Scaling Ancients and Boroughs

Pablo, how long have you been an artist?

Since I was a child I always loved to draw and paint! I also spent so many days in the summertime with my dad crafting spaceships and robots with the spare pieces he brought home from the factory. We would even record ''movies'' with the creations using a small camera we had, it was so fun!

It was almost 6 years ago that I began thinking with the professional mindset of "I want make a living on this industry". When I turned eighteen I discovered through watching the "Making Of" of movies like Indiana Jones, Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings that you could also can draw and design for movies, and that if I practiced and learned thoroughly with enough patience, I just might be able to do it.

How do you usually start an image? 

My starting point when I have to create a new concept depends on so many things; first thing being if it's a professional brief or personal work. With personal work, normally I try to draw and sketch out the things I’ll be doing later. Afterwards I jump on some refs I can use. Anything can be useful: 3d models, photo references, inspiring music, then I normally jump to Zbrush to model the basic or complex geo I will paint over later. Inspiration can strike at any time-- so many ideas come to mind when I’m traveling in the bus going to work or just walking in the street.

If it’s professional work, normally I ask what kind of result the client wants first. Sometimes I will show them my different methods of work like sketching on 3D or 2D, or some of my more painterly or matte painting-esque polished pics, and then after that I start reading the brief or the script with their mood boards, and jump to sketching.

What were the inspirations behind these two incredible covers for Ancients and Boroughs?

With both covers I tried to create something big and use all the possibilities you have with these kits. Even though they are mini kits you can still create some amazing and very original stuff.

For Ancients I was thinking of a massive, old ruined city from a past civilization that was completely wiped out and the remnants are these big stone structures from these golden times, but now all of this is gone, covered by nature and destroyed. The humans now living there in this new world use them as shelter to cultivate their society. I also added a single character arriving to this small encampment as an outsider and not receiving the warmest of welcomes. 

And then for Boroughs, I wanted to represent a big city like Chicago, New York, or London between the 20s and 50s. I wanted to portray a party scene during the night, with some people going in and out of the clubs. As you can see on the left-hand side of the picture, the bright light reveals the people having fun and enjoying the nighttime. However, the background is not all that beautiful and happy, but rather a city full of smoke from all the industry and factories looming in the shadows…

Can you give us a quick idea of your process?

I started out by playing with a cool and dynamic composition, trying to show as much as possible with the whole kit, but keeping in mind where to put the detail and where to leave breathing space for the picture. I composed the main shapes of the picture using only the z-depth pass, because I find it very cool to see just the depth because it keeps everything graphic.

Once I found a good camera angle and building composition, I tried to focus the light on the scene, always keeping in mind where and more importantly why I should put the light on certain areas.

After finishing this stage, I textured the assets (I really love that the kits are UVed, makes everything easier ;)) You can add so much detail using the displacement maps on this and also the textures are already included with the kit! With Ancients, I slightly modified the textures to create the ivy and dirt on it, but just with a basic mix texture.

Once the renders were done I jumped into paint everything. I didn’t use so many photo references on these two paintings, because the 3D assets are already super detailed and textured, so my basic mindset on the painting in photoshop was to erase the 3D edges and CG feeling on the image. I also used a lot of the render passes like the z-depth and normal. The depth is great to add the instant atmosphere and the normal pass using color pick on photoshop to paint over extra lighting or shadows.

And after all of this I did a bit of addressing and painting the characters. For Ancients, I decided to use more photorealistic characters, but with Boroughs, I wanted to practice my character painting work, so I basically spent time with references painting the characters. 

And finally, and most importantly, why are you an artist?  

I make art because there’s always ideas and thoughts in my mind that I need to picture them and produce them in some kind of way. I love painting, sculpting and drawing, so I found this is the best method for me to communicate my ideas and thoughts; with pictures, sculptures or sketches. And I also like to do this as a profession, because it's great to translate other people's ideas into pictures, work with great teams, and meet other artists at events and studios.



Pablo Dominguez is a Concept Artist at Industrial Light & Magic living in London. Some of his recent client work includes MARVEL Studios, Dreamworks, MPC Adv, Unite Image, and El Ranchito VFX. You can check out more from Pablo on his ArtStation here

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