better, more hungry
than you, will take your
job and that will be
Romain Jouandeau is a French concept artist who’s currently working on Ghost of Tsushima over at Sucker Punch Productions. Admittedly, we didn’t hear anything about the game until Sony’s E3 2018 press conference, but the gameplay reveal showed a visually striking action-adventure game set in 12th century Japan—putting you in the shoes of one of the few samurai that survived the Mongol Empire’s invasion of Tsushima. Surprisingly, a few days after we saw the VOD, one of our staff writers stumbled upon Jouandeau’s ArtStation portfolio and found a piece for this new game—the one that was selected for the “Into the Pixel” collection. That’s when we knew that we needed to get in touch with Jouandeau to talk about effective environment design.
The moods in Jouandeau’s pieces are overwhelming, and his ten years’ worth of industry experience shines through in each and every piece. Prior to his move to Seattle, he worked on an unannounced project with Warner Bros Games. He then decided that he wants to move over to the US so he reached out to Sucker Punch and got a job there. Those of you who frequent ArtStation will also remember the high-end environment concepts he produced for Detroit: Become Human, and due the nature of our industry, I’m afraid that we’re going to have to focus on that because it’s easier for concept artists to talk about work for games that are already out. In-between his senior concept artist roles on AAA games, a background in traditional art, and his personal project “Purpura Petriosa,” Jouandeau is one of the best up-and-coming environment artists we know.
If you want to know more about his journey and or about creating believable indoor environments—like the ones in Detroit—then this is the interview to you. Jouandeau’s specialism is undoubtedly environments, and if you take his advice and apply it, we’re sure that you, too, can produce something that feels real.
What sparked your interest in digital art?
I have always been into drawing as a kid. I wanted to be a comic book artist, but then I got into animation, discovering 3D, 3D animation, games art, etc. I guess I got my first Wacom tablet in 2006 after visiting some art forums and seeing art by guys like Craig Mullins, David Levy and Sparth just to name a few. They’re all amazing in Photoshop, and as someone who loves to create moods and new worlds, I’m convinced that digital art is the best for medium for that because of all the different techniques I can use.
The Vox Groovy Discord server is up and running, so why not get involved?
The server’s aim is to help us create innovative content for the English version of our radio program—Art Relax. This means that you’ll be part of the buzz whenever you share something. Even if you decide to write every single day!
Share what’s new with you, because we can use those updates when we’re creating the show.
Detroit: Become Human – Amanda’s Garden
How did you go about finding a personal style that’s unique to you?
I think it comes naturally, it’s just a blend of your inspirations and it refines as time goes on. You can’t really force it, it just happens. I don’t necessarily see my style though, as my work tends to be realistic. I feel like it’s more about the subject matter, composition, lighting, rather than a “painting style.”
Purpura Petriosa – Life By The Cliff
Tell us a little bit about your work on Detroit: Become Human. The indoor environments you did for Detroit are incredibly believable and feel lived-in. And so, I’d like to ask if you have any advice for aspiring environment artists?
Documentation is key. I learned a lot about that working on Detroit because we were working with actual set designers and architects from the movie industry. Each object, designed piece of tech, type of wood finishing etc… was thought about and put there for a specific reason. Think about what the scene is supposed to make you feel, and work towards that by feeding your brain with everything you can find. It can be photos of course, but also movies, documentaries, music, history, even trips! It has to be grounded in the world you are creating, every detail matters, and you gotta be curious to bring something consistent to the table.
Detroit: Become Human – Police Station Concept
Could you walk us through your creative process from start to finish?
First after reading the script, I can take a full day looking for references. I usually sketch a bit on paper to find a nice composition with simple thumbnails and try to tell a story with characters if I can. Then I either use a 3D layout from the environment team or start from scratch in 2D. I use a mix of photobashing and painting techniques to bring it to life. I also pick ask my coworkers for help during the process, it really helps because it can be very hard for you to step back and see the problems in your painting at times.
I’ve heard a few good arguments to the contrary, but I still believe that both “Style” and brushes are not to be worried about. Style is a by-product, a consequence of hard work through your hand with a particular audience and purpose in mind. Study, keep practicing, and you’ll find your own shorthand. Basically, you’ll find your style, but you can only find it in sweat.
Brushes are neat and pretty, but if you can’t get your story across with a Crayola crayon, what’s the point of neat and pretty? The secret of Photoshop brushes is: find a brush you can clearly communicate with, that you also like to use.
Purpura Petriosa is a personal project of yours. What’s the story behind it? Do you think that it’ll ever go further than just,”personal painting for fun…?”
I can’t say too much about it, and I’m not sure about the format I want to pursue it in, but I really hope I can do something with it in the long run. It’s still a part of my plan for the future for sure. I think about it everyday and keep gathering material as I’m not working on it right now. At least my brain is. It is mainly for fun though, so no pressure!
Yellowbird-Design (Environment designs for the feature film “Gus Petit Oiseau Grand Voyage”)
Describe some of the challenges you’ve had to face when working on AAA games.
The challenge I guess is to stay relevant. You can’t just go to work and do your thing everyday, in the same way, and stay where you are. You have to keep learning and practicing after work at home. Put yourself out of your comfort zone, and remember that you can’t always do this at work as it can be risky, so you have to do that with your personal work. Someday, someone better, more hungry than you, will take your job and that will be okay because it’s well-deserved. It’s a constant evolution and progression, you can’t rest and it’s just a lot of pressure 24/7 haha!
What are your thoughts on the current state of art in the game industry?
From what I see, it’s very healthy right now, if there is one industry that is growing it’s definitely this one! It’s also super inspiring to see the insane amount of new great artists appearing everyday, the overall quality keeps rising, and I don’t know when it’s gonna stop! It’s also incredibly diversified if you think about it. Though I wish the big studios were working a little more towards story-driven games, as I feel like a lot of people, who are not gamers, are eager for this. Just a personal opinion here!
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!
What’s next for Romain Jouandeau?
Doing my best right now working at Sucker Punch on Ghost of Tsushima, and planning my days in a way that lets me practice at home, do studies, plein air, ink on paper, you name it, and of course going back to “Purpura Petriosa!”
By Vox Groovy staff writer;
All images used with permission by the artist.
© Romain Jouandeau or respective copyright holders.
Article in Slovak language;