A student I met last year when I did a super short lecture at Siggraph sent some questions for a school assignment.
I thought there were some good ones in there so I figured I'd share them and my responses with you guys!
=============================================1. When did you first develop an interest in art?
I started getting into drawing in Highschool, as I went to an 'alternative' school for weirdos, and they expected us to have a portfolio coming in. I basically traced a bunch of shit out of a victoria's secret catalogue, and some manga images on lined paper. Hahaha, that's how it really got started, after that, I started meeting people that actually knew something of drawing, and started to learn ravenously.2. Your pieces are generally digital paintings; did you start in a more traditional art background and move into the digital realm?
I started with a pencil and paper (they were and are the cheapest art form). Eventually in college I learned to apply more advanced and expensive materials. Ha! Finally I went fully digital (for work anyway) because of the speed, alterability, and ease of clean up. So the short answer is: Yes!3. Has fantasy art always been your passion?
No, as I mentioned in the first response, I didn't get into art until a little later. Before that I wanted to be a musician... and before that... (this is a secret!) I wanted to be a marine biologist. Which apparently EVERYONE my age wanted to be as a kid. Who knew?4. What jobs/internships prepared you for Sony and the freelance work you do nowadays? Do you miss any of them?
The interesting thing about art is that the final result of what you need to turn in never really changes. You change. You constantly build on what you learn, and are in a constant need to learn more. Art is absolutely the VERY best field for a person with a made hunger to learn. You can never know it all! I do lots of the same freelance I did early on, I'm just faster, and as a result make a bit more money. I don't miss any old jobs, as I'm always looking forward to the next new thing. That alone keeps me damn busy.5. What drives you to do freelancing and lectures/teaching, in addition to your primary career?
Initially I went to teaching and lecturing to challenge myself. I'm generally a fairly shy person, and knowing that I try to force myself into some uncomfortable situations. You being there for the biggest one to date. Speaking in front of hundreds of people terrified the shit out of me! Once I got comfortable teaching in front of people (I'm still not there yet for siggraph sized groups), it started becoming interesting to see what I could convey, and how simply I could share it. Actually seeding people with notions and ideas. That for the moment now has become a little boring though, and I'm looking for something new in it to challenge myself.6. What is your favorite kind of work to do? What's your favorite part about your job?
I love what I do. It's definitely my favorite kind of work. I paint monsters and boobies all day! Awesome! Lately I have been working as a full Senior level guy here, and I'm getting some new responsibilities which has made things interesting as well. Also... Boobies.7. What's a typical day/week like as a concept artist?
Well, I don't know about the rest of the guys, but I get in to work around ten. Paint all day. Leave between six and seven. Go home, hang out a little. Paint some more on freelance OR teach... sometimes both. Go to bed around two or three, unless I want to play some video games... then it's a little later. Rinse. Repeat. The interesting thing about doing for work, something that you genuinely love to do in your free time, is that you can actually get burnt out on it. You can put TOO much in, and exhaust yourself out of excitement. I've found the key is to try to hold back just a little. " Put in eighty percent", a friend once told me. "No more, no less. Key to happiness!"8. What's the most challenging part of your work?
Iterations. Definitely. When you see a design we've done for a game or something. It's usually the end result of dozens, or even hundreds of sketches. Constantly generating new ideas, and a variety of the same basic idea can be VERY mentally exhausting. But it's also the core of the purpose of concept artists.9. Your pieces display a vast knowledge of anatomy, movement, etc. Is that where you get ideas for your creatures, by piecing the various kinds of creatures together? Where does that inspiration come from?
I do pull from nature ALL the time. For more specifics on my creature design check out this article I wrote: [link] 10. What is the best method, in your opinion, to develop those skills? What sources do you recommend? In other words, how did you get so good?
The absolute best method to develop visual understanding of things is to sketch them. If you can, take them apart. The ability to depict anything in detail with levels of reality is entirely dependent on a great deal of mileage studying it. We think of study and sketching as a chore to be gotten through to get to the final art. The fact is; sketching IS the art. Visual study is how those skills are developed, and the only way the finals will have any breath of life blown into them.
This sounds tedious, but there is no magic recipe to improving a skill. Personally, I find this liberating. Because, then we are all responsible for our own levels of skill, and how quickly we improve. The only thing one need to, is keep doing and practicing that skill. They are guaranteed to get better. Mileage, see!? 11. The ever famous - What do you wish someone had told you when you started? Any suggestions for a noob?
You will never stop being a student. Don't look at this as a bad thing, it means your life will be filled with exciting challenges, and you'll constantly be levelling up to the next new thing. Plateaus in skill improvement are normal. Learn to love the plateau, and keep on practicing, notice how they get shorter when you do. Find time to do other things. Find a subject, or medium, or show, or anything that you like and you find interesting. Make time to follow that interest until you are done with it. When you've gotten bored of that interest, find a new one, and start a new flow. This is not flighty, this is amassing vast stores of knowledge to be pulled from. You will be AMAZED at how all that seemingly irrelevant stuff will start to pepper your work, imbuing it with greater depth, interest, and realism.
Questions by Amanda Walker