Sean Yew | Portfolio of Environment and Character

Sean Yew | Portfolio of Environment and Character

Sean Yew
by seanyew39 on 31 May 2020 for Rookie Awards 2020

Kia Ora! Sean, B.A Animation student and aspiring concept artist, at your service. I proudly present my concept art portfolio. Along with a little bonus...the stories within each artwork's heart. So sit back & relax. I hope you'll enjoy sharing the journey of my imagination with me. Welcome to my humble world.

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"Ruins of the Dawn"

One hundred years since the war. The lost ruins presumed to be destroyed, razed to the ground. One hundred years later, her search has finally ended. 

This was done utilizing a matte painting approach, and the base images obtained from This matte painting was quite a challenge in terms of colour grading. All the source images were taken under a bright blue, sunny day - so instead, I graded it to a warm, orange aura.

"Mystic Valley"

The rays of the sun beam down, filtering green across the mountains. The sacred bridge awaits. Beyond, the castle calls. In reverence, he kneels, his compatriots beside him. They have made it. They are home.

Matte painting base images from I wanted to achieve the look of an open, bright and expansive atmosphere. When I first started my thumbnail sketch, I wasn't expecting the arched bridge to make it into the final. But after some experimentation during the creative process, I found I could arrange the shapes and elements to uniquely frame the castle and lead the eye on a journey. 

"Parallel Ruins"

A bustling trade route, now desolate. The pride of the waters, now cold and dead. Once filled with the hoohah of merchant vessels, now reduced to one little boat, slowly rotting away.

I decided to showcase the process view in a slightly different manner. I popped all the assets I used over the base plate, so you can see it in one swoop. The base image is by Liam Quin (Wikimedia's CC BY-SA 2.0 license), linked HERE. The other assets are from, Pexels, and PxHere.

"City of the Peaks"

High above the peasant realms, in a world almost not of our own, the city perches. Its spires pierce the clouds, pointing up to the heavens. A symbol to those who seek, to always progress in one direction: onwards. And to those who seek, they will find.

Base image from Pexels, assets from PxHere. For the composition, I used negative space to frame the city. I extended the mountains from the base plate and created a second mountain. Their dark silhouettes wrap around the focal point, creating high contrast so the eye will pop to the target at first glance. The repetition of shapes, and varying sizes of the spires, help further add to the harmony of the piece. Here, you'll see that unlike "Mystic Valley", instead of adding in a design element to the final image, the planned archway in this piece's thumbnail sketch did not make it into the final. That's because I felt it overcrowded the piece and did not contribute to the composition. Sometimes, "less is more", and this was a perfect scenario to showcase that.

"The Temples Trio"

Your turn has come to tell your tale...what story does thy mind see here? Listen, be still, be true, and wait...and you may even hear its heart.

This was an extreme challenge to mask out the leaves and thin branches from the original photo. I bashed together various matte painting techniques to successfully cut it out, such as going into channels, pushing Levels, using the "Select by Colour" tool and Magic Wand tool, and finally locking transparent pixels to paint out leftover noise. It was a tedious process, but the end result was well worth it. As the cherry on the cake, I put in film grain, a subtle lens flare, a vignette, and slight chromatic aberration to grace it with a cinematic atmosphere.

"Bearer of the Flames of Darkness"

The clanging of the bell rings wide and deep. The time has come. Her journey beckons. For hundreds of years, the tradition has been passed from one torch-bearer to another. Now, the rite must continue. The flames must be kept alive.

For this concept piece, I set the brief for a night scene approach. I used a complementary colour scheme to tell the story, taking care to strike a balance between texture and lighting. Below, you'll see a little more into the development process: I experimented heavily with blocking and composition. I tested out various angles, subtle repositioning of the shapes, etc., eventually settling on a composition following the Rule of Thirds but tilted to a Dutch angle.

"Forbidden Planet"

Lost...alone...abandoned? With every step, the astronaut's HUD flashes red, staining his helmet. Oxygen supply critically low. The suit's life support failing. Slowly, the cold seeps in. His vision blurs. Just then, beyond the rocky spire, a pulse of light. What lies within the glow...?

Bearing in mind the flow and balance of the piece, I sought to create a foreign, dangerous terrain. I visually demonstrate my rationale in composition below. I use the direction of the shapes to 1) pull the eye from the astronaut to the next focal point and 2) frame the focal point so that it "pops". 

"Crystal Canyon"

Battered, bloody and bruised from his fight and fall, Ophiuchus, God of Life, erects his lair to recuperate. With burning patience, he waits. Gathering followers. Amassing an army. Slowly rebuilding his strength. Soon, he will strike. And when he does, the world will finally come to bow before his name.

Concept art created for our group's upcoming student capstone project: an animated trailer of a TV series we plan to pitch to the industry. The 3 architectural sketches of the castle (below the thumbnails) were from a fellow member of my group, Leighton Young, and I designed my own iteration based off his sketches. The environmental composition and final concept art was my work.

