“A man’s work is nothing but this slow trek to rediscover, through the detours of art, those two or three great and simple images in whose presence his heart first opened.” Albert Camus
Contents What Kind Of Being Am I!?
Artists to Admire
Videogames!11 Online12 Gravitating Bravely Into The Terrifying Future
What Kind Of Being Am I!? Spaceships. Aliens and monsters. Fantasy worlds, warped landscapes and hidden dimensions. The imagined, fantastic and sublime. Concept artists design these things. It’s a contested position; the pipedream of an unaccountably large number of teenagers. Of course, I’d have to include my younger and present self amongst their number. But now I’m leaving the cosy, cosseted, pillow-fort world of education. The outside world is waiting, though not, I’ll admit, with baited breath; I’ll be amongst thousands competing for entry. Do I feel ready? Right now? I couldn’t say with absolute confidence that my current portfolio is of a professional calibre. The horror! More importantly, I don’t feel that such a goal is out of reach.
Successful illustrators spend years breaking into the industry; this often seems to be a simple fact of life. It can be a long, arduous process, which many of AUB’s visiting lecturers have described in detail. Tellingly, a degree of patience and persistence seems to go along way. Actually, something which initially attracted me to this industry was its meritocratic nature. At the end of the day, your portfolio is all that would matter. Any bumps and bruises received along the way, all the interminable failures, would be irrelevant. It’s a career which does not care about your past; which does not care which university you went to, what grades you got, how many twitter followers you gained in any given year. All that matters is that you are ready for the job, and capable of delivering results. How long it took you to get to that point is of little importance. It’s ultimately this understanding, rightly or wrongly, that gives me confidence in my practice. Although I could not, currently, call myself ‘professionally’ capable, I feel increasingly able to progress towards that point. As long as I persist with dedication and commitment, anytime spent making myself ready, be it years or months, before or after graduation, is time well spent. Back, specifically, to the discipline of concept art. During this last year at AUB, I’ve finally managed to accept that this is what I want to do. You might think that this should have been obvious; it’s the idea which first drove me towards illustration. Instead I seem to have spent a fair while dancing around the subject, apparently afraid of commitment. But throughout all that time it’s been stuck, insistently, in the back of my head. Over this last year I’ve finally got down to the straightforward business of indulging in my younger self’s ‘pipedream’. I’m happy to report that it’s been an affirming and pleasing process. ‘Man, spaceships and aliens really are cool.’ (2k14, Ed Savage, Bournemouth.)
Picture Making My practice revolves around the discipline of digital painting, primarily using Adobe Photoshop. Digital brushes are used to paint on a virtual canvas in a process not entirely dissimilar to traditional painting. As such, a lot of educational material designed for older, traditional forms of illustration have been relevant. Books by the likes of Andrew Loomis, Richard Schmidt and James Gurney have all been useful. Contained within said books is a great deal of knowledge about the how’s and why’s of effective figurative illustration; composition, colour theory, anatomy, perspective and a whole host of other phenomena. I cannot claim to be master of any of these; each is a complex subject of its own right, often with enough depth to sustain a lifetime’s enquiry. This is something I’ve always enjoyed about illustration as a practice; there’s always something new to learn, be it the mechanics of atmospheric perspective, the difference between specular and diffuse lighting, or the way in which a decapitated orc’s head might be subtly placed in the foreground, to guide the viewer through a composition. I’ve also incorporated 3d modelling into my practice; although this is not something I use on every occasion, It has allowed me to map out structures and 3d spaces and use the resulting screenshots as guides. This allows me to quickly and effectively solve problems of perspective, and also allows me to explore one environment from a number of angles accurately and with relative ease. A recurring motif in my work is the idea of the colossus. For whatever reason, I’ve found myself drawn to them as subject matter. I’m not sure why. They’re big, they’re cool, that’s all I got.
Artists to Admire Craig Mullins (below) is someone who could inelegantly be called ‘a digital painter’s digital painter’. Much the same might be said for Nicolas ‘Sparth’ Bouvier (right), another practitioner of the digital arts. What the two have in common is a strong and effective understanding of how to communicate forms and shapes through abstract marks. Whilst the same might be said about any good painter, what sets these two apart is the gusto and energy with which they employ digital tools to that problem. These are muscular and confidant painters, who have led long and successful careers. Both initially worked in concept art, before eventually branching out into illustration in a wider sense.
Videogames! The videogames which have stuck with me, the ones which have notched themselves into my brain, have been those which carved new aesthetic territory into the digital hinterlands. Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (Top Left) features a beautiful cel-shaded art style. Initially a cause of contention, it’s independency from ‘realistim’ has rendered it comparatively timeless. Few games from 2003 still look this good. Practically an interactive Disney film, Wind Waker’s aesthetic is punchy, charming and playful, and it’s had a strong affect on my aesthetic values. Proteus (Bottom Left), a more recent indie title, also struck chords. The art style is unashemedly digital; this is not a game which hides from sprites and billboarded textures. As a result, it maintains an endearing artfulness. As is the case with all my favourite titles, it features an interesting world to explore; in this case, created by an all-dancing, all-singing procedural island generator, which produces Heironymous Bosch-like tonal landmasses. It’s a short title, but one which relies on aesthetics and exploration to tell it’s story of change and transcendance. Bethesda’s Skyrim (Middle Left) featured heavily in my dissertation. Offering players 20 square kilometers of fantastical scandinavian landscapes, it’s a heavyweight in the industry, both financially and in terms of world building. Again, it seems that I’m drawn first and foremost to a sense of place. Bioshock: Infinite (Below, Concept Art) is a title which demonstrates this perfectly. It’s narrative is an impressive, collosal and ultimately confusing edifice, strangled by contemporary gamings heavy reliance on gunplay and violence. In spite of this, Irrational Studios still created a wondrous vision; an american utopia, set above the clouds and the world below. The floating city of Columbia is one of gaming’s finest aesthetic acheivements, resplendent with museums, arcades, flower shops, monuments and churches. The cities fall into darkness is an affecting and emotive narrative, and testimony to the capabilities of Irrational Studios artistry. Computer games are evolving fast, and I can think of no other format with so much potential for artistic growth. It’s a medium which I’ve long loved, and one which I sincerely intend and hope to join.
