J'ai délibérément laissé cette interview en anglais pour nos amis anglophones ;) si vous désirez traduire cette interview en français n'hésitez pas à me contacter.
Hello Chris can you describe yourself and how do you start in CG world ?
Well, let's see... describe myself... ok, I have been an artist for as long as I can remember, and have dabbled in all kinds of art making. My formal art education is in sculpture (metals), but now I mostly do illustration. I started making graphics for computer games back in 1993, doing illustrations for adventure games made by a company called 'Legend."
What's your first CG job and how start it ?
My first job was as a contract (freelance) illustrator making still illustrations and animations for 2d adventure games more than a decade ago. The first game I worked on was called 'Homeworld" (not the one published by Vivendi a few years ago, but by Legend in 1993 or 1994). I went straight from doing painting and illustration in 'physical media" to a job doing it on the computer. That was a bit of a leap, but really everyone else was doing that too. No one had much experience doing digital painting, and the software was pretty crude.
What's your actual job ?
I own a game development studio with 25 employees (Tilted Mill Entertainment, Inc. www.tiltedmill.com) where I serve as president, and also lead game designer. Unlike what many people think, this really has nothing to do with painting or art making. I do also serve as art director, though, and do some concept artwork when I can.
Do you work for Film industries ? if yes on which actual projets ?
Nope, only games.
You are doing helpfull tutorials about digital painting tips and technics with CG tools, can you describe your working method in a few words?
To tell you the truth my working method is still very much in development! Each of the four or five major works I have completed recently have been executed very differently, and I'm still not at all happy with the process. But essentially with all of them I start with a very rough, very small pencil sketch, scan it in and set it up as a multiply layer in Photoshop. I then lay down flat areas of color under this to rough out the palette. Then I start painting, sometimes on top of the pencil layer, sometimes under it (and then I completely discard the pencil layer), and sometimes a little of both.
I make a lot of major changes to composition, light and color as I paint. Usually this is done in Photoshop as its tools are easier for me to use. All painting is done in Painter (I use version IX now).
What's your favorites CG tools ?
Pretty much all I use now are Photoshop and Painter. In Painter I use only custom brushes, a couple of bristles and a couple of simple rounds. In Photoshop I rely on the 'Levels" adjustor a lot, and often convert to Lab color before making adjustments. Lab color divides the color space into just two axes (plus Lightness). One axis is yellow vs. blue, the other is red(magenta) vs. green. This is actually more like the way our eyes and brains make and see color than the usual RBG (trimetric) division, even though we like to talk about our eyes having 'red, green and blue cones."
Do you use always classic painting and drawing tools ? what's your favorites ?
I still work with oils, as well as charcoal. I pretty much only use pencil for sketching (I don't do many finished pencil drawings). I do all of my studies with real pencil, on scraps of paper and in my sketchbook, but really no actual final drawing in pencil.
In your pictures you often use dreaming colors and themes, what's your favorites about inspiration ?
That's a great question. As a professional artist it took me a long time to realize that I didn't have to try to be able to do EVERYTHING I was seeing other artists do. When you're learning you focus a lot on your weaknesses, and often that means seeing what other people do better, and trying to learn from that, or learn how to do that. But at some point you need to accept that you do some things much better than other artists, and conversely other artists do some things better than you.
The point is not tackling your weaknesses but building on your unique strengths, and one of those is of course your own personal inspiration. As far as 'formal art issues", what moves me the most is not simply creating the illusion of reality in 2d, like fooling the viewer into thinking he's looking at a photograph or something, but quite the opposite.
I want you to be 100% sure you are looking at PAINT, at MARKS made by a hand, but at the same time be 100% sure you are looking at FORM. That paradox is what, to me, gets a special part of the brain going. As far as content type inspiration, lately I've been exploring traditional European fairy tales. They seem to sit right in that 'dream space" for me, much more tangible than high fantasy (elves etc.), robots, mechs or dark fantasy.
Have you important advices for beginner who want starting CG draw and painting ?
It's been such a struggle for me I don't want to mislead anyone! I guess one thing I'd say is, by definition most digital artists are young, and active on-line (in forums, etc.). This does not necessarily make them good teachers or good advice givers, yet they are a very vocal majority. I think the art forums are just a horrendous way to learn about making art, yet that's where a lot of learners understandably go. For that reason I would say, pursue some 'traditional art training" if you can. It's not because I think you need to learn to draw with a pencil before a stylus or something, it's that there are few qualified digital painting teachers out there. Related to that, a lot of digital art tends to look the same because it is most prominent in games and movies, where a certain 'slick" style dominates. Try to find your own voice, what YOU want to say with your art, even if you may think others will find it stupid or uncool!!
Have you try using 3D software ?
Oh yes, quite a bit. I worked as a game artists for ten years or so, and did lots of 3d modeling and animation. In the beginning we used 3d Studio (DOS), then Max, etc. We still use Max at Tilted Mill.
In the beginning I really loved it, because as an artist this software takes away a huge part of the struggle (rendering form in space) to some degree. My background was in sculpture, so unlike a lot of illustrators I had no problem teaching myself 3d (back when no one knew how to do it!). But then after a while I realized that in order to provide something I felt was truly unique as an artist, I needed my 'hand" to be more evident in the work. I needed to be invoking the magic of 2d drawing and painting, and so I went back to it.
You have a game company, how do you starting this adventure ?
I managed a game studio with 40 or so employees for Sierra On line for several years, then left to set up my own studio. I had a lot of contacts in the industry, as well as a core team of talented people who came with me. It was not easy, and it's actually getting harder and harder to set up a new studio, or to get original game ideas signed with publishers.
Can you describe your game company ?
Sure, we're about 25 employees now and about to hire some more. The team is comprised of producers, designers, programmers, artists, a composer and a web master, as well as some other managers. We develop original technology (game engines) and design and develop all our games in house (including cinematic movies). Our most recent title was Immortal Cities: Children of the Nile.
What's kind of games do you develloping ?
We make strategy games and simulations.
Can you speak a bit about your next game in dev ?
No, but we are just about to announce it at Leipzig, Germany, in about a week!