How to give life to your concept art


Disclaimer, I’m still an illustrator-student under development, so don’t take my words for the voice of truth. This is just what I have experienced and learned in my short term in this studio and as a person motivated and interested in the concept art business.

The word “Pareidolia” is a mouthful, but the word contains a very important message. Basically, it’s a psychological phenomenon where the human brain can see a familiar pattern, mostly a humanoid-face in everyday object, you can see human-life gestures or faces. [ref: Wikipedia: Pereidolia]

I think Leonardo Da Vinci himself said it best in his scriptures about the life of on a artist:

”if you look at any walls spotted with various stains or with a mixture of different kinds of stones, if you are about to invent some scene you will be able to see in it a resemblance to various different landscapes adorned with mountains, rivers, rocks, trees, plains, wide valleys, and various groups of hills. You will also be able to see divers combats and figures in quick movement, and strange expressions of faces, and outlandish costumes, and an infinite number of things which you can then reduce into separate and well con- ceived forms.” [ref:]

By having these words from the wise in my head everytime I’m drawing or sketches something out, I’m starting to see my art at a new perspective. And suddenly we I make an accidental brush-stroke, I just think to myself “eh, that makes a good nose on that tree”

Konsoll workshop

When I was at the gaming- development conference Konsoll in Bergen, I joined a concept-art workshop where different kinds of people would collaborate on making a concept character, without seeing what the other have drawn. First we got a few keywords, for example bells, actor, rubber. And then we folded a piece of paper in three parts, drew a head based on those few keywords we got, folded it and passed it the person next to us. And then we drew the body, and that continued until we go a full body of a future villain or hero in the next game! When we unfolded the paper, and saw the character in its final (and mostly hideous) form, we could see that we had to make something that everyone could perceive as human from everyday objects. And this is such a good mindset to have when making concept art. You’re forcing your creative mind to think up something within limits,but you also have to collaborate with someone who is doing the same thing. You both need to find a pattern that isn’t there.


But the most helpful tip I can give in general is just to observe your surroundings, when you do, you will perceive life and meaning from the smallest notch in the wall to a random pattern of trees. Also, start to think and draw like a child. When they can draw a smiling-face on the sun or on a tree, you can see and draw a face on that car or a on that fire hydrant.

Early sketches of how the nature could behave in the Pareidolia world

Take your time to observe your surroundings and actually see what is around you. And don't be afraid to experiment, wherever it be with colors or shapes. Start to take with you a notebook and a pencil and just draw wherever or whenever you want, not every sketch have to be perfect because it's a learning process. Instead of putting up boundaries on yourself and your art, set goals.

Some examples to good sketching warmups you can do before jumping into your next big project is to take a splat of ink and just dab it into a paper. Or water color, if you want to play with colors. Or even coffee! Doesn't have to be a consistent pattern, just randomise it. And then you take a pen or a brush and draw whatever you shape you see. Suddenly a plant or a bird pops up, or maybe you can create a face out from nothing. The point is, now you’ve forced your brain to see pattern where there originally is none. And this will help you create life into your environment and characters

Boundaries will lock you in a safe place and halt your learning progress, meanwhile small goals will help your motivation to keep up your good work! And you will find help everywhere in these days, wherever it be on youtube, artstation or you could just google a “how to draw rock” tutorial and 50 + version will pop up.