I’ve been working on the Weird Field World project for about two and a half years. For the first year and a bit it was nothing more than a collection of sketches and doodles, and then I decided to write a bit of background and I got hooked. Just over a year ago I launched my Patreon page to feature solely my Weird Field World stuff, and just yesterday I launched the Kickstarter to produce a book of the project.
It’s a hardback book, full colour, with a mixture of illustrations, sketches, and background prose and fiction. Part art book, part future history.
My funding goal was £2500 initially, with the hope that I’d get up to six or seven thousand. That would mean putting my book in the hands of around 150 people.
I passed my initial funding target in 36 minutes, £5000 in an hour and forty minutes, and right now just over 20 hours since launch, the funding stands at over 11 and a half thousand pounds. I’m absolutely astounded by the reception it’s got – so a huge thank you to anyone and everyone that’s backed or shared the project.
If you’re interested, head over to the campaign page, there are a few different pledge options to choose from.
I’ll post another update here in a couple of weeks and let you know how the fundraising is going.
This is the second of my guest blog posts, and my guest author today is Alastair Temple.
From Alastair’s website –
Alastair is a professional engineer who has been known to dabble in Digital Art and Photography. He is a founding member and administrator of the international art collective The Luminarium.Alastair has worked with a number of clients worldwide ranging from bands and artists such as Delta Mainline and Jonathan Kreisberg to publishers such as HarperCollins.Alastair is from Scotland and is currently based in Malmö, Sweden.
This blog post has taken me quite a long time to write (we are coming up for about 10 months now), partly because I am very good at putting things off and partly because I really wasn’t sure what to write about. When I initially put myself forward for doing this I had suggested that I put together a walkthrough for my piece Going Home, but the more I thought about it, the more it seemed relatively uninteresting (for those that do want it, I have included a quick overview at the end).
It was only after making a more recent piece, my Lighthugger illustration, and how well received it was that I thought of something which will hopefully be more interesting. I realised what I had done well in these pieces, and it is consistent if you look back through my portfolio (for example my first ‘successful’ scifi piece The Guardians has similar features) it is that I hide the lack of details, and hint at them rather than showing them.
This is even clearer when we look at some of the actual models for example those of the jump gate/portal from Going Home. To put it simply I am not a very good modeller, and I can’t paint, so I have needed to come up with some strategies to hide these facts while I slowly improve them. It is these that I will share with you today, and hopefully they will help someone else out there as well.
Model close/ups (lighting and textures removed):
Strategy Number 1 – Scale is your friend The first and simplest way to reduce the detail needed is to make use of large scale scenes. When things are a long distance from the observer, you simply can’t see as much. For example in Going Home I didn’t need to worry about if the windows looked real or the structure made sense because you can’t see it. Scale allows you to think about general proportions of the object and how it fits into your composition while not having to worry about all the little details that make an object look real when close up.
Strategy Number 2 – Utilising Lighting. The second strategy is to use lighting to hide or obscure areas and therefore minimise the detailing required. Here backlighting (or side lighting) is your friend. These types of lighting are dramatic to start with which is a definite bonus, but also they highlight the overall shapes of your objects, the shape of any key components and to use textures to hint at smaller details. If we take for example my Lighthugger piece, the use of backlighting, and the nebula behind the ship allows me to define the conical shape of the ship, highlight the two outboard ‘conjoiner drives’ and the ice shield on the front. I can use textures/displacement maps to hint at panelling and other details on the rest of the ship as well as adding some lights to give an impression of windows/exhaust vents/hangar bays etc, without having to worry about if the actual details make any sense. If we take the same model and piece, and reverse the lighting so it is front lit, then you can quickly see it looks like the simple model it is and there aren’t any real details to speak of.
Strategy Number 3 – Use Assets (by others and yourself) This is a fairly simple and straightforward point. You don’t have to create everything from scratch for every piece. In all of the pieces I have talked about today I have re-used things I created for other projects, I have kitbashed from my own assets and kitbash packs (there are a lot of good free ones out there if you don’t have the budget to pay), I have used textures made by others and I have used generative programs to create things in ways I would not be able to myself.
For example in The Guardians we have:
The large structure I created in Mandulbulb3D, just messing with parameters until I had something I liked.
The lens flare was created by my friend Bobby Myers for me to use for the project.
In Going Home:
The ship was kitbashed,
The planets were both created using Video Co-pilots orb plugin (and the base texture for the gas giant was an acrylic paint texture by Julian Frener).
The engine lens flare is from a pack I bought a while back.
