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Simon Goinard is a famous visual