Creation through Inspiration

Hello everyone!
A Brief Intro:
I was born in China and my parents and I moved to the US when I was about six years old.  Both my parents are skilled traditional oil painters, so I believe the passion for visual creation was undoubtedly in my blood from the get-go.  I remember stealing my mom’s “good paper” to draw anything and everything as soon as I could hold a pencil. It wasn’t until my junior year at the University of Michigan that I fell in love with 3D modeling and animation, as well as just creating through digital means in general; as it both preserves the raw, creative energy of traditional painting while enabling the phenomena of “undo and save” amongst many, many other things my parents never had access too.  But definitely more than the technological aspects of digital creation, it was also very geared towards a field whose subject matter was predominantly fantasy, cool monsters, heroes, villains, and all the wonderful things that filled my imagination.  The fall of 2008 after graduation from the School of Art and Design,  I got hired by a local software and games company called Stardock and have been working my dream job as a concept artist/illustrator ever since.
The Process:
The Dark Knight piece was done out of sheer inspiration after having recently done a trilogy marathon.  I love Christopher Nolan and his visions for characters, and for some reason I just felt a bubbling urge to create a piece in tribute to one of my favorite heroes of all time.  To me, a big part of the piece was to have Bruce Wayne’s face exposed as a man, and not the masked hero.  The feeling I wanted to express was “the overwhelming chaos and insanity bearing down upon one man’s feeling of responsibility towards an entire city of people, all because of the identity of “Batman,” represented by the giant bat looming overhead the whole scene.
For the Tomb Raider Reboot piece, my goal was to capture Lara Croft as a newcomer, a rookie, and not the spirit of a seasoned warrior, although still definitely injecting a sense of badassery to her posture and demeanor.  I wanted the scene to capture that very core feeling of “Okay, I know I’m not a warrior, but I’m here to survive so let’s do this.”  Usually during this stage a myriad of various compositions, images, things I’ve seen from movies, comics, sort of flash through my head, and I allow for them to pass, watching each of them as they flash by and I feel my own response to them as they come up.  When something hits me as striking or nailing the essence of that core mood, I identify it and replay it a few times, and that’s when the composition gets thrown down onto the digital canvas and, if I like what I see, then I often times feel as if 75% of the piece is finished and all the rest of the details will just “fall into place,” even if what is on screen is nothing more than a few scratches of line work and inky blotches; because to me the finished piece is mostly in my head, and the what’s on canvas is just there to “confirm” that which already exists within.
For the Riddick piece, which won First Prize at the Deviantart “Rule the Dark” contest a few days ago, I went for a different kind of tension, though subtle it may be.  Whenever I see Riddick, I see him as precisely that seasoned fighter that Lara Croft, at least in the reboot version, is not.  In the movies, he is portrayed as inhumanly fearless, literally laughing in the face of death, and those pupil-less blue eyes piercing the dark.  He is someone who does not flinch in the midst of chaos.  To play up that tension, I wanted to compose a scene that would imply imminent overwhelment, as anyone who might have seen the earlier movies would know that even for Riddick, being surrounded by a few of these creatures would mean certain death, and yet have Riddick himself in a stance that almost looks like he’s ready to dance.
The works posted here are all works of characters we know and love, and I chose them specifically so that it would be easier to talk about a piece with content we can relate to.  If anyone is interested in seeing more of my work, feel free to visit my deviantart website here:
Each of these paintings were created from scratch using Photoshop CS5 on a Wacom Intuos4 tablet.  For each of these, the general process was to work up what I might call a “core feeling” for the piece.  The development of this “core feeling” has become more and more predominant as of late and I believe has greatly improved my work.  Another integral part of the my process is to keep things very monochromatic during its early stages.  In fact, the paintings shared here were all done essentially in black and white, then color balanced and the rest of the colors applied on top selectively, blended, and so on.  But what I have found is that often times it is much easier to simply work with composition, value, and design before dealing with color at all.  But admittedly, my process varies greatly from task to task, mostly depending on project and thus the goal of any particular piece. As I am sure I will be posting more of my work in the future, I will be sharing other styles that I enjoy given projects that have called for a change of look and focus altogether from my go-to painterly form of illustration, and discuss my approach in posts to come.
I hope that sheds some light upon my process and inspires your creativity as well!

Leo Artist

Hi, my name is Leo. I am currently employed as a full-time illustrator/concept artist for a PC software/gaming company in Plymouth, MI. I also love to do 3D modeling and texturing for games!Outside of work I am usually doing some kind of creative work or another, whether it's working on a story/graphic novel, or playing guitar (still learning), or just chillaxin and meditating or getting all philosophical and writing down thoughts and aimless ponderings, I seem to always be engaged in an activity of sorts and loving it, haha. Whatever floats one's boat, I guess :)

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