I started on the day
I learnt to hold
a pencil […]
John Grello is currently living in Georgia, United States, where he works as a concept artist at Tripwire Interactive. He is a very good all-rounder, and it’s clear that he enjoys experimenting with new workflows in his spare time. John’s ArtStation is one of the few professional portfolios where you can see a continuous drive to improve. In the interview, he says, “I continue to study on the weekends, just doodling, trying new techniques and hunting down those ‘ah-ha!’ moments.” And it definitely shows!
The fact that you can see him working to learn more about 3D modeling and photography after he established himself as a professional artist drives that point home. Next, we have John’s professional work. He’s worked on three of the Telltale Games Series, Spellstrike and Lichdom: BattleMage. Of course, there is a number of projects that are still TBA or in bidding, so we will not be seeing any of those. Still, you should look at his character concepts for Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series. It’s a good example of strong character design.
I think that John’s journey as an artist is one that could inspire beginners who are looking to self-teach. The idea of “forcing” your way to new techniques and workflows will show you that hard work does pay off, especially if you work harder than the rest. You can also join in and watch John’s live-streams on Twitch if you’re looking for inspiration, everyone can learn a thing or two through observation. Alternatively, you can read about John’s journey so far, and if you can’t make it to his live-stream, we asked him to describe his creative process. The Vox Groovy editorial team wishes you a happy new year, and we hope that you will enjoy the first RVG exclusive of 2018.
Tell us about your journey so far.
I started on the day I learnt to hold a pencil. My oldest memories are of me drawing, and I think that my mother still has a drawing of Beetle Bailey I did as a toddler. Art was a good friend to a kid that moved around as much as I did, no matter where I went, my drawing supplies came with me.
Fast-forward to high school, and I was still at it, drawing every day at random coffee shops around San Diego. I had no idea I was practicing for a career, because to be perfectly honest, I wasn’t sure there was a career to be had.
Early April 2017 Twitchs
Are you formally trained or self-taught?
I was, and am, self -taught. I’ve been ’teaching’ myself art by observation and pure brute force. I learned a lot of anatomy from fitness magazines. I continue to study on the weekends, just doodling, trying new techniques and hunting down those “ah-ha!” moments.
Tell us a little bit about your work at Industrial Light & Magic.
Honestly, I wish I could talk about all of the incredibly cool things I’ve seen and worked on at ILM. What I can say is that it’s incredibly humbling to walk around a place that has forty years’ worth of industry leading artists. I can also say that working there pushes you to be better and better every day, because everyone there is so hungry to learn and better themselves. But when it comes to the projects I’ve worked on, I’m pretty sure they’re all TBA or in bidding, if and when I’m allowed to show my work, I’ll be posting it on to my ArtStation.
what language you speak. The team at Vox Groovy will make it so that everyone can hear your interview on the radio.
Our new programme Art Relax (EN) will be launching soon.
You’ll know that this is the go-to place for every art enthusiast as soon as you tune in!
Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series
What’s the most exciting project you’ve worked on so far?
Hmm-mm… most exciting. I think that working on the story – driven games at Telltale was the most excited I’ve ever been. I love the whole concept of interactive comic books and the unique “choose your own adventure” that they offer. While I was at Telltale, I got to work on such great IPs, it was fun to get my hands on some really iconic titles.
You’re posting a whole lot of personal art (and experimental projects) on your ArtStation portfolio. Do you think that it’s important for artists to do their own thing from time to time?
I try to post personal work as often as possible, after all, the Internet is a tough place if you’re wanting to impress people. When people have that level of anonymity, they have no problems commenting on anything. Good, bad, or ugly comments, they’re all useful when growing as an artist. Best way to improve is to fail hard and fail often. As for my personal project, I think it’s important to strengthen one’s creativity by imagining your own stories and worlds. I think it’s stunting to an artist to only do “fan-art.” Don’t get me wrong, draw things you enjoy, but if you’re only drawing other people’s creations, you’re losing out on a lot of learnable experiences.
Jakub Javora is a Czech concept artist who’s currently working for Volta, a renowned visual development studio in Canada. Now, you may have seen some of his newer artworks on ArtStation, and for good reason.
The experimental parallaxes he creates using Maya allow him to make 5-10 second GIFs, so the stellar presentation really makes his work stand out. Of course, Jakub is also highly proficient, using industry standard software to create new workflows for himself each time.
It’s interesting to note that his personal pieces are all fundamentally different when it comes to technique. So, in the end, experimentation seems to be the most surefire way to making great digital art. Perhaps we’ll learn something new in next week’s interview with this talented artist!
September 2017 Stuff
The entertainment industry is moving forward very quickly. What kind of changes do you expect to see in your work-flow in five years time?
Easy, pushing realism as much as possible. I love drawing and painting, but sometimes production needs a more realistic image to better visualize the project. I’m currently finding myself using Blender, and photo-texturing a lot more in my images. I’m no purist when it comes to creating art, I love drawing and it will always be where I start an image, but at the end of the day, I will pivot to whatever is needed to finish the job.
Walk us through the processes you used to create your favorite portfolio artwork.
My process is pretty simple, but it’s also consistent. First, I’ll lay down some loose gestural strokes using a big brush. Next, I’ll drop the opacity on that layer, and refine the drawing with my precise defining strokes with a more pencil-like brush. Now that I have a more refined drawing, I can start separating elements into different layers, so that later, when I start rendering, I can use clipping masks to speed up the process. From here, I’ll either go directly to flat color, or start with black and white if I think further tweaking will occur later on. After that, I’ll move on to the lighting, working to give each light-source its own layer to increase efficiency. Finally, I’ll add lens effects, atmosphere and color correction to help push the image further… then ta-da!
you ever wonder – yes, we do play analog quite often.
The Walking Dead: Michonne
Digital art makes it a lot easier to ‘cheat’ by photo-bashing, etc. Is it okay to make use of shortcuts like this?
Art to me is just creating. Whatever means you use to achieve an original and unique product is fine by me. Photo-bashing has its place in the industry, and it’s especially invaluable to the movie business. With that said, I love painted or drawn images, I grew up reading comics and watching cartoons. I enjoy seeing an artist’s style come through in how he/she decides to abbreviate complex shapes. I think the only aspect of photo-bashing I dislike is the loss of ‘style.’ It can be difficult to look at a bash and say, “Oh, that’s such and such’s work.”
I’m seeing more and more online courses—like Learn Squared—being made available. Are they worth it for someone who is just starting out?
I think it’s great for the most part. When I started out doing digital art, it was hard to find resources on how to do anything. I’m pretty sure I brute forced my way through every image doing things the hard way every time. I’m glad to see that there’s tons of resources for would-be artists to achieve their goals quicker. The only downside is that I’m seeing a lot of samey art styles, but I’m sure this will pass with time, no one finds their voice right out of the gates.
What’s next for John Grello?
I’m having a lot of fun working on awesome projects and being invited to different art events. I’m proud of myself for not giving up a thousand times before I got to where I am. My next big goal is to complete work on my personal project that I’ve been working on for damn near eight years. But the most honest answer I can give is simple: I’m going to enjoy the ride and see which doors open along the way.
By Vox Groovy staff writer;
All images used with permission by the artist.
© John Grello or respective copyright holders.
Article in Slovak language;