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This article represents an overview of a vehicle concept student reel, advanced level course with Uppsala University, Faculty of Arts, Department of Game Design and Visual Arts from Gotland, Sweden.

I taught with Uppsala University under the academic year 2020/21 where I designed and taught 5 different courses in 2D concept art and 2D animation. But this article talks only about one of my courses, a 3rd-year course in vehicle concept throughout a period of 10-weeks.

My class was 6 awesome students and we worked together under an intense rhythm with many small tasks, diverse artistic styles and lots of feedback. You can also check out more behind the scenes of this course under my Artstation project called Vehicle Concept Teaching Reel with Uppsala University, Sweden.

Background for a vehicle concept art

This concept art course was an advanced course for games design graphics students under year 3 of study. The main goal was to learn the workflows for the visual development process in 3 main stages: research based on a given story pitch, creating an early concept and then creating a final concept.

All students came with a prior background from various art courses such as drawing fundamentals, character concept and environment concept, but my course came with something completely new. First time for all students conceptualizing a vehicle or anything mechanical whatsoever.

Being an advanced course all students were expected to be software independent and therefore the software was a free choice for each one of us, including myself. We used Adobe Photoshop, Autodesk Sketchbook Pro and Krita. Personally, I have only used my iPad and Sketchbook Pro.

Step 1. Initial idea

During the entire vehicle concept course, students worked on a large and continuous project where they had to design and create one setting called ‘Wacky Challenge’ as the artistic baseline of a racing game. Our focus was to create a final vehicle concept (with and without a power-up feature) but we also spent a bit of time on capturing the character. Once again, this article only showcases the vehicle concept artwork.

The vehicle represents a racing vehicle with a power-up feature that allows the pilot to go either underground, flying, or on water depending on the racing track.

My story pitch has its main inspiration from the following titles:

  • Wacky Races, 1968, TV cartoon series, Hanna-Barbera Studios
  • Wacky Races, 2000, racing video game for PC, Playstation
  • The Great Race, 1965, slapstick comedy feature film
  • The 24 Hours of Le Mans (French: 24 Heures du Mans) is the world’s oldest active sports car race in endurance racing, held annually since 1923 near the town of Le Mans, France.

Step 2. Story Pitch

The Story pitch which I created for this course is the following:

“Wacky Challenge is a historic car-racing competition where the world’s greatest scientists build and race their own invention-automobile. Wacky Challenge represents 7-days racing within 24-hours around the world.”

Each track consists of playing through the traps set by the all players among them. Although all cars compete at the same time, there are separate classes and features. Any kind of mechanical feature is being permitted.

The racing competition is won by the car that covers the greatest distance within the 7 days. All racing cars must balance the demands of speed with the cars’ ability to function for 24 hours without any mechanical failure.

So let’s start to create a personal concept with this story pitch.

Step 3. Preproduction as story research

After tons of research and brainstorming the story of the game, we focused on sketching and thumbnailing possibilities of ideas which will lead later on to the final concept. The rough sketches were not meant to be finished concepts but more like fast visual explorations of an idea.

Here’s just a quick overview of the research prior in looking into the concept.

This vehicle concept art course came with the freedom in choosing the visual style and also the technical level of difficulty. Students choose their own style from simplified, stylised, cartoonish, semi-realistic however the independent result and research should answer the following key questions:

  • Who is your target audience?
  • Which style is appropriate for your target audience?
  • What is the story about? How is the pilot?
  • What’s the design purpose of the vehicle itself?
  • What’s the location or the setting?
  • What is the time of racing?
  • Are there any close-up props or visual clues?

Step 4. Production as the final concept

After laying out multiple ideas, we jumped into the production where we basically reconstructed the initial concept in terms of final story, final design as shapes, proportions, color palette by covering all the necessary details.

My teaching workflow

Throughout the vehicle concept art course I worked on my own concepts, I demonstrated the entire workflow of creating both the vehicle and the racing pilot.

I previously wrote in detail about my 4-steps process of researching an idea and creating inspiration boards that will help getting started with a visual concept. You will find that by starting an artistic work with a research process your art will become more expressive, more clear, and with a stronger message.

So make sure you check out the following resources:

We totally enjoyed this creative class and the creative spirit was an amazing thing in the process. It was just a continuous bounce back-and-forth of ideas, discussions and feedback among all of us.

To conclude, a vehicle concept art course means a place of creating ideas through real life research, through silhouette drawing for fast-conceptualization and through construction drawing for conceptualization.

Cristina Zoica Dumitru

I teach digital art courses online and on-location. My mission is to challenge students to reach their maximum potential for creativity and authenticity.

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