Online My online presence is principally comprised of my portfolio website, www.edsavage.co.uk, and my tumblr account: www.edsavage.tumblr.com. The former is useful as a destination for business cards, emails and any other references to my work; it provides a curated selection of my ‘best’ illustrations. The former is useful as a way of documenting my practice over a longer period of time, sharing the development process. The audience it maintains is not huge; as of May 2014, it has roughly 80 followers. Still, it’s useful personally, and building a social presence can take a long time, and will only get easier, as my work (hopefully) improves. My portfolio website is modelled on Josh Atak’s and Noah Bradley’s sites; both proffesionals whom I’ve been following for a fair while. Their website’s follow what seem to be an industry standard: pictures should be presented in a vertical column. No lightboxes, no plethora of tabs to click through, just direct access to the work. An art directors attention is precious enough; no illustrator should make their job any more difficult than it needs to be.
Gravitating Bravely Into The Terrifying Future As I’ve said before, I don’t feel professionally capable with regards to my craft. More specifically, I do not yet feel capable of attaining full time employment at a major video game studio in the UK; the competition is fierce, numerous, and prepared to work for very little money. This is not to say I will not try; I certainly intend to, just in case. Whatever the result, the feedback will be useful and undeniably relevant. But I am inclined to think practically, and as such I must consider the possibility that the leap from university to industry will not be a graceful one. After graduation I will be returning to West Yorkshire, and it would be fair to say that the entertainment industry has less of a presence up north than it does down south. Needless to say, in the UK, the industry’s capital lies in Guildford, south west of London. This is not to say that for concept artists, the north is a grim and barren place. Yorkshire itself is home to the Leeds division of Rockstar, developers of the world-famous Grand Theft Auto series, and Wakefield possesses Team 17, responsible for the apparently endless Worms franchise. But this is the 21st century, and the lay of the land is not quite as important as it once was. The industry’s indie development scene has experienced a huge degree of growth over the last few years, heralded by Markus Pearrson’s cultural phenomenon, Minecraft. Many smaller teams now work together, communicating and collaborating over the internet. Online communities like Tigsource are places where developers meet, talk and share their projects with others. Two indie starlings, Minecraft and Fez, both graced this particular forum early in development. There have been many others. What this means for me is the possibility of not being geographically excluded from the industry. Offers of both paid and volunteered work abound on these sites, and I feel that It would be well worth my time to get involved in either manner. If in the former manner, then I manage to paid for making artwork; success, in other words. If I find that I can only get involved on a voluntary basis, I’ll still receive the benefits of both networking and experiencing a working digital development pipeline; in other words, I’ll be helping to make games, and in the most practical and relevant way with regards to my ambitions. Behance can also be used to interact with the freelance portion of the market, something I intend to investigate further after graudation. I have managed to start making contacts in the industry; one of those contacts having experience as a 3d modeller. He’s also been developing assets to sell on the digital marketplace of DoTA 2, Valve’s hugely successful ‘MOBA’ game. As well as offering me a considerable amount of advice with regards to the industry and his experiences with it, he’s also given me the chance to collaborate with him, by helping to design the aforementioned DoTA 2 assets. I’ve already explored this direction with him on a small scale; after I hand-in my Major Project, I intend to invest more time and effort in this direction. Although I’ve made a point of observing the comparative lack of industry up north, there is a particularly unique exception in the new location of Oddworld’s Inhabitants, the developers behind the cult Oddworld series. Somehow, they’ve found themselves in my hometown, Otley. This is an avenue I wish to explore after graduation; whilst their website does not currently have a job placement for a concept artist, there is, perhaps, a small chance of an unpaid internship or similar. Even if that’s not possible, advice alone would make contact worthwhile. This is made more possible by the nature of Otley being that of small towns everywhere; in other words, I know someone, who knows someone else... specifically, an employee of the company. In fact, It turns out that I’d already met them, on a trip to Chester Zoo. Meeting them again shouldn’t be particularly difficult, and I feel that approaching an individual member of the team for advice is far more likely to receive a posi-
tive response than an unsolicited email; not that I would rule that out. Other contacts I’ve gathered include a number of people I met at conceptart.org’s London workshop in the summer of 2013. This is a list of people whom I feel comfortable contacting for advice and feedback on my portfolio, including the lead artist at Rovio Games, the team behind the phenomenally successful Angry Birds. The other avenue to explore, and the most direct one, is to apply directly for full time positions. Jobs are posted online, not infrequently, and I feel capable of submitting my physical portfolio and CV. This is, of course, the holy grail of my current ambitions: a good starting point is www.gamedevmap.com, an industry site which lists developers around the country. Alone, this site lists more than 300 studios working out of the united kingdom; a useful resource. All in all, I’m leaving university with multiple avenues open to exploration; Oddworld’s Inhabitants in Otley, various other studios in the UK, the indie development scene online and the personal contacts I’ve made within the industry. I will have plenty things to do, and plenty of paintings to make. In this regard, I feel like I’m in a relatively good place as I leave Bournemouth. I have specific goals, targets, people to reach out to. I know where I want to be.