Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Techniques of Syd Mead (1933-2019)

Syd Mead, concept art for Blade Runner
Syd Mead, the gouache painter and "visual futurist" who inspired Blade Runner has died at age 86.

Blade Runner, Sebastian Vehicle Internal View
In addition to his concept work for movies such as Blade Runner, Tron, and 2010, Mead contributed designs to the automotive industry, cruise ship concepts, steel companies, and other industries.

There's a video on YouTube where he gives a peek into his picturemaking process, using pen, tracing paper, a bridge, French curves, gouache, big flat brushes, and other old-school methods. 

The gouache appears to be squeezed on a paper palette and put in cups for larger areas.  After his earliest work, he began using airbrush, and the airbrush gradations are evident in the sides of the blue spaceship and the highlight on the right side of it.

In this video he talks about preliminary sketches, value contrast, design, and procedure. "Cover the white of the board as quickly as possible and start to adjust from there."


Mario said...

Wonderful artist, very imaginative and very rigorous at the same time, with an astonishing technique. I think he was also subtly humorous, although this side of his is often overlooked.

Robert Cosgrove said...

I stopped by this a.m., then returned this afternoon to check out the comments, and see that you've added a couple of videos to the post, which I very much appreciate. Two random thoughts: 1. It's a shame that so many of Mead's books are out of print, not reprinted, and damn expensive. 2. It's interesting to think about Mead in conjunction with John Berkey, another modern master of water media. I find myself wondering if they ever met, what thoughts they had about each other's work, and how one of Mead's meticulously planned drawings would look painted in Berkey's somewhat looser brush style.

Dr. Johnny Vagabond said...

Thanks for posting the videos. He was, and is, an inspiration in his art. I thought you might be interested in this one.


James Gurney said...

Dr. Johnny Vagabond, thanks for that other link. I'll add it to the post. It's a very interesting video to add to the others.

Jyreme said...

Happy new year!! I’ve been watching your YouTube videos for a bit now and I’m in love. Now that I’ve found your blog it’s an even bigger treat. I’ll try to make this short lol but for awhile I forced myself into animation art, primarily anime and such but my heart has always had a soft spot for realism but I was always afraid I couldn’t do it. At this point it no longer matters if I ever make it to that level in my mind bc I’m finally creating what I love. However the anime and cartoon influences are strong. Do you think it’s ever too late to achieve more realism in my work? My art teachers always said I had a wonky exaggerated style and I know it’ll be an uphill battle but I have no idea where to start. Any advice would be greatly appreciated and also thanks so much for your inspiration. It’s people like you that really make me enjoy being a part of such an awesome community!

James Gurney said...

Jyreme, I don't think it's ever too late to develop your skills for realistic painting and drawing, as long as you commit to really studying and practicing the fundamentals. And I think you'll be able to combine your love of anime with your interest in realism to make pictures that are both convincing and expressive. You'll have to sort out whether you truly love the direction you're heading, or whether you feel forced into it. Try to find the Venn-Diagram intersection between what you like best, what you do best, and what people respond to.

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