About Me

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Leicester, United Kingdom
Studying BA (Hons) Game Art Design at De Montfort University. It continues to be challenging as much as rewarding. Primary outcomes include 2D and 3D projects and 2am coffees.

Monday, 4 November 2013


Just to inform you all that I have created a new blog for my final year of university. The reasons for this are twofold, to filter the professional projects from my first year rambles, and because we were asked to.  You'll find it at http://dominicbell.blogspot.co.uk/

See you there!

Thursday, 23 May 2013

So Dom, how did you find Round Two?

The second year has concluded after all, despite being a month longer than the previous, it's gone just as quickly. After tomorrow's disk is handed in I will be without cause until October. At this time the only agenda I have to occupy me into next year is returning to work to restore the damage in my overdraft, but there is a lot more I can occupy my time with, and no I ain't referring to 'catching up' on games!

As higher education university serves as a purpose of expanding our existing knowledge and bringing to a level in which we are able to take it successfully into the working world. In addition to that it also serves as a opportunity to those who spend over thousands of pounds to get in and then fritter and piss the time away. There are those, including my parents, who will always say you should make the most of your uni experience, like join societies, clubs and attend social events. Quite frankly I couldn't  care for anything that is outside of my course, at an early stage I made the decision that I would not have the time for such commitments and given how these past two years have transpired, I feel it was a good decision, since I know that all my course mates are all in the same position as me and I know I'm not missing out on anything.

Yes I finally succumbed to the use of gifs! I tasted it, and I like it!

My time here is what I make of it, and what I intend to get out of this is the knowledge of exiting techniques of software used in the industry as well as the ability to adapt should I be flung into an unfamiliar atmosphere.

At the beginning of the year I made a note in a blog what I had hoped to achieve, so let's see what I can tick off and which one's I'll just reply with an awkward silence.

Photoshop Promotion: Since last year I have leant more of the short cuts and techniques within PS that have helped save me time and made texture making and digital painting more efficient.

Choice of brushes: I've invested (downloaded) heavily in new sets of brushes, which have proven to be vey beneficial in certain pieces of work, the grunge brushes that were shared for the group project above all, I used them for replicating Turners style for the Masters project. My sunsets came out very nicely.

Yet occasionally I swap from brush to brush too often, and I have been told that in some cases the brushes are as important as I had imagined them to be, and that I could achieve what I'm doing with a smaller palate. Something I will try out.

Zbrush: Despite leaving it a bit late in my schedule for Mortal Engines, I learnt the navigation and brushes system within Z-brush rather quickly. I see how it an effective alternative to sculpting normal maps.

Perspective: Totally mastered it.

But no, here and there it has been a bit off, most recently and most notable my interior project, but it was down to my choice of layout.

See? I could just have easily settled for something more linear!

Hand painted textures: There have been times where I haven't been able to source my own textures without resorting to plagiarism, so in some cases I can produced wood and metal textures which have come out quite nicely when compared to internet reference.

Characters: Despite the fact that the two projects for characters were for ones I was very familiar with, one being myself, I felt that they were not portraying their character enough due to their composition. In short, the issue for me was the faces, throughout the 4 weeks of the self portrait I was constantly editing my head, adjusting jawline and  so on.

So until the next year, there are several things that I would like to address. I am still steering in the direction of environmental art, so to prove this I will next more evidence to justify this statement.

Character Improvement: Despite this not being my chosen field I wish to improve my current standing in this area, my idea is to do something similar to the Dmuga Speedtacular with an associated word and made someone from it?

Website/portfolio: I wish to revive and restore my old website which I set up during the Key Stage 3 years. Now I reckon you're expecting me to provide a link to its current state.

It's just too embarrassing, it's essentially the equivalent of an All about me Powerpoint, sort of thing you'd do when you start secondary school. Now I am fully aware that there are websites out there like http://carbonmade.com/ and http://portfolio.deviantart.com/ that can do all the technical shit for you, and I know web design is an entirely different field, but I enjoyed working with Dreamweaver.

