I’m a twenty-two year old artist with a keen interest in a wide range of creative fields. I’ve gone from working in digital 2D to exploring 3D a whole lot. I guess it’s mostly because of my interest in the future of 3DCG cinematics.
I mean, if GPU rendering technology continues to progress, you’ll start seeing indie developers who are wanting to make a cinematic, too. This is why I don’t want to be a 2D-centric artist, I want to be more like Ash Thorp – he’s someone I like to think of as a true all-rounder. Now, this might make it difficult to categorize what I do, but you won’t see me fretting about it. I will always be inspired. So long as I can keep looking to Blur Studio, Digic Pictures and Square Enix to remind myself of what can people have achieved in this industry.
I want to ask something about trends. It seems rather prevalent for aspiring artists to follow styles and trends too closely.
I’ve seen a lot of stuff that looks just like Naughty Dog, Vitaly Bulgarov and so on. I’m wondering if this is stifling creativity in our field, or if it’s actually a good thing to follow these popular trends so closely.
Question: Calina Sparhawk
Discussion: Yohann Schepacz, Even Mehl Amundsen and Grzegorz Rutkowski.
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It’s a lot like anything else we can do as artists, and that’s because every decision you make will come with its own advantages and disadvantages. Anyone who’s working on something looks at inspiration before they begin, and it doesn’t matter if they choose to read books instead of browsing the Internet, they’ll always get to see what’s currently happening in the world of design. Next, you’re going to be seeing what’s really popular, and what’s selling, because you’re going to be enjoying games and movies as much as the next guy. You can almost always bet that clients are going to go for whatever is popular at the time.
After all, they’re all coming to you for the one flavor they already know and love. I think you could go as far as to say that you’re essentially subjecting yourself to the sad reality of becoming obsolete at some point, but that’s only if you don’t do these things. Oh, and let’s not forget that people get bored of every shape and colour in the end, so you’ll get something new to play around with sooner rather than later.
If you’re a commercial artist, knowing how to reproduce the current style is never a bad thing. Maybe you’ve never thought about this way, but clients are no different from you, they’re on the Internet searching for the latest work, wanting to see the coolest shapes and the trendiest artists. I often see reference boards filled with certain types of visuals they pick out of games, movies and the Internet, and sometimes all three of those combined. This is done when they’re indirectly asking you to try and copy a specific artist who they cannot afford or can’t get in touch with.
You will eventually reach a point where people come to you and want to pay for the skills they see in your portfolio. This is when you can start to consider moving away from the trends you didn’t come up with yourself, because you want to be the trendsetter at this point in time. In all honesty, doing this is very hard for people who’re doing amazingly well. It may well be impossible for you if you don’t go through all of that drudge first, because everyone else did their homework already, and they know what to do and when.
In overview, trends come and go in waves and cycles. And whilst you might be thinking something like: “I want to try and become a fine artist and only do personal work”, and this actually works similarly to what I just described. It’s the same for just about everything in the art world. You can never turn inward until you are bankable enough to do your own thing and get away from exterior trends.
A new type of article? One that gives aspiring artists an opportunity to have their questions answered by hardened industry professionals like Even Amundsen, Grzegorz Rutkowski and Yohann Schepacz. If you’re a beginner who wants to learn more about the art world, you can now send us art-related questions on the contact page anytime you want.
In overview, this new series of articles aims to make the professional mindset more accessible to you, but it also wants to present more than one viewpoint on the issues and debates facing our community.
Even Mehl Amundsen
Strong opener, and a sweet tone to it as well, though I cannot agree with a whole heart. I understand the inclination of acceptance, to simply call the current situation the ways things are, and merely nudging at it for limited effect, but I cannot accept it. I think this industry needs more Don Quixotes, and noble Panchos! Charge that windmill, make up clever ideas and manifest them! Emulation, while a powerful tool can quickly become a stifling crutch, if relied upon as the first, and often only tool to please a client.
