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Col Price: concept artist interview

Industry veteran Col Price discusses how he mixes 2D and 3D to create stunning sci-fi images, including his 3dtotal gallery entry "Red Rooster"...

Industry veteran Col Price discusses how he mixes 2D and 3D to create stunning sci-fi images, including his 3dtotal gallery entry "Red Rooster"...

3dtotal: Tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you, what do you do, and where are you located?

Col Price: My name's Col Price. I'm a freelance concept artist for games, film and TV. I'm based in the UK, and live out in the middle of nowhere by the beach, about 20 miles outside of Liverpool.

I've been in the games industry for about 23 years now working as an art director for such companies as Sony, EA and Evolution Studios. About 3 years ago I took the plunge to go freelance and it's been a crazy ride since. I've expanded out now to work in TV and film. I've had the chance to work with some fantastic studios and people from ThreeOneZero, to the BBC, and work with some legends such as Mark Kern and CliffyB.

This is the basic 2D backplate. I put this together with custom brushes and added in a few VFX. I will usually do this stage while the ships or tech are rendering on another machine

3dt: Where did you find the inspiration for your latest gallery entry? What's the story behind its creation?

CP: Red Rooster was an experiment in storytelling, I love to put story into my work and also a bit of humour. It was a pretty freeform concept. I knew I wanted something hitting the barn but apart from that it was all done on the fly. I like to do work like this when it's for personal growth. Just sitting down and creating without any roughs and sketches is really good practise and keeps that creative edge going.

A couple rough shots of the ship. The model is fairly basic, nothing fancy, just extruded up from a very basic shape

3dt: What software and plug-ins did you use to create this image? Did you face any difficulties, and how did you overcome them?

CP: The image itself is pretty straightforward. The ship is built and part textured in 3ds Max. Everything else is painted in Photoshop. I used a few photo textures for the roof tiles but the rest is custom brushes. The farmer was a super last minute thing – the composition needed him in there.

This is the basic render placed in the scene. I haven't placed any lights or marks on the ship at this stage

3dt: Do you normally use this software in your workflow? What other software and plug-ins do you favour?

CP: I use 2D and 3D all the time. It just stemmed from working in games for so many years. We always get really basic 3D grey box game worlds off the artists to concept over. For me it's really adaptable and fast. I can change light or composition and I don't have as many constraints when doing it full 2D or full 3D. It's a really fast pipeline too.

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d_vfx no

Added dust, scratches, and muck. Still no farmer at this stage

3dt: Are there any particular techniques that you use often? Or do you like to experiment?

CP: The work can go either way. If I have the 2D done first, even if it's just the character, then that determines the light for the scene, so the ships, droids or tech are all rendered via mental ray with the same light pass. This of course can have the opposite effect if I render the 3D section first. The advantage is, working in a 2D and 3D environment I can change either of them at any point and just rework it up. For me, it just gives me a bit more freedom. It also means I can get quicker value sketches and roughs out to clients faster.

Final image with the farmer added, and this image has also been colour graded

3dt: What are your artistic ambitions?

CP: I'd love to get into film more; I've worked on a few productions in the past and it's a great experience that really pushes you. Again, it's all down to telling a story, which I love. I think the main ambition and cliché as it may sound, is just to get better and keep expanding and trying new things. I think every artist wants that!

My latest work. I'm exploring more story themes and interconnected images, still dealing with sci-fi but trying to make this more character centric

My latest work. I'm exploring more story themes and interconnected images, still dealing with sci-fi but trying to make this more character centric

3dt: What software would you like to learn in the future to expand your portfolio and skillset, and why?

CP: I'm just about to delve into ZBrush. Over the years I've gotten increasingly frustrated with just having characters in 2D, so using ZBrush for characters and organics would be useful. One thing I love about 3D is the ability to move stuff around in a scene, creating different compositions. That's not to say I will move away from 2D, but it's just another tool to help me create what's in my head, so all the the blood, sweat 'n tears will pay off.

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I just really like the idea of machines wanting to be more human, hence the clothes. The cloth is created in 3ds Max and their cloth sim, which is really easy and super powerful to use

3dt: How do you keep your portfolio up-to-date? Any tips?

CP: I do try to do as much as I can – practise is vital. I used to try and do an image a day but with work commitments it's just proved too much, but I still hold the discipline on trying to get an image finished in a couple of days or even a day. I think getting your speed up is incredibly important.

I really like to try and play with scale, and try to create full universes – this makes practice far more fun

I really like to try and play with scale, and try to create full universes – this makes practice far more fun

3dt: Who are your favorite artists, traditional or digital, and can you explain why?

CP: So many! Too many to put down here. I think the guys that influenced me the most are people like Chris Foss, Jim Burns and Boris Vallejo. I also love a lot of the new guys, but I'm not going to say because I know them all and it's only going to make their heads not fit through the door!

Hopefully I can keep working on this story and maybe take it further than a few images

Hopefully I can keep working on this story and maybe take it further than a few images

3dt: What can we expect to see from you next?

CP: At the moment I'm working on a few things; including a sci-fi game with a group of Spanish devs, and a TV commercial for Australian TV. You may see some of my work later in the year with ThreeOneZero and their secret project, not sure if they showed at E3?

I also worked with Mark Kern last year and his latest game is starting to be unveiled. I did a lot of ships and tech concepts for that – you can find more on the website http://crixa.io. Thank you!

Related links

Check out more of Col's awesome designs
Red Rooster in the gallery
Grab a copy of 3ds Max Projects

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