"The Fall of Ophiuchus"

A vicious rebellion against his older brother Equinox, God of Time and Space. An attempt to seize the realms. It ended catastrophically. Ophiuchus was banished and fell to the mortal realm below. But not alone. 7 sacred artifacts were torn apart, plummeting and scattering far and wide across the land, lost into myth...

Environment concept art of the story's critical inciting incident for our planned final student project. I created two pieces; one of them with a far more stylized, cartoonish aesthetic. This is to explore different animation art styles that would best suit our capstone brief. I've included process views below for both. 

"Gateway to the Sacred"

A Torii Gate. Passing it marks the exit from the human world, and the entrance to the revered realms. Its strong, powerful red wards off evil, allowing only the pure to pass through it. As he approaches, he prays for his heart and soul to be humble enough to traverse the bridge into the mountains beyond.

Below, you'll see my process for colour experimentation to establish the mood and atmosphere. I play around with Photoshop's Hue/Saturation and Colour Balance tools a lot. Sometimes I just go crazy dragging the sliders up and down - you never know when you might get a happy accident! I use this process for almost all my environment concept pieces. It's a great quick-and-easy way to test out different iterations.

"Guardian of the Shrine"

Handpicked and trained since birth. Forged into the formidable ranks of noble warriors. Whispers pass down across generations into legends. Yet, faithful and unwavering, they stand guard. Duty above all.

Character concept art inspired by the aesthetics of the samurai and clothes of Japan's medieval era. I started with a bunch of abstract shapes, to establish a good silhouette. Taking from my knowledge of anatomy and construction from life drawing classes, I constructed the chosen body to give it proper form before moving to the rendering phase. After completing the first character, I created two character alts, with variations in attire and weapon placeholders. These are for presentation to an art director or team lead, if in the industry.

"Zenithian Military Agent"

The man's coal-black eyes glinted, his smile leering into the grin of a hyena. "Assemble the Military Retrieval Agents. Squad One. Authorization granted for use of the Puncture Transfer Network. I want all five of them now. Alive."

   "Sir, with all due respect, the...weapons are all but fully functional. Fatally experimental. It could potentially destroy Squad One. We would be hard-pressed to replace such an elite team-" 

   The person on-screen was cut off as he raised his hand for silence. "Consider them your test subjects. Science demands sacrifices, Director. Get it done."


The extract above is from my unpublished novel manuscript. For this character design, I chose a sci-fi brief. I gathered moodboards and references for the design of the gun and helmet in particular. Then, I sketched dozens of little thumbnails on paper to communicate shape language, aesthetics and functionality.

In the final character concept sheet, I included side view breakdowns of the helmet and gun, so as to help 3D modellers or other artists in the pipeline to better visualize the structure and form of the props.

"Ophiuchus, God of Life"

Or, more accurately, the fallen God of Life. All he wanted was to forge peace. Yet, the catastrophic rebellion resulted in tragedy...his halo smashed, his elegant wings burnt to shreds...the Eye of Equinox exploded, its pieces lost into the land and seas below. The one thing Ophiuchus needed to seize control. With boiling fury, he will spend the rest of eternity searching, to bring the end, for good.

This is the main antagonist of our student capstone project I designed. A knowledge of shape language came in extremely useful here, to convey an aura of unease and fear. A strong silhouette was extremely important in my design, whilst still maintaining a slight ground in realistic proportions and anatomy. Below, I show my process of design and costuming in one image.

"Behind the Scenes"

Here's a sneak peek into more of my process workflow. I start with loose, simple sketches to quickly establish form and depth with strong shape language and silhouettes. That way, I can present it for immediate critique and improvement on the spot. Then, I can identify which has potential for me to further develop into a fully rendered piece. 

For environment composition, I mainly use the Rule of Thirds and/or the Golden Ratio. I allow myself the freedom to warp/distort these compositional guides as needed. The result is that I can achieve more dynamic compositions in my thumbnails and sketches.

I also practice rendering materials, studying diffuse, bump, luminance, etc., taking these properties from the process of 3D texturing and lighting in Maya. Extremely useful for creating the various parts of my character concept art, from skin to metal.

That's All, Folks!

As an aspiring concept artist, I am always seeking to learn, always eager to take on more. Next semester at university, we will venture further into 3D modelling and sculpting; delving into Zbrush, Substance Painter and Maya. You can bet that I will be applying all that I will learn to expand my world of concept art, and start to integrate 3D into my workflow. I can't wait to share what I've learnt with you by then.

In the meantime, thank you so much for sharing this journey of my concept art portfolio with me. I hope you've had fun sneaking into my imagination and stories! Alas, all good things must come to an end. Best of luck to you in your journeys, stay safe, and keep art-ing on! See you real soon. Signing out.

Ngā mihi maioha,


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