Thursday, December 3, 2015


I knew I needed a refresher on muscle anatomy but tried going about it differently. I think I like this technique. I found some reference, drew some very light skeletons, then went muscle by muscle across all of them. So I would take red and draw ALL of the shoulders, then orange and draw all of the pectorals, etc... It helped me to focus on each muscle group and think about it in different perspectives and poses.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Dune (now with some color)

(re-posting these with some flat colors thrown on)

I finally gave in to the siren song of Dune and was dashed upon the rocks like so many concept artists before me. There just isn't time to render these, but I’m reasonably pleased with the linework, so here they are!

Some context: I fell into a Dune-hole recently which started by stumbling across the INCREDIBLE art from what would have been Jodorowsky’s Dune film. That inspired me to re-watch the David Lynch movie again (one of my favorites). At that point, I had to read the book again. In the middle of my read-through, I watched a couple Tarsem Singh movies and my brain made a connection that I couldn’t shake loose:

I want a 4 hour Dune movie designed by Tarsem Singh’s crew (production designer, art director, costume designer, cinematographer, etc…)

So, in order to get that thought out of my brain, I took a clumsy swing at designing the cast of Dune through the lens of Tarsem Singh’s crew. To me, that meant making each character an operatic or theatrical expression of their role in the story. Visual storytelling cranked to eleven. 


I thought the Atreides  on Caladan should look “water rich”. I wanted to design a visual language that looked like it was born out of generations of ruling a tropical paradise.

Dr. Yueh – The diamond mark of his conditioning becomes a mask, but it’s not %100 effective so it doesn’t cover one eye.

Thufir Hawat – The Juice of Sapho is held in a small vial near his mouth, always near him. He may once have fit his ceremonial armor better, but he’s no less dangerous.

Gurney Halleck – Patrick Stewart was perfect in this role, but in the book he’s described as being a pretty ugly guy. He has blades all over him, and his clothing is tied down tightly for sparring.

Paul – He wears the Atreides Hawke at his breast, with one “red wing” cape over his shoulder. He is dressed for life on his water-rich homeland.

Reverend Mother Helen Gaius Mohiam – She carries branching staff to represent diverging bloodlines.  Her collar echoes the Emperor’s own crest. I wanted to design a motif for the Bene Gesserit with several meanings. Her hair is tonsured like a monk’s, but they wear a braided mohawk like a horses mane to make reference to their ongoing breeding program. They also wear fine chains connected to piercings from their eyes, ears and mouths. This is a visual representation of their constant focus on observation, listening and influence through speech.

Duke Leto – He is described as having a face like a bird of prey, so I exaggerated that. He wears the Atreides Hawke on his chest, with two red wing capes behind him.

The Lady Jessica – She has the Bene Gesserit hair (tonsured with a horses mane mowhawk) and piercings (connecting eyes, hears and mouth). She has a modified version of the Atreides Hawk crest, forming a more elegant cape. 


Feyd-Rautha – His build reflects his regular gladiatorial training. I wanted the Harkonnen’s to look like they hung around in their robes all day. I also gave them a consistent jewelry motif that was part viper-pit, part “plans within plans within plans” like a diagram of nefarious connections.

The Beast Rabban – He’s an animal, even less restrained than the Baron. You can see that it’s only a matter of time before he competes with the Baron for sheer scale. He’s adorned himself with cruel trinkets, and what may have once been luxurious furs have become rank tatters through neglect and abuse.

The Baron Vladimir Harkonnen - …yup.

Piter De Vris – Like Thufir Hawat, Piter keeps his Juice of Sahpo within regular sipping distance. His “rig” is built up into a flimsy collar, meant to look arrogant and hint at his aspirations to rule.

Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV – His royal armor is designed to reflect his paranoia (the same paranoia that inspired him to us the Harkonnens to crush the Atreides). Physical descriptions compare him to Duke Leto, so I wanted him to look like a lesser version of the Duke. His armor plates are all given to him by the various guilds and houses he rules.

Sardaukar – The Emperor’s elite soldiers. Their crests reflect the emperors, but are all built from reclaimed prison bars from their hellish prison-homeworld, Salusa Secondis. I wanted them to look completely opposite to the Fremen. They’re big, bulky, heavily armored. The glimpse of armor you can see was designed to look like it would react TERRIBLY to sand. 


To design the Fremen is to design the Stillsuit. To me, they were done perfectly in the David Lynch film, so I wanted to try to make a different statement.  Fremen don’t care that they smell awful, they accept the realities of their lives, so I wanted to design a suit that didn't shy away from its vulgar processes. It’s designed to process piss, shit and sweat into drinkable water. Seeing a person in their stillsuit should almost feel like seeing them naked.

Stilgar – Sturdy, reliable, and pretty much a surrogate father to Paul.

Muad’Dib – I kept it simple. His outfit is just a stillsuit and the red wing cape of the Atreides.

Chani – Just draping the stillsuit with something asymmetrical and soft.

Alia – She wears little red Atreides wings and a Gom Jabbar.

Great Mother Jessica – Her Bene Gesserit mane is exaggerated in a fabric crest. She holds the water of life in a bottle that isn't meant to be put down. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Trespasser DLC - Epilogue slides

Inquisition was the best project I've ever worked on by a large margin and drawing these epilogue slides felt like the best possible send off for me. Out of the 43 that I drew, these were a few of my favorites.

