Fortitude in the Face of Mayhem

Where do you think your artistic motivation comes from?

Since childhood, my main interests have been art, nature, and film. Those life long pursuits lead me to a career in the film industry and transitioning to being a concept artist and matte painter over the last three years. Being able to use your imagination and discipline your mind to bring an idea to life onscreen is a huge source of motivation and inspiration for me, as is nature, movies and the relentless quest to always push yourself to get better.  

How do you start a project and how does that evolve as you take it from concept to final render?

Generally, I start with a story and mood. It helps me to establish the mood I want to communicate in the image early on. I gather some references and maybe a film frame or two to help guide me. If I have a really clear idea I might start concepting straight in 3D and skip the sketch phase (although you could argue that is a form of “sketching” as well). Then I'll block out the basic 3D scene and play “virtual cinematographer” in my 3D scene, do a few quick renders, take it in Photoshop and see what's working and what I need to change. If I want to explore a few quick ideas before jumping into 3D, I do a few sketches, nothing fancy. Just black and white or value sketches. During this phase, I mainly focus on composition and lighting. Once I have the basic composition, mood and lighting established, I do a quick breakdown in terms of what will be 3D and what will be 2D and jump straight in after that.

What is 'Fortitude' portraying?

I love the cyberpunk genre, but didn't want to create a “picturesque” version of it. I wanted something gritty and grounded to evoke a sense of victory in the face of certain defeat. The moment an uprising finds its courage to stand up for what is right instead of keeping quiet because it is comfortable. 

Can you take us through how you created it?

Because this piece featured the Cyberpunk Kit, and I already had a good idea of what I wanted to create, I started by blocking in the scene inside Maya. I will generally pick my focal length early on and experiment with a few compositions before settling on the final one.

Once I have something I like, I will light it with my references for mood and lighting in mind. Keeping an eye on my initial sketch or 3d block-in ensures that I stay on course. However, it is a guide to me, not a destination. I used Mixamo to create some of the crowd. I kept it very simple, downloaded a character and animation that I thought could work, imported the file into Maya, scrubbed through the animation till I found an appropriate pose and exported it as an OBJ to be used in the assembly scene.

Then it was time to finalize the lighting. Because the piece was gonna feature quite a bit of fire as a light source on the environment and characters, I added light sources in areas where I needed a point of reference in Photoshop. Once the lighting was complete – it was render time. I made sure to render out the passes I would need in Photoshop like beauty, spec, reflection, GI, puzzle, volume, and depth.

In Photoshop, I lay in the sky first and make sure I build my values based in the sky to keep things consistent. I also add a few color correction layers that serve as a guide to what my final look will be.

Background buildings were also added in Photoshop to give more volume to the city as a whole. I knew that I was going to add windows and lights in Photoshop so I started laying those in to get a feel for the overall piece.

Because the fire element was so prominent in the piece I added those next.

Then it was time to add a few new faces to the crowd of protesters and overhaul the two main characters in the fore and mid-ground.

Then added some foreground elements to add depth to the image and frame the action better.

After this was complete it was time to add interest on the bridge and tank using photobashing techniques. Finishing the piece was down to adding the effects such as embers billowing, and the explosion behind the tank to pop the silhouette.

This all contributed to adding a greater sense of conflict to the scene. I added the smoke and tear gas bomb effects for the two main characters in the fore and mid-ground to sell the action as well as made final adjustments to help the overall cohesion of the piece. Final color corrections were added with adding a bit of contrast to pop the image overall and voila: cyber-anarchy completed!

We know where your artistic motivation comes from, but why do you do it? Why are you an artist?

Art to me is like oxygen, I can't live without it.  Creativity is what keeps me motivated, infinitely. Telling stories and creating new worlds, while exploring and creating the unknown is what excites me to get up in the morning and being able to share that with people so they can participate and connect with it too. Painting is the oldest known language that connects our humanity and celebrates our collective experience on this blue dot, this beautiful planet we get to call home.


Christo Crafford is a concept artist and illustrator currently based in Dubai, U.A.E. and is open for opportunities. He was also the 1st place winner of our Industrial #kb3dcontest!

Check out Christo Crafford's ArtStationWebsite, and Instagram

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