The Pangalactic Bazaar
The Birth of a Concept
Much like Happy Hour, this new project developed out of a basic
idea. I needed a scene of daily life that would involve lots of characters. I knew that I wanted this new
scene to be set in a science fiction world. The idea of a marketplace sounded like an interesting and fun
project, so the next step was to write out a laundry list of a variety of different characters, objects and
scenes that could be included in the piece. The list included items such as flying cop-bot, flock of alien
birds, haggling fight between merchant and human customer, religious freak w/ sign, family of small customers,
and on and on.
But having a laundry list of possibilities and a workable concept are two separate issues. I had to
address several issues before I could make sketches. What would the focus of the piece be? What dimensions
do I want for the piece? I knew that I wanted to do the piece as an acrylic painting so going larger than the
barroom brawl was possible. As an additional constraint, I decided to make the piece one that could be used for
a wrap-around book cover. This meant that the main action had to take place on the right side with "dead space"
on the top third of that section for titles. The "haggling fight" seemed like a good focus, though I changed it
to a fight between two merchants, a human fruit seller and an alien pack animal merchant who's animals found the
fruit too juicy to resist. The "back of the book" space had to be interesting but without a focus so that large
areas could be covered with text. The area where the spine would fall had to have a couple full characters, not
simply a lot of half-creatures. A traditional fiction book is just slightly taller than a 2:3 aspect ratio. So
with that in mind, I played around with possible dimensions and finally
decided on 29" x 18.5".
So what came next was a set of small concept drawings only a couple inches wide for figuring out how the
scene could be laid out. As you can see below, they are little more than visual shorthand that only I can
Click the image above for a closer look.
Putting That Computer to Work
The next step of the concept process took place on the computer. In order to avoid perspective problems and
to get some help in figuring out the lighting, I put 3D Studio Max to work. Basically I created a rough version
of the whole scene in 3D on the computer- some basic architecture and some lights. I roughed up a couple quick
mannequins or "dummies" to stand in for all of the characters. I could then duplicate the dummies and, playing
window dresser, position them all over the scene, playing around until I felt good with the arrangement. A
little more toying with the lights, a quick render, and we're rolling. I add a quick grid over
the image in Photoshop and end up with the image below:
Click the image above for a closer look.
The Final Drawing
The grid provides a way to transfer the layout from the rendered image to the final piece. I measured out the
dimensions on a piece of Crescent Super-Smooth Technical Illustration Board. Why am I using that as the support?
Because it is light enough to be easily portable, heavy enough to take the acrylic without warping, big
enough for the desired dimensions, and it was laying around waiting to be used for something. The smooth
surface will be nice for details, but a rougher surface would work just as well. Any number of supports would
work as well.
Once the dimensions were measured out, I covered the whole piece with the same grid I laid over the rendered
image. Using the grid as a guide, I transferred the architectural lines to the illustration board. Then, using
the render as a reference, I started to draw in the characters. You may remember that, with Happy Hour, I sketched
out almost every character before drawing it on the final drawing. This time I simply started drawing and did
my creature concepts directly on the final drawing.
As I drew, I kept a blank, white sheet of typing paper under my right hand. This prevented the drawing from
smearing as my palm rested and moved. In addition, it also provided me with some blank space for testing out
ideas or, when I didn't have a clear idea of the next creature, a space to doodle in until an idea came. Through
the course of the drawing I probably went through four or five sheets. Then again, just the drawing phase took
me a good four or five full days of work.
At the end of it all, I had a big outline drawing of a pangalactic open-air marketplace in what is probably
the poor side of a backward planet:
Click the image above for a MUCH larger version.
Wouldn't you know that, in revisiting the original concepts, I have realized that a few details have been
left off the final drawing? I have a little more work to do before I can move on! Once those last few
details have been added, what comes next? Well, in preparation of painting I have to...
...Ah, well, let's leave that for next time.