Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Megastructures Update #7 May 2021

Welcome to the 7th official Megastructure Book Project Update, a visual encyclopedia of scifi megastructures!

May is the month of decision. We've contacted a number of publishers and have had some chats, but it's time to make the final decision on whether we'll go the traditional publishing route, or kickstart like we did with our last book and self publish. Will make the decision in a few weeks once I have the last info I need, so in June we'll make the announcement. And then we'll be moving forward again!

In the meantime, wanted to highlight some of the other artists who have contributed work to the book.

First off we have Jeremy Cook, we met back at Blur Studio in 1999, where he quickly worked his way up to a supervisor level, and then continued forward with a fantastic career at companies such as ILM, 343 and others. He was a huge help on my "The Story of Inc" book contributing tons of great artwork, and he has contributed 3 awesome paintings to this book. Check out his other artwork here:

Next is Andy Proctor, who I met through a friend of a friend. He's a supervisor at ILM, does fantastic personal artwork projects, is a really great guy, and I miss our time drinking beers in SF at the Marin Brewing Company. Check out his work here:

Col Price needs very little introduction, he's done a ton of artwork for games, tv and film, and is super prolific when it comes to his personal artwork. It was my great honor that he accepted to do some work for the book. Check him out here:

Ken Fairclough's work first came to my attention when he started posting his concept art for Mass Effect and Anthem. His skills at composition and lighting are just top notch, check out his great work here:

And finally Jullius Granada, who's skyhook painting on artstation grabbed my attention, so I licensed the image for the book and had him do another painting for another structure as well. Talented dude, check out his work here:

That's it for this update. Next update I'll reveal the final plans for the book and the path forward. Thanks for following along!

Monday, May 3, 2021

New Lesson: A Study In Greens, Variety in Your Colors

This lesson is about adding variety to your color schemes. Instead of just that single generic green, make your green a little bluer. A little more yellow. A little more brown. Variety to Hue, Saturation and Value, even in a piece that's predominantly a single color, will give it depth and visual interest. This lesson breaks down this concept and gives a number of tips and examples to help add more color variety to your own work.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Futuristic Cycle 2

A speeder bike concept for an interplanetary racing league.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Futuristic Rover 1

Mars Planetary Rover. I always tend to over detail my "rough" paintings, so I worked hard to keep this one as loose and painterly as possible.

Monday, April 26, 2021

Soulburn Art Lesson Page Updated Apr 26th 2021

The process of gathering reference is one of the most important things you can do when making art. But now that you have all that reference, what should you do with it, and how do you use it to communicate your intentions to a team of people? That's where Reference Boards, Design Packets and Callout Sheets come into play. In this lesson, I'll be talking about these different types of reference tools, and some tips to make yours better.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Fan Art of my Spider Walker Series

Artist sweevee from artstation did a fan 3d model of one of my spider droid painted thumbnails (#1). Check it out, and thanks sweevee, love the Graffiti!

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Futuristic Tank 3

A tank, in case you need to outfit your secret arctic military base with some serious firepower :)

Monday, April 19, 2021

Soulburn Art Lesson Page Updated Apr 19th 2021

This discussion is about an important thing every commercial artist should consider, how to organize their art making process. As with many artists, I suffer from blank canvas syndrome, and when presented with a huge project with tons of different parts, I can find myself procrastinating and doing everything except the project because it's just too big to wrap my head around. So I've found that breaking it into bitesized pieces allows me to not only get to work, but also lets me schedule the project in a much more accurate way. Watch this short video to see how I go about applying this mindset to my 2d and 3d art projects!

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Robot 57

A rough painting of a security droid. Just for fun :)

Monday, April 12, 2021

Soulburn Art Lesson Page Updated Apr 12th 2021

In this Layers Breakdown, I go through the various steps I did to make up my Megastructures painting Bernal Sphere 3. 

Monday, April 5, 2021

Soulburn Art Lesson Page Updated Apr 5th 2021

This video tutorial discusses a number of things you should consider when clumping details together (also called "Grouping"). Clumping can take an otherwise boring image and make it more dynamic.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Some New Megastructure Images

The original Bernal Sphere (proposed by John Desmond Bernal in 1929) is a space colony that would serve as a residential area for a space manufacturing plant. The residents would be found within the spherical portion of the hollow orbiting space station. The outside of the shell would be dense enough to shield the people from cosmic rays and other sources of radiation. The inner sphere rotates to provide gravity via centrifugal force, with dwellings built on the inside surface. The poles of the sphere would have far less gravity than the equator, and hence would be the location of spaceship docking ports and zero gravity manufacturing. Recreational activities such as low-gravity swimming could also be held in this area. Farms could be placed in stacked rings on the outside of the sphere, or could be scattered in with the residential areas as part of a mixed-use development program. 

Updated an older piece of artwork for inclusion in my Megastructures book project. A Matrioshka Brain would be a type of Dyson Sphere whose purpose was to power an enormous supercomputer. The concept was invented by Robert Bradbury in the anthology Year Million: Science at the Far Edge of Knowledge. The name comes from the Matryoshka doll, a type of wooden nesting doll made in Russia. 

