Sunday, September 27, 2009

I’d Like an Art Department

As part of my first week as a nonsmoker, I watched the extended version of The Lord of the Rings, including all the behind-the-scenes special features. That film can cause schisms amongst gamers, depending on how seriously they take their Tolkien. I don’t mind its lack of Bombadil or the shield-boarding Legolas simply because I’m usually too busy being wowed by how beautifully the film brings Middle -earth to life.

Some years ago, I worked for the Hollywood Dream Factory. I was working in the industry when The Fellowship of the Ring was released and, in the months leading up to it, there was a lot of talk about that film on the various sets I worked. I doubt that I met one person who wouldn’t have sacrificed a family member to have crewed on that film. Of course, that was mostly because having a single steady job that lasts five years is unheard of in Hollywood unless you’re working on a successful series. And while I’d admit that that would have been nice in my own case, I had other reasons to be jealous.

I’ve mentioned that one of the reasons I enjoy this hobby is the opportunity to world build. So when I heard what Peter Jackson and Weta were up to down in New Zealand, I wished I could be part of that production. Not as a cast member or an extra, but as someone who helped breathe life into what I consider the most realistic fantasy world ever brought to the screen.

Watching the special features of the DVDs confirmed that the stories I heard during my time in L.A. were true. An army of artists, carpenters, craftsmen, miniature makers, set decorators, prop builders, greensmen, et al were needed to make Middle-earth as real as it seems on screen and I can’t help but feel a bit envious. Film may be a more visual medium when compared to role-playing games, but I still wish I had a small cadre of artists and craftsmen to help bring my own imaginary world to tangible life.

I’m in awe of people who can draw, paint, sculpt, or otherwise take something that exists solely in their mind and reproduce it in a concrete format. As a wordsmith, I’m only allowed a portion of success in that regard. Try as I might, I’m never 100% sure that people are really seeing what I describe with my writing. And while compete mental replication of what I’m envisioning isn’t necessary for people’s enjoyment of it, it’d be nice if I could be sure it happens once in awhile. One of these days, I should take a drawing course so that I might occasionally depict what’s in my head with a small degree of realism.

This lack of ability to physically replicate an imaginary world is one of the reasons that painting minis had grown on me. I’m in effect populating my world with representations that I can manipulate and visualize outside of my own head. Although they may be molded and poured by a third party, it’s my choice of paint and detailing makes turns them into unique residents of my own imaginary world. It’s a tiny accomplishment, but one I find satisfying nonetheless.

I wouldn’t mind being able to do more with what’s in my head, however. Maybe it’s time to start exploring crazy new ideas and see if anything comes of it…

9 comments:

BigFella said...

There are plenty of ways to customize minis as well, bringing things closer to your vision than just what the miniature company artists came up with. (I'm currently laboring under that mania myself.)

Games Workshop's plastic multi-part minis are a good starting point for customization, but other companies are doing more custmoizable stuff too. There's nothing you can't accomplish with a little putty, an exacto knife, and some superglue.

lexos.gdb said...

Maybe it’s time to start exploring crazy new ideas and see if anything comes of it…

I dunno...can you think of anything good that's come from such behaviour? ;)

Atom Kid said...

I know how you feel Michael. Sometimes I feel like I lack a "writing department" though. I've got tons of ideas but have trouble fleshing them out in words. The art stuff I can deal with.

Will Douglas said...

Get a copy of the revised edition of "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain." Seriously.

JDJarvis said...

I spent the last 10 years as a concept-artist/animator and it is always an adventure translating other peoples words into images. It's especially thrilling when you manage to get it dead-on the first time.
People don't need to know how to describe every little detail they just have to know what and who (the audience) they are talking to when passing on written description to an artist.

David said...

If you do happen to get yourself an art department, please loan it out every once in a while for the rest of us?

Chris said...

I'm quite surprised by this. My mental picture of 'Amityville Mike' is someone who usually has a sketchpad handy. Shows what I know...

I’m in awe of people who can draw, paint, sculpt, or otherwise take something that exists solely in their mind and reproduce it in a concrete format.

Ditto. I was told the Big Secret by a friend on DevArt. You can be just as good as the guys you look at with envy and admiration *if* you're prepared to devote a decade or so to it. The secret is: *lots* of practise, and a good relationship with your wastepaper basket. (similar to authors having to write their million words of crap first)

All motivational guff aside, Weta Workshop = dream job.

Sigmar said...

Sometimes a vivid imagination is enough. I think models generally detract from roleplaying games.

I'm a big fan of customising models for tabletop wargames though, namely, Warhammer Fantasy Battle. And you're right, painting does give a sense that you are creating something and unleashing your imagination into the real world.

An interesting read, thanks for sharing. I'll be back,
Sigmar
my WFB blog
my Fantasy battles hub

Howarth said...

Odd, I quite smoking on September 21st. 34 days and counting, now. Congrats to you if you're still on the wagon too.