Back to work = £££

FMP considerations:
We've all asked ourselves this, sometimes rhetorically, but I have some rough ideas for the setting of the level, and of course this big 'break' will be a good chance to gather reference that I may not be able to acquire during term time.

So DMUGA has kept me challenged, mentally and never physically :P, once again. The group project was a tremendous opportunity and I'm glad you coaxed out leader into going for it, when else would we get this chance? On which note we have noted what to add to it over the summer, so that's something else for the list.

Here's to another year eh?

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

So is it Life Changing or Career Building?

There is an on-going debate as to what exactly us game art students should be taught, specific technical skills or learning attributes and soft skills?

Soft skills is a term which I am already vaguely familiar with, something that was brought up during Sixth Form and used in other aspects such as soft subjects, the latter being used to categorise subjects in reports, one of which was art (how insulting! as if they would insinuate what we're doing is in any way 'easy').

You look for a definition of soft skills and many lists will vary in length but in the end they contain the core fundamentals, some are just plain obvious like good eye contact, being drug-free and common sense. I mean come on! And then there are other factors which employers will expect to see in the people they meet. Adaptability, personal energy and ability to self supervise and so on. It's these traits that will get us through this course and into the working world. Looking at our year group as an example, our numbers have been halved approximately since last year, this is most likely due to people not utilising the soft skills.

This question can refer back to the research of generalism and specialism, how excelling in one specific area can be of benefit, particularly if the company is looking for individuals who can bring them significant value. Yet with the expansion and change within the industry for all we know that said subject could be rendered obsolete within a sort space of time. I mean I could dedicate the remainder of my time on the course to learning every part of 3ds Max, only to find that upon graduating the game company's are using a brand new software entirely.

Furthermore in terms of what employers are actually after, the characteristics they wish for on their vacancies may change also. As the technology changes the chances are that their demands will as well.

Personally I'm glad that we are not spoon fed every time a new chapter in Game Production opens, we are given the tools like 3ds Max and the engines and we are expected to decipher them for ourselves. One of the key lessons that we're told time and time again is that there is no one way to go about doing something, be it on a pc or in a sketchbook, everyone has there own way of approaching task. We can't go through the entire course and on into the industry asking for help. Although in my case, that moment where I want to ask a question and realise that is sounds kinda stupid, but have to ask because I don't wanna waste the rest of the day being dumbstruck. 

At the end of the day, I believe that it's in our best interests that we are able to move ahead with technology, so I am actually in favour of the soft skills side of this debate, simply because the values of this cannot be taught and learnt, you must discover if you have them within yourself and prove it. Ok that does sound rather corny like it's from a fantasy film but it's true, although sometimes when you claim certain skills it feels like being on The Apprentice interviews, and the look on their faces half the time..... it's demoralising.

 Prime fear: ''I don't want to hear anymore.''

Friday, 17 May 2013

Visual Design Blast

They say the hardest part is admitting the issue in the first place, this is no exception. I have been behind. As are many of us as a result of the Group projects, Chris mentioned that this is inevitable but regardless It's not an adequate reason for it. I didn't want to end up not delivering my end of the work by saying I was doing 2D instead, because everyone was in that position as well. Furthermore I failed to properly utilise the Easter 'holiday' for Visual Design, had I have some this I would not have as much on my mind currently.In spite of this however, I organised a brief layout for this week. Factoring in what is most outstanding. Chris ran us through the marking process briefly when others voiced their worries of not having every project ticked off. I made me consider something but I didn't bring myself to ask:

''Would you rather have every project handed in with not all of them being completed to the best of (my) ability, or would you rather have say three projects missing but with them all being polished gems?''

Obviously from a tutors position you'd want both. So it is my intention to deliver every project on the list, and if I remain on track I can pull this off. In reference to my schedule, I have left the final day as 'open', how I intend to use it solely for tweaking finals and adding additional development work to any smaller projects, as I hope to utilise the certain bits of crit I received earlier in the year.

With the Moonshine Project that we elected other the other choices, I decided to go with a vehicle path, which surprised me really, I guess I wanted to try and make amendments for my Imagineering kafuffle! I got a good handful of reference both online and from watching Lawless; scenes which featured the cars and trucks were from a variety of angles and perspectives. This was very helpful as I was worried about how to portray the underside which would be partially visible, before this I struggled on how the characteristics of the axel.