And another updated older piece of artwork. A gas giant refinery is a series of structures that would be suspended in the atmosphere of any gas giant such as Jupiter or Saturn, their purpose would be to harvest large amount of hydrogen / helium or other gases from the planet to prepare the raw elements for transportation elsewhere. 

Monday, March 29, 2021

Soulburn Art Lesson Page Updated Mar 29th 2021

When making 2d or 3d environments, or a figure in an environment, having a solid foreground, midground and background is key to leading the eye through the frame, and to the focal point of the piece. This tutorial discusses a little bit about the different ways to go about lighting these environments from a high level compositional perspective. Most lighting schemes can be broken down into a few different types, and choosing the right type can really change the feel of the image.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

RIP Soulburnscripts for 3dsmax: The Time Has Come

The day has finally come, and here is the final version of the SoulburnScripts, compatible with Max 2022. Get them here:

With this version of 3dsmax, maintenance is now gone, and the only way to get 3dsmax is rental only, a software scheme that I disagree with, see this article for a deeper explanation why:

Therefor, Max 2022 will be my last copy of max. I'll be using it for the foreseeable future, and may move to something else such as blender one day if my computer breaks down and I can no longer authorize this last copy of max on a new one. The Soulburnscripts will likely continue to be usable in future copies of max, at least until Autodesk changes something in the software that breaks compatibility. I'll be keeping them on my website frozen in time, but they will receive no more updates from myself.

This new reality has given me a chance to reflect on the scripts, and the max community in general. I first joined the 3dsdos community on Compuserve back in the mid 90s, the forum was filled with so many helpful people that gave me advice, critiques, and support as I learned the software. I remember fondly the day that there was mention of some custom plugins written by Blur Studios that would be given away for free, and Tim Miller, the head of Blur, offering me a sneak peak, as he was interested in potentially hiring me once I finished my schooling. Those plugins were written by Steve Blackmon and Scott Kirvan, makers of the Brazil Rendering System, and life long friends to this day.

I graduated and moved to California to work at Blur summer of 1999, and along with the plugins developed by Steve and Scott, I started writing maxscripts to help automate my process (and a bit later Brandon Davis joined in the fun). Following in the footsteps of blurbeta, we released these scripts for free on the net to help out other members of the community, and the BlurScripts were born!

3 years later, when I left Blur and moved to San Francisco to work at Pixar, I couldn't continue to work on the blurscripts, so I took the opportunity to take the scripts I used the most and rewrite them from scratch, adding features and producing much cleaner code, and the SoulburnScripts were first released May 8th 2005, once again free to the public. The first pack contained 11 scripts, and eventually grew to a total of 86. I was never a particularly good coder, but I prided myself on writing scripts that would save people valuable time, time best spent on the more artistic aspect of cg, instead of doing the same boring tasks over and over again. Along the way, I've received so many emails from people who've used the scripts to speed up their workflow, people asking for new features, even the odd donation for the time I spent writing and maintaining the scripts, and to each and every one of you who interacted with me in any way over the years I give you my eternal thanks.

Change is inevitable. I know it's standard for old people to say "Things used to be better in the old days", but the truth is more nuanced. The max community has had many ups and downs, times when I felt the software was moving forward, and times when the software was going backwards. There were probably more good times towards the beginning, but at that time the computer graphics industry was new and anything was possible, so that excitement of course would lead to more good days. Just 5 years ago I feel max had another resurgence with the developers being given a chance to push forward, and really getting us some awesome tools. But the rental only thing that has been mandated from corporate has really put a dark cloud over the project, at least in my opinion. I know many of the current developers, and they are good people, talented people, creative people, and people who want to do what's right for the community. Creatives are supposed to be kept in check by the business side of things, but sometimes the business side gets too strong and instead of being a force of balance, they become an impediment. Wish it wasn't the case, but I've seen it time and again.

Being a part of the 3dsmax community has been one of my greatest joys, I've made so many amazing friends and had fantastic times at Siggraph and Autodesk University. It's all about the people. And it has been my privilege to offer all of you, the users of my scripts, what help I could to make your workflow a little cleaner and faster for the last 20 years.

I'll still be around of course, I'll be posting new artwork on artstation: I'll be posting new art lessons on composition theory and other art topics on my youtube:, and I have a book I hope to release later this year of scifi megastructures: So hopefully you'll still follow along. But it's finally time to say goodbye to my old friend. 

Rest In Peace Soulburnscripts!

This is Neil Blevins (Soulburn), signing off.

Monday, March 22, 2021

Soulburn Art Lesson Page Updated Mar 22nd 2021

So for years now people have used photobashing techniques to add detail to their concept images. Why paint every leaf of a tree when you can take a photo of a tree and fit it into your painting? But while photobashing is a valuable tool for the modern artist, it can be used for evil instead of good. Case in point, if I am mixing multiple photos in the same painting, I need to make sure that the lighting direction is the same for all images I bring together. I mean, if you're just doing a super quick sketch that you plan on just showing a couple of people on your team to give them the general idea, this extra step is likely not necessary. But if you're going to include photobashed elements in your portfolio, or in a final painting for a client, consistent lighting direction is a must.

