2D Art, Concept Art, video games, tips to improve your art: today we go through it all with Andreia Silva, concept artist at Ludia!
Andreia and art: her journey
Andreia’s passion for art started very early. Influenced by her older brother’s paintings, something sparked around the age of 6-7 after an artist visited her school in Brazil. After seeing him draw Tarzan in a hyper dynamic pose in only 5 minutes, she immediately thought: “I can’t wait to be able to do that one day too.” She then began her journey, drawing by herself, then participating in workshops, and upon entering college she chose fine arts (animation schools were not very common in her area). Choosing fine arts helped her greatly: “It’s important to know the theory, understand the intention in art, experience different mediums and arts to gain more maturity as an artist.”
Thanks to an online school, she discovered a month-long intensive course in Canada: 18 hours of drawing per day! Then came her desire to deepen her knowledge in animation, and video games, as well as understandingframing, positioning and production process.
After some internships, she evolved as a 2D artist and built a solid trust with her teams, became concept artist and today manages the concept part of the characters on one of our games at Ludia!
The key learning in her career? To nourish herself with more and more content, work on her weaknesses and keep on learning, by herself and from professionals.
2D Art and Concept Art
When we talk about 2D art, we talk about a finished product in itself. Concept Art is different in its approach. It comes at the very beginning, at the upstream of the creation that will be in the game and that will serve as a guide for the artistic creations of the project. It’s like an instruction manual for creating something that doesn’t exist yet. It makes the universe tangible and creates a space of truth.
The fun thing about concept art in mobile video games is that the LiveOps add a layer to the concept in which it has to continue to evolve throughout time. There’s going to be a lot of iteration, new environments to create, new characters, but it all has to fit together and blend into the same universe. That’s where the concept is going to be paramount and where the role of a concept artist is key.
Andreia sees concept art a bit like a Rubix cube during pre-production: “The Art Director and the Game Designer arrive with a bag of problems and you have to turn everything around to make the combinations work together. It’s super exciting.”
And what about 3D in all this?
“Volumes are very important, and it’s not always easy to define them with just lines. You have to play with light and colors. It’s very important to have this vision of how the object lives in 3D, to understand this three-dimensionality in order to have a coherent visual and concept. Even if an artist doesn’t know 3D software, it’s important to understand the basics to be able to speak the same language so that all the members can collaborate on different stages of creation. It enables you to understand the entire production process and to create more efficiently.
Learning both sides (2D and 3D) takes more time of course but brings a richness to the creation and a very interesting added value to an artist. Concepts then become more detailed and rich with this component.
The daily life of video game artists
We often have this vision of an artist creating alone standing behind his drawing board. But the daily life of a video game concept artist is quite different, and is in fact based on talking and sharing a lot with others. In addition to pre-production discussions with art directors and lead game designers, the concept artist will also have daily meetings with the other artists on the project to ensure consistency.
“In production, you’re not alone at all! There are research parts of course but we have daily meetings between artists, it’s very collaborative. We’ll show everything we’re working on, we’ll be able to share ideas, make sure everything fits together, get feedback on elements we may have missed. We’ll line up the different characters as well to make sure we’re keeping the right consistency and harmony of styles.”
When it comes to creating a character, the artists will follow several steps:
– the research stages
– intentions of volume and proportions
– the basic colors (without heavy treatment at the beginning to confirm the validation)
– the polish phase, where more information and finesse are added
At each of these stages, we discuss and validate the elements with the Artistic Direction, and with the license in our case at Ludia, to make sure we are on the right track. We create the best documentation and validate the points definitively so that we don’t go back on them later.
Then a lot of conversations will take place with the animators about facial expressions and specific requests. The 3D artists will take over to bring their magic with volumes, textures etc., and the animators will bring the characters to life!
– Keep it simple
Andreia’s biggest learning from these last few years is : Keep it simple. When you add too much detail, it can seem like you are hiding weaknesses. The important thing is to work on the basics and have a solid simple concept. Go back to the basics, think about your framing, the gameplay for a video game, where the eye will focus on. The first question to ask yourself before you start working on the details is: what is important in my design? Work on the basics, the light, the volumes, the proportions, the sense of design, take away the extra to have something more precise and precious.
– Be honest with yourself and work on your weaknesses
You will not be the best in all aspects of your art on day 1. Be honest with yourself, recognize your strengths but also your weaknesses. Work on your weaknesses to make your art grow. Is 3D visualization complex for you? The placement of the light is not yet optimal? Do your personal research but don’t hesitate to look for more professional training and surround yourself with experts.
– Look for inspiration elsewhere
In video games or animation, the risk is sometimes to use on the same inspirations and end up copying more than creating. Don’t hesitate to look for inspiration elsewhere, in different types of art, painting, sculpture, cinema, furniture design too, why not! The important thing is to multiply your sources of inspiration to open your mind.
– Stay curious and observant
As Andreia says:
“An artist is first of all someone who will observe things. Learning isn’t just about having your pencil in your hand and your back bent. You can learn every second by walking around and observing the light, how it reacts with the snow, how the shadow is placed, … You also need to live and experience to have things to say through your art.”
It’s important to keep and feed your curiosity too. The idea is not to force yourself to draw at all costs all the time and repeat the same strokes that will become mechanical gestures but to explore what intrigues you. Did you like a certain composition in a movie? A new software feature that you don’t necessarily use in your work but that tickles your curiosity? Go find out what makes you tick and why it made you feel that way. Explore!
– Give yourself time
The important thing is to find a balance between work and your life. It’s important to work on your art and put in the hours, but you have to listen to yourself. There is sometimes a culture of “always more – never enough” and that’s how you lose confidence and the pleasure of drawing.
You have to put time into your work of course, but do it efficiently. To be good, you have to give yourself time, “just as a beautiful tree is given time to grow and become strong and solid. You can’t ask an apple tree to drop fruit too quickly because it’s not going to be good, it’s kind of the same with your art.”
So take time to breathe too, to develop your personality to infuse it into your art. Inspiration comes from living your life!