Building a Sci-Fi Stronghold in the Desert with Daniel Dana

Building a Sci-Fi Stronghold in the Desert with Daniel Dana

Outpost: Behind the Render

After seeing his submission to our #KB3DContest, we knew that Daniel Dana was quickly on his way to becoming one of the preeminent concept artists in the field. Like many of us, he grew up in awe of the “magic” he saw on screen for video games, movies, and TV, but it took him a while before he gained the confidence to take a risk and join the industry. Today, we’re thrilled to share his story and his take on our new Outpost kit – and hopefully inspire those out there who are wondering whether they should take that next creative leap!

outpost cover art by daniel dana

KitBash3D: Hello, Daniel! Before we dive into your excellent Outpost cover art, can you introduce yourself to our readers and describe your creative journey up until this point?

Daniel Dana: A little over a year ago, I decided to take a career change plunge and pursue my dream of being a concept artist and illustrator for the entertainment industry. I’ve always loved films and video games, and I’ve always loved to draw and paint in some capacity since I was a kid, but the idea of creating concept art for movies and games seemed like such an unattainable, daunting idea to me. 

daniel dana - the thing from outer space

Daniel: Throughout my 20s, after working countless unfulfilling odd jobs and even having a couple near-death experiences, I realized that life was too short to not embrace your passions, so that’s what I did! I bought tutorial after tutorial and I quickly realized how much 3D was being utilized in the current industry, so I decided to just continue to teach myself, justifying my tutorial purchases with the fact that I was spending just a fraction of what a tuition would cost at some of the universities that offer concept art degrees. I often joke that I’m an alumni of “YouTube University”. 

Lately, I’ve freelanced for a few professional gigs, including my first AAA film, so I’m very excited that my dedication to building my portfolio is starting to show and I’m looking forward to what the future brings!  

daniel dana - strange museum

KitBash3D: Congratulations! This is definitely just the beginning. What was your first thought when we asked you to make the cover art for Outpost?

Daniel: Upon my initial research on what tools to utilize, what companies/artists/studios to follow, and what is trending in the concept art industry, I discovered that you guys are top-tier and immediately followed your socials. I fell even more in love when I saw your GameDay panel at LightBox Online, where Maxx and Banks proved to be the coolest, most positive, and down-to-earth CEOs I’ve ever seen. I’ve been a huge fan ever since, so I feel beyond honored!

KitBash3D: Thank you very much – the honor is equally ours! So, what inspired or influenced your design for the cover art?

Daniel: This kit fits perfectly in a desert setting and one of the modular pieces within the kit reminded me of a sailboat’s sails, so playing on that imagery, I imagined a wasteland world where sand flowed like water. Using that modular piece and a few others, I thought it would be cool to kitbash together some kind of little ship that glides over sand and water like some kind of low-flying bird. This idea helped me give a little storytelling aspect to the image as well as influence the surrounding environment.   

sand glider

KitBash3D: Funny story – when we shared the cover around the office, we noticed the ship and had to double-check that it wasn’t an asset in the kit! Very impressed with your ingenuity there. That’s what makes this all so fun: one day we make a windmill and the next day it gets kitbashed into a sand glider! What else stood out to you about the kit?

Daniel: I own many KitBash3D kits and this is one of the most detailed I've ever seen! There are so many cool modular pieces that, as cliche as it sounds, it really did make me feel like a kid in a candy store. But in this case it wasn’t a candy store, it was a sci-fi structure manufacturing facility, and I was a barren wasteland explorer (that LOVES sci-fi structure manufacturing facilities).

outpost render test 3

KitBash3D: What guided your thinking as you transitioned from the idea and experimentation phase to the final layout?

Daniel: It’s so easy to lose track of time in the 3D stage because the possibilities are quite literally endless. You can spend minutes or even hours on a composition, rotate the camera (maybe by accident) and have an entirely different image and mood. With this project, I wanted to focus on how I could achieve nice compositions in a timely manner by trusting my instincts and embracing those “happy accidents”. 

outpost render test 4

KitBash3D: Is there anything you weren’t able to try for this piece that you’d like to explore next?

Daniel: It’s always fun to take a kit with modular pieces and see what can be created for an interior environment. Lately, I’ve been practicing a lot more cinematic keyframes, so maybe another dark and moody sci-fi scene is in order.

KitBash3D: Very nice! One question we always like asking artists is, “What drives you to keep creating?” What’s that for you?

Daniel: Movies and video games have always been magic to me, so the biggest driving force for me is the feeling that I'm on the right track to be able to say I help make that magic for a living. There is, however, always room for improvement and growth with any learned skill. For concept art and illustration, there is a never-ending amount of inspiring artists that constantly motivate and inspire me to learn more and get better. 

outpost alt cover process

KitBash3D: Which artists inspire you?

Daniel: There’s so many artists that have inspired me, but I will always credit the sheer amount of detail and beauty of the concept art I saw for The Last of Us Part 2 as one of the main reasons I decided to learn 3D and photobashing. So, pretty much all the artists at Naughty Dog and One Pixel Brush are my top inspirations.

KitBash3D: We’re big fans as well – and now your work is featured alongside those artists like Aaron Limonick! Before we go, do you have any final thoughts for us or our readers?

Daniel: I just want to say thank you, not only for my invitation to create this cover art, but for what you do to perpetually inspire and influence the entertainment and concept art industries! Hopefully I’ll get to see y’all at an in-person expo someday!

KitBash3D: Looking forward to that – and in the meantime we can’t wait to see the new ‘magic’ you create!

About Daniel Dana

about daniel dana

Daniel Dana is a self-taught concept artist and illustrator currently freelancing and open to opportunities. He works in Photoshop, Procreate, and Blender, and his current focus is on environment concept art, keyframe art, and matte painting. His work has also been featured in ImagineFX magazine, where he won Artist of the Month for their "FXpose" contest and was among the top 10 finalists for Artist of the Year. 

You can follow his work on ArtStation, Instagram, and Facebook.

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