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Alex Drummond and Peter Meares

Artists are often great for reading suggestions, so recently I went along to see some computer games artists giving a talk at the State Library, Brisbane. I also caught a talk by sports commentator Peter Meares on his new book, All Piss and Wind, which is a history of sports commentary in Australia.

Seeing how good some computer artists were recently, at a workshop at the State Library, Brisbane, put paid to any vague artistic ambitions I might have had. These computer games artists, Alex Drummond, Jenna Bankhead and Rod Perriera, really showed what it means to be a professional artist. They worked for a company called FuzzyEyes, on a game called Edge of Twilight,at Eight Mile Plains in Brisbane. Games development is like movie production in many respects: expensive, high risk, high return. They’d spent about three years on the game’s development, and had a staff of 50 people with 12 concept artists in other countries. It would take another one to two years development. They demonstrated their drawing techniques on white boards, and with a projection of pictures they created from scratch for the audience, using a free Photoshop clone called Gimp.

The artists had tonnes of tips for budding artists, games and otherwise: like joining artists’ forums, posting your work, and getting professionals to criticise it. They said not to take it personally — that these artists were there to help you improve, and it was better to get some criticism than have someone tell you your work was great.

There were plenty of technical tips: for example, in Photoshop they used the create brushes option in Photoshop to create textures. You could save time by make anything into a brush: like a pattern of leaves, or a chain mail pattern, then just dabbing it all over the screen, to create a canopy of leaves overhead for example.

Jenna Bankhead commented on how it was good to repeat elements when designing a character, to unify it, so it didn’t look like things had just been slapped on to the character.

She demonstrated this when she drew a kind of underwater sea warrior: she used things like fish hooks to hold his clothes together, a turtle shell and other bits of oceanic bits and pieces for his costume. This brought the picture together, or unified the elements.
Rod Perriera demonstrated how he came up with character designs by doing thumbnail squiggles first. He’d just draw a kind of squiggle and see a face coming out of it, then he’d develop that.

Alex Drummond said he liked the Commonwealth Saga books (2002-2005), by Peter F. Hamilton. These were published in two halves: Pandora’s Star and Judas Unchained. He also liked Structura, the Art of Sparth, which was a collection of the artworks of Sparth, aka Nicolas Bouvier. See sparth.com for his amazing space fantasy art. Mr Drummond also liked the work of artist John Berkey. See the book John Berkey, Painted Space, which is a collection of his art work, also on space themes.

See edge-of-twilight.com for information on the game being produced by FuzzyEyes.


Another interesting event was a talk by sports commentator Peter Meares at the Sandgate Library, Brisbane, about his book, All Piss and Wind, on the history of Australian sports commentary. Peter Meares is a well-known Australian sports commentator, and he’s been in the game for 40 years. He told some interesting tales about hanging out with sports stars through the years: people like golfer Greg Norman, who it seems is a pretty tough negotiator.

Peter Meares was a sports fanatic, as well as being passionate about broadcasting, and he relived working with some of his mentor broadcasters.

He said sports commentary started in 1924 in Adelaide when a loud speaker was set up to commentate on the Third Test, Australia vs England cricket match, to broadcast to the streets outside. Then in 1925 the VFL (Victorian Football League – Australian Rules football) semi-final was broadcast on a commercial station. Then the ABC (the government-owned broadcaster) broadcast the 1925 grand final. The 1930s cricket tests were broadcast on radio, and sports broadcasting really took off when people realized it sold radios.

On his favorite reading he said he liked Adam Gilchrist’s autobiography, True Colours: My Life, saying he’d never read a book that was so brutally honest. If anyone doesn’t know anything about cricket, this might be a good place to start.

Peter Meares said he was writing a thriller at the moment and he liked Michael Connelly for his delineation of character, saying the reader cared about the characters, their quirks and eccentricities. He said he’d read a lot of Piers Paul Read, too, as well as Wilbur Smith and Robert Ruaike. He liked The Persimmon Tree by Bryce Courtney. When Peter Meare’s mentioned he was writing a thriller, a woman in the audience recommended A Novel in a Year: A Novelist’s Guide to being a Novelist by Louise Doughty.