This week we have an interview with an artist who specializes in something we don't see too much of here at ZBC: Concept Art and Matte Painting. About a year and a half ago, Rainart posted a tutorial on this subject, but he's hardly been a slacker since then! In fact, he's just released a DVD at Gnomon. Read on to learn more about this extremely talented individual.
To begin, I'd like to help people get to know you a little better. Could you talk about yourself and your background?
I'm a Frenchman (from the south of France). I like to travel, meet people… I went to an Art School in France to learn Photography and Fine Arts, and I decided to leave this country a few years later. I first started as a 3D General Artist (animation, rendering, lighting, modeling… I even did some rigging) using all the software available like Lightwave, 3D Studio Max, XSI, Maya, Modo and ZBrush. I ended up logically doing some compositing with Digital Fusion. In brief, after working for 10 years, I can say I've tried almost everything. This is, after all, an excellent experience due to the fact that in France it wasn't good to be too specialized in one discipline.
Recently, I slowly started to move from Matte Painting to concept art. It finally looks like a full circle. I went the opposite way of most of the 2D artists I know. Nowadays, we could work with a myriad of different media. Our job and the whole industry is changing, evolving, and I think this is really cool!
I'm very passionate about learning and trying new techniques, new ways of thinking and the most important thing: sharing and exchanging this knowledge with others. It's what makes us so unique at SteamBot; we work as a team.
How do you like Montreal? It seems like something of a Mecca for digital artists!
Yes, Montreal is a very interesting city, because it is the crossroads of many cultures, like European, Asian and American people. It's a great experience to work with all these people, and in this sense it's true: it's a kind of a Mecca. Some people make a long pilgrimage to come here because they move from really far away. GEEZ!!
Where do you work now? What is your title, and what does your job entail?
At the moment I'm working at EIDOS Montreal -- a very dynamic studio -- as a Senior concept artist on the upcoming game Deus Ex III. I'm specialised to create concept art and mood design for the environements.
What is your role in SteamBot? And for that matter, what is SteamBot's role in the digital world?
SteamBot Studios is another part of me. I'm a co-founder of SteamBot Studios with Barontieri (Thierry Doizon), Vyle (David Levy), Viag (Nicolas Ferrand), Feerik (Joel Dos Reis Viegas) and another talented friend Simonak (Partrick Desgrenier). We are all concept artists, matte painters, Artistic Directors and producers. We have to take all these roles at once.
About the role of SB, we are a company and an outsourcing studio of 6 digital artists. We are specialised in conceptual design, matte painting, high-end illustration, 3D assets development, consulting, conferences and original IP's creation.
Currently, we are under deadline to release our fisrt Artbook for next fall! The Artbook will be published by Design Studios Press.
What led you to concept art and matte painting? It seems like a very specialized area of digital art.
Yes it is! And that's one of the reason I got into it. But it's probably a direct consequence of my experience. I have tried many different media, explored 3D and compositing... to come back to concept art and Matte Painting.
Many answers lie in concept art's fundamentals, like painting, drawing and sculpting. I think, many digital artists, 3D artists, animators and compositors should try to do concept art. All the necessary informations about the design (the lighting, the colors, etc.) can be found in concept art. In brief, concept art is the essence because we get to learn a multitude of things.
We see a lot of sculptors, texture artists and illustrators using ZBrush, but not too many concept artists or matte painters. How did you come to start using ZBrush for your work?
Once again, it's because of my professional background. In fact, it's a simple question of curiosity, because if it's interesting for me to use ZBrush to create something special in my work... I just use it! And it's the same for matte painting. For example, it doesn't matter if I want to create objects in the foreground or in the background (like stones, vehicles, etc.), ZBrush is effective!
But it's true that concept artists use ZBrush in a different way. It's just because constraints are very different. We have no problem whatsoever with UV's, displacement, etc. because we often paint over. ZBrush definitely brings us many new possibilities. A new approach. Less traditional.
Moreover, Pixologic didn't (seem to) show a great interest in concept art at the beginning, but SteamBot saw ZBrush as a great way to enhance our creativity and workflow. I really would like to thank the whole Pixologic team for supporting SteamBot in our creative process. That's what led me to release a DVD.
Congratulations on that DVD! What can you tell us about this project?
It was difficult! Ahah! But the Gnomon team is really fantastic!