Emulating and copying can make things a whole lot easier, but it will not challenge the creative part of your process, simply hone that which is already there. Hayao Miyazaki once used a term that roughly translates to “artistic incest” when talking about a mark of Japanese anime and manga, which was endlessly emulating itself, resulting in an art style that no longer focused on the depiction of the world, but the recreation of what had come before with increasingly arbitrary variations. It is inevitable, and Yohann is right in nodding to how ubiquitous it is. I know that my own influences shine through in my own work (People named Paul Bonner and Claire Wendling come up with distressing regularity). Still, I see this as a tender crutch I still hold to, and chip away at little by little, using other tools I have gathered.
It doesn’t matter what language you speak. The team at Vox Groovy will make it so that everyone can hear your interview on the radio.
This is a really tough one for me. It’s always good to be inspired by someone else. On the other hand, it can sometimes cross the line and be closer to “stealing” people’s ideas and style. It’s not something that I’m angry about, it’s more of a common type of behavior in our community, one that we can’t really change. I don’t know, perhaps I might be wrong, but that’s my opinion on it.
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I agree with Even entirely. I was simply stating the obvious way of getting somewhere to start off with if you’re in the 90% who don’t have a strong personal vision from age fourteen onward. I make a point in continuing to improve and coming up with fresh ideas and “the next big thing” all the time. But this is easier said than done. And again, in my experience, you can only distance yourself from where you started if you do something over and over again before thinking up a way of doing it yourself.
I’m going to go ahead and use a famous quote now, that being “Good artists copy. Great artist steal.” It represents exactly what I’ve found in my experience. A more practical example can be found in the exercise of doing art studies. I’ve probably done it hundreds of time earlier on in my career, but now I’ve been taught to never copy the image, but analyze and synthesize it instead. Next, I can use whatever information I found to come up with a new one with its own visual language and storytelling elements. Honestly, it’s really difficult. Like Even says, it’s way easier if you just compare yours to the original because it grants you approval right off the bat. However, it doesn’t teach you anywhere near as much, and you’re not going to progress technically or intellectually. I guess it’s kind of like the difference between knowing how to use a smartphone, and knowing how to make one. You’ll find that 99% of people don’t know the first thing about the latter. Now, unlike Even, I’m someone without a specific art style. I made a decision to focus on being able to do anything and everything in any style required, thanks in large part to my desire to survive as a freelance artist and to have the ability to take on more and more requests. I worked to get my techniques and theories on-point through realistic art styles, because this helps me when it comes to keeping them sharp so that I can stay relevant.
I might have gone off on a tangent, so let’s get back to what Even said. I think that it’s easier to have this challenger mindset once you’ve “made it”. And yeah, I also cringe every time I see the all of the average, samey looking art we find online or in popular films and games. It re-enforces my will to get as far away from it as I can. On the other hand, I feel that making a living by only ever coming up with crazy new ideas is insane from a survival standpoint. The entire investment system is built around the idea of minimizing risks, right? Sure, there might be a client who are inclined to innovate, but they are are quite rare if you ask me. Oftentimes, they agree in theory but prefer to fall back on trusted formulas that withstood the tests. This goes on and on until someone (usually a Japanese studio) comes up with a new and successful formula that will make a whole lot of money. The investments can only follow on from that.
All in all, as much as I am all for experimentation and innovation, I also like eating, and having a roof over my head. Maybe it’s time everyone found a compromise and balanced these things in order to stay happy whilst following their creative career. All of this comes with experience and a insufferable amount of trial and error. And my opinions are all rooted in my own personal experiences and struggles from very early on. I have come to learn that fitting in with a company or pleasing that client is the #1 way to make it as an artist. It worked. After all, I’m established and have a constant stream of jobs whilst I focus on diversifying and creating something of my own. I can’t say I would’ve been able to do any of this earlier because I was just too dumb, lacked experience and had little to no guidance. That’s just me, though.
We’re going to be interviewing David Longdon next week. Now, you might not know him, but trust me, you’re in for a treat because David actually is the lead vocalist and co-songwriter of Big Big Train. This is a renowned British progressive rock band that came together back in 1990.
It’s interesting to note that the music is a way in which old British folktales and great stories can resurface, and it possesses a certain quality that feeds the imagination. If you’re working as a visual artist, this might just be your best bet for overcoming tomorrow’s art-block! Stay tuned.
