Legend of King Arthur Challenge: Prop Design Winners Interview
The story of King Arthur has been told countless times and has evolved over the centuries through manuscripts, books, and film. In ArtStation’s Legend of King Arthur Challenge, the Prop Design artists were given the challenge of creating 4 props and one sigil/banner. Each one had to be unique and tell their own story and function in the medieval environment.
Tell us about the concept and inspiration behind your prop designs.
Julio: I tried to frame the project as if I were designing props for a King Arthur RPG. I was inspired by games like Darksiders, Zelda and WoW. My biggest inspiration was the tragedy of Merlin and Nimue and as soon as I read their story I knew I needed to do props based on them.
Jens: When I think of movies, I always enjoy productions that feel reasonable to me. I like props that are manmade and don’t need too much magic to explain them. Movies like The Last Knight or Lord of the Rings came instantly in my mind, but overall I try to look more into historical props rather than having too many influences from well-designed films. My overall goal was to have believable assets and put some story elements in them. Having “Merlin’s Eye” in Arthurs sword has a functionality and story-driven element as well.
Jenny: The first step I did for the challenge was to listen to audiobooks about the Legend of Arthur. Some of the stories were really inspiring, like the one of the Green Chapel and the Green Knight of the Forest. I tried to picture the weapons and props which the characters used in my mind and made a list of assets that could be interesting to make. I also wanted to use animal symbols and references to give the designs more personality and expressiveness.
What was your strategy for the challenge?
Julio: I think working out a story was a good place to start. It can be very tempting to jump right into designing something but a lot of the process is just trying to understand the source material and twist it a bit. Planning was more important than ever, given the tight schedule. Because there wasn’t a whole lot of time, I tried to multitask by listening to podcasts about King Arthur while doing other things. I also knew I had a tendancy to start big projects and not finish them so I tried to warp the story towards things I enjoy drawing (tentacle monsters and glowy swords!) Doing this kept the project fun and engaging, despite being difficult.
Jens: I grew up in the ’80s and most of the films were made without CG back then. Because I like to work in film, I wanted to make pieces that are suited for the production of actual film assets. A lot of fantasy props are still made without CG and would need someone who can imagine how certain objects maybe feel. I wanted to fit the role and depend less on current trends or styles and make art pieces that can be useful for my portfolio to get a certain opportunity in this kind of field.
Jenny: In the beginning, I didn’t really have a strategy. I knew the most important part was to finish on time, so I had a rough plan in mind on when to finish certain steps like sketching and rendering. I tried to stay away from references for as long as possible, just to see what I could make of the story without any visual input.
Prop design entry by Jenny Brozek
What was the most difficult part of the challenge for you?
Julio: Time was the biggest challenge for me. I’d also say trying to come up with a unique take on the legend when it has been done so many times was tricky. Another challenge I faced that I was not expecting at all, was how hard it was to find references. It turns out not a lot of artifacts have lasted from that era and the art of the time was very stylized. Going down the rabbit hole of finding out what objects of the time looked like was super interesting, but cost a lot of research time (and in the end, I didn’t use it as much as I thought I would.)
Jens: In general I feel pretty comfortable with “realistic” concepts without too much noise on them. The most difficult challenge is always time management. It’s pretty hard to match the deadline and take care of all freelance jobs.
Jenny: Besides the time management, which was a hurdle in and of itself because of my full-time job, the most difficult part was the category of prop design. I chose it because I was working on a lot of character designs at the time, so I wanted to try something new and challenging. I realized that it’s a lot more work to bring life to a prop, than to a character. I didn’t want to just make a plain sword or ax. They had to tell a story and look like they are breathing as if they had their own mind and personality.
Prop design entry by Julio Nicoletti
What advice do you have for future challengers?
Julio: Plan ahead. Find out how many working hours you have and then you’ll know how long you can spend on each prop. Think of a story so you have an anchor for your project. Also, it’s important to play to your strengths a bit. While it is a challenge, having fun with it is what will keep you engaged until the end.
Jens: Don’t care about a placement and enjoy doing art for yourself. Use the opportunity to get motivated and push yourself and your portfolio with some grouped art pieces to the next job. I never join the challenges to win them. I join them to force myself on committing to a certain setting and to pump out some concepts that could lead me to a new opportunity.
Jenny: My advice would be to try something new. Maybe try a category that you wouldn’t pick at first and see how much fun it can be. Really engage with the other participants. Give and receive feedback and motivate each other! Most importantly, please always make safety copies of your work – I learned that the hard way!
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