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Gog.com - An interview and the creative process for an art test

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Last month, I got a surprise in my inbox. After submitting my work to several companies, I received interest from the HR Recruiter from Gog.com. A game platform and marketplace based in Warsaw. The job was a graphic design position. One of my strengths, the other requirement? Illustration! Wow! Perfect. Cool studio, a lot of great perks, make new friends with creative people.  Sounded like a dream job.

We scheduled an interview via Skype. It went really well. I met my potential team leader and we talk for over an hour and half. It went really. The excitement was building. They said they wanted to think and get back to me and I would be asked to do an art test next. Then if all went well, to Warsaw for a formal interview.

Original Game Art
I was asked to do an art test. I received a brief on the task, their logo, a layout template and a flattened JPG of one of their recently added games. Revenant. A classic RPG game. My task was to update the look and feel of the art and create a promotional graphic for its launch.

I wasn't given a deadline but I wanted to get it done as best and as timely as I could.

Here's what I did.

1. Masked the character out in Adobe Photoshop.

2. Recreated the logo in Adobe Illustrator.

3. Worked out a design rough in Photoshop.

4. After working on a rough design I decided to scratch my original idea and went to the CG Textures web site for inspiration. That did the trick. I got inspired and decided to photobash a bit after downloading a few images from them. Highly recommend them.

5. Took an archway, old door and angel from a tombstone to created my initial background.

Archway















Added Angel and Door


6. I added the character to the design, added some brush work, adjustment levels and worked on color next.

The main character is added 
Colors starting to come together and initial placement of the logo

7. Okay so far, so good. I am liking it. Kinda. Something is missing. I take a look at the art test template and noticed something. In all their art, the logo is centered. Important as I realized the layout is has a Smart object place holder and uses the graphic in three slightly different sizes.

8. I find a cool column, mask it, duplicate it and center the logo. For a final touch, I create a shadow for the Revenant character. Done! It seems to work. I then pop it into Gog's template and send it off to Gog.com.

My new art

















Added my art to Gog's template





9. So, on pins and needles, I wait. Not very long after, I receive word from the recruiter. She wants to know my salary request. Uh-oh... At this point I have already researched apartments, the recruiter kindly had already sent me estimated living expenses for Warsaw. I do some homework on salaries. I have been a freelancer for a long time. All this seems almost foreign to me. Actually it is, when I think about it. Gog.com  is owned by CD Projekt Red. (Creators of Witcher) Turns out their median average salary in Los Angeles is $151,000. Wow. not helpful as Poland is a different animal altogether. I look at Polish graphic design position salaries. Yikes!!! They are much lower than in the US and western Europe but relative when based on the cost of living here... somewhat. I hate this part. I factor in the cost of living, the type of apartment, the standard of living I would like and send my request. I wait. I knew right away actually. It was going to be out of their budget. Before I sent my salary request, I read reviews about Gog from actual employees. Apparently they have a lot of uncompensated overtime. I factored that in as well.  Needless to say, my intuition was correct. I was over their budget and sadly not offered to proceed further. They felt even with a formal interview they could not make an offer they felt I would be interested in. I appreciated that. I was disappointed but it was exciting to try and sure it would have been really fun. I am curious to know what their offer would have been. They never said. I read one should never give a salary request here. Make them make an offer to you. I will heed that advice from now on if another similar opportunity comes my way.

It was an enjoyable process.

Hope you enjoyed the post.

Cheers!

Jonathan

Jack and the Beanstalk or my pitch to an agent

Thursday, November 2, 2017

















One day about a month ago, I had a "let's see if I can find an agent" moment. I have always thought it would be a good thing.
A great thing, actually. I pursued it. I have found one of the best ways to research them is through Twitter. I have to say Twitter is awesome. I found several agencies that looked very interesting, went to their sites, looked up their guidelines and submitted my work. Nothing unusual. that is until last week. Last week, I received a response. They wanted to see more work.  I sent a few more samples that I didn't have posted anywhere. After a day or two more, they requested more. Specifically, my interpretation of nursery rhyme or children's classic story.


