Welcome to the Alumni Breakdown – where we take a closer look at students who have forged their artistic voice after walking through the creative gates at Learn Squared. Today we welcome Senior Concept Artist Lars Sowig who, in his own words, breaks down his galactic piece – SPACE BREAKER. Lars plies his trade at EA DICE having previously worked at CRYTEK & UBISOFT working on games such as Tom Clancy’s – The Division 2 and more. Over to you Lars!
An Artist Named Lars
A legacy of studying, exploration, and learning from the best.
Hello there, I have been around in this industry for a little while now, and in this article, I would like to share some key-takeaways and experiences paired with one of my recent personal projects with you that might be helpful.
I remember Learn Squared being the platform that gave me an incredible push back then.Lars Sowig
My career started with a lot of studying, and I remember Learn Squared being the platform that gave me an incredible push back then. Since I enjoy exploring new techniques and workflows, I took a couple of very different courses on the platform & I would like to focus on two courses here that fundamentally helped in creating this particular project. These courses are Futuristic Character Design with Maciej Kuciara and Concepting in ZBrush with Alex Figini.
Sniping the Brief
Reddit, Reiteration & Recoil
What kickstarted this project was a Reddit post about one of my other projects called – ‘Space Sniper’. Some commenters mentioned their concerns with the design, and I wasn’t really satisfied with how I solved certain things too – e.g. the firing of a ‘recoilless’ weapon in space. I wanted to reiterate that and came up with another solution for shooting a rifle in outer space.
I wasn’t really satisfied with how I solved certain things too…On being honest with receiving critiques.
Multiple iterations via youtubing and toy guns.
Recently, I’ve done a lot of research on Youtube as you can find documentation about specific technologies, tools, or gadgets which can be very fruitful. I started designing a laser bundling rifle based on an existing laser toy rifle that had laser LEDs that could (at least) make a balloon pop. But more importantly, it had the most potential to function in space.
Not many like it but it is a very good exercise to keep changing things around.The power of iteration
It’s good to back up functionality with reference and not design out of the blue. I’ve learned the benefit of pushing for new design solutions but that does not mean you need to reinvent the wheel! So I decided to have a couple of LED bars and a magnifier glass to double the effect – pretty much how heat lasers work in reality. Essentially, I had to make it look cool and integrate it nicely.
On the rifle, I did a few iterations and shape changes by overpainting a render over and over. Doing versions is extremely powerful. Not many like it but it is a very good exercise to keep changing things around, combine different versions, and very often you’ll discover better designs.
This way, you build a design as you would in reality, and achieving an extra level of believability as a result.turning everything inside out.
It’s what’s inside that counts!
When designing very technical elements, it’s essential to make the viewer understand its function clearly. An excellent approach to partly achieve this, in my experience, is by designing ‘inside out.’
For the backpack, I started with a much rougher version whilst thoughtfully creating room for required internal components. I wanted to have parts where the main oxygen canister could fit and other little spaces for hardware internals, ie where handles could attach and thrusters be housed. Then, to complete, I encased the design with a shell.
This way, you build a design as you would in reality, and achieving an extra level of believability as a result. I had the same approach for the helmet, where I covered most of the raw details, leaving some exposed and I also covered the gun with a shell and then emphasized all the little details I wanted to highlight.
The Bigger the Better.
What works best for me is to work on each part which needs designing, separately, and to fully focus on it. It is very helpful to work on the “biggest features” first because they will drive the design language and once you are done with that, you can use it as a reference to make your other designs fit.
To bring all the parts together I assembled all assets into one ZBrush scene where I would do final adjustments so the pieces transition/connect with each other better. An opportunity here is to experiment with proportions. I originally had the helmet 10% bigger but scaled it back and then scaled the gloves up a bit because I felt it looked stronger.
The design was finalized in Photoshop where I spent approximately 10%-20% of the overall time. I mainly redefined textures with photobashing-techniques to enhance the contrast between different materials and worked on the decal placement and presentation.
The courses enabled me to build my own personal workflow on top of the ones that are taught in the courses.Never Learn Alone
A Perfect Understanding
Learning a new workflow to forge your own path.
The Learn Squared courses “Futuristic Character Design with Maciej Kuciara” and “Concepting in ZBrush with Alex Figini” really helped me to get a perfect understanding of what is possible while juggling between different tools. The courses enabled me to build my own personal workflow on top of the ones that are taught in the courses.
Overall, I recommend to stick tight to the given workflows at the beginning as a fundamental base and later you will be able to introduce your own ways of working with it and improve it for your needs.
You can see more of Lars’ stunning work Artstation, follow him on Instagram, and get a deeper insight into what makes him tick when he joined us on The Learn Squared Podcast – listen now on Spotify, Apple, Google, and Youtube.