Each issue of TFWe, we plan to spotlight a Fan Artist on TFW2005.COM and showcase a sample of their artwork and allow them time to talk about themselves, their artwork, or anything else art-related they want to talk about. This month, the staff of TFWe chose Digilaut and his amazing work on the Animated Predacons/Predaking that continue to be a popular piece of work in the Fan Art forum. Congratulations Digilaut on being the TFWe Fan Artist of the Month for May 2011! Enjoy! -TFWe Staff ---------------------------------------------------------------------- BEHOLD THE FURY OF THE ALMIGHTY PREDAKING! During the spring of 2011, 2005 board member Digilaut revealed his Transformers Animated Predaking designs. To say that a lot of thought and time went into this project would be an understatement. See, Digilaut went beyond just designing a Predaking in the Transformers Animated style. He went further, designing Cybertronian and Beast editions of the Predacons. What results is 3 different versions of the Predacons, and 3 different versions of Animated Predaking. Impressed with his creations, we sought Digilaut out and asked him for more information behind this comprehensive project. Without further ado, here's what he had to say: Animated Predaking Project Initial idea and goal This project started after I had previously created an Animated Devastator. A lot of people kept asking me what combiner I would design next, so it was only natural that I'd eventually create the one I like best: Menasor! Unfortunately, at that time, a couple of different artists were already working on that one, so I thought it would be better to focus on another combiner, rather than to create some kind of uneccessary competition. I decided upon Predaking, because it was a character I knew next to nothing about, and there was something about his colors cheme and the individual animals that was really appealing to me - he just looks so different from all the other Transformers combiners! So in a way, this was a good opportunity for me to learn more about the Predacons while hopefully creating a design people would appreciate! The Predacons also allowed me to raise the bar, so to speak: I didn't do this just to create a new design, I also wanted to surprise people and blow them away, if possible. The Predacons alt modes allowed me to create two other versions for all of the characters: Cybertronian modes (from their past) and techno-organic modes (from their possible future), which would even make sense story-wise - something I like to think about when designing. My ideas on creating Animated designs Whenever I'm working on a Transformers Animated design, there's one rule I'm always trying to stick to: it must look like the character could have appeared on the actual show. I'm not doing these projects to show off my own illustrational style, I just really want to create some designs of characters that didn't exist originally, that people will hopefully enjoy, and add to their enthusiam for the series. There are three important steps to get there, in my opinion: 1. Getting the art-style right. Sure, the Animated robots don't look as complicated as the ones from some other Transformers series, like the live action movies, but that doesn't mean you can just draw something cartoony and call it a day - Animated has a specific art-style and design rules that, if followed correctly, can help 'sell' your design to a viewer. These rules range from things such as drawing the right types of stuttering curves, to remembering Animated Autobots don't carry giant guns, to drawing the right body types for your figures (slender builds for speedy characters, bulky builds for powerful characters, etc.). Just like the story of the show plays out much like a superhero show (and less like a robot civil war), the art-style likewise throws back to the superhero genre, so it doesn't hurt to check what being done in that genre to evoke certain traits in characters. 2. Finding the right balance between fun and serious. Transformers Animated is all about fun, but that doesn't mean every character you design should be a gimmicks-filled gag character. On the other hand, that also doesn't mean you should never do it. Just how far you can go all depends on which character you are designing and what its role is within the world, which leads me to... 3. Proper back-story. Your character needs it. Before people get the wrong idea: this does not mean you should write a full page biography, especially not when there's nothing in your story that can be traced back to your design - if you're telling people your character is clumsy, and he just looks generic, it just feels like you're disguising a bad design with some extra fluff. What I mean is: without a proper idea on who your character is and what his traits are, you will not be able to create a design that evokes these traits. Sometimes I just start sketching different body types and traits for a new character until I find what I like, but way more often I don't touch a single pencil until I've done proper research on who the character originally was (if it's an existing non-Animated robot), and, more importantly, who I want him to be - it definitely speeds up the creation process if you know what you are looking for. Design progress Before I started sketching I did the aforementioned research on the original Predacons, and I had come up with a list of characters and their traits: Razorclaw - calculated and determined Rampage - hyperactive and dangerous, a loose cannon Divebomb - stealthy, deathly, enjoys the sneaky things he does Tantrum - wrathful, tough Headstrong - stubborn powerhouse I think in this case these traits fit their G1 counterparts pretty good, but of course it's possible to take an old character and give it a new spin...don't be afraid to try out new things! Having determined what the individual team members would act like, in combination with their animal modes, I created a couple of small sketches of their body types so I could puzzle a bit on how these would eventually merge into a Predaking. I tried not to worry about the eventual combiner too much yet, but I really didn't want to put in a lot of work on the Predacons, only to find out later that I wouldn't be able to combine them into something plausible. It's at this stage that I determined it would be better to have the big Headstrong as the core body, with the lion head on one shoulder, and the bird's feathers as a small cape on the other. There are three things that I liked about this setup: it prevented much unnecessary mass shifting of body parts, it gave the figure the look of a hunter/warrior who had decorated his garment with animal trophies, and last but not least: it felt fresh to me. - I wasn't looking to just draw a G1 Predaking in Animated style, I wanted to create an Animated Predaking! At this time I came up with two more things to enrich the project even further: a human adversary for the Predacons in the form of Animated Lord Chumley. It instantly made perfect sense to me that in this continuity Lord Chumley would still be a fan of the hunt...and what better creatures to hunt than giant robot animals? Just like the S.U.V. were a hinder to the Autobots in Detroit, likewise Chumley would annoy the Predacons by constantly laying traps to catch them - but he would just be a small nuisance to them! The other thing