Originally I thought Mother Goose. After a day of spinning my wheels unsuccessfully, I decided I needed try something different. I remembered doing some watercolors a long, long time ago. Jack and the Beanstalk. I always loved that story. I worked up this piece as a result and pretty with it. I got some critiques on some Facebook groups. One that was super helpful was Indie Children's Book Authors and Illustrators. Thank you guys!


I have been pondering ways to improve my style for a long time. I recently have been inspired by a few game companies along with some of my favorite Disney artists and I think  I have found something. I hope so. 


Here were my steps


1. Worked up a bunch of sketches. First in pencil. Followed by basic shapes in Photoshop. Then added the Beanstalk of stroked curves created in Illustrator.





2. Using some custom brushes, created in further details in Photoshop. I drew Jack rather quickly using the Lasso tool. A first for me. I debated on cleaning him up and doing a full color render which you will see.


Not quite right yet
3. After some great feedback on some Facebook groups, I went too far with the revisions. It lost something. The magic was gone. (ACK!) Note: Facebook groups are a great place to get feedback. Totally recommend. Special shout out to Indie Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.


Ummm.... edits that didn't quite work out
4. Poor Jack. Nobody liked him. So enter the frustration zone. I don't know what to do. (double ACK) So after a bit, I realized, just go back to what you were all stoked about and think subtle changes. That's what I did. 


The final (WOOHOO)
And that's the story. I sent this off to the agent this morning. Wish me luck.

Cheers!

Jonathan















Self Publishing? YIKES!

Sunday, October 22, 2017




UPDATE 2017: This post was written and posted originally on my 1st blog, Renata and Jonathan, where I got my start doing this kind of thing. I thought I would share this here with you as there may still be a bit of relevance to it despite its age. (2013) I am sure there have been changes to the process since I published this. All I remember was the excitement I felt creating it. It has drifted off into obscurity but that's okay, I am still proud to have made it. I hope you enjoy. Thanks!

How my iBook came to be. Besides being passionate about the fashion industry and interest in the truly talented people who create that world, a lifelong love and dream of mine has always been in making children's books. As with the film, animation and gaming industries, these two round out the top fields where an artist can make his or her mark and unleash their imagination and creativity to their fullest. At least, in my mind they do.  When William was first created, self publishing was a completely different world. A little dubious to me and not an easy road to take. Thankfully, it seems the landscape of publishing had changed a great deal in the time since. A new, level playing field has emerged (well… kind of). Amazon with their Kindles, the Android from Google and Apple with their iPads opened a new market for books. Extraordinary…  NOTE: Since publishing my iBook, I received a Kindle HD and a Nexus 7 for Christmas. Thank you, Santa! Can't wait to start developing books that work with those as well. Anyhow, let's get started.






ANOTHER NOTE: You will have to forgive me if I gloss over bits or miss a step or two, I have never been a techie. I am lucky if I can put a table from IKEA together. I will do my best though and hopefully provide some useful insight that helps you on your way.   Challenge #1: Where to start? Okay, so there I was with a complete book, story, illustrations and music. What now? Where do I start? What platform to choose? A background in graphic design made me most comfortable with Apple. With over 55 million iPad users as possible readers, I figured that wouldn’t be a bad choice to start with. Kindle Publishing was tempting but with a steeper learning curve, again, I thought Apple best to start. YUP, ANOTHER NOTE: Speaking of Kindles, that will be my next adventure in publishing but I will save that for another post, hopefully in the near future.

