Concept Artist and Illustrator Jessica Geis talked about her artistic journey throughout the years, shared some behind-the-scenes info about the Hearthstone-inspired projects, and told us how studying at CG Spectrum helped her career.
Hello! My name is Jessica Geis and I am a Concept Artist and Illustrator. Over the past few years, I have been developing my style and portfolio in hopes to work in the video game industry!
As it is with many artists, I have been drawing pretty much my whole life. I went to school at Santa Clara University in Northern California to pursue a degree in Art and Art History. I actually focused on graphic design and did several freelance projects throughout my time in college. After I graduated in 2019, I decided to switch avenues.
Joining CG Spectrum
I started my time at CG Spectrum the fall after I graduated from Santa Clara in 2019. I actually just stumbled upon CG Spectrum while I was browsing the internet, and I didn’t really know what concept art was at the time. I thought this might be something I could give a try. The more time I spent with my mentors and the projects, the more I realized that I had found my true passion. My goals were to one day work in the video game industry as a Concept Artist and Illustrator.
Throughout my classes in concept art and illustration, I found out that there are many similarities and differences between the two categories. My two mentors both had their own unique styles and ways of approaching art, which was really helpful in developing my own personal workflow. One of my mentors focused heavily on creating precise photo comps to help create illustrations without any guesswork. My other mentor focused more on the fundamentals of concept art rather than the final outcome. I would say that learning under both mentos gave me a good grasp on how important it is to have a solid plan for a piece, but always be prepared for creative changes. They also helped me focus on creating my own brand and style, and steered me towards content I was passionate about.
I am a huge fan of the games of Blizzard Entertainment, such as World of Warcraft and Hearthstone. I would say that the style and tone of Hearthstone are what make it a bigger inspiration for me over WoW. For example, my card Righteous Defender was one of my first attempts at creating my own Hearthstone card. It presented a few challenges, as I not only created the design of the character from scratch, but I was still trying to discover my style. After some initial rough sketches, it was time to find some solid references.
Luckily, the World of Warcraft website has models for a lot of their characters, so I was able to put together a relatively sound photo compilation. I first used Daz to model out a pose, then I went to the website and found poses that were similar and “frankensteined” them together. Because the work of Hearthstone is a bit more stylized, it gave me some artistic liberties to play with color and saturation. I spent many hours studying the color and value of other cards in order to nail the Hearthstone style.
Another element of Hearthstone I love is their beautiful card backs. They are a unique challenge as they are centered more on abstract design elements rather than a usual illustrative composition. I had to keep in mind the structure of every card, as they all follow a similar format. I used many different tools in Photoshop, especially the Radial Symmetry tool for my card sketches. This tool is super helpful in getting that strong symmetry that every card has. Hearthstone card backs focus a lot on specific material rendering, meaning it is important to make each piece (whether it be wood or grass) feel different.
Besides continuously working on my portfolio, I’ve been trying to work on games and get some real-world experience. Over the last couple of months, I was able to help create character concepts for a new game called Rocklen, which is still in early development. It was really cool to work on an actual game, and seeing the modeler bring my characters to life was very rewarding!
As a concept art student, I was always trying to practice different approaches to see what would work best. Every mentor has a different workflow, and all they can do is show it to you in the hopes that you will pick up something that will work for you. The main goal of my time at CG Spectrum, aside from learning the fundamentals, was figuring out where I wanted to take my art. I used to think I wanted to be a realist artist, but I realized that I was fighting against myself. Once I dug into more of a stylized realism, I knew that was the road I wanted to take. I encourage everyone to take some time to EXPLORE everything about art, from the way you think about it to the way you design.