Week 2 of my FMP has been allocated for concept art and making a start on modelling my first diorama; The Fool’s Room.
I am basing my concept on quite a limited description from Robin Hobb’s books, though the image is very strong in my mind;
I stood in the door and gawked at a soul laid bare. Here was light, and flowers, and colors in profusion. There was a loom in the corner, and baskets of fine, thin thread in bright, bright colors. The woven coverlet on the bed and the drapings on the open windows were unlike anything I had ever seen, woven in geometric patterns that somehow suggested fields of flowers beneath a blue sky. A wide pottery bowl held floating flowers and a slim silver fingerling swam about the stems and above the bright pebbles that floored it. I tried to imagine the colorless, cynical Fool in the midst of all this color and art.
I took a step farther into the room, and saw something that moved my heart aside in my chest. A baby. That was what I took it for at first, and without thinking, I took the next two steps and knelt beside the basket that cradled it. But it was not a living child, but a doll, crafted with such incredible art that almost I expected to see the small chest move with breath. I reached a hand to the pale, delicate face, but dared not touch it. The curve of the brow, the closed eyelids, the faint rose that suffused the tiny cheeks, even the small hand that rested atop the coverlets were more perfect than I supposed a made thing could be. Of what delicate clay it had been crafted, I could not guess, nor what hand had inked the tiny eyelashes that curled on the infant’s cheek. The tiny coverlet was embroidered all over in pansies, and the pillow was of satin. I don’t know how long I knelt there, as silent as if it were truly a sleeping babe. But eventually I rose, and backed out of the Fool’s room.
…a chamber that looked out over the parapets and contained a garden of wonder. I thought of the bright fish swimming in the fat pots, the moss gardens in their containers, the tiny ceramic child, so meticulously cared for, in its cradle.
Upon reading this description, I immediately have an image in my head of a large, bright and fresh space. Birds calling outside the open window, curtains stirring in the breeze. The sound of the sea in the distance, perhaps the occasional sound of the keep below… a horse whinnying, or sword clashes from sparring guards. The room is a tower top room, originally a map room but long since abandoned to be taken up by ‘The Fool’, the king’s young and strange-looking jester from a distant land. The character is shrouded in mystery, and when Fitz, the narrator, enters this room, it’s the first glimpse you get into this boy’s secretive life.
Since the room is a tower-top room, I obviously imagine it having a lot of windows though in my mind it is not round like you would assume. For some reason, I imagine it being a long room. Honestly I don’t know if long tower rooms are even a thing, so I decided to try and make it pretty ambiguous in the final diorama shape. Before I really did any concepting, I took the image in my head and tried to write out things I could imagine being in the scene. I also researched castle tower-top rooms, architecture, building materials, and furniture from a medieval period. I added images to a Pinterest mood board as I went along;
From there I began experimenting with 3D blockouts, trying to find a diorama layout that had a decent composition, read well, and was fully visible from multiple angles. I didn’t want walls and pillars obstructing the view at any point, despite this creating more interesting compositions from certain angles. I made a lot of blockouts, tweaking aspects and then re-importing to UE4 to view as it would appear in the final pieces. This took me about a day of testing, reading about how castles are built, and reconsidering. But I finally came up with something I liked.
I took a screenshot of my favourite blockout in UE4, and began over painting. I wanted to create the room first, and think about the contents later. The main concern I had was whether the floor would be stone or wood… In all the research I did, castle towers have wooden floors, understandably so. It’s probably quite a lot easier to build with wood at a height than stone. However, Buckkeep Castle is described as being a great stone fortress with cold floors and dark rooms. It’s part of the reason The Fool’s Room is such a shock to Fitz. I felt I should stay true to the books, and ended up going for the stone floor, but it was still interesting to see how they both looked. I think the stone floor works to reduce the amount of different materials and colours to look at in the making of the room itself, and make it all about the assets and atmosphere.
Firstly I considered colour. That’s a big thing to me that really brings a lot to an image. I wanted to bring across the airy, magicalness of the room with a soft, rainbow-like palette. I had some art in mind that I find particularly inspiring colour-wise, and so used this to help create colour palettes that I would have never considered otherwise. The art is by Viktor Bykov and an unknown artist that I need to continue trying to name. I used Lighter Colour layers in Photoshop to overlay the colours in this way, and found colour combinations I liked in the results. I really enjoyed this method. With that decided, I then looked at the room concept in front of me and started thinking what would fit in this corner, or end, or whatever of the room in my imagination. For instance, a bed would dominate the space too much for very little impact, so I decided to leave that out. I got together some images of the assets I could imagine in the scene also.
Then it was time to add the assets and colours I had collated to the scene. I wanted this piece to show I can photo bash to create an idea from scratch, on top of it’s obvious purpose of getting an idea out of my brain and onto paper. I was really pleased with how this turned out. I don’t know if it exactly portrayed what I had in my mind, because I had to take that idea and adapt it into a suitable diorama, but I definitely look at it and think yes, that’s The Fool’s Room. I’m particularly happy with the atmosphere- that’s very true to my imagining.
After that I considered all the assets in my scene, what kind of texturing they would require, and wrote it all out so I could add it to my time schedule spreadsheet. This gives me peace of mind, and means I can plan my time much more comprehensively than I usually would on such a large project that I would ‘play by ear’ in the past.
I am currently a day behind schedule due to taking the time to Zbrush a texture, and also completing an art test for a job opportunity. I have given myself two days leniency on the current stage of the project- I expect the room itself to be done by the end of next week. When that point comes, I will plan my time for the asset population stage of the project.