I came up with was an animal pet that would follow the Predacons around wherever they went, and could transform into Predaking's giant sword when the team combined. I really liked the idea of a yellow hyena, so I wrote that down and put it to the side for now. After this the design process for all of the characters went pretty smoothly. I started out with some of the regular earth mode designs (the robotic animals), followed by a couple of techno-organic forms. I wasn't too afraid of messing up the latter: one thing I remember fondly from watching Beast Wars were the weird color schemes (especially after they went transmetal!) so this was the perfect opportunity to create a techno-organic Predaking that would be a mishmash of colors, setting him even more apart from the regular version that would have a more unified color scheme! All of the characters went through the same process: initial small sketches of both the overall designs as well as the heads, idea for transformation scheme (see below) + finalized sketches, inking, and digital coloring. Unfortunately, I didn't have access to a light table, and having moved recently, I didn't have the stuff with me for a makeshift one, or working a full time job, even have much time to get the tools. So I ended up tracing all of my sketches digitally as vector art! Unfortunately I'm just not so good in inking digitally, so this was the way to go for me. If I had the proper tools this step would've definitely gone a lot faster! Transformation schemes is something I try to incorporate into my designs since my second or third Animated design. Back then I already had general ideas on how my designs would change modes, but people were telling they had a hard time envisioning this...so they left me with no choice but to show them (thanks guys!). 'Lucky' for me I currently don't work for Hasbro, so I can get away with a -somewhat- plausible looking transformation, even if a toy designer would pull his hairs out of agony if he ever laid eyes on what I cooked up. I don't think it's worth it being stuck for days to check if a transformation could work for a possible toy when you don't have any experience in toy making yourself - so I try to use a bit of logic and common sense (and memories of my own Transformers collection and the way they transform!) when coming up with the transformation - but I'm not denying I've taken some liberties more than once. Eventually I had created designs for all of the team members in three different versions (earth, Cybertron, techno-organic) and Lord Chumley, so before I started to work on finalizing Predaking I took another look at that hyena-sword I had come up with. That's when I found out a hyena actually wasn't such a good idea for a sword. Just how was he going to become so flat and pointy? Where was he going to store all of the blade, and wouldn't it just look like there was a sword coming out of his behind if he'd transform? And what's a hyena without some spots, spots that would look pretty horrendous on a sword? Ultimately, I decided that maybe a hyena wasn't such a good idea (as much as it hurt me - a common term in art is "kill your darlings", meaning sometimes you have to get rid of an aspect of your work to make for a better overall product...even if that aspect was totally awesome). | | | | | | | | | | Luckily, it didn't take long for me to realize a snake could work, both as a sword and as an animal that looked different from any of the five Predacons! | | Putting the team back together (Predaking) After creating about nineteen different images of characters and their attributes it was finally time to finish the project with Predaking. After some more puzzling with my original sketches I still liked the original idea I had, so I went with it. As a homage I made sure that, even if the chest was no longer a lion, there would still be a recognizable lion-esque-face there. Originally, the animal skin Predaking is wearing was meant to be totally different looking: in my newer batch of sketches I came up with the idea of using a giant bat (read: a dead Beast Machines Nightscream) as a hooded cape, his little bat-hands knotted together on Predaking's chest, but as much I was sketching it out, it just kept looking really awkward. | | | On the back of Predaking I put small and subtle wings, made out of Headstrong's ears. I felt that it was within the Animated style to 'tone things down' a bit like that. I WAS WRONG. A lot of people did not like this. Maybe it's because I did not have a longtime affection for the character and didn't think much of those changes, or maybe Predaking just has a lot of really hardcore fans - either way, a lot of people felt it was too bad that he was not sporting the lion chest and the wings. I stand by my original design, I'm happy with it - but with so many people taking their time to comment on my work, both with praise and concerns, it would be a bit of a shame if the final image of my big project would leave them disappointed. As a form of goodwill, or more accurately, to try and lure people away with something shiny so I could safely flee the scene, I created an alternate version of Predaking that did sport the wings and chest. Retrospect And that's that! Over seven different characters, most of them in three different robot and alternate modes, extra weapons and transformation schemes, and I was finally done! I honestly can't tell how much time has gone into this, because I have been working on it in my limited free evening hours over the span of three months, but there were definitely a couple of times where I was wishing I'd just be done with it! Looking back, I'm pretty happy with the results. Not a lot went wrong, and for the occasional small problem (like the hyena-sword) I was able to find a quick solution...so it went pretty smooth, actually! Luckily, this wasn't my first Animated design, and not my first combiner either, so I think I've gotten a good grip on what I like to see/draw myself, which means I'm less likely to go back to the drawing board halfway through the project. If it was somehow possible, I'd really like to thank everybody who is showing continuous interest in what I'm doing - it feels pretty good to read all of the kind words people are constantly writing me, and whether people are giving me praise or critism, it shows that they're caring, or mildly interested at the least, which can only be a good thing...that's definitely worth the trouble of it all. About Digilaut My real name's Dick Grinwis, 25 years old and living in the always-idyllic country of the Netherlands. I have experience as an illustrator and concept artist, but I'm currently working as a graphic artist at a small company specializing in web advertisements and games. Grew up during Generation 2, rolled back into the hobby with the 2007 live action movie. Favorite TF characters: Optimus Prime & Ratchet. Favorite TF series: Transformers Animated. My portfolio can be visited at Portfolio Dick Grinwis For a less professional environment, but more transformable robots: digilaut on deviantART We would like to thank Digilaut for taking out the time to give us this comprehensive description of his project. This project not only showed us his visual skills but his thought process behind each step. Wish him luck as he has entered a piece for UDON's Megaman tribute book, hopefully it gets in!