Just Like Looking at Clouds


I can tell when I feel like I’m not successfully moving forward in my art goals.  I tend to begin slacking off on the amount of work, waking up later in the day, and generally just end up bummed out.  Strangely, instead of taking action towards moving back on track, I do everything that moves me away from where I need to be… Strange indeed. [/introspection]

Regardless, I’m thankful that I decided to break my art funk and do something new and fresh, because afterwards I felt like I really leveled up, learned some new tricks/techniques, developed a new-cool process, and moved further in developing my new world for my story.

Moving forward.

I watched this cool tutorial for creating environment concept sketches many many moons ago and I’ve always intended to go back and follow along with it.  If you’ve seen some of my previous school work in photo-manipulation you’ll understand why this tutorial really appealed to me.  It basically paralleled perfectly with my own process, because it uses almost all of the tools I use on a consistent bases with photo-manipulation.


Using a variety of images, layers, blending modes, opacity settings, masks, filters and other tools.  You create a multitude of different shapes, colors, lines, spaces, etc that give an impression of a landscape, interior, cityscape…  These thumbnails are then used as a base to paint/sketch on, and eventually creating unique environments.

In the video, he uses this process to create these fantasy landscapes only, but the process is the same for other genres too.

It is worth noting that the video suggest using low res images and after my 30th save (ended up with around 80) or so I can tell you my computer started chugging because I save mostly larger reference images when I do my google searches.  Most of the images I used were actually images from my Blue Moon reference boards off of Pinterest, with a couple odd balls thrown in.


There is a ginormous amount of experimentation that the gif doesn’t come close to showing.  Sometimes it was a matter of choosing a single filter or blend mode and it seemed like I knew just where to put the image.  Other times it was me going through all of the possible options before decided on something or just trashing it and starting over or with another image entirely.  It was more trial and error than anything… sometimes I just immediately saw something and I just built that idea up.


Really fun and interesting process and because I was “Working Small” (I worked at 16.7% of the actual canvas size), I was able to focus on the shapes and colors and composition and not all the little details and “Learn Big.”  This is a screen shot of my work area in Photoshop and my canvas to screen (21.5″) ratio.


Again, this is just the beginning phase of the tutorial.  At about 10 mins in he begins to start painting over his thumbnails.  A really fascinating watch if this type of stuff interests you.

I am curious what people see in these thumbnails and which people like the most.  Pick a couple and let me know which you guys like the most or which stand out, or which aren’t really working.


“Imagination rules the world.”  – Napoleon Bonaparte

4 thoughts on “Just Like Looking at Clouds

  1. I can totally relate to the your moment of introspection – feels like a daily struggle for me at times.

    Hm… They all look pretty cool, but if I have to pick some favorites, I think I’m more drawn to A, G, J, M & O. A & J because of the architecture (J looks like a fancy building, like a church or something to me). G & M are darker, like they’re at night & I like the grass in M while G has a cool industrial feel to me – both make me feel like you’re sneaking into somewhere. And O makes me think of planes & airships & flying over a city.

    • A daily struggle indeed. :)

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. I like a lot of the ones you picked too, they have some dominant and interesting shapes or forms and they really do stand out from some of the other ones.

      A,J, and O for sure because of these same reasons… and it’s funny you said O it looked like airships, cause I got the same impression. Kinda felt like something out of a Final Fantasy game.

  2. It really looks like technology crumbling to me. F appeals because it looks like nature is fighting back. In terms of pure visuals, I’m drawn to M and N. But they all seem to contain different times and aspects of the disintegration. So I feel like they could easily form a narrative. (K)

    • There are definitely some organic vs geometric shape tension going on in a bunch of these thumbnails. I think that contrast between the two creates a very interesting visual dynamic and also like you mentioned creates a narrative that (at least in me) inspires curiosity.

      Like there’s a whole story waiting to be discovered…

      F really stands out, probably because it is one of the only ones that has nature as the dominant force and it’s loaded with saturated colors. It and J are probably the more peaceful ones out of the bunch. :)

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. It’s cool to hear what other people think and feel about them.

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