What is concept art?

As I mentioned before, during the meeting with my assigned tutors yesterday, they asked that I better define what the term concept art means. Since this is still university and I’m basically just shaping my own courses for this term, there needs to be a certain degree of clarity to the things I do. Partly because anyone should be able to follow the process and partly because any tutor should be able to examine/grade my work.

I could’ve opted to go the easy way and use Wikipedia’s definition of what concept art is. Using Wikipedia is generally regarded, as I said, an easy way out of sorts. Although it has turned out to be more up to date than physical encyclopaedias at times, it is unreliable because it is so freely editable. Also, the article on concept art had no citations whatsoever, neither in English nor in Swedish.
Actually, as far as academic definitions of the term concept art goes, the internet was generally scarce. I’ll do my best to describe it as clearly as possible however, so let’s get to it!

I won’t get into the discussion of defining what art is, as it is a sensitive and perpetually ongoing discussion. Going into the definition of a concept is helpful however, as it will help strengthen what sources I did find in terms of what concept art is and what a concept artist does.

According to dictionary.com, the word concept means as follows;

1. a general notion or idea; conception.

2. an idea of something formed by mentally combining all its characteristics or particulars; a construct.

3. a directly conceived  or intuited object of thought.

With that in mind, it’s not completely obtuse to come to the assumption that the term concept art would mean the projection of a concept (an idea) to the form of a piece of artwork. Concept art, as a means of transferring an idea to a visual piece (digitally or otherwise) is a popular method in media productions (film, video games) for evaluating ideas that are part of the larger product (be it a script for a film or a video game.) It could be a concept art of a building, a character, a whole environment, etc.

Of course, without confirmation from another source, the above paragraph I wrote will be just as reliable as a Wikipedia article without citations. Professional artist Roy Nottage perfectly describes the role of a concept artist within a greater production, here’s a portion of the article I just linked through half a sentence;

“A concept artist is someone who generates original ideas and communicates them visually. They must create the style and feel for characters, environments and objects. This can be in the form of fantasy worlds and characters which could never exist, or perhaps architecture and design which can potentially be created for real. Concept art can be very expressive and abstract, not just realistic. The approach used is whichever the artist feels most suitable to get the idea across and the intended feel and style for the artwork.” – Roy Nottage, http://www.royzy.co.uk/

Hopefully this clarifies the term for anyone who’s not already familiar with it. One final note to other, aspiring concept artists; concept art should not be confused with the avant-garde artform called ‘conceptual art’, which is a completely different thing. It is also a common search result on Google when looking for the definition of concept art, so it’s important to note that they’re not the same thing. One is the form that was just discussed, an evaluation of ideas visually in a production (i e concept art, in case that was not clear) and the other is the belief that a urinal can convey a deeper message if someone tells you that it’s an art installation.

That’ll be all for now. Phew, that took a lot longer than I thought!

Marcus out.