Challenge #2: How the heck do I start? I spent a good portion of time researching this question as I was rather clueless myself at this point. I bought a few iBooks I read good reviews about first. I wanted to see what others had done and after looking around, I felt pretty good I could produce something of equal quality.  Some of the most amazing books were actually Apps created by third party companies with proprietary software. The Pedlar Lady of Gushing Cross by Moving Tales, Inc. just blew me away. I highly recommend it. In the end for me, I choose iBooks Author with its simplicity of use. Creating Apps and the like will have to wait. Crawl before you walk and walk before you run. Here's a short list of what you need to do just that:

  1.  An Apple ID and iTunes Account. 
  2. Download iBooks Author (free)
  3. In the USA, you need to purchase an ISBN number for your book for $150.00. Other countries vary so you must check that out if you are somewhere else. A lot of countries offer free ones. (lucky). Click here to see where I purchased mine. Apparently, there’s a monopoly. 
  4.   A story you need to tell and some illustrations.  
  5.   Now, onto the tricky part, maybe not for you, but like my hero, Winnie the Pooh, technology reduces me to a bear of very little brain. And please don't forget the most critical thing remember… bring lots of Hunny… (just kidding)





Challenge #3: The Tricky Part Being used to working in Adobe’s InDesign, I found iBooks Author very simple actually. It was tricky because it was just unfamiliar and I kept looking to do things it couldn’t do. Like getting rid of the Table of Contents. Picture books don’t really need them. At this stage, I think you must spend some time getting familiar with the tools available. The Widgets are great for adding galleries, sound, etc. Once you know your way around a bit, spend some time thinking of how these tools might enhance your book. Here are some key things to remember:

  1.  Standard picture books in Print are 32 pages. If you are planning on a version for traditional publishing make sure you keep that in mind. Additional pages must be in multiples of 8. In the case of my book, I added a few more. One page you must account for is the Copyright page. Can't have a book without it. 
  2. When creating art for iBooks, around 163 dpi works best for resolution on your iPad. Print is 300 dpi so create you original work at that resolution and “dumb” it down to 163 dpi. 
  3. JPG format is the way to go, PNG works okay too but I discovered something. You can use a PSD file instead if you need a graphic with a transparent background, works much better than a PNG. (i.e. round buttons to overlay on top of an illustration.) 




4.    Fonts are an important aspect of your iBook as well. The good news is, it allows for the embedding of custom fonts. Rather than rehash this, here's the link from Apple itself. 5.    Music and sound must be in Apple’s ACC format, not MP3s.





Challenge #4:  What I actually had to do to make my iBook.  Whenever faced with something new, despite my ambitions running amok, I apply the KISS philosophy (Keep It Simple, Stupid). There would be no cool page turning effects like I saw in other people’s books, no animated characters walking across the page, text dancing across the page, no fancy nothing. I kept telling myself next time, next book. The reality though I found was that most "iBooks" that contained these incredible features weren't iBooks at all but actually Apps from the Apple Appstore. (Selling these require an altogether separate account with iTunes) My format was as such:

  1. Create a Book Cover – still not completely happy with the cover I created, while this decision is definitely a very important one, I could have went on forever deciding. 
  2. Title Page with copyright and ISBN number (a very necessary evil) 
  3. I choose a vertical- only (portrait) format. I developed my book on an iPad Mini. This seemed best for me. My illustrations fit better and allowed text to be far more readable. (larger) 
  4. or that dreaded TOC (Table of Contents) I used the cover of my book as the background image and was lucky cos it worked without alteration. 
  5. I made all my illustrations 768 wide x 1024 tall at 150 dpi. I spent a good deal of time tweaking the illustrations. 
  6. I converted the music and sounds in Adobe Audition to Apple’s ACC format. I must give my sincerest thanks to Susan Poliniak for her amazing contributions to this book. Her music and sound effects were wonderful. I think you will agree. She is awesome! 
  7.  I went through two major rounds of edits on the story itself. Magic is in the editing I think. Hope one day to be proficient. 
  8. I alternated pages. Text, picture, text, picture, etc. 
  9. I closed with a short bio and a quick preview of my next book I am working on. 
  10. During the whole process you can preview your book by hitting the Preview Button. I was a total dork about this. I just got such a kick seeing something I was making on the iPad screen.  The idea that it would be sold on iTunes (now the iBookstore) is super exciting. (Make sure your iPad is plugged into your computer when you do this.)



