Class: Drawing Robots & Machinery
Tutor: Jake Parker
School: School Of Visual Storytelling
I think it’s fair to say that I’m quite into mecha and robot design. I could pretty much trace back exactly when I was first bitten by the bug: the summer of 2000, when I first saw Gundam Wing (…and before that, Transformers!). Since then I’ve been hooked on mech design of all forms and, as I’m sure you’ve seen here on my blog, I spend a lot of time drawing mechs myself. One of the things I realised very early on in my art career, however, was the distinct lack of books or courses on the whole sub genre of entertainment design for vehicles and mechs. Heck, even online tutorials only ever really stretched to how to ink or colour mech illustrations. I picked up a couple of ‘how to draw manga’ style mecha books, but other than covering the rudimentary principles of character design (badly, I might add) they didn’t add an awful lot to the conversation.
Thankfully, the team at the School Of Visual Storytelling realised this too.
I’ve been a fan of Jake’s artwork for a long time now, and when my friend Lauren Scott let me know that he was running a class on mecha design, I leapt at the chance. I sadly couldn’t attend the live class due to time zone constraints, but the recorded stream did a great job as a replacement. It was the first time as well that I’d been introduced to SVS. Having now taken one of their classes (that was very reasonably priced at $40) and had a proper look at the rest of their curriculum, I’d definitely consider taking another.
Starting off with an exploration of the language of mechanical design and the fundamental elements that make up robots, mechs and vehicles, Jake presented clearly and concisely with a lot of real life references, along with examples of his own artwork. He rounded out the 2 1/2hr lecture with specific examples of how to breakdown forms and elements of a design, before moving on to a live drawing session and student draw overs. The sign of a great teacher as ever is that ‘lightbulb’ moment when a concept is presented in such a way that it seems so obvious; Jake hit the class with wave after wave of these. Tailored for both newbies to mechanical design and veterans, the principles discussed were suited to all forms of vehicular design and, being fundamentals, apply to all styles.
I’d love to share a few of the pages (and pages!) of notes I made, but it would honestly do a disservice to the class. If you have even a passing interest in drawing appealing, believable mechs, I cannot recommend it highly enough. Needless to say, it got me pretty fired up… so much so that I just had to start sketching!