Q&A

Where can I study to become a concept artist?

Any art school where you can learn traditional art is a good idea. Industrial design can be another good way. Even a Photography is good in my opinion. Learn how to draw and paint is very important, and learn a software like photoshop.The goal is to make a good portfolio to be able to show your talent. There are many ways to become a concept artist. All the concepts artists I know come from different backgrounds!
I know that the best (and very expensive) school that trained concept artists is this one:
http://www.conceptdesignacad.com/


What is your role exactly, as a concept artist on a video game?

My job is to help the Art Director showing his vision of the game to the team. For this, I produce many concept artworks. We have to show what the game will look like at the end. Also, I try to inspire the team as much as possible, and give them solutions and ideas. Sometimes, I just do paintovers on screenshots of the game, to show them how we can improve it, visually

I know how to draw, but how can I learn how to paint?

Here are great online art schools to learn about drawing and painting:

http://www.newmastersacademy.org/

http://www.2d.cgmasteracademy.com (I teach here sometimes)

If you already know how to draw well, it's a really good start. 90% of a good painting is good drawing. It is the most important thing. Now, if you want to paint well, you can find advices in a lot of books about painting techniques, these are available in any book store. This techniques and big principles can be applied also for digital painting, of course. Here is a book I recommend:

http://amzn.com/096621174X

Also, if you want to know more about my techniques, I do a masterclass at CG Master Academy.

I also did demos in books such as “Digital Art Masters” (volume 7):

http://amzn.com/0956817181

And in Digital Art Masters Vol.8:

http://amzn.com/0956817106

And in Digital Art Masters Vol.9:

http://amzn.com/1909414077

I also wrote a chapter about Light and Colors in “Art Fundamentals”:

http://amzn.com/190941400X



Did you train in the traditional arts before embarking on your career as a digital artist?

Not really. I've always drew a lot. When I was a kid, I wanted to become a comic book artist. I've never learned traditional art in school though. Most of it, I've learned by myself, by reading books, watching videos and also by copying paintings/drawings I like. I practiced a lot. Practicing drawing and try other media such as oil painting or watercolor is also a very good idea.

 How long did it take to develop these skills?

It's difficult to say, it is the amount of a lot of hours of practice and studies over the years. And it includes even the drawings I did when I was a kid. Someone said that you need to study 10 mn a day a skill during 5 years to master it. Another one said 10.000 hours of work. They are both close to the truth in my opinion. It is long but progressive and it never ends. You always feel that you need to study more. You never feel that you are good enough.



How did you become interested in digital image manipulation techniques?

I discovered Adobe Photoshop in 1995 when I was learning website design. I did some photo manipulations with movie posters and pictures of my friends. I thought it was a fun tool to play with, but at the same time I've always been very serious about it. I even bought books on Photoshop and knew that one day I could have a cool job thanks to my knowledge of this software.



What tips do you have for aspiring young artists looking to work as concept artists ?

The first thing you got to' have is a convincing and wide portfolio. You can showcase traditional drawings, photos, digital works etc... It will be the key to enter in a good school or even to find your first job!



How did you begin your career in concept art?

Ubisoft hired me in 2007 to do matte paintings within their Cinematic Department. On several occasions, I had the chance to do some concepts and I really enjoyed it. In 2008, I had the opportunity to join the Assassin’s Creed 2 art team to help them during a crunch time. I am now working full time as a concept artist for Ubisoft Montreal, especially for the Assassin’s Creed games.



What can you say about the transition from being interested in concept art to choosing it as a career path?

If you want to become a concept artist, you need more than personal interest in it. You have to be passionate about it because the road is long before achieving a decent illustration. And it sometimes come with a lot of frustration... In my opinion, the main ingredients to make this a career path: passion, patience, hard work, motivation and determination.



Is there any advice that you could give me about the industry and how you got started?

With a good portfolio, you can certainly find a job in a game company somewhere. Show the best of what you can do and you'll have your chance when you will be good enough. The toughest thing is to start. After that, if you do your job, it's in the pocket! Don't hesitate to show some more traditional media works if they are good.



Do we need to use 3D programs to become a concept artist?

No, it is not mandatory. Nevertheless, It is a useful tool that can help you go faster in certain situation. But I know a lot of concept artist that never use 3D programs.



Is concept artist only a freelance job?

Not at all. A lot of studios like to have their concept artists available anytime. Ubisoft Montreal doesn’t hire freelancers very often for example.



Are there any tips you could give me on how you achieve these effects?

No special tricks, magic brush or great secret. My images have a sence of light because I always questions myself about where the main light source come from, what color temperature should be the light, the shadows, how intense is the light, this kind of stuff. Then I stay focus on keep my values right and after this, it's just problem fixing. And hopefully, after a while, I come with something that is correct. Sometimes it feels easy, but most of the time, I struggle. :)



 -What materials do you use during your development process, do you start in sketchbook working traditionally or paint / sketch digitally from the beginning?

I paint only digitally to do my illustrations, but I paint with oil and watercolors for fun, at home.

 


- How long does your usual development process take for a single illustration and what does this process usually consist of?