12. Back to sound, imported my files in and had a decision to make. Two prefab button/player option. Fairly standard, looked nice and clean, professional. Went with creating my own buttons using a PSD file. 13. You will need to create some additional assets for your book before you can publish: • High resolution cover art. Mine was 1400 pixels by 1867 at 300 dpi resolution. • 3 to 5 sample pages from your book using illustrations from your book.  • A partial book preview file (iBook file). Allocate a portion of your book to potential readers to download free to entice them to buy.  • Write a book summary to add your books page once live on the iBookstore. Make sure it includes keywords that help in searches on the web and within the iBookstore itself. No tags, just within your copy itself. •  For a paid account, you will need a bank account to link to, your social security or tax ID number for W9 purposes.  Your .iba file (iBook file)   14.  Review, review,review, proof, proof, an proof again. That’s it. All done. Well not quite, one more proofreading. WOOHOO! Done, what fun! Now what? Challenge #5: Publish the thing already Once you feel your book is ready for publication. You have tested it on your iPad, proofread it completely and make sure everything works and looks fine. You are then ready to launch, and feeling pretty excited, I know I was. Ready? Let's go publish!




  1. 1.    Hit the Publish Button in iBooks Author. 
  2. It is fairly straight forward after that. You must choose between a paid or free book account. Are you giving you book away and setting a price for sale? In this process you will be asked to set a price. Some opt for the free account to give their work away. This might be great for creating free content for a blog or promotional material for a product or service. There is a philosophy this is good for unknown authors to get their work out and start creating a name for themselves that way. The latter may suit some but it wasn’t for me. After checking out what other have out on the market along with the price points, I decided to keep a lower price point, I choose $1.99 US. Keep in mind, Apple takes a 30% commission.
  3. 3.    Once you have decided, you will be prompted the rest of the way. 
  4. 4.    Follow the prompts, fill out the necessary documentation to create an iTunes Connect Account. 
  5. Download iTunes Producer, it will help compile your book and upload it to iTunes.
  6. 6.    Follow the prompts to upload all necessary files and you are done. Easy peasy, right? 7.    Please note: you will not receive a confirmation email or any other notification during this process. Maddening? Yup! 
  7.   8. You eventually will  be able to track your sales through your new iTunes Connect account. There will be a “red light” under your new title there. Once it turns green, you book will be live and for sale. It took three weeks for mine to go live. 
  8. 9.  Congratulations! You are now the proud poppa/momma of your very own iBook. A published author. 





The Final Challenge: The trickiest part of all, actually selling your new iBook Here are the steps I’ve taken so far: 

  1. I promoted it on my Facebook page and Twitter account first. It is not that simple though. 
  2.  Apple has a wonderful widget maker for you to create code for adding ads to blogs and web sites. The top right of my blog page here has one such ad. To create your own, here's the link
  3. Next I created a new Twitter account just for my children’s iBook and illustrations. Further adventures in illustration and publishing can be followed there. @jwilsoncreative 
  4. Created a similar new Facebook page, Well, it was new and has since updated to Jonathan Wilson Art
  5. Wubbaweb has officially been retired 10/22/2017. I have a web site in development for a new Wubbaweb.com. Not ready yet but cannot wait to announce its launch. If anybody knows about Wordpress themes and how to customize them I would love your advice. That is the hold up. I am doing it on my own. All I can say on this front so far is "AAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!" 
  6.  I joined Goodreads.com and created an Author’s Account and launched a PPC (Pay Per Click) ad campaign netting me daily views totaling about 700 views so far. 
  7.  After further research, they say reviews can help quite a lot. I would love nothing more than having a host of heavenly mommy bloggers descend to give me rave reviews until Oprah hears about it and then sales go through the roof. This requires time, a sincere approach and building such relationships. When all said and done, I think of the process as an adventure. So much still to do but I think success requires a great deal of patience, thought and planning. Luck never hurts, but…most important…love.
If you have any questions, observations or advice I would thrilled to hear from you. If yoare interested in reviewing the book for your own blog, magazine or newspaper, please contact me and I will send a promo code to you for a free copy. I am limited to 50 of them though. I hope this post helps a little to those embarking down a similar path. I wish you much success! Thanks for reading and hope your day is a magical one!  xoxo Jonathan 

