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videogaymer said: Hey there! I'm a future student at AAU, and I'm majoring in Visual Development, may I ask how that's like? I know it's a general question, but I'd love a general answer.
This is going to be a long answer but I’m going to try to give a general summary of what it’s like to go into Vis Dev. :) If you like storytelling and working with color, you’re going to have a great time as a visual development artist here at AAU. You are going to draw A LOT; drawing will become your life. Hours and hours and hours of drawing every day. You’ll begin by taking a series of Foundations classes. These classes include Analysis of Form, Perspective, Figure Drawing and Color and Design, among others. One of your first classes will be Analysis of Form, in which you will draw still life objects and learn how to render them using proper value scale/shading. An example of an assignment: you’ll have to draw a piece of drapery with lots of lovely folds, rendered with photorealistic light and shadow, using only charcoal as your medium. By the end of the semester, you’ll be drawing statues, glass and all sorts of textures, and human portraits. If you have never used charcoal, you will learn how to use it here, as almost every homework assignment in Analysis of Form and Figure Drawing will be charcoal on large 18x24 inch paper.
You will learn how to draw the human figure in all sorts of ways, from strictly anatomical (you’ll learn skeleton and muscle structure) to expressive and stylized caricature (Character Design is a blast) to fully rendered with clothing detail (Clothed Figure Drawing will have you memorizing and learning how to draw every sort of fabric and fabric fold under the sun). You’ll be able to create realistic and detailed nude and clothed figure drawings as well as one-minute gesture poses, and you’ll be creating these drawings in everything from graphite to charcoal to ink and eventually paint if you take Figure Painting. Then there’s Heads and Hands class, which focuses on what the title suggests. It’s immensely helpful, and if you get an instructor like mine you’ll end up filling up a sketchbook with 100 heads.
You will also take digital media classes, which teach the basics of programs like Adobe Photoshop and Corel Painter. As you advance through these classes (there are three basic “Digital Media” classes), you’ll get into the more specific aspects of digital painting, and before you know it you’ll be turning in beautiful, portfolio-ready digital paintings for homework. We have Cintiq labs here with really cool equipment for the digital artists to use.
When you get the foundations classes out of the way (typically about the first three to four semesters for each major), your skills will be sharper and you’ll be ready for the more Major-specific classes. Whereas Foundations classes focused more on technique and classic drawing (for lack of a better term), these next classes are now going to ask you to use your full-on imagination and creativity. These “portfolio” classes are fun but they are very work-heavy and you will use everything you learned in Foundations to develop your original style. For Visual Development, you’ll take classes that mimic the “pipeline” process in an animation or film studio. This means you’ll be designing characters, settings, and other concepts with a specific project (a proposed film, animated series, or video game, whichever area you’re choosing) in mind. There are classes, such as Preproduction Principles, where you will design the characters, color scripts, environments, and props for your own original story, treating it as though it will be made into an animated film. There are other classes where you will be given a story that’s already been written, but needs you to design the characters and environments to fit that story (much like in a studio environment). The focus in your illustrations as a Visual Development artist will always be story. Your illustrations, even if they are background paintings, will have to say a lot about the specific scene, the mood, and the characters that inhabit (or will inhabit) that background painting. You’ll effectively use line, color and composition to communicate the mood of each scene in every illustration, since these are illustrations that represent what will be on screen for the finished film or game. You’ll also be proficient in color theory, digital painting techniques, and appealing design.
Like any major, Visual Development will require a lot of dedication and tons of practice. When you’re not doing homework, you’re going to have to continue learning, studying, and practicing on your own time to get ahead. Buy or borrow all those “The Art Of” books that are released with each feature film. Look at the concept art in these and let them inspire you. Read both volumes of “Drawn To Life: 20 Golden Years of Disney Master Classes” by Walt Stanchfield; his notes are excellent and teach what to capture while life drawing to create expressive gestures that will carry over to your character designs. Stay up to date on the industry and follow blogs related to concept art and animation.
It’s lots of work but if it’s what you love, you’re going to have lots of fun!