The ship utilises textures by Travis Davies and some created in JSPlacement.
The background nebula is created through a number of fractals made in Apophysis.
So I guess what I am saying is, don’t let your lack of skills in certain technical aspects stop you. Work on them definitely, but in the meantime, minimise their impact on your final piece by starting simple. Concentrate on getting the composition, colours and feel right and try and do a little more each time!
That walkthrough overview for those who are interested:
Model jump-gate in favoured 3D software (I used Cinema4D, but 3DsMax, Blender or any other could easily achieve the same results).
Model or kitbash a spaceship design also in 3D. Include both in the same model so they are lit the same, but render separately to ease composition later.
Make 2 planets, I utilised Video co-pilot’s Orb plugin for After Effects for this and utilised an acrylic paint texture for the gas planet.
Composite in photoshop (note for a central composition like this, you want everything to be almost, but not quite symmetrical).
Add lighting effects, lens flares etc and do final colour corrections.
Save and upload.
Huge thanks to Alastair for putting this blog post together. As someone who is just starting to learn 3D there’s a lot of great advice here. Hope you’ve enjoyed reading this as much as I have. Do check out Alastair’s links, website and social media.
For creators, Patreon is a way to get paid for creating the things you’re already creating (webcomics, videos, songs, whatevs). Fans pay a few dollars per month OR per post you release, and then you get paid every month, or every time you release something new.
Currently I make a living dividing my time between being a freelance graphic designer, and being an illustrator. My income from illustration breaks down in to Commercial work – like book illustration or video game concept art, Private commissions – selling original art to order, or by selling prints and postcards of my work. These are all great outlets for my work, but it’s hard to predict how busy I’ll be with commissions at any one time, or if I’ll receive any commercial work.
Starting a Patreon page should give me a small, but regular monthly income from my art. It may be enough to buy some art materials, it might be enough to pay some bills. I’ve really no idea yet, but every little helps.
Here’s how it works.
My Patreon page will feature only my work on Weird Field World – that’s all the strange knobbly spaceships I draw.
If you want to become a Patron, and to support my work you can choose from three tiers of membership.
$2 per months gets you access to –
Regular posts including illustrations, background, and fiction.
Access to sketches and process videos as I work on the project.
Early opportunity to buy original illustrations.
Digital exclusives – like desktop or phone wallpapers.
$4 per month gets you all of the above plus –
One original Weird Field World sketch per year.
A set of three postcards featuring WF spaceships.
$6 per months gets you all of the above plus –
Choose the name of a Weird Field World spaceship (which will become canon in the universe) and receive a colour sketch of that ship.
Regular content for all subscribers will be sketches and final illustrations, background writing on the universe including a timeline and history of the story, maps and charts, technical drawings of spaceships, and I will also be writing some fiction to accompany the drawings.
If you’re interested in supporting me in this way, head over to my Patreon page for a look. Patronage starts at just $2 per month.
I have a new print available over at Ellipress. It’s a follow up to my Deep Space Fleet work of last year. Deep Space Fleet II features fifty brand new spaceships, in (for me) a surprising variety of colours! Printed on 308gsm 100% cotton artist’s paper, using archival inks the new poster can be bought in A4, A3, and A2 sizes.
I’m really pleased with how it’s turned out. It might be my favourite print yet.
‘Weird-Field’ Spaceships. That’s what I’m calling them. I’ve been toying with the idea of drawing some spaceships for a while that don’t use standard means of propulsion, or even non-standard. I wanted to draw a spaceship that looked weird, as if the means of its technology were slightly other-worldly. I came up with an idea of a set of machinery that manipulates some exotic fields in dimensions we don’t understand, to create drive. Maybe these were alien ships, maybe just something human, but far future. It was lots of fun trying to figure out some narrative to all this as was sketching. Eventually, after a bunch of doodles, I worked up a few of the ships in to a more finished form.
Initial sketchbook doodles.
Fleshing out a scribble.
Inking on a lightbox.
Weird-Field Spaceships – a brief history (part 1)
The first set of instructions was received in May of 2089. After a period of disbelief, skepticism and blame, it was the scientists who finally knuckled down to decipher the message. Written in a slightly abstracted form of Base-7, this didn’t take too long and the content of the message became clear.
Earth had picked up a broadcast for a set of instructions on how to build a spaceship. By the time the UN, various organisations, and the couple of dozen governments capable of building the ship had finally decided on a course of action to build it, South Africa had already done so.