To purchase a copy of my iBook, please just click on one of the following countries where it is available (and you just happen to live). There are many so if you don't see one for where you live, please just leave a comment where you are from and I will see if it is available there and post a link for you. Please keep in mind the book is only in English at the moment.  

The importance of maintaining your portfolio


The other night I took a look at some of my game art from Enchanted Fairy Princess Salon and Spa. The kind of look where you think to yourself, "wow, I could have done this a whole lot better." I decided to do one last piece with my favorite character from it. Princess April. Play with the atmosphere, color and light more. This is what I came up with. The game itself launched over the summer and that has really helped me land some more freelance game development work.

This got me thinking about my current work. It made me realize how much I want to raise my game still. Level up. The importance of editing your work and tossing out your weaker pieces. On one hand, I like seeing the signs of my growth and development from piece to piece. I think that is one of the best things about being an artist. That is what this site is for. A record of what I am doing, good or bad and sharing what I learn.

What have I learned about portfolios so far. 

  1. Make sure you have one with your own URL. Your name, own it online. Make sure this online presence is your best effort. From here, you can centralize all your efforts, your work, thoughts, links, etc.
  2.  Post regularly. Be consistent. Post but make sure the work is better than the last one. Simple rule. If you are not sure. Get feedback. I find Facebook Groups to be quite helpful with feedback. I like Level Up, Draw or Die, The Grind, Digital Artists Group and Ten thousand hours.
  3.  Share it. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Tumblr.
  4.  Don't overthink it. Create your portfolio for yourself. If you like it, others will too.
  5. I don't know the perfect number of pieces in a portfolio. I want 20. They say 10 to 15 is optimal.
  6. Include a story with each piece. They each have one to be told. Use your keywords when you can.
  7. If you don't have a new project to post, create one. Make it up. Make it something you wish you were already doing. 
  8. Don't get discouraged. Stay focused. Everyday. All day.
  9. Look at what your favorite artists do. Do what they do. To raise your game, hit up Gumroad. Here's who I follow thereTy Carter in particular has helped me a great deal with my color.
That's it. I realize I am guilty of not following this plan at times myself. It's hard to do sometimes but I think it is absolutely necessary. When I look at the amount of posts on my site hear, I cringe. Following #2 is my new priority. Let's see how I do.

Lastly, here are my three top choice to show you work besides you own site. Links to mine are included.

  1. Artstation: To me, this is where the best of the best live. In film, animation, concept art, fantasy art, manga, everything I could ever dream of doing, the people are doing it. I think the work here is my measuring stick. It keeps me motivated to be better.
  2. Behance or Adobe: This one covers all design/art/photography. Another top site. You should be there.
  3. Dribbble: I only recently got on board with this site. They have great job listings but it seems mostly directed at UX and UI design. It has some incredible work along with some top motion design as well. If that is your thing, better be there. It has a very strong community. There seemed to be some recent changes there that had people up in arms. There is a lot of work that seems to blend into the next. Somewhat samey same. I don't like the size restrictions there. 
I would love to hear your thoughts. Any tips or advice is most welcome. The goal is really to make great stuff to allow yourself to keep making great stuff. 

What inspired this post was seeing a post by Adolf Lachman. I love his work. He was one of the creators of the game, Machinarium. Check him out. 

Cheers!

Jonathan

The Untold Story of Bartek, the Wawel Dragon

Wednesday, October 4, 2017


The evolution of a story idea. 

