Mike Azevedo: Concept Art in the Rough

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Lately, we’ve been asking a number of artists to try SketchBook Pro out for the first time and record their first experience with a video. We’re proud to report that so far all of the artists have had zero trouble jumping in and using the tools. It’s a testament to how intuitive SketchBook Pro is. And all of the final artwork has been stunning.

The beauty of concept art is firmly rooted in its unfinished nature. It values the idea over the final product, so going too far with the details is antithetical to the spirit of the genre.

This time around, in conjunction with ArtStation, we asked Mike Azevedo, an illustrator and concept artist from São Paulo, Brazil, to show us what he does best. His concept art includes characters from League of Legends, Hex, and Legends of the Cryptids, but it also includes characters he dreams up that have a rough-hewn and painterly style I absolutely love. To me, the beauty of concept art is firmly rooted in its unfinished nature. It values the idea over the final product, so going too far with the details is antithetical to the spirit of the genre. If you want it to be good, it’s got to be rough.

Video: first time in SketchBook

In the video, Mike breaks down his process from line art to completion and provides some excellent advice for people who want to be better character artists:

‘Painting is a form of communication’

I learned a lot from this video. Mike says painting is a form of communication, so he tries to say something with his images. It’s clear from looking at his work that he really puts a lot of emphasis on making sure his characters, in particular, stand out. They’re unique, sometimes with unexpected and strange details, whether that’s the weapons the characters are wielding or the details of their body or armor.

Mike’s characters have cool details like this pirate missus in the middle with a blade for a foot and a heart on her hat.

Solve a problem, move on to the next one

He sees a drawing as a series of problems to solve, and he tackles those one at a time with laser precision. Solve one problem and move on to the next thing to fix. If you stay focused and fix every issue you encounter without skipping over any of the work, your final art will be strong.

These pieces from Mike’s ArtStation portfolio are extra rough and conceptual. The characters emerge from swirls of color and shadow.

Start with strong lines and shapes

In the video, Mike talks about using strong shapes at the beginning and trying not to weaken those shapes by adding a lot of detail. That definitely makes for a stronger composed image at the end. Even though you can start drawing and let your imagination take you wherever it wants to go, it’s still important to make choices to define your setting before moving forward. Mike uses the Steady Stroke tools to create strong lines to find the energy he’s looking for in his initial drawing. He notes that the majority of his time spent making this commissioned piece of art for us was working on the initial line drawing; putting in that work up front is an essential part of his process.

Concept art is often about insane proportions. Giant things vs. little things. But you’re never sure who will win.

Ultimately, it’s technique over tools

Mike draws digitally in much the way he paints — without a lot of fancy tools. Just a lot of brush strokes, although in the video he does talk about using the lasso tool to help you define areas and the use of scaling tools to adjust the size of characters or elements in the composition. All of those tools help, but it’s clear from looking at the final drawing that the real skill is in his composition and his wonderfully brushy and rough techniques. The final product (below) is a gorgeous drawing, and we’re thrilled Mike took the time to record this video and share his expertise.

Mike’s final commissioned piece for us. Awesome.