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A thoughtful layout has the power to add impactful storytelling to any scene. So when Concept Artist/Clean Up Artist Jennifer Beam wanted to take her Charlie and the Chocolate Factory backgrounds to the next level, she used composition and lighting to guide the viewer to the most important parts of the scene. Read on to learn Jennifer’s process, including:

  1. Research and Composition
  2. Sugar-Sweet Assets
  3. Narrative Focal Points
  4. Whimsical Style
  5. Final Project

My name is Jennifer Beam and I am an artist from Pennsylvania. When I was younger, I took a lot of inspiration from all the different cartoons I watched, which led me to animation. Now, I work as a concept artist, where I create and clean up props, backgrounds, and character vector assets in Adobe Illustrator that are ready to be animated for the children’s show GizmoGo!

1. Research and Composition

For my project, I choose to focus on the story Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. To begin, I created dozens of thumbnails of various potential scenes.

After making multiple compositions for the scenes in the story, I narrowed in on a few ideas like Charlie’s home and the inventing room.

When thinking about the composition, my main thought was how to lead the viewer’s eye where I wanted to best tell the story.

Enroll in Background and Layout for Animation taught by Matte Painter, Concept Artist, and Visual Development Artist Jonathan Hoekstra.

2. Sugar-Sweet Assets

With a few scenes in mind, I started developing assets. Though I didn’t end up sticking with the Candy Shop scene, it was fun to create the inventory and storefront.

For Charlie’s home, I sketched 3 different versions to figure out which home would work best for Charlie. I used this as an opportunity to play with dimensions, from tall and scrawny to a flattened farmhouse.

Finally, I moved inside Willy Wonka’s factory. The inventing room called for some basic beakers, pots, and pans for candy creation. But I also incorporated some unique machinery.

For the chocolate room, I created sugared mushrooms and candy cane trees to capture the whimsical, sugary theme.

3. Narrative Focal Points

I chose the focal points based on narrative importance. The focal point of the scene was Charlie’s home. I used the hill and trees to point toward the house. Plus, I used painting and lighting to my advantage.

For the inventing room, I wanted the foreground where the pots and pans are to be the main focus. That way, the viewer feels closer to the chaos while being able to see the entire room.

Trying to focus on improving your focal points? Explore CGMA’s Composition for Concept Art and Illustration taught by Freelance Concept Artist/Illustrator Axel Sauerwald and Art Director/Concept Artist Mauricio Abril.

4. Whimsical Style

For the week we focused on a different style. I did a separate piece from Charlie’s story and an art piece based on Winnie the Pooh’s style. I tried figuring out what made that style work.

The style for Winnie the Pooh has a lot of ink and line work in it, along with watercolor. So when working on my image I focused heavily on the line work, like adding hatching to the tree or some individual blades of grass on the fields. And though I obviously didn’t use watercolor, I painted it in a way that mimicked the light, delicate look.

Read “How to Find the Magic in Background Animation: Dinosaur Designs” for another style of background!

5. Final Project

For my final steps, I focused on the values, rendering, and adding final touches to the images. I’m very happy with how my paintings turned out. I learned so much creating them and these images really helped push me to become a better artist.

Final Thoughts

  • I took this course because I wanted to learn more about backgrounds. I believed it would add another layer of storytelling skills to my toolkit, and that’s exactly what happened.
  • The feedback was amazing for the class. The instructor was very helpful and truthful. He was able to point out what a person should improve on, and he also gave great feedback and critiques.
  • One of the most impactful things I learned in class was to always lead the viewer’s eye. There are so many ways to do this, including light, perspective, and assets.
  • After the course, I still use the notes and lessons in class in my latest art pieces. I also continued working on some of the assignments and added some color to them.
  • If anyone wants to learn about creating backgrounds I really recommend this course. It pushed me to become a better artist and helped me create backgrounds that I never could create by having me learn more about composition, layout, and painting.

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

Check out the rest of Jennifer’s work on her ArtStation and Twitter, plus connect with her on LinkedIn!

Enroll in Background and Layout for Animation taught by Matte Painter, Concept Artist, and Visual Development Artist Jonathan Hoekstra.

Trying to focus on improving your focal points? Explore CGMA’s Composition for Concept Art and Illustration taught by Freelance Concept Artist/Illustrator Axel Sauerwald and Art Director/Concept Artist Mauricio Abril.

Read “How to Find the Magic in Background Animation: Dinosaur Designs” for another style of background!