Here is a collection of concept art culled from a stack of sketchbooks that became the basis for the short film Gul(flower). The drawings have captions to give you an insight into the creative process of taking an abstract idea from my imagination and turning that into the blueprints for a film.
The original sketch of Gul that started it all back in 2000. I had just finished college and was having a miserable time of finding a job. In that time, I created a design that I liked so much, that I knew I needed to save it for later.
The Behemoth. This design was based off some photos of abandoned steel mills.
I looked at a lot of old style blowtorches to come up with this design on the right.
This design came up out of a combination of old cameras and microscope designs.
After drawing many real machines, I wanted to contrast them with some organic machines as I called them. This came up after many drawings of old machinery, and then setting it aside and drawing abstract shapes. The combination of the two yielded something new, which was my intention.
A turn around to help me model the shapes in a consistant manner.
These designs came out of fighter plan ejection chair designs.
Some initial concepts for the generator room, including roof metal work and the arrangement of machines.
Some of the early sketches of machines. I had drawn machine parts from old tractors for a bit to get the feel and visual vocabulary of parts in my mind before trying my hand at creating original designs here.
On idea for the generator room, was to use plugs and cables to connect the machines. Eventually I felt that pipes were visually more striking for this purpose, though technically more challenging to pull off.
At the top, you can see some of the abstract shapes that lead to discovering the designs for chm.
These were abstract shapes, with the beginnings of machinery added to them.
These were some more explorations, before I mocked it up in 3D and did a detailed turnaround.
These were explorations of the behemoth with wires. In the end, I swapped the wires out for pipes because I felt the aesthetic was stronger.
Once the designs started to come together I started thinking about how they would come together. A few work chair and elevator sketches too.
I did a crazy number of exploration sketches on the Maker character. very quickly, I wanted to move away from the more typical mad scientist look.
I was looking at a lot of Egon Schieles art for inspiration on the beautiful misery in sharp, angular features.
Sometimes I just played with shapes and ideas that had nothing to do with what I imagined the character to be, just to see what I could learn from it.
After a ton of very different sketches to try and figure out this character’s face over several years, he came out in this single drawing. There was no doubt as to what his design would be. I finally felt, some of that Egon Schiele I had been staring at for so long, found it’s way into this design, as I had hoped it would.
Some studies of the Maker’s hair style, from different angles, so that I could build the 3D model of it. On the right side are some hallway studies.
I was looking at some of Phil Hales work, for how he makes clothing very over wrinkled and fascinating in these explorations.
I adapted work clothes, with longer vest designs from Pakistani clothing.
I tried various inspirations, such as Rajasthani and Sindhi clothes.
It was a fun process to combine a Pakistani clothing aesthetic to the work clothes.
Some more explorations. Sometimes going in a direction with sketches that you don’t intend, helps to bring creativity and break limits of the designs concepts you started with.
Close to final designs.
I examined the shapes and stitching of the clothes I intended to create because I used panel cloth techniques in the computer to make them.
Once I worked out some of the mother designs, I built a simple 3D computer model, then printed it out from different angles and drew out a model sheet to create the final model based off.
You can see some of the wireframe of the rough model peeking through the paper.
This helped me to really understand the design, which I later sculpted in the computer.
Some outdoor concept explorations.
I drew a lot of different kinds of plants to give me some ideas on creative uses of plant motifs in my designs. Many plants were drawn from life at the Huntington Gardens among other places. It is important to immerse yourself in your design process.
Coming up with new machine designs took a lot of sketching of real machines to get the visual vocabulary down.
This was the second page I ever drew of Gul. Here I lost the appeal of the original sketch, but started to design the joints etc.
Much of my drawing time on Gul, was spent in trying to understand the appeal of the proportions in the original sketch. Any changes in the size, shape and distance between facial features or body parts made her look like something completely different.
These were some skirt designs, drawing upon traditional Pakistani clothing designs.
Some detail studies of Gul’s parts as well as some ideas on what the damaged look might be. Much like manufacturing a real machine, it was important for me to understand the various parts that came together to make her.
More part studies. Taking the basic designs and defining them further.
Gul’s facial expressions were organic, while her face was intended to be very rigid and metal. Sketches on the left were done on print outs of the actual model, while the ones on the right were just rough, off model sketches. Both allowed me to test the range of her expressions.
Here is a small sample of poses I drew to explore Gul’s movement. These helped me to understand how to animate her.
Thumbnail sketches to explore poses, composition and movement for various shots from the film.
Some more exploration on outside environments and damaged looks.
The designs for the workshop were gleaned from a lot of real life parts. The machines, desk, stool designs etc were largely based off of real references prior to the digital age, for the more industrialized look I was after.