Arrival: Concept Art, Part 2 – The Aliens

(Part 1 here) Once again, no spoilers.

When I was asked to take a shot at designing the aliens for Arrival, I leapt at the opportunity. It was still the very early days of pre-production, and Denis and Patrice had already given the alien task to a couple of concept artists. The extraordinary concept artist Peter Konig was working at the same time as me, but I didn’t get to see any of his work till a few weeks ago. In the end, veteran creature designer Carlos Huante was the one that got it right; his majestic and mysterious heptapods embodied all the qualities Denis was looking for.

My contributions were more to see if I could come up with something different than the other guys, so I had a little free reign to mess around with ideas, with the mandate to “design something we haven’t seen before.” I had only a couple of weeks for this task, so I experimented more with shapes and impressions. Below are just a few samples of ideas I tried. In hindsight, after seeing the film, I’m glad these didn’t make the cut, as I was going a bit too abstract to identify with the beings. Once again, I’m still so grateful that I got to work on such an incredible film, even if my part was small.


A fairly abstract version of the aliens.


My first doodles, based more on the original short story, “Story Of Your Life,” by Ted Chiang.


More shape explorations. The bottom two rows were created using Alchemy, a little drawing app that allows you to draw symmetrical objects.


More early impressions.


Smaller, smokier shapes.



I built this contraption, with a 16-sided prism from an old film editing bench. The idea was to experiment with flickering light on the screen and see if I could create some kind of sense that the aliens entered and exited though a projection. The video below was taken with my phone camera. The last 3 or 4 seconds are what I thought had an interesting feeling.


More roughs, playing with shapes and symmetry again.


Getting weirder with ideas here.



Playing with very alien anatomies, shape-shifting and kinetic forms.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s