Saturday, May 5, 2012

Worldbuilding workshop - Christian Schellewald & Patrick Hanenberger

Last Saturday at Red Engine School of design,  Christian Schellewald and Patrick Hanenberger taught a workshop on "Worldbuilding". They recently released a book called "Kolonie" - which is a world they created. They talked about their book and how you would go about creating a world of your own.

This workshop was just what I needed. It was more about the design and creative aspect of concept art - rather than the technique and the painting/ drawing aspect. Here are some of the main points I picked up...

1) Take it Slow
Patrick and Christian encourage "slow painting," and are against "speed painting" - (Robh Ruppel said the same thing during his CDA workshop). They showed us a painting that took 2 years to complete. Creating the entire universe in their book "Kolonie" took 7 years to complete.

That's a really long time. How does a painting take 2 years to complete?

It's not the sketching or rendering - it's the thought process and answering the important questions. They ask questions that define the rules of the universe... Why are the trees that big? Why are the people wearing those outfits? Are there flying vehicles or not?  In addition, they take time to design out certain things such as the map of the country, the logos of the companies in that world and the form language of the hieroglyphs on the wall. Those things might seem very frivolous, but when you think about it... a map will determine the climate and geography of the environment, logos reflect the economic state of a country, and hieroglyphs reveal the culture and history of a world. All very important things.

When we were little, I'm sure we did all those things - designing maps, logos, countries, universes - just being really creative with our imaginations.  I personally get really caught up on technique instead of just being creative, because I want to create a really slick painting.  I'm going to take it a bit slower now that I realize this realize this design phase isn't something you can just skip and dazzle through.

2) Travel More
Basically, Patrick and Christian encourage you to do more than just use google images for your research. Concept art in general is getting really homogenous - that's because everyone uses the same reference images that are found on google. They suggest getting authentic inspiration from visiting actual places. It doesn't have to be like... Toyko or Dubai, but even places like LA, a freeway, a market, a zoo, a farm etc... could work. After you go to those places - do travel sketches that try to capture the feel of the environment. They emphasize that the paintings do not have to look "good" - they are a record of the experience you had that particular day.

They also suggest going to flea markets to find "found photographs." I had no idea what those were before this workshop- basically they are photographs that other people took. So it's more rough and less polished than the ones you find online. Apparently they will feel more authentic. They emphasize that the process of going to a market, finding the photography, and picking it up in your hand is it's own authentic experience - and thus has advantages to that of a instant google search.

3) Work on Group Projects
A benefit of working with someone else is having someone challenge you. This means you won't do the same thing over and over again.  If not for the partnership for "Kolonie," Christian said he would've just drawn rusty old trucks, and Patrick would've just drawn naked sci-fi babes - but because they had to work together - they each had to get out of their comfort zones to create something that was truly original. 

Who wants to work on a collab with me? Email me at if you are interested. :)

World Building Exercise
Example of thought given to the graphic design - based on 60s era technology
Form follows Function
Christian doing a composition demo.


  1. Hi Chris,
    it is nice to read your post...I do know Patrick personally and it is very interesting to read something about his work and the workshop itself. Thanks for posting it.


  2. cool! thanks for the comment "On Air" - glad you enjoyed the post. :)

  3. Hey just found your blog, thanks for posting your class notes and reviews!

  4. no problem Matt! Glad you appreciate it. :)