Relic Learns: Dynamic Terrain Sketching

Posted On 10.20.2015

Having recently started a new sketchbook I felt well prepared for this week’s in-office Lunch & Learn, an event where any Relican can take the stage and spread some knowledge about any of their passions. The session was hosted by Felix Bernard, one of Relic’s concept artists, and focused on sketching terrain from an isometric perspective for RTS games. As my sketchbook is usually full of eccentric characters, life drawing, and logo designs, I was interested in tackling a different subject matter that’s production related. As the class started up in Relic’s Show and Tell area, artists filed in from their various projects, saying hello, catching up and quickly preparing lunch while trying to find a good seat.


Felix started off the class with a quick reminder of the previous sessions lessons and encouraged us to do our warm up exercises which resulted in a general groan from the artists, but it’s good advice that gets the juices flowing. Being new to Relic, this was my first lunch and learn with the artists so it was good to get an overview and I quickly realized we we're in good hands.


Referincing the Hoodoos from the badlands of Utah, Felix went over his process of layout and pre-planning which landmarks and various structures he’s going to capture on the page. The hour went by quickly as Felix covered dynamic sketching principles, building up structures from basic forms, and applying details only on the focal point for readability with just enough detail to convey the idea to the viewer. As the session is interactive Felix was asked to demonstrate several techniques in creating depth from towering Hoodoos to cliffs and deep canyons. Each sketch was also approached in the context of level design as the artist needs to consider if the terrain is blocking sightlines, conveys a clear path for traversal or combat, and that landmarks are oblivious and memorable.


After the session wrapped Felix held a brief Q&A which further broke down some of the process and we discussed defining rhythms and geometry based on the reference images which was highly insightful. I came away with a full page of sketches which started out as landscapes and easily transformed into ancient castles and fortresses. I’m definitely looking forward to our next session, as I felt we were only scratching the surface of Felix’s expertise. 

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