Mr. John Dee has developed an unlikely, inspired approach to creating art for Rock Band. The Dee method for Rock Band styling take cues from disparate sources including: the collage techniques of the Dadaists, the stitching style of Doctor Victor Frankenstein and good old fashion bulk drawing techniques of classic American animation studios.
After years of training and professional work as an animator the drawing dexterity of Dee came upon a new king-sized challenge when he arrived at Harmonix. He was assigned the task of developing a look and feel for the Rock Band shell. He was told: “We’re really counting on you to do something eye catching that hasn’t been done before.” Gulp.
The look and feel assignment was specifically for the styling around the menus and navigation of Rock Band. “I kept coming up with stuff a little bit too cartoony because of my experience, but I kept at it and kept working at home, looking at the city and buildings for inspiration...” Thankfully an epiphany came in the form of a question, “What were the things that really inspired me to be an artist?” Answers: old skateboard company iconic art & graphics, black light posters, and Judas Priest-esque animal rock n’ roll spirit vibes? NICE! For more on design influcences check out the story on Rock Band 2 Art.
In an early presentation of ornate patterned work Dee received a thumbs up from the team. He was even more surprised when he was asked to break it down and animate it in 3D space along the lower third of the screen. This process proved challenging at first, but all the tricks up his sleeve from past animation experience came to use. Years in 2D animation cleaning up characters, refining backgrounds and pitching in on story development were utilized. After going through the design process for Rock Band once, knowing what to expect in the future rounds made the process go faster.
Each piece is drawn from a combination of reference photos and sketches, these are then formed together on a tablet monitor churning out a “Frankenstein-ed” amalgam. Going-to-town with detail and patterned flourishes that cull from the sensibilities of royalty, prestige and architectural trimming is the next phase.
Smoke & shearing came in handy when time was not entirely on his side. Half-done? Mirror it! Repetition, mirroring and repurposing small elements to construct seamless ornate pieces allowed animations & images to come together faster and faster.
Amalgamations whipped into shape in a short period of time also need collaboration and cleverness, “It is a hard hitting fact to know you building these crazy insane designs and then break it apart and animate it in 3D… Once I figured it out with help from other people I could start thinking outside the box… and create it somehow.” It also takes a pimped out computer to run all the necessary tools at once. As a human sponge Dee is constantly on the prowl for inspiration.
For more examples of Dee’s work in the Rock Band world check out Rock Band Art by John Dee & Exclusive John Dee Guitar Case Artwork Auctioned Off For Charity.