The DVD title is "From Speed Painting To Matte Painting: 2D/3D Production Pipeline with RAINART". It focuses on the creative process for doing a Sci-Fi rusty, industrial building. I have tried to show the entire production pipeline from speed painting to matte painting that I'm mainly using at SteamBot. I hope it'll help people interested in working in this industry. The goal was to create a full CG matte painting within the constrains of a real production pipeline. That's why I have tried to show a complex and efficient mixed-media process. I'm currently using this same pipeline to create environments for the video game and entertainment industry, and especially to design full CG Sci-Fi urban environments. The DVD shows some speed paintings, mood lighting, architectural design, textures and shaders, brush creation, modeling, sculpting and compositing techniques. Hopefully you'd be able to understand the entire methodology behind it, which is very straightforward.
The above video is a snippet from the DVD, courtesy of Gnomon Workshop.
Obviously, your DVD is aimed at other concept artists and matte painters. Solid technique is universal, though. How would your tutorials benefit digital artists in other fields?
I know many digital artists -- ZBrush artists, character designers, etc. -- who will probably learn to create things they're not used to creating, or things they've never been asked to create. Environments, for exemple. The DVD is for all people interested in environment design, even if they're not professional concept artists or designers.
I would gladly buy a tutorial DVD demonstrating sculpting techniques in ZBrush, even if I'm not a character designer. The more knowledge you can get, the better you become. It's always interesting to try and learn different techniques and disciplines. It's a great way to keep moving forward.
How has ZBrush affected you and your work as an artist?
ZBrush gave me more freedom and new possibilities. More ways to explore organic and non-organic shapes. For me it's another way to approach and think about 3D work, because it's a natural feeling: we just sculpt!
Thinking with polygons, like in a traditional 3D approach with more usual 3D packages, is for me really unnatural. Sculpting is natural. Contructing shapes with polygons is not. Even if people have accepted that since ages, like an old relfex -- a habit, in fact -- it's definitely an unnatural process.
ZBrush propels 3D full-circle to the fundamentals.
It's really common sense, and a great step forward that turns out to be necessary. That's why it's such an important step, artistic as well as techical. Tools that respond to artists's expectations at that level are unfortunately too rare.
What impact has ZBrush had on your workflow?
ZBrush has had a direct impact on the way we work, and we had to find a way to use it in our own way. With a "SteamBot style". But the challence for me was to use ZBrush also for non-organic stuff, like rigid and mechanical architecture.
How does ZBrush help with these kinds of images?
Very simply, I'm able to create something different!! Add many more details for example, making certain parts of an environment much more detailed... such as the foreground). There are really a lot of things to explore and try.
What feature in ZBrush 3 made you go "Wow!" when you first encountered it, and why?
I'm not a ZBrush specialist or a real ZBrush artist. I'm just a concept artist and matte painter who uses it! One of my favorite features is definitely the Stencil tool, because I can use it and work with a good natural feeling, just like when I'm drawing. Another thing is, in ZBrush I can use all the tools in an unconventional way. I can create artifacts with this same natural feeling.
It's exactly like brushes in Photoshop, but in 3D! It's really powerful to create procedural backgounds in a very short amount of time. ZBrush adds a new dimension.
How has ZBrushCentral affected you as an artist? Which members and/or artists here have really helped or inspired you?
It's really impressive to me to go to ZBrushCentral ... I'm afraid!!!!! Ahaha! ZBrush artists are certainly the community that has most evolved in the past few years, with the concept artists, and I think it's only the beginning.
Many artists are really good and inspire me, like Jelmer Boskma and David Giraud. Concerning David Giraud, thanks to him for this faculty he has to interpret particularly difficult concepts. David is not just someone who plays with precision. He has an excellent knowledge of anatomy. But above all, he's a very gifted artist who has a very personal artistic process.
Is there anything else that you'd like to say to our readers today?
Yes! BUY MY DVD! Ahhahaah ! And make love!
A few years ago, it was much more difficult to watch other artists' works. Disciplines, like concept art or matte painting, were really closed to the outide world and other specialties. Nowadays it has become much easier to meet other artists and share ideas. So you really have to be curious and take advantage of these opportunities. It's really one of the best ways to keep exploring different ways of thinking.
Many thanks to Sebastien for taking the time to speak with us! It's always a pleasure to hear from someone who's so clearly excited about what he does and having the opportunity to share it. I'm definitely looking forward to seeing his future contributions here at ZBC!
Be sure to keep checking back as we bring you future interviews!