Teaching Talia

What Is Concept Art?

Posted on: March 4, 2010

A simple and direct definition of concept is an idea, a scheme or a plan. This idea needs to have a purpose and can be taken or shaped from various sources, such as life experience, your environment, your cultural background, additional research, general knowledge, etc.

In this course I (Charles Santoso– Lecturer) am defining concept art as a series of sketches and illustrations, which communicates idea, moods and designs to assist production purposes. The fundamental purpose of concept art is to provide visualisations before the production process starts.

Examples of concept art (none of these my own work)


Concept Art & Illustration

You must remember that concept art itself is a part of the “middle process” of a bigger production, not a final product.

Concept Art in the Past

Moving forward in history to the Renaissance era, we can start to see some significant practices of concept art from Leonardo da Vinci.

He worked within a context and expanded the ideas from there. As Leonardo had knowledge in technical constructions, he included a lot of technical details and theories to accompany the sketches, enough to compliment the ideas. Even though the ‘futuristic machine’ concept did not make it into a real product, the ideas remain strong on paper, almost waiting for someone to carry it through into the next level, which is the production of the ‘real’ design.
Leonardo Da Vinci
You can see the connection between his concept art to that of the design of the modern helicopter. Of course there are a lot of modifications in the practicality to actually make it work in the end, but we can see that his concept art has served its purpose. This case should give you a better understanding of how concept art is a “middle process”, not a final product.

Concept Art Now

By having a range of concept art, the producer can see more possibilities in the elements of the product and thus is able to choose the best solutions from it.

With the introduction of computers and other digital mediums, creating concept art is becoming faster and more efficient than ever. Although the computer is just one of the many tools used in producing concept art, it undoubtedly helps artists and designers to produce their works more efficiently. It also expands the possibilities in creating images. Just imagine how long it would take an artist to create a pattern manually compared to the usage of a fill pattern feature in Photoshop. Just like others, concept art techniques are moving towards digital mediums.

The Process Of Creating Concept Art

Creating concept art is one of the many forms of problem-solving practice as it needs a specific brief to start with.

Successful concept artists or designers can solve the problem from the brief and communicate the idea clearly, while giving enough freedom for the viewers to expand their vision on the subject matter.

The Darth Maul character from Star Wars episode 1 (Figure 13) came from a lot of visual exploration and concept art development before arriving in his final form. It started when George Lucas asked Iain McCaig to draw his worst nightmare. The design (Figure 14) was so scary that he had to ask for Iain’s ‘second worst nightmare’, which became the initial idea for the character. The base idea was derived from a clown.

Talking Point 1

1. Go to the library or internet and find 2 examples of concept art that you like. Try to choose two examples from different applications (concept art for fashion, cars, architecture, interior, movies, games, etc)

2. Prepare a 50+ word description for each example (what is the concept art for, medium, the artist’s name, weblink etc)


The concept art above is the for the Mad Hatter in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland movie. Michael Kutsche is the artista, and you can find out more about him here and here. This piece of art is digital- the artist hasn’t specified what applications he’s used.

I think it’s pretty safe to say that Michael was trying to communicate ubsurdity with this character. The colours are loud and the mood is ‘loopy’. The character is basically in proportion, but is exagerated- the larger then normal eyes, pointy chin, and whisps of hair.
The fact that the character is splattered in paint and that it has two different coloured eyes makes it seem odd-ball-ish and gives the viewer a licence to imaging and create in their own mind.

Obviously there are a lot of preconvieved ideas around the Mad Hatter, and my option is that artist has tried to include the majority of people’s ideas into this piece. It doesn’t break any current notions as far as I can see.

This concept pieces was produced digitally, and therefore is a more ‘realistic’ represntation of what the finish product might look like (though we all know that in the movie the mad Hatter doesn’t look exactly like this).

The artist has communicated his ideas well, and he portrays the character in a fresh light, but still maintains the old constructions of it.


This concept art is for the iPhone. The artist is Robert Davis who seems to not have an online web presence… :-( But I found this photo here (plus it is literaly all over the web- I followed a link trail which was like 10 links long before I gave up and pronounced him dead- internet wise. This piece of art is digital- the artist hasn’t specified what applications he’s used.

Because this is a concept piece for an upgrade of a current product, it encompasses some previous designs and core elements. Some of these are: clean product, professional, good-looking, small.

The artist has essentially tried to keep the product the same, just make it transparent. What this does for the piece is add an air of ‘futurism’ to it, and the mood is no very sophisticated.
The proportions of the artwork are well thoughout, and everything is ordered and structured.

This pieces was constructed digitally.

I think it communicates it’s main idea of futurism well.


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Just finished my Graduate Certificate in Cross Disciplinary Art and Design with UNSW.




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