Back in Feb I was asked to produce a series of illustrations for a master planing project in Saudi Arabia. The project was through a company I have worked with for many years BRC Imagination Arts in Burbank CA. BRC produces a wide range of Themed Entertainment designs and attractions and is highly regarded in their Industry. For this project I was to provide design and illustration on 7 to 8 key areas for a Master Plan project. Christian Lachel acted as art director and co conspirator throughout the process. Christian himself being an old classmate of mine at the Art Center and an accomplished Illustrator was extremely helpful in achieving what I think is some really fine work.
To begin the process we had a few phone conversations where ” C ” laid out the particulars of the project some background on the clients and of course the all important deadline and scope. As usual we never get the time we would like to have to work on things.
Thankfully this project was not as deadline crazy as my commercial work always is. We planned to produce the required 7 illustrations with a possible 8th in just over 3 weeks. The work had to be done to strict guidelines both in content and style and at high res for large format printing. The end results were to be be displayed along with all of the master plan designs at a huge presentation to members of the Saudi Royal family.
Christian provided me with a great deal of reference for style and location, architecture etc along with copies of what BRC had already provided the client. Having gone to S.A. to meet with the clients before ” C ” was able to give me quiet a lot of reference photos of the actual site we were dealing with. The client had produced a large but extremely base model for us to start from but it was up to us to design the specific spaces for these illustrations.
Below is the master plan layout, the area is huge and is a revitalization of a long existing ” ancient ” city in Saudi Arabia Our area will be the central strip.
Master Plan Area
Some pictures from the area showing the current state. The project is hoping to preserve the authenticity of the area while creating an attraction for tourism. A mix of the old and new…
Here are some pics of the site as it was along with some historical photos we will use to guide our visuals. The idea is to keep our designs within the stylistic language of the region. Much easier said then done especially considering the timeframe we had to work with.
Historical reference photos, I have never been to this part of the world but I would love to see it someday. Aside from the lack of cars and electrical wires doesn’t seem that much has changed…
Old Ryadh Cultural Reference Photos
My process for these pieces was somewhat complicated by the fact that I had to make use of the Architects model. you might think that makes it easier but not so here. The model they provided was gigantic and at the same time completely devoid of any of the details needed for our shots.
It actually took me almost a full day to just open their model and clean it up enough that I could actually use it. In most of my other work we actually produce all of the assets so this is not such an issue.
The Architects Model
The first area to illustrate was a courtyard fronting on a high end hotel, a cafe with open air Souk market stalls and a central water feature.
The client at this point had not really designed anything specific so it was up to us to simply take a stab and go from there. This turned out to be true of all the areas but for this first one I don’t even have the clients model to base it on.
I did however have a really cool concept sketch that ” C ” had used to sell the idea to the client….
Christian’s Concept Sketch
I set out to reproduce the sketch in 3D which later would be used as an underlay for the finished illustration. Working in 3D allows for a lot of flexibility. Knowing that in the end I will be digitally painting over this makes it that much more fun.
Below is my first pass at the plaza with a grand hotel entrance and the central water fountain. Since this was the first illustration the piece took much longer to develop then the later ones will as you are figuring out the details and visual language.
Plaza Model first pass
Here is a test painting we did to send off to Saudi and await feedback. Its not a finished piece but has all the elements. The idea is to get something in front of the client thats good quality all the while knowing you will be making changes.
The clients responds with some major changes but they are overall encouraged by the progress.
As you can see I am using a good deal of photo bashing at this point to get the idea across we plan to take things further in the final. The people are basically ethnically correct however later will have to be gone over once again to ensure that not only are they Arabic but Saudi.
Changes will be the re design of the water feature and hotel architecture. Replacement of the market stalls and addition of an elevated tower walkway system.
Finalized Plaza Design
The new design with tower walkways. The grand idea is that visitors can travel throughout the spaces either at ground level or on these walkways which will have their own resting areas, interactive information kiosk and an integrated cooling mist function for comfort.
The really nice thing about using a 3D for this type of design is the ability to generate multiple possibilities for your final shots.
The final Painting. 1 week is gone but it will be worth it as we now have established a look the client is excited about and have a better handle on how to design the spaces with the correct details, materials, colors etc…
Plaza Final Illustration
From now on I have the architects model to use as a base for my work which will be helpful and of course increase the accuracy. I pair the monster down to manageable chunks which can later be recombined if needed.