In late August, I had the good fortune to work with a game company in Cyprus, Avokiddo. I got to do the environmental design for the game's final reward level and a minor bird animation. (it launches soon and then I can talk about it more) Their work really inspired me. So, inspired by their style, I created this dragon design. Thank you, Vagelis!



Shortly after, I get an email, a call for entries for Jon Schindehette's Art Order. A new book project,
Tiny Dragons. I had a slight AHA! moment and immediately submitted my new dragon. Today, I checked the site and my submission was there. Woohoo! So cool. Wish me luck, I hope he makes the cut and gets published in the book. Thank you, Jon!


Also today, I saw an update from Polish Illustrator, Robert Romanowicz I really admire and had the privilege of a short chat with him about publishing in Poland. He was most gracious with his time and advice. He also gave me the names of two publishers that produce incredible books. Thank you, Robert!
Our dog, Blueberry Muffin

That got me thinking and led me to a chat with my girlfriend and she said, "Make a story about the dragon." I said, "hmm... okay." I promptly took Blueberry (our French Bulldog) for an extra long walk for a good think on it. A story was born. Thank you, Renata and Blueberry!

I then made this new design of the dragon as a book cover for The Untold Story of Bartek, the Wawel Dragon. I think the title actually needs some more work. I wrote the recommended publishers in a query for illustration work and included this as a sample. Thank you, Bartek!

So there you go, the evolution of a story idea. I want to wish Bartek well on his new journey to become a real story and maybe, one day, a real book. Wish us luck! Thank you, nice person reading this blog post at this very moment!









Enchanted Fairy Princess Salon and Spa - Game Development at Tutotoons

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

So... I have some exciting news, I few months back, late November I think, I got an email from a game company called Tutotoons based in Barcelona. After seeing my work on Artstation.com, they were interested in working with me. I was over over the moon.... after passing a character design test (below image), I began training on the game development platform. It's been a dream come true and an opportunity I am very grateful for.


I just wanted to share some of the art I've created so far, they are all still a work in progress. I have just completed storyboarding the entire game. Stuff I will share soon, have to make some final edits to those today. Shortly, I will beginning the prototype phase, then the final art and publishing on iTunes and Google Play as tablet and phone apps. (woohoo). Below are the initial sketch for the main menu (map), the initial character designs for the fairy princesses and finally a color rendering of the map which is still a work in progress. I hope you enjoy them and would love to hear from you.

Cheers,

Jonathan







Game of Thrones Fan Art

Thursday, November 17, 2016


After a month and a half of solid freelance work (graphic design), I am back. I thought it would be cool to try some fan art and as a giant fan of Game of Thrones, I decided to give Bran Stark a try. Here are the steps I went through.


Open Photoshop, scan in the sketch - Set that layer to "Multiply" above a neutral gray background layer.





There are many ways to keep an eye on your values as you paint. I prefer to create an additional layer with a default black fill set the layer to "Color." I just switch it on when I feel the need to check the values. Another habit I have picked up is to keep you Navigator window open at all times, it helps to see what you are doing at a thumbnail size level. If it works at that level, it works, period. Here I am just blocking in  my local color.



Let the rendering begin. I think my favorite brushes so far, are from Kyle's Megapack. Definitely recommend them. Not much to say at this stage other than I like the idea of leaving some of the original drawing present in the image. Tried defining my light source and generally cleaning up the line work.



Getting closer to the final sketch. I played around with and a Levels adjustment layer to give the image a little more pop. I went to CG Textures site and found a leather texture I liked and used a Layer mMask to "paint" in some of it to give Bran's tunic a nice feel. Also did it with his sleeves a bit. While I could take this further, I liked the loose feel of it.



That just left me with the background to paint it. I pulled a desaturated blue from my HSB bar and created a Color Fill layer set to "Color" at about 33% opacity to cool the whole image. Added some cloud-like brushwork and then a Motion Blur to it. As a final touch I added some snowflake with an additional Motion Blur. Hope you enjoyed this and see you next time! Questions or comments are always welcome.

Cheers!

Jonathan




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