I decided to go for a pick up truck over an actual car, the preferred transport of smuggled hooch. The Dodge trucks was the primary source of reference.

I kinda feel like I was missing out by not doing a character like most people have, but then in reality I guess it wouldn't have lived up to what I'd hoped to produce. I was also interested that people had taken a swamp approach to this project, as I thought it was supposed to reference the Prohibition era, but then again this project is open to individual interpretation and I may be focusing on one environment based on my ref.

To begin with the interior project I forgot it was specified as BAR interior, and went ahead with plans to do a trophy room. Suits of armour weapon racks, stuffed animals and mounted heads above the mantelpiece - you get the picture. Having read the brief again I did try to see how I could incorporate it into a bar theme, but nada. I did then jump to and Australian outback theme for a bar, given my actual experience there and knowledge of Aussie slang for bar names. Cheesy stuff like Saucy Sheila or BoomerZ (the latter being slang for male kangaroo), but in the end this was a short-lived idea and I resumed the trophy room layout.


Decided to change it into a corridor in the end, however given the fact that the walls were arched I made perspective a right nuisance, its clear in areas that it isn't correct.

I also went about trying out signatures and logos for the portfolio project, it's handy that my initials merge rather well together, however I was distraught to discover that together they resemble a dick...

I've gone for the cuboid one at the bottom, really like the merge.

So until Monday morning I shall press on and look forward to this time next week when I can enjoy a long nights sleep without worry.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

So long London....for now

And so after over four months or concepting, modelling, exporting, importing, rescaling and re-setting and re-exporting, the group project is at last done and handed in!

Although I had seen the flythrough in earlier stages, watching it for the first time was rather moving, but that's Hans Zimmer music for you, I was close to tears during the credits of Gladiator.

Looking at the level as a whole, it really is amazing how much we were able to produce in the time given. We were ambitious to go big at the start, and looking at the level as a whole, it certainly is huge! The last couple of weeks were a big push as we made more decals and last minute props to distribute among the streets, but we managed to pull it off.
Unfortunately some of our sounds failed to trigger during the presentation but it wasn't a major setback. Yet it isn't the end, there is still much more we can at to it. To begin with we compiled a list of things we wanted to include and prioritised it to see what could be left to a later date and so on.

This includes:
- Animated rigged animals roaming the street, chickens pigs dogs etc (we have a rigged rat, but we didn't get round to putting it on)
- Interiors
- The tower of London in the Backdrop
- Additional particle effects

My role was pretty much a 'prop guy' after we'd made our modular houses. I made a variety that were merged with other props and distributed amongst different areas of the level.

Since I didn't have Marmoset, I felt that my renders were less pretty compared to the others :/

That last shot was a WIP for my individual submission level. Still got several more assets to include and some multi subs to fix, but now, Visual Design shall have my undivided attention!

Sunday, 10 March 2013


''Creativity is defined as the tendency to generate or recognize ideas, alternatives, or possibilities that may be useful in solving problems.''
Human Motivation by Robert E. Franken

Creativity. something that has always plagued me in a way, especially when it comes to characters or Imagineering, and my previous projects show for this in my opinion. As mentioned before, my constant worry is that my final piece ends up resembling too much like the reference. 

However there is no way of accurately defining it, since it has always been a subject of debate, whether its from a historical point of view to a physiological one. I mean historically in the past there was a lot about the earth and life in general that was unknown, the migration of continents, evolution that sort of thing, so creativity back then was used to create theories to provide potential answers and inspire people.

Although the physiological view is perhaps the closest I can get to explaining it. Everyone is different therefore each persons creativity will show in different ways, and not just from the subject of art. Creativity is something you can do and well as something you can have. We can all perform the same everyday functions and yet there are those who excel in these areas, such as athletes or public speakers...

