Monday, September 1, 2008

Lived-in Future, Part 1

If you’re painting a scene set in the future, it helps to consider the period of time leading up to it. Some of the vehicles and buildings might be brand new, but others might be holdovers from an earlier period in your world’s history. Surviving elements from earlier times might show wear and tear, or they might reveal changes in the culture or even the government of your imaginary universe.

Here’s one of the concept sketches for Fritz, a “hoverhead” robot that I designed for Dinotopia: First Flight (1999). First Flight is actually a high-tech dystopia, set in Dinotopia's distant past, with vehicles based on the design of dinosaurs. Fritz is based on a ceratopsian head. He's rusty and dented, an outmoded model, and he’s missing the chrome ring that’s supposed to go around his right eye.

Early science fiction paintings, TV shows, and movies often showed a world where everything was in neat, new condition and was designed in the same style. But in real life we’re surrounded not only by the latest technology but also by antiques and out-of-date equipment that we keep using. Adding this sensibility to your science fiction artwork can give much more believability.

Here’s a plein air sketch in pencil and markers of a Buick Special. Note the rust stains, the cracked window, and the fender that has been replaced with a different colored panel.

You can give your future a “lived-in” look by adding such signs of decay: rust, dents, skid marks, pot holes, chipped paint, broken glass, dead bugs, bent corners, peeling labels, faded lettering, graffiti, litter, trash, and weeds. In both digital and painted artwork, surfaces usually come out looking pristine and new, so adding these qualities takes deliberate effort.


Emily said...

Star Wars does such a good job of that - everything looks like it's been used. Firefly does too. Especially since Firefly uses different styles and varying amounts of "beat-up-ness" to sort of show what class the people who fly the ship belong to.

Anonymous said...

I visited Dresden a few weeks ago, and it made me think about "the look of the future" and how strange things can turn out. After the war, the devastated city was rebuilt with typical communist-era concrete. Very modern, very 21st century - or so they probably thought. Now, these buildings are worn and crumbling. The baroque centre, however, has been rebuilt during the later years with the reconstructed Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady) as the centrepiece. So, we have a sparkling new baroque city, with old-looking houses fully equipped with modern facilities, surrounded by a futuristic city which in fact is a relic of the past. Changing views on progress and nostalgia can do strange things to the look of our surroundings.

Edmund Liang said...

Hello there.

I absolutely LOVE what you are writing on your blog site.

I'm learning so much just by the click of a mouse when I get a chance each day.


. Edmund .

James Gurney said...

Thanks, Edmund, I'm learning, too by doing the blog and by reading your comments. For example, I had never heard of Firefly (I have no TV connection and am a rather clueless caveman when it comes to contemporary media), so Emily, thanks for telling me about it. Maybe I'll track down a DVD. And CEGEBE, what a great description of Dresden. It really gets my imagination going for SF universes.