted to achieve a good balance between the undead and human looks. A great example that inspired me a lot was Shrike from “Mortal Engines”. I really like that they make this character more complex than just a stupid zombie.

When I came up with a general idea of the face I did a few detailed paintings. I started with a wilder look and then added a more complex beard and hairstyle. Zombies don’t care about themselves and these small details show that he doesn’t lose his humanity. And of course a few aggressive looks. Despite all the story behind this character, he is definitely about to kick a player’s ass.

Check out CGMA’s Fundamentals of Character Design taught by Stefan Hansson, Bernie Machado, and Brett Bean if you’re a beginner trying to break into the character world!

4. Threatening Gestures

During our finals weeks, we were focusing on the composition of our final piece and rendering. My personal challenge was to draw a believable pose. You always have to take into account how heavy are a weapon and armor. The best way to find the right pose is to make your own references and act like your character.  For me personally, these final weeks were about challenging my patience, because I had to redraw things several times, render details and push the picture to the maximum of my skill level.

5. Portfolio-Ready Product

If you look at my week 2 sketches you will see that the character has changed drastically. In the final picture, the pose is more dynamic and the overall look more consistent. The devil’s always in the details. On the first drawings, his garment and belt looked too fresh, as if he bought them a few days ago. I realized that it ruins the undead feeling. I added torn edges, mud, and holes to his armor which supported the look I wanted to convey. I’ve also refined my sketches from previous weeks to include them in my portfolio.

Final Thoughts

  • I was really happy with my final piece. There is a big gap between what I did before the Character Design for Film and Games and what I can do now. So, I’ve definitely leveled up. Have a look at my before and after I did for an old character.
https://www.cgmasteracademy.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/tanya_podolskaia_student_interview12-1024x889.jpeg
  • In my current job, I use almost everything we were taught during this course. From small tips like “number your sketches before sending them to client” to the overall pipeline. I strongly recommend this course to anyone who wants to break into the industry.

LEARN MORE

CGMA provides comprehensive instruction for Art, Games, and VFX industries in a variety of courses for a range of students, from 2D and 3D artists looking to supplement their college studies to industry professionals looking to stay up to date on emerging trends and techniques in the field.

RELATED LINKS

Don’t miss out on CGMA’s Character Design for Film and Games taught by David Paget and Mayan Escalante.

Enroll in Costume Concept Design taught by Phil Boutte and Greg Hopwood to make your character’s attire more accurate and impressive.

Read “7 Steps to Create a Dark Elf: Power in Posing” to see another cursed character from this course.

Check out CGMA’s Fundamentals of Character Design taught by Stefan Hansson, Bernie Machado, and Brett Bean if you’re a beginner trying to break into the character world!