The Creative Process of Game Artist Student Tim Schipper

game art process
game art process

By Tim Schipper

Game Artist Student

My Creative Process

Hey, who are you?

Heya! My name is Tim Schipper, I’m a sprinter game artist from the Netherlands who is about to graduate in my 3rd year of the 4 year game art course at the GL Utrecht. I love coffee, making horrible puns and I’m passionate about game art. In my spare time I draw art, practice, mess around in Unity3D, make pixel dailies for twitter, work on several projects which I sometimes do with fellow developers or sometimes personally. I’m aiming to do anything that will contribute to a wider skill set so I can function as an indie.

What made you get into the creative industry and game art?

I’ve always been drawing as a kid but the interest started somewhere during high school though I wasn’t fully aware of jobs within the industry yet back then. I loved playing games and it thought it was really cool that people could make mods and stuff for these games that I played. So one day I thought it would be pretty cool to make a character and put myself in a game as a mod or make my own content in some other way but all I could do was draw really.

The moment I graduated high school I simply had to go to a place I could be taught all that stuff so months later I applied to the GLU, where in the 1st year I humbly followed the classes like any other student with only the slight advantage of having drawn so much in the past. Things started to go really fast the 2nd year where I became a sprinter, It is also the year I started to blindly take on any project. I would do and take on anything to grow. That’s when I met a really good programmer who was very passionate about a game of his, he asked me to team up with him, Then only a couple of weeks later we stood at networking launches, showcases, events and we do tons of game jams together. I started knowing more and more people within the industry. Eventually I started getting invites for lunches and events on a regular base. Networking really is key. As I progressed through the year I realised I was so much ahead of the other students. It kind of sealed the path for me, I wanted to become a powerful artist to any team within the industry.

Tell us a little about some of your favorite projects

In my 2nd year as a game artist I made this ‘milestone’ piece, as I’d like calling them. It’s a piece to capture everything I’ve recently learned for environments into one concept art image, things such as composition and shading. I was very proud of because it made a guest from the industry during my assessments say it was industry worthy. And I still am proud looking back on it now.

game artist process

Right now I’m working on a project with a audio producer and good friend, at first we just wanted to make tracks and cool visuals to go with them to put on youtube. But it became so much more than that, we sort of ended up creating a universe together based on our ideologies, then one day during one of our meetings I just started like ‘hang on I gotta put down a sketch on paper. ’ and we came up with our characters within that universe and so much more around it. What kind of adventurers would our characters have in this universe, how did they meet? So I ended up making these pieces to capture ‘the meeting’ of this AI and a human player within a MMO world.

game artist process
game artist process

Another fun personal project I’ve been doing lately is making MOBA character concept sheets, it’s mostly a form of practicing characters and rendering them but it’s become quite addicting to start making a collection of them, making up their backstories and abilities, haha.

game art process

Who do you draw inspiration from in the industry?

I’ve been an fanatic Ankama fan since I was on elementary school and even more so as I progressed training my skills as a game artist, so I take a lot of inspiration from Xavier houssin, Mig, Maliki, and dozens more artist that work at Ankama of which I have seen work in Ankama’s artbooks, I also take a lot of inspiration from looking on artstation and fellow artists that I follow on twitter for example but Xavier Houssin (is also known as ‘xa’) really is my hero.

Please break down your creative process in steps

I usually pick one from two methods that I like to use. One is to start from the thought of a certain vibe or emotion that I want to express or communicate, even when animating, I like this approach because it allows me to focus on the communication through the image, rather than the design of a character for example. The other is starting from an idea, or sketch that I have given more thought beforehand, I suppose this is the more ‘regular’ approach.

