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11:42 PM, Saturday January 21st 2023

In my experience, the skill you're talking about is "design". Not design in the sense of graphic design, but design in the sense of identifying the large overarching problem you're attempting to solve through the design of a given thing - a character, a prop, a vehicle, a space, etc. - and breaking it down into smaller problems (especially through the identification of those smaller problems), and ultimately using the tools at your disposal to solve it. Those tools can range from your "visual" library (a collection of visual and/or spatial information pertaining to the various objects and things you've studied from what kinds of hinges exist to achieve different kinds of mechanical motion, to motifs and patterns employed by certain cultures), to a particular combination of shapes, proportions, etc. usually referred to as shape or form language.

Each of these things can be practiced or developed. For getting used to the idea of viewing design as problem solving, give this video a watch. It's a preview for a larger course, but for the purposes of what I've explained here, the video is sufficient and the rest of the course talks about other related things. For developing your visual library, doing drawing/painting studies of a wide variety of things is the best way to absorb and process things in a way that will actually help you retain bits and pieces that you'll be able to pull out later. And the matters of form/shape language and proportion comes down to much the same (studying how other people leverage shape/proportion/etc in their own work) and experimenting with its application in your own work.

5:12 PM, Sunday January 22nd 2023

Great video and a helpful exercise. I have a related question to the original poster. Just as beginning students have misconceptions about "talent", do you think we also have misconceptions about creativity? As I am progressing, I am getting the sneaking feeling that some of the artist that I have seen are technically very good but not necessarily super creative. Maybe this is a bigger question about what is creativity.

2:49 PM, Monday January 23rd 2023

I do feel that people view creativity in a similar way to viewing talent - as something a person is born with, which it certainly is not. I had the same misguided belief when I was younger, because it seemed obvious. Not a lot of the more accessible resources really talk about how we can train our ability to develop ideas, and so rather than experiencing it as something that can be built up structurally, something where conscious strategies can be applied to yield better results, we view it as something that we just do, coming out of nowhere. I especially bought into that premise due to my aphantasia - at the very least thinking that due to my inability to visualize things as others did, that this was the reason the things I'd draw just weren't all that interesting or complex.

It wasn't until I was able to take courses at Concept Design Academy - specifically those on environment design (which ironically was really more about illustration and composition) and shape/form language (this one had a huge impact on my ability to develop my designs), that I came to understand that "creativity", "ideation", whatever you want to call it, is very much a trained skill just like any other.

The recommendation below is an advertisement. Most of the links here are part of Amazon's affiliate program (unless otherwise stated), which helps support this website. It's also more than that - it's a hand-picked recommendation of something I've used myself. If you're interested, here is a full list.
The Art of Blizzard Entertainment

The Art of Blizzard Entertainment

While I have a massive library of non-instructional art books I've collected over the years, there's only a handful that are actually important to me. This is one of them - so much so that I jammed my copy into my overstuffed backpack when flying back from my parents' house just so I could have it at my apartment. My back's been sore for a week.

The reason I hold this book in such high esteem is because of how it puts the relatively new field of game art into perspective, showing how concept art really just started off as crude sketches intended to communicate ideas to storytellers, designers and 3D modelers. How all of this focus on beautiful illustrations is really secondary to the core of a concept artist's job. A real eye-opener.

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