Even Mehl Amundsen
Daily Sketches – Week 41
I can agree that you must adapt to survive as a freelancer. Absolutely, I would be a stubborn idiot not to. However, I think you set up a bit of an unfair strawman when you make the risk into “You can be 100 % adaptable or die”. You make a fair point that seniority will allow for vision and style, this is evident, though I disagree that you need to wait until some vague level is reached. It is skills that bring clients, skills to problem solve in visually interesting ways, and none of that hinges on whether you design like the previous popular guy, only that you know your fundamentals, and that you can think with some degree of lateral logic.
Being a good listener is important. Being willing to admit a fault, as well as being willing to defend a point. That is important. Being good at identifying and solving problems. That is very very important. But no, I don’t think trends are important. In the great scheme of this industry, it counts for a fart in the wind. It might give you a little extra lift, but it won’t make you soar. Also, you’ll smell.
I can agree to that. I wasn’t thinking in absolute “all or nothing at all” when I spoke about adaptability. You have to factor in the fact that a trend can sometimes fit into your personal taste, or maybe not. And it might even fit into what you consider to be “good enough”. I can’t force myself to care about a new trend if it does absolutely nothing new, it’s just not exciting or fun, but that is also a subjective viewpoint. I believe that an artist can only strive to do something new in isolation. It’s the only real way of forcing yourself to look inward and focus hard.
This is all a matter of how you approach your life, and it really shows how different we all are. I can agree with Yohann about having to be flexible in this industry, but at the same time, I really prefer it when I’m inspired by other artists more than when I’m just copying every brushstroke, Photoshop trick, etc. We can all see so many copies of Jama Jurabaev’s work. It can be a really good exercise to analyze the different styles and look at the techniques being used. But when it comes to commissions or personal work, I really prefer to stay in my own sphere because going any further in that direction will bring about twenty to thirty copies of each of in a couple of years. The easiest way to fit into this industry is to copy someone who is already successful, and that is the last thing I want to be doing now.
Actually, I think that following trends can be a lot more interesting if you’re doing something along the lines of science fiction as opposed to fantasy. The genre isn’t as demanding because it doesn’t force you to keep up with the most recent findings in technology. However, if you’re looking at science fiction, you’re going to find that you have to stay up to date with all of the latest design trends in the automotive industry, robotics and even space shuttles. Of course, this is all dependent on the project, but having said that, I’ve been working on a lot of sci-fi concept art as of late, and I feel that this is quite relevant. Then again, the personal work that Even is doing now has little to nothing to do with following trends.
Even Mehl Amundsen
Again, I can agree with you here. But we have to take the split between science fiction and space fantasy into account. After all, most sci-fi stuff has less to do with actual science than a TV series like Game of Thrones.
How so? Do you have any examples? I’m talking about things like shape language for sci-fi, so hard-hitting science facts don’t really come into play here. A good example would be the clear distinction between 70’s and 80’s sci-fi art. Next, you can look at what the artworks looks like now. It’s completely different, right? But this is all because the shapes we’re using are changing, and what we think is “cool” now VS. what we thought was “cool” way back then. Maybe today’s sci-fi “coolness” is rooted in the advancements we’re making in technology right now. Maybe it’s the miniaturisation of robotis, or the newly introduced production techniques we have.
Even Mehl Amundsen
I think that it falls to those who can communicate their sense of “cool” to others effectively.
Indeed. It all boils down to making a distinction in the end. And that distinction is between following trends for research purposes, which helps us achieve the actualization of a genre. One that would be relevant in today’s day and age. On the other hand, you can follow trends solely because you don’t know what do with yourself, and you have no idea what you want to express through your art.
Obviously, the latter option is ill-advised.
Even Mehl Amundsen
It seems to me that we’ve finally reached accord.
Perhaps we were on the same page all along?
Even Mehl Amundsen
Shh! Don’t tell anyone…
By Vox Groovy staff writer;
All images used with permission by the artists.
© Yohann Schepacz, Even Mehl Amundsen, Grzegorz Rutkowski or respective copyright holders.
Article in Slovak language;