The first completed ship, christened the Mandela, was a bizarre conglomeration of pipes, cells, and pods, surrounding a crew capsule built for seven. There was zero space for any cargo bar moderate supplies for the crew.
After extensive ground tests, which revealed almost nothing about the ship, the Mandela took off for the first time in early 2090. A shakedown flight proved the ship to be an intuitive and capable flyer, after which the initial mission was launched.
During this time various governments and agencies attempted to build another ship from the same instructions. All failed. Design and manufacture were checked and rechecked, scientists from the successful Mandela construction were brought in to no avail. The ships simply sat there, inert. All attempts to coax them in to life failed. The South African team began construction of a second ship from the same instructions, to be called Biko, but after several months found the same problem as all the other teams. The Biko simply sat in its construction bay, refusing to do anything at all.
Earth now had one functioning spaceship that was able to journey to Saturn in a single flight. The data it brought back was invaluable in research terms, but from a practical point of view – apart from some minor advances in material sciences – the alien instructions had brought little to the people of Earth.
Eighteen months after the failed attempt to build the Biko, another message was received. This time there wasn’t just one set of instructions, but three. The three spaceships were all totally different from each other, and from the Mandela. The only similarity was in the style and construction of the weird pods, capsules, modules, and nacelles. One of the ships was huge, measuring over 120m from tip to tip, yet only had room for a crew of one. The next was a similar size to the Mandela, but room for a crew of four and a large storage area that seemed to be made for cargo. The third ship was smaller than all the others, had two identical crew compartments, each with seating for one, and had a very small cargo compartment.
If there was method or design to the types of ship instructions being beamed to earth, nobody had manage to figure it out yet.
The three ships were to be built, instructed by the UN, by China, the US, and the EU. No other agencies, corporations or governments were permitted to attempt to build ships. This obviously didn’t stop rogue building projects starting up. Some were discovered and shut down, some were only rumoured, and some weren’t discovered until it was too late.
Of the three official ship-building projects, two were successful. The EU, and China both managed to produce working ships, almost identical in operation to the Mandela, but with slightly different performance figures. The US attempt to build a ship failed. Nothing seemed amiss during construction, but once completed the ship simply sat inert in its berth. Scientists from South Africa who had successfully built the Mandela, and failed with the Biko consulted with the US, but nothing was found that could explain the dead ship. Until a few weeks later when a new ship, launching out of Russia, was observed. It was identical in design to the ship the US was had built – but it was obviously successful. Once the diplomatic incident had died down the scientific consensus seemed to be that there was something inherently unique about the way the ships manipulated Space/Time, and that meant only one of each specific ship could be built. The way each ship interacted with whatever weird dimensions, forces and fields provided propulsion, seemed to prevent that exact configuration being used elsewhere. There was much discussion about whether or not this effect was proximity based. Would the Biko work if the Mandela was far enough away? The answer to that, after extensive tests, was no. After sending the Mandela out past the orbit of Neptune, testing of the Biko commenced – and it still just sat there like an expensive rock.
Over the next eighty years, at intervals which were as random as could possibly be established, the instructions for another 317 spaceships were received on Earth. Sometimes the messages included instructions for up to a dozen ships, sometimes the instructions were for a single ship. Eight sets of instructions were received in 2099 for what were obviously interplanetary communications relays. Looking like small ships these provided a massive boost to the speed and bandwidth available for human communications between the planets.
The illustrations below all feature in the book, and are hand drawn in ink on cartridge paper. The size of the illustrations, and in some cases the paper varies as multiple illustrations were sometimes drawn on a single sheet. If you are interested in buying an illustration then you can message me on Twitter or Instagram, or drop me an email – rob [at] thisnorthernboy [dot] co [dot] uk
If you’ve been following my blog for a while (or following me elsewhere on social media), you’ll know I love to draw spaceships. I always have enjoyed drawing everything to do with space, ever since I was a little kid, but in the last couple of years I’ve begun to build a little fleet of ships to inhabit my Asteroid Belt Blues universe.
I’ve managed to fill a few sketchbook pages with ships in the last few days, and I dare say there will be a lot more to come in the next days, weeks, and months.
I’m currently available for commissions, so if you’ve always wanted some original art now’s a great time to get in touch. Commissions start at £60 + postage, and I ship world wide. Whether you want a robot, a spaceship, a creature, an isometric building, a floating island, or something completely different, I’d love to work with you on a commission.
You can leave a comment here on my blog, or drop me an email – rob [at] thisnorthernboy [dot] co [dot] uk