Shadow of the Colossus is one of the most beloved games of old by Sony, so it’s not surprising that even many professional game artists draw inspiration from it. The latest to create some amazing fan artwork of Team Ico’s poetic action-adventure is Naughty Dog Artist Andrew Maximov.
Andrew originally posted the piece on Polycount, and at the bottom of the post you can see both the finished picture and two more showing the steps of its creation.
We reached out, and asked a few questions on how the piece was made, and below you can find what we learned:
Giuseppe: Why did you choose Shadow of the Colossus as the subject? Does the game hold any special meaning for you?
Andrew Maximov: Oh absolutely. I think anyone who played through the game will agree that it’s a very special one. There are very few games like it, as it manages to achieve a very deep emotional response while stripping away the majority of what most other games deem essential these days. Doing more with less is a sign of great art in my humble opinion. Both visual and interactive. Instead of throwing everything at the wall and hoping something sticks the artists have to be extremely deliberate with what they do. Every mechanic/brush stroke means something.
G: Could you describe the techniques and tools used for the piece?
AM: Sure, I used a pencil to do a few really quick thumbnails in my sketchbook, then I blocked it out in 3DS Max and did a preview render in Keyshot. The rest was rendering and finesse in Photoshop. Both painting and combining photos to be more precise.
(Note: “blocking out” indicates the process of creating a 3D “sketch” using only the most basic elements)
G: Looking at the work in progress stages, I noticed that the Colossus used to have a raised right arm in the original composition, then it was lowered, adding dynamism and balance to the scene. Does achieving the best positioning and dynamics require a lot of trial and error normally?
AM: Absolutely. In fact I consider myself lazy for not doing more composition studies before starting on the final version. But yes, with every art piece(or a game ; ) ) things get organically shaped as you move along. Previous brush stroke informs the next one. It’s all a big puzzle of trying to divide the finite resource of your audiences attention between story, color, composition, light and detail, while guiding the eye in the right direction.
G: If you were to indicate an element of the artwork you’re particularly proud of, what would it be?
AM: That’s a tough one. The habit of seeing only what I dislike in my work is not something I can turn off anymore. : ) I’m sorry. Maybe when I’ll have created a thousand more of these I’ll be able to tell you.
G: Do you work on pieces like this often? Is it mostly as a hobby, or to improve and hone your professional skills?
AM: I don’t get to work on them too often between all the other technical and educational work I do in my “free time”, but I really like to. This definitely helps me be a better artist. The medium is not as relevant as the thought process. I’m not really looking to get better at painting, but rather in composition, lighting, detail distribution and color. And this is a faster way to exercise those then building and entire 3d environment : )
G: How important is self-improvement in your own free time for someone who does your job?
AM: It depends. There definitely are people who can go through their career without doing too many personal projects and tbh I really envy them : ). Because I’m hardly that person. For me it’s paramount. If I go home and have nothing it do it, feels like I’m doing something wrong : ) Lately my personal projects have been less 3d art and more other disciplines like painting or programming, but they are still very important to me.
G: Are there any other games you’re planning to draw fan art for in the near future?
AM: Everything I paint is usually inspired be something: a game, a view or a movie, but I try to avoid direct references because it leaves more freedom to change the piece as you go and also allows you to exercise your imagination as if there were no constraints at all. Rather then with an existing style you’re trying to represent. For example Shadow of the Colossus has a pretty muted, olive tinted color palette and that was hard for me to balance with my personal affection with vibrant clean colors. But yeah, as soon as I get some free time I definitely have to paint something. FFX probably : )
You can check out the artwork below, and if you want to see and learn more from Andrew Maximov, you can check out his personal website, or enjoy the charming lecture on beauty in video games we covered yesterday. Currently Andrew is working on Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End.