It was a great chance to break free of technical limitations (cloaks, hair, etc...) and to explore what directions they may head. As wonderful as "iconic" looks are, I like to break characters of their set appearances when possible. Every costume in the game required drawings, sculpting, rigging. That cost means we usually don't get a lot of wardrobe changes for characters. The epilogue slides were also a good chance to explore what else these characters may wear. Maybe they let their hair down (Josephine), or they have a favorite coat they never wore because they spent the game in armor (Cullen), or they have culturally specific clothing they can bring out (Cassandra's formal Nevarran dragon dress and hair braid).

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Almost every moment my pencil touches paper I'm either working (on confidential game stuff) or drawing stuff for my kids (which for now will be special stuff just for them). To be honest, I'm loving it. I think I can settle for showing more creative work once every three or four years (however long a game takes to make). What I can still post are my throw-away practice pages.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

World of Thedas Volume 2

The second lore book is out, and it's kind of ridiculous. It's heavy, stacked to the gills with lore, stories, recipes, songs, and juicy gossip. It also includes some never-before-seen concept art, as well as a large amount of new content we made specifically for this book. I honestly can't even believe we made this thing.

Here are a few of the original pieces I was fortunate enough to contribute to this ludicrous tome:

Darinius, first Archon of Tevinter

Garahel and Isseya 

Garahel slays the Archdemon

Some of the cast of Dragon Age: Origins

Illustration for Mir Da'len Somniar, a traditional Dalish lullaby

Also, be sure to check out Nick Thornborrow’s post about this as well. Not only did he curate the art for this book, he also created a ton of original content for it. 

For those who are interested:

you can pick up the hardcover on Amazon

Or pick up the special edition on the Bioware store.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Jaws of Hakkon sketches

Some early drawings done for the Jaws of Hakkon DLC

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Life drawing - female figure

Some day I'll post creative stuff again. Right now, all my will is bent on work. The best I can do is periodically slide these out.

Friday, February 6, 2015


Over the years I've endeavored to answer as many emails and specific comments as time allowed. There have been enough repeats that I think I feel comfortable starting a list.

First, some general information:

My name is Matt Rhodes. I graduated with my Bachelor of Design at ACAD (Alberta College of Art and Design) majoring in illustration. Before graduation some ACAD alumni from Bioware came to look at portfolios and I was brought in as an art intern. I’ve been with the company ever since, working on Jade Empire, the Mass Effect series, the Dragon Age series, and other projects.

How do I become a concept artist? What do?

There are many ways to become a concept artist. I’m trained as a graphic designer but I’ve known concept artists who were animators, architects, industrial designers, even one former opera production designer. There are as many ways to become a concept artist as there are concept artists. The secret is in the name: concept artist. You’re drawing ideas. Every day you’re taking abstract and ethereal ideas (often from multiple brains) and translating those into tangible blueprints and inspiration. There’s no prescribed way to do that. However you chose communicate, learn to do it clearly and quickly. Put your work up constantly so people can see it and then listen to their interpretations.  Absorb critiques and keep refining your skills until people start to understand your intent. Do that for thousands of hours and then check to see if you’re a concept artist yet.

 Where should I go to school? Should I go to school?

I don’t know. Sorry. The best I can advise is to look for a school that offers a reputable program in the field that interests you (design, illustration, traditional painting, animation, sculpture, etc…) and that offers some strong fundamentals. As to whether you should go to school or not, I’ve heard our own HR gurus say many times that having a degree makes border crossing much easier. If you’d like to work in another country then having a degree makes it easier for a company to prove that you’re worth importing.
Where or whether you chose to go to school, you’re really only going to get out of it what you put in. College, university, night-school diploma course, self-taught… you’re going to have to bust your ass.
If this is one of your questions then I sympathize. It’s not always fun to stare into the unknown.
I liked ACAD a lot though.

What should I put in my portfolio? Is my portfolio good enough? What should I be working on? What do companies want to see?

If you’re not already following concept artists’ work online, do it. Collect (or at the very least regularly flip through) concept art books. Does your work look like that? Well… then it’s time to give yourself hand cramps by trying. Push yourself to work in a broad range of genres and subject matter. Environments, characters, props, creatures, UI elements, effects, storyboards, production paintings... a well-rounded portfolio likely includes them all. “Show your work” and include development work to the level that it’s appropriate. People like to see an artist’s thought process. If there’s a specific company you’d like to apply for, what sort of genres/subject matter/styles are they working with? Are there ways you can make yourself more valuable to them? It helps a lot to see a portfolio that makes you think “we could sit this person at a desk today and they’d be able to add to the project.”

How do I develop a style? Will my style be an obstacle to getting a job at a studio?

I get style questions a lot because my work is more simple and exaggerated than our games. My “style” (I always struggle not to say that with a sneer) is just the byproduct of being very busy. There are a million things to draw for every game, and you’ll only ever be able to draw a quarter of them. I’d rather sketch a thousand things than beautifully render ten. To me, line is the most effective tool I can use to communicate an idea quickly and clearly. If more information is needed then flat color and simple lighting will usually help. Very rarely is more needed. Metal is metal, leather is leather, carbon fibre is carbon fibre. Working like that for years, as well as keeping up my fundamentals and life drawing has created the style I currently have. Focus on the work, on learning and developing yourself, focus on communicating concepts and you’ll find out what your style is eventually. If you find yourself on a project that has a distinct visual style, that’s just another form of visual communication that you can learn. Oh, and most good art directors will know the difference between polished rendering and solid design, so “style” really won’t be a concern if you’ve shown you can get your point across.

Here are some interviews or talks I've done that go into more detail:

Digital Artcast
RnD Fantasy - Elas
RnD Fantasy - Clara
80 level