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Q and A with Mike Rayhawk, LEGO Concept Designer

Discussion of photography, editing and publishing techniques

Postby Rayhawk » Thu Dec 22, 2005 11:39 pm

Formendacil wrote:So, I'm curious as to whether you, a KK2 style designer and a LEGO fan, would use your more Classic Castle and KK2 themes together in play, or whether you would consider them too distinct to mix.

It depends on what I'm playing - if I'm setting up armies for BrikWars, for instance, I'll combine classic castle, KKII guys, and spacemen into a single army and not even think twice about it.

If I'm making a serious medieval layout, I think a chessboard's worth of Shadow Knights fit in just fine. A single Danju by himself looks out of place, but if you get thirty or forty Danjus together (since I bought giant piles of the Vladek Encounter sets) then all the purple just starts to look like believable uniform livery. And of course Rub N' Buff can make a world of difference.

A sufficient number of Santises or brown-cloaked Rascuses are believable as heavy troops for Crusaders and Forestmen. Jaykos are a little trickier, I sometimes use his helmet for elves if the setting is fantasy enough. The Talonjay chessmen I have no idea what to do with, but the chess set is still totally worth it just for the shadow knights.

As for architecture, the 2004 Knights sets are kept in a locked closet in a separate room from my real Lego, because I'm still refusing to accept the new grays. 2005's buildings like Vladek's Dark Fortress and the Scorpion Prison, on the other hand, fit right into a landscape with my old 6080s with only minor modifications.

I think the VDF is the closest spiritual successor to the castles of the eighties that we've seen in a decade or so (excepting the BFF re-release of course). There's still a long way to go before we achieve my personal dream of a whole Castle line composed entirely of different-sized 6080s, but I can be patient.
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Postby Shadow » Thu Dec 22, 2005 11:49 pm

Thanks for the replies Rayhawk! Its very kind of you to put in time on us :wink:

Ok, here's another question for you.

Being an employee of LEGO do you get a big discount on KK2 sets?
Respectfully submitted,

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Postby Gumby » Thu Dec 22, 2005 11:52 pm

Wow this is so cool!

I have absolutely NO artistic ability whatsoever, so I am very impressed by people who do! I have little interest in the KK theme :oops: yet I find your concept drawings to be amazing.

I read your page about the Christmas image and I had a question: Was the entire image created solely using Photoshop? Heck, are all of the concept images on your website created on the computer?
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Postby Rayhawk » Fri Dec 23, 2005 12:49 am

Shadow wrote:Being an employee of LEGO do you get a big discount on KK2 sets?

We get employee discounts at the local LEGO Retail outlet, which is pretty nice. I've been known to take it too far and buy more Lego in one shopping trip than I could fit into my car.

If there are sets I need specifically to do my job, I can just put off a request to have LEGO send them to me for free. For some reason I didn't figure this out in time to get a box of 2004 sets, but for the 2005 comics I did get a big shipment of all the playsets and enough copies of the bigfigs to give a full set to each of my colorists. And we discovered that it's much, much easier to draw these guys from the actual toys than from digital photos e-mailed from Denmark.

Even with the free stuff and the discount at the retail store, I still find myself walking out of Toys R Us with big armfuls of Knights sets sometimes, unsure of exactly how I got there. It's like an addiction.

Gumby wrote:I read your page about the Christmas image and I had a question: Was the entire image created solely using Photoshop? Heck, are all of the concept images on your website created on the computer?

The castle concept sketches were drawn with felt-tip writing pens and then colored on the computer. Apart from that, all the other Knights material on the site was done on the computer from start to finish, usually in Photoshop.

The castle sketches are very typical of the early type of initial sketches we do when we're working in concept lab - pages and pages of rapid ink-pen sketches. They only get scanned into the computer and colored if color is important for communicating the concept.
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Postby E of Alshire » Fri Dec 23, 2005 3:07 am

Oh, so you're the one who did 'epic'... It's been my desktop backround for a long time. :D

How much influence, as a concept artist, do you have on the actual product?

Thanks for your time!
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Postby Stone Goblin » Fri Dec 23, 2005 3:16 am

First off, I love your artwork and style. :D
I have some of your work in my desktops folder.

Wiil you ever post your own castle creations on CC?

Out of these general six themes which one is your favorite?
    1. Castle
    2. Space(Scifi)
    3. Pirates
    4. Town(Includes Wild West and Adventures)
    5. Creator Designer Sets
    6. Technic


Even with all these projects you're working on with Lego Company, do you have any artwork projects that you are thinking about doing, independently from TLC?

Thanks for your time. :)
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Postby HenrytheV » Fri Dec 23, 2005 6:15 am

I got another question. Is the Kingdom of Morcia named after the Medieval English Lands of Mercia, or is it just a coincidence?

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Postby Rayhawk » Fri Dec 23, 2005 6:33 am

E of Alshire wrote:How much influence, as a concept artist, do you have on the actual product?

The concept designers' job is to come up with a giant pile of ideas for the real decision-makers to choose from and move forward with, kind of like calling in an idea airstrike. The hard work of then going in and developing those ideas into something that can be executed is the job of the team that asked for them.

