Thursday, May 12, 2005

What Is Art Anyway?

"I never intended to make art."
-Walt Disney, when his work was displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

I’ve never considered myself a real artist. Yeah there are quite a few computer games out there whose credit list says otherwise. But I’ve always thought of myself as a hack. Taking something somebody else did and screwing with it till it was what I wanted. The entire tile artwork set for the Pride Rock level of the SNES and Genesis version of The Lion King game was based on two little rocks Rick Parks drew. When I started in the industry there were no designers, there was just a programmer and an artist and together they designed the game. But as time went on and the industry grew I managed to work myself into a pigeon hole as an artist. I was actually really good at tile art, cutting up a piece of artwork in small characters or icons. More hack work.

It came to a relief when I finally officially and completely moved from being an artist to a designer. It actually took EA closing Westwood Studios and me changing companies to really break out of that hole. Sure I got to do my share of design work, but I was still considered an artist. Now I’m at a company on the other side of the world where I was hired as a designer. I’ve gotten to prove myself as a designer, both to myself and to my peers who never saw me as an artist.

…so I’m drawing some spell icons today in photoshop…

Seriously though, I told you that story to tell you this one. I just love doing that classic comedy routine where you spin it around like that. I used to write stand-up comedy, but that is another story.

But really I was drawing the spell icons. Well hacking them out. The artist that drew the originally sub-set is kind of new to this whole thing. He did some really good looking icons but didn’t take them to the point that we needed them. Details like spell lines across multiple elements, reoccurring symbols to represent things like health and mana. Anyway I started to tinker with them as we are getting up against the wire for E3 as I had all my other stuff finished and they really needed some attention and next thing I know I’m doing them all.

At one point I’m using Google’s image search to find picture pieces I need. I am drawing a few icons that are silhouettes or facial close-ups for ‘shout’ abilities. I got to wondering what these people would think if they knew their photo was being manipulated into spell icons. They of course are being changed beyond any recognition. But I look at my picture over there on the right and wonder if some artist hasn’t grabbed it and turned it into something else.

I remember the icons I created for Command & Conquer had all the soldiers modeled on Mike Lightner, one of the designers. I think I got the original image from one of the mission movies and just kept altering it. The thought at the time was to make them look the same to have that ‘every-man’ soldier feel. Remember this was originally a game done in 640x480 but even at that size he was still recognizable. He thought it was pretty cool. I think I kept using his image for the soldiers for redone C&C ’95 version and even Red Alert. By the time we got to Tiberian Sun we were using in a high enough resolution that we could start doing much more detailed pictures instead of just facial close-ups. I have all those icons on my hard drive somewhere.

A number of the Eye of the Beholder character portraits were other Westwood employees including myself. And if you look at mine in EoB I, EoB II and Order of the Griffon you can see my hair growing out as I updated it each time.

Oh well enough reminiscing, its time to go to bed.

So later when I tell you and you ask when. It was while writing this.

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