So in this tutorial I'm going to do a quick photobash, show you the problem, and then present a few different solutions to fix the problem. 

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Starship Doodle

 Little sketch for today.

Monday, March 15, 2021

Soulburn Art Lesson Page Updated Mar 15th 2021

Layers of light and dark are a tremendously important technique in composition. They help you both lead the eye and to make sure individual objects can be seen separate from each other. This lesson discusses these techniques in broad terms, and gives a number of suggestions on how to use layers of light and dark to make your imagery stronger compositionally.

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Soulburn Art Lesson Page Updated Mar 9th 2021

In composition theory, a more pleasing composition is a composition that contains contrast. Now by contrast I don't mean only the contrast control in photoshop, although that can be used to give us the kind of contrast we're discussing.

I'm talking about the original definition of the word: "Contrast: The state of being strikingly different from something else, typically something in juxtaposition or close association."

So contrast is two opposing things. Like black and white is a contrast. Big and small is a contrast. Soft and hard is a contrast. Loud and quiet is a contrast. Thick and thin is a contrast. Textured and smooth is a contrast.

A very important topic in composition theory, and available for the first time as a youtube video, this tutorial will discuss the concept in detail, and it will lay the groundwork for a number of upcoming composition tutorials I have planned in the future.

Monday, March 8, 2021

Heart of The Giant Poster 2

 Since book 2 is in the can and in the publishing phases, maybe it's time to poke a bit on book 3?

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Fan Art of my Dig Robot

Matthieu Fulcheri on instagram just posted a 3d model of one of my concept designs. Awesome work Matthieu!

 And here's the original concept that I made a few years ago:

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Soulburn Art Lesson Page Updated Mar 2nd 2021

So you're doing previs for a project, but the environment and props haven't been designed yet by the concept team. This lesson makes the argument that while your first instinct might be to use detailed stock models from a digital asset library, a better path may be to use much simpler models, to avoid confusion of what's been designed and what's just a temporary asset.

If you've ever done previs for film or television, have done greyboxing for videogames, or are a concept artist who shows 3d scenes to your client before refining the design, this set of observations may save you some time and pain in the future.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Soulburn Art Lesson Page Updated Feb 16th 2021

Just posted a video lesson showing how to use my old script Wiremaker (aka Wirebundler / Wirejumble). Great for making bundles of wires, tentacles or tree branches. Hope you find it helpful!

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Megastructures Update #6 Feb 2021

Welcome to the 6th official Megastructure Book Project Update, a visual encyclopedia of scifi megastructures!

So first off, the rough layout of the book is complete. More work still needs to be done, the text of the book is getting edited right now, and so some adjustment will need to be made once we have the final text. An image or two will need some finessing to fit the format. Some extra background graphics need to be added. But overall, all the bones of the layout are complete. 

On a technical note, most books are laid out in Adobe InDesign, but since Adobe software is now rental only, and I don't use rental only software, I got a copy of Affinity Publisher for a one time purchase price of $50, and found it just as powerful as InDesign ever was. Thanks Affinity for charging a fair one time price!

Second big news is book proposals for the project have now been sent off to all the publishers I wanted to contact. Will spend the next several months in talks with various publishers to see if any of them are the right home for the project. If we find a good match, awesome. If not, the next step will be the Kickstarter to preorder, followed swiftly by printing and shipping. Will let you know how it goes.

That's it for now, hope to provide more updates soon. I am super stoked to get the project finished and into your waiting hands. Megastructures started in 2014, and so in the context of the whole project, we're in the home stretch now!

And thanks again for continuing to follow along!

Monday, January 18, 2021

Megastructures Update #5 Jan 2021


Welcome to the 5th official Megastructure Book Project Update, a visual encyclopedia of scifi megastructures!

I just received the final 2 images for the Megastructrure project from one of our guest artists. So that's it. All images for the book have been finished! That's a total of 46 paintings, 43 diagrams, and 7 bonus images! A big thanks to the guest artists for adding their own unique vision to the other artwork in the book. It's possible an image or two may be added or lost in the final layout process, but I'm declaring this 100% image complete, we have all we need to make this book happen!

So the next step is completing the rough layout, which is likely to be finished in the next few weeks, and the completion of the book proposal which is being sent to a number of major publishers.

Will post another update when the book is laid out, and then keep you updated on how the publisher search is going. If no suitable publisher is found, we'll kickstart the printing just like we did with the last book, it worked last time, so it'll work again. But I'm hopeful we'll find a good publisher who believes in the project and will allow us to reach a wider audience. Will let you know how it goes. And thanks again for continuing to follow along!

Monday, January 4, 2021

Futuristic Car 5

A redo of my Futuristic Car 1. Adjusted a number of things I wasn't happy with on the first one, and changed the design language from being a "Far Future" car to a more "Near Future" Car. 3d block-out model, then the rest is painted in photoshop.