http://www.artofben.com/ (Ben Mauro)
So. To put it simply. I did a lot of research for art nouveau. I found some pretty funky stuff! I ended up making my own with some copper/gold trim in mind. 1st on left is a picture of the pillar design with a normal map in UE3. I see potential in it but the sides are really plane. I need to do something. I was thinking a fan or something similar.
Color: I then started slapping some globs of color on there. I decided on a pallete for the scene based off this piece and the train. I'll post the pallete that I used in a later post. I went through about 4 iterations of colors for the pillar, but decided I really liked the red/maroon center with a gold spec on it. There is an ugly line in this picture. But the idea was "paint it fast, get it in, see if I like it". So, it served its purpose. I painted the texture and uploaded this material in about 20 minutes. You can imagine how much time this can save if you do this for every major piece. It saves a lot of time.
Basically, what I'm saying is, Do not get caught up in details early on. Too many artists get caught up in making it perfect the first time. It's all about iteration here. So, its perfectly ok for your first piece to look a little jank. It's all about finding the right colors, shapes, and feeling before taking it that extra step and finalizing it.
Shot 3 more colors: You can see I adjusted the colors here to a more gray with a hint of yellow in it. Most of the over powering yellow/gold is from the specular map that I have here. This is going to be a very dramatic lighting scenario, so I know what I can get away with, and what I can't. In picture 3, one thing to notice is the detail levels. I focused on large, medium and small. I still think I'm lacking a little bit of the small detail, but hopefully that will come later with additional environment assets.
Shot 4: Another shot with a temp fan in there as a material that I've used elsewhere in the past. BioShock actually uses a lot of geometry. The final one will be geometry spinning on a center axis. It will be an asset that can be used in a lot of situations to provide that extra flare to the scene. BioShock did a great job making a lot of moving parts. It made it all feel very real. I'm am taking that aspect into my scene here.