So with the regular approach I personally like to refine the initial sketch before I actually start. With the Youtube project I came up with personal characters in this VR mmo world, and the characters would have something to do with music. So as me and my audio friend were having a chat during our regular meetings I came up with Frequency and Amplitude, which of course together make what we perceive as sound. I wanted to translate these to MMORPG roles so I came up with the Idea of making Amp a support type of guy as he would ‘amplify’ the performances of others in our universe, and Frequency could strike lightning fast with his katana, forming the DPS role. I’d love to tell more about the specific lore and thoughts on this universe but I’m getting off track. Here’s what the first doodle looked like, Frequency with his katana and the initial idea of the amp suit with a sound buster and amplifiers as a jet.

game art process

After the quick doodle during our chat we enlightened (haha) each other with cool ideas so I quickly refined the sketch into what i thought were way cooler designs.

game art process

So from left to right, Frequency and Amp in their full sketchy glory, with the thought of them joining up above a water surface during the sunset. Also the design approach was to make Frequency, my friends character, a ‘protagonist’ kinda retro guy with all kinds of old school features, and Amp to be a more advanced futuristic design to fit as AI within the virtual universe. I removed the buster and made it a Amp suit with gloves to construct weapons, blasts, sounds to adapt to combat and support. While Frequency his his cool outfit, a jacket very special to my friend I gave the character on his request and a trusty hoverboard, which kinda suited the ‘retro perspective towards the future’ Frequency might sound underpowered but I wouldn’t make him the protagonist if I didn’t ‘cut’ it in style 😉

game art process

My priority is always to get the to complete idea (or ‘guide’ myself to get the idea as I go) of the picture as soon as I can, to avoid big changes later on. After I got my lines set and rough shadows I try out the colors I’d like to use and test how it’ll affect the scenery, or characters in this case. I don’t always clean my line art, depending on the style, sometimes I use my lines as a part of shading later on, or paint over them later if I don’t need the lines.

When I’m satisfied with the base I try to see how I want to use my filters and effects and put in some basic stuff early on, This way I can color-pick and paint using my blended effects and control these throughout the process.

game art process

I especially prefer this method when having multiple light sources or reflections because it feels natural to me to blend the lights and colors as I add them rather than painting the effects and trying to blend them properly afterwards. I continue adding more detail and futher blend In my effects.

game art process
game art process

A couple of final touches and screen effects are easy to add because all the other effects have been blended in properly throughout the process and I can color pick the correctly blended colors to manually edit little details and add filters on top of the entire image.

With the ‘vibe’ approach I prioritize shading straight away, when making characters I put down a pose in a silhouette and warp lighting onto the silhouette to capture the mood and emotion in the first few steps. While making backgrounds is something like the opposite, I first plan my light, then create silhouettes of the landscape or objects that either catch or block the light, like faraway hills or a rock close the the point of view, depending on the lightsource.

game art process

So in the first steps I quickly sketch the vital composition, I didn’t worry about drawing the opposing character seen in the final result here yet because I’m using the tube glass’ glow later on.

game art process

I immediately add the essential glows and plan the placement of objects and place rough shadows. I now have my ‘blockout’ ready.

game art process

I added a stonger blue filter on top of the entire picture to blend the entire picture with a blue hue, the bright blue surface of the glass creates a clean area to sketch and plan my opposing character on. You can see I make a weird turn here in the next step, intentionally the character hanging in the tube was going to be the subject, but I kind of liked how the opposing character looked dramatic through the glass. As I added effects and more detail I used blurs and smudging to draw more attention to the character in the back. I allow myself to be open to these changes in this method because I usually don’t start with very strict ideas or sketches here, I aim to communicate a vibe and I change the piece in the process to whatever works best for me.

game art process
game art process
game art process

Final touches and some neat camera effects completed this piece for me.

Where can we see more of your work?

I share my work on several platforms! I share a lot of doodles and pics of events on my Facebook. Twitter Is where the activity really hits at the moment though, I share pixel dailies, doodles, project gifs (screenshotsaturdays), event news, WIP’s and finished pieces! Most of these pieces can be found on my Artstation. Which has become my primary portfolio at the moment until I have rebuild my personal website. Most of the WIP project gifs and animated pixel dailies are uploaded to my Giphy. Be sure to look me up somewhere! I would love to hear your opinion and perhaps maybe you have an interesting request, I’d love to hear it all!