I have a lot of different processes. Technique is not so important. A finish illustration as you can see on my website can take me 3 to 6 days. But I do less finish sketches I don't show there who can take me a few minutes to a few hours. The more you see details, the more it took me time to do it…

 


- Do you ever use visual references?

I use always a LOT of references. I spend sometimes a day looking for the maximum visual information I can about the subject, the mood, the design, the lighting, some character poses, costumes etc… and also some visual inspirations too, from artists I admire.

What do you think in your experience are the most important aspects of a strong portfolio?

About your portfolio, you should present only your very best work (quality is better than quantity). Try also to show works in the area you really want to work on (cartoon or realist, character or environment design (or both) ...). For example, if you don't want to design guns, don't show gun designs because a company might be interested only on this part of your portfolio.. If you want to work on anything, it is totally fine too and you can show anything at this point.

It is always good to show some more traditional art stuff like drawings, paintings and even photos. But everything should be only your best stuff!

For the layout of your portfolio, look on websites like Artstation.com or DrawCrowd. Look the professionals, how they present their stuff. For example, if you’d like to design characters, draw the same guy with different outfits on the same page.

 


"what are your sources of inspiration and influences?" 

My influences are multiple. I like 19th century old masters (Sorolla, Sargent, Zorn, Repine, etc..), also I admire Diego Velasquez a lot (he was from the 17th century). I like some contemporary artists as Quang Ho, C.W. Mundy, Alex Kanevsky, or even abstract painters such as Gerhard Richter. My favorite digital illustrator is Craig Mullins. For me he is by far the best of all. In fact, I am inspired by everything I find beautiful. It can be a piece of any art, or something I see in the street... Nothing original in fact…

 


what would you call your predominant style?

Difficult to define my style... What about "painterly and realistic"? I focus a lot on the Light so I think it is the constant thing in my stuff. In fact, I am obsessed with light…
Style is something you desperately look for when you are a student, and something you fight against when you are more advanced. I hate that every piece I do look the same, even when I experiment with new stuff...



How would you describe the subject matter or content of your work? 

My personal work is most of the time studies/observations of things, figures or landscapes. I try to work with traditional medias to get a different experience. My professional work is most of the time about environment design, beauty shots, moods,  etc… The goal is to find ideas to get an interesting set up for the action and also to inspire the production team.



Please, share the details of your creative process, and what it is you place the most value on to execute a successful concept. 

To execute a successful concept art you need, in my opinion,  to focus on the overall design of your image first, the drawing and on values. A successful illustration got these 3 things right. Details, colors, edges and subject matter come after. About the process, I don’t have only one way to work. I choose the method depending of the time I got. The more time I have, the more I can explore. If it is something I need to deliver very fast, I will not explore that much, I will play the safe card so it won’t necessary be as good as it could be. The safest way for me is to start by looking for a lot of visual references and by doing a correct drawing. Then I start to paint. I focus on the big masses, silhouettes and values first. About the painterly look, it comes naturally. I don’t really think about it when I work. But the way I work is very similar to the way I approach a traditional painting, so I guess the result looks a bit the same.



Is there a tip or trick of the trade that helps to improve your workflow which you can share with readers? 

To get a good color palette to start with, I choose a picture I like with the mood needed and pick my colors from  it. It is just a starting point and I can correct the colors afterwards, but it is useful to start with a color harmony that already works.



What qualities do you find inspirational in your favorite artists or those you admire in the field? 

I like artists that have their own style, that don’t care if it is popular or not. It means that they really have something to say and it is the sign they are really confident they do something that worth it. I like also to feel in their work that they are always searching for something different. I like the scientific approach in Art, I mean when you feel that the artist is always experimenting with new things, new ways of thinking. In the field, I admire a lot Craig Mullins for that. He has this spirit and it is why he is so great to me. It is not usual. But, of course, before having your own voice, you need to learn how to sing. So these good artists have also great skills and perfectly know the fundamentals of Art.



As an artist, how do you deal with creative setbacks or lack of motivation? Is there a particular challenge you overcame that you can relate to us? 

Yes of course it is not every days super easy to get motivation and inspiration. I think the good way is to continue to work, even if you feel you are not in a good day.  Sometimes, after a while, you’ll eventually warm up and something good will emerge.



What advice has influenced you? 

I think the best advice is to try to keep the student spirit, even if you are a professional. You should always search for new information. Anybody can teach you something. Sometimes, I watch my 5 years old son when he draws. I am just amazed how fearless he draws and paints. So he does some amazing random patterns that I think are very  difficult to produce when you are a grown up. Your mind just want to organize everything to make it look good, and the result is often that all your paintings look the same.

Another advice I like, is that sometimes, you’ll feel that you are not as good as you were a few months ago. May be it is true, but the reason is that you are close to make great progresses very soon. It is like your mind is trying to process some new information and focus on that.  When it’s done, you’ll be able to add this new knowledge to all your other skills. So don’t panic if it happens to you.



More interviews:

http://lovelessdevotions.deviantart.com/journal/THE-NEXT-BIG-THING-14-551942018

http://escapethelevel.com/art/assassins-creed-interview-gilles-beloeil/

Free demo:

http://www.artistsnetwork.com/articles/art-demos-techniques/exclusive-a-digital-painting-tutorial-with-gilles-beloeil