The concept designers' most important function is that we're the ones who get to develop all the new playtheme and product ideas, and that's a lot of fun. By contrast we might also get called in for extremely specific design features within themes already under development. The two concept pages in my portfolio were for very specific concept assignments: "come up with different styles we might use to depict the Knights characters for promotion," and "come up with ideas for transforming a castle between good and evil versions." You can see how the final illustration style and product design turned out. They were definitely influenced by these concepts, but to a limited extent determined by how well they fit in with the million other factors that the product designers have to work with.

So the influence we have is that we originate a lot of the ideas the products are based on, but very rarely participate in choosing how those ideas are carried out.

As the Knights illustrator, which is completely separate from my concept lab duties, I'm usually working on the action figures' comics at the same time the playset guys are working on the playsets, so we keep an eye on the development pf each other's projects and our work influences each other in funny ways sometimes.

Stone Goblin wrote:Will you ever post your own castle creations on CC?

Most of the stuff I build at home is for BrikWars, usually too silly and slapped-together to impress anybody on the forums. For instance right now I've got a castle that is built half out of Belville and half out of the ugliest possible Mega Bloks, in the hopes of horrifying my enemies into submission. (And yeah, I know a bunch of you are already thinking of jokes to compare that to KK2 sets. Don't try and hide it.)

I do make the more serious stuff every now and then - you can see a castley monastery I built on a very old section of the BrikWars site:
http://www.brikwars.com/games/n-setup.htm
Naturally the model was almost completely destroyed by the end of the game.

Stone Goblin wrote:Out of these general six themes which one is your favorite?

When I was a kid I was only interested in building transformers and helicopters (and transforming helicopters), so I stockpiled town, space, and technic. That lasted right up to the point 6080 came out in 1984, and after that everything else was just spare parts for castle. After the mid-nineties I made sure to specify that I was a fan of OLD castle, because you all remember the kinds of things that happened to Castle during those years.

My personal favorite themes are Castle (especially old-school Castle) and some of its semi-related themes (Ninja, Pirates, and Vikings). I have a soft spot for the spaceman minifigures of the eighties up through Blacktron I or so, but spaceships never captured my imagination the way castles do.
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Postby Rayhawk » Fri Dec 23, 2005 8:23 am

Stone Goblin wrote:Even with all these projects you're working on with Lego Company, do you have any artwork projects that you are thinking about doing, independently from TLC?

I'm doing independent projects all the time, but they usually look just as LEGO as the 'official' stuff. Even before I got hired, almost all my paintings were of Lego bricks and minifigures, they're just fun to paint. You can poke around the rest of mikerayhawk.com to see some of my other pieces.

HenrytheV wrote:I got another question. Is the Kingdom of Morcia named after the Medieval English Lands of Mercia, or is it just a coincidence?

Is there really Medieval English Land of Mercia? I didn't even realize. We were tossing around a lot of potential names for the kingdom - Mercia was in there but it was rejected early. I thought it was because it made people think of mercenaries or mercifulness, neither of which were the images we wanted to promote.
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Postby Recluce » Fri Dec 23, 2005 1:56 pm

Can I tell you how pleased I am to hear that you know of rub'n buff? Ahh, yes, I certainly should have guessed you'd be on the dark side: you're an artist! Yes, that's right all you purists out there, he's a customizer! [sigh] I'm just so happy I don't know what to say.

I'm glad you have and play with the Lego you help create. It speaks volumes of your confidence and satisfaction in the job you do. I know many of the lego employees either play with it themselves, or encourage their children to play with it. And I'm sure that it really enhances your art.... nothing like knowing what would appeal to the kids playing with Lego simply because you are a big kid playing with Lego!

Ok, one request.... where did your avatar image come from? Looks a bit Roman, and I'm a big fan of a possible future Roman theme. :mrgreen:
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Postby Blueandwhite » Fri Dec 23, 2005 2:45 pm

Another quick question:

I was wondering, are there any MOCs or AFOL builders that truly impress you? For many castle fans such as myself, builders like Jojo, Dr. Carney and Marakoeschtra have provided unequalled inspiration. What fan-based MOCs (if any) have inspired you?

(This is a question to you as a fan, rather than a designer for LEGO)

Thanks again for the time.

Later.
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Postby Sir Kohran » Fri Dec 23, 2005 3:32 pm

There's a real answer to this question, but I'm going to give my version instead: the soldiers of Morcia were just really silly looking; I think there were pictures of some of them in some of the early prototype photos that Jake posted here a long time ago. The thing is, their helmets were lavendar-colored. If you thought baby blue was a silly color for a knight's armor, lavendar is just a whole new level of silly.


Sorry if this is a bit off-topic, but did you mean the guy on foot in this picture?
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Postby HenrytheV » Fri Dec 23, 2005 4:58 pm

Recluce wrote:Ok, one request.... where did your avatar image come from? Looks a bit Roman, and I'm a big fan of a possible future Roman theme. :mrgreen:


It's from the Brik Wars site
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Postby Lord Nev » Fri Dec 23, 2005 5:37 pm

Did you havce a hand in the Viking design?

I think it's cool that you're taking time to answer our questions.
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Postby E of Alshire » Fri Dec 23, 2005 6:14 pm

Recluce wrote: Yes, that's right all you purists out there, he's a customizer!

Bwahahahahaha!

Recluce wrote: Ok, one request.... where did your avatar image come from? Looks a bit Roman, and I'm a big fan of a possible future Roman theme.

I can tell you that. Brickwars art.
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