Pearls of wisdom from BoJo
To measure or compare creativity between others, factors that can affect or measure this can range from influences and upbringing. Parental Influence is perhaps the first one that can have an effect. Now clearly parenting varies from child to child, yet those who are brought up with parents who push their kids forward and encourage them have higher chances of having that spark of creativity ignited earlier than those who've upbringing is laid back and casual.

Education is one of the big factors of course, and also the course and subject path you go down, and also how long you choose to stay in it as well. ''The more you know the further you go'' No idea where that originates from.... Our education allows us to perceive our own views of the world and intertwine them into our work. For example at the galleries at the end of Art Foundation it was clear to me that everything was unique and different. Aside from any particular theme they had chosen, it was evident that people from different departments had different views.

Life experience. Can't emphasise this more than anything else really. The more you get out there and see and get involved with the more that can aid you later in life when creativity is required. For example I am a huge fan of comedy, I have panel show marathons while I'm working and I enjoy stand up. Many comedians are on average middle aged or at best in their late 20's, therefore they have 'been around more' so they can use their experiences in their acts and material. Either that or they have a recurring tendency to be in the right place at the right time!
For me I have seen my fair share of the world (in short 11 countries) a foctor which has been a great boon in my life and helped me in previous art projects. In particular narrative forms.
Red: Visited Blue: Lived

When I compose my moodboards for environments I confidently feel that I won't take my reference too far, yet that is always my worry with vehicles and characters. I mean here is my vehicle project from a few months ago.
The AT-RT from the Clone Wars in Star Wars, my primary reference.

I think it was to pot when I wanted it to be ''a one man vehicle for extreme terrains''


Areas of the industry are being ever more divided into smaller factions, this is partially down to the increase of new technology, therefore more unique fields need to rise. I found this list off Skillset for our line of work, I mean just look how far the tree branches spread!

This course itself covers many areas of work and already we want to have a vague idea as to which area we want to specialise in, having been asked this question last year. Whilst back then I wanted to try and be an 'everyman', being reasonable skilled in the major areas of work; however I've quickly understood my ''strengths'' and weaknesses, the latter being definatly aimed at characters, and considering this semester has consisted mostly around characters I feel that it's a miracle I managed to get through it.

Being a Jack of all trades and being a specialist in one single area. These two polar opposites produce quite a debate, they both have their advantages and disadvantages. I mean if an industry was full of everymen, then with their average level skill in everyhting then nothing in particular would stand out in the final product.

On the other hand, whilst having an in depth knowledge of a unique area of work, the danger of putting all you bets on one table is that there is a chance that the jobs that focus on that line of work is that it may become obsolete with the evolution of technology. Furthermore smaller industries who have stricter budgets and more limitations would rather have a team of people who were knowledgeable in more than one field, enlisting specialists is a luxury they may not be able to afford. Despite this though, being a specialist makes you unique, makes your CV stadn out from other applicants, its  agood tactic to sell yourself to the employer.

In a way this reminds me of the class specialisation in MMOs almost every class has various specs and it's there choice how they specialise, they can devote all they're knowledge and time into one spec, or be a hybrid and be able to change for the sake of the team etc.

The general 'solution' to this is to aim to be a T shaped person. It is these types of people that industry wish to employ. The concept of this is sorta literal:

Or see it as a tree; at your core you have an area or expetise, a area of game production in which you know inside out, and then you have branches which represent other skills which you're adaquite in.

In general I would like to be a concept artist, yes I know that title can be perceived as covering numerous areas. Ideally I want to work on environments and perhaps vehicles, however the majority of the time you find yourself working on stuff you're not entirely happy with, jobs like this in the industry usually have colleagues frequently working outside of their comfort zone for the good of the project.
Although to be honest I still feel torn between 3D and 2D, as I still enjoy both equally....until the point where it just doesn't work out that is. I guess my favourite part of the 3D aspect is the modelling, I expect it's because at that stage I have a firm knowledge of what I'm doing or because I'm supplied with the reference.

I really want to aspite to be a T person, and I know that at this stage in the degree we should have a sense of direction, yet part of me is still hesitant to officially put all my eggs in one basket so to speak, it could turn out to be a bad move in my chosen area, who knows?

So to give a reasonable answer to this: 3D modeller > Environment artist > Level artist