Saturday, August 4, 2012

Concept Art and Writers

Concept art is a great resource for writers and one I try to use everyday. These simple images have a large number of uses and are great tools to have in your arsenal.


Concept art is a fantastic source of inspiration. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and while that may be true, each image tells a story. Just as every song has emotions and a story to convey, so do all forms of art.

Concept art is great because it does exactly what it says on the tin. It conveys a concept, a seedling of an idea that can be cultivated into dozens, if not hundreds, of stories. Over the years I've collected images and pictures that I've found online into a folder on my computer. Whenever I'm experiencing a drought of ideas or creativity I browse through this folder. With each image I try and think of the story or character the image is trying to convey. I find this is a great jumping off point for new ideas.


Fancy name for a minor heading, huh? What I mean is that pictures and art are a great way to help you clarify you language as a writer. Occasionally as writer's we get an image in our head, say of a crumpling bridge with spires covered in runes, or of an alien antenna that spits lighting. Something that is easy to picture but difficult to put into words. This can be especially troubling when trying to describe a piece of alien technology or some other device made of strange shapes.

Concept art can help by giving you a picture to go off of. I'm not saying to steal the things you see in them. What I mean is by practicing how to put into words the thing you're seeing in the image, or by finding and image close to what you have in mind, can help you translate that into words for your audience.

By having a real thing that you can look at, you have something that is easier to describe than the fading, loose idea in your head.


Lego's, aside from being awesome, are a great analogy for the use a writer get's out of concept art. Our brains store every image we've ever seen. We may not be able to remember them all or even remember that we've seen them, but they are there, lurking as bits and pieces beneath the surface. I read a study once that said our brain can't create new faces, that every face we've ever seen in a dream is actually someone we've seen in real life. This applies to writing a well.

When we, as writers, try and think of a space ship or a planet or a dragon it is nearly impossible to think of something that it, and it's parts, have never been seen before. Instead we break down things we've seen and mix them and match them to create something new. Maybe you have a dragon but it's wings look like a bats, or it's teeth like those of piranha. Maybe your space ship has Greek columns and lighted circuits running through it's walls. These are things we've seen before in different places re-purposed to our needs. Just like all those bricks and accessory's in our boxes of Lego's. (You know you have one.)

By looking at concept art from all genre's and art forms, by looking at photos and paintings alike we build in our minds a library of bits and pieces, of tiny building blocks of information that we can rebuild as we like. The more images we see, the larger and deeper our toy box becomes. It is always good advice for a writer to read and consume stories in different forms and genres. Images are no different.

How do you create the lightsaber without seeing swords and lasers? How do you create tie fighters and X-wings without seeing footage of WWII dogfights? By taking imagery from sources outside our own we create richer, more diverse settings and characters for our stories. In one of my stories I have a character with a design that would have been nightmarish to come up with from scratch. Instead I took bits of imagery from all over to create her look. A bit of a Quarian's suit here, the ruins on a Greek golem there, with a touch of a liquid, metallic silver to finish it off. These were pieces in other things that I broke off and threw in my toy box without even realizing it, only to dig them out and put them together as I needed.

Now I really want dig out my old Lego's...


Here are some places you can find great concept art. - Great diversity and search functions. - Host a lot of professionals. - Wide variety of genres and artist - You should already know about this one.

So get out there, look at some art! And if you like what you find tip a few bucks to the artist. Not only will you get to build a vast library of images for yourself, but it will make you better writer while you're at it.

No comments:

Post a Comment