The next few areas will be interior shots. A family friendly shopping and cinema center and a ” Fun Zone ” for young males. The important thing here is that we are designing this for Saudi Arabia where they observe different cultural norms. Women and children have more personal freedom then they did in the past but they still go out only with related males and wear the traditional Burka Clothing which must be reflected in our illustrations.
Christian again has a quick sketch to use for direction on this image.
After recreating the sketch in 3D and picking a view we find out the client no longer wants to show any reference to specific movies at the complex so we have to shift gears and just produce a good looking multi use space a bit disappointing as I feel it lacks a true focus but still feel good about the final effort…
Final Cinema Complex
The next area was a bit more fun. We designed an exciting space containing a 2 level indoor go cart racing track with assorted video game stations and motion base simulator rides.
Entertainment Zone Model Shots
Entertainment Zone Model Shots
One of the more enjoyable parts of this design was that I needed a cool racing go cart. I first tried using an existing design I found online but we decided it would be more fun to produce our own. It bears mentioning that these are conceptual pieces so I am not sure if what I have shown here is even possible much less safe but it would be fun to try…
Sorry Honey these aren’t for you…
The final Illustration. Its a segregated space so there are only males present, not what I would look for in a fun zone but again you must design for the client not yourself…
Fun Zone Final Illustration
This next area is a informational area speaking to the unique history of Old Ryadh and future developments in and around Saudi Arabia. The focus being a huge observation window overlooking the restored old city portion of the project. This first image is just to show a bit of the process I used. The first image you see is the interior of our space followed by the render of what is outside the window. For this project I am using a new rendering plugin called Renderin. Its kind of buggy and doesn’t have nearly the fine control of my usual renderer Modo. It does make really nice exterior shots and since I am going to be doing extensive painting on these it will be just fine.
Observation Window Interior
The view outside towards the old Ryadh.
The final piece showing people enjoying the view with interactive touch screen kiosk and smart glass displays.
Observation Window Final
The next area to illustrate was an exterior view showing the Cultural Park with water features and various entertainment venues. Below are some model shots showing the overall scope and vast scale.
Hero View Exterior
Model Shot Exterior
Final Exterior Illustration showing an animated space alive with people and activity.
Final Icon Park View
Closeup view showing detail. These paintings were produced to be printed at very large scale. I believe the final prints were either 36″ or 48″ in width
A view from the upper walkways looking back towards the new cultural center and cinema complex. At this stage the walkways are supposed to be a translucent plex but as can be imagined this design feature will not last.
Old City Overview Walkway
An example of the back and forth notes I get from BRC. Its pretty rare to get such nice clear direction and on this project with its scope and tight timeline I am glad of it…
The final Ryadh Old city overview illustration. This view is showing the activity on the elevated tower walkways with out door cafe and informational Kiosk. This view also reflects the clients direction to scale back the ” modern ” style of architectural detail we had included in earlier revisions. This is part of the effort to retain the traditional feel of the area.
Old Ryadh Overlook
A closeup of the painting reveals me having a bit of fun. The two gentlemen down there on ground level ” brown robe ” are whats called Mutaween or religious police. In the course of searching for ref on this project I ran across many discussions of this phenomenon and thought it would be fun to include them in the painting. One account I read was about how a western man and his wife were accosted by them almost resulting in bad things because the wife was wearing a t shirt. Not sure how I would react myself but I think if you can’t accept a societies rules then maybe you shouldn’t go there…
An exterior night time shot. The main focus of course being the large ” Crystal ” tower surrounded by modern residential development… Forgive my Flare but the client seemed to like it.
Tower Exterior Night time
The final piece was to be of souk market space which we didn’t receive input for until the 11th hour. Christian again came through with a quick design direction sketch which I used to produce the final you see here. Unlike the other images we had no time to build this ourselves in 3D. Instead we took the clients model shot and reference and produced our painting somewhat freeform. I think overall it is an acceptable addition to the series.
The final piece.
Souk Market Scene
At this point we received final instruction to go through each piece and make sure every person was wearing appropriate ” Saudi ” head dress. This is part of what makes my job so interesting, it can be a bit frustrating at times but the devil is in the details as they say…
In conclusion this project was both challenging and extremely rewarding. It was difficult at times to manage the large work load and the many specific needs of the client but at the end of the day I am happy to have done it. From what I know they were extremely pleased and thats always a nice feeling… I hope you enjoyed this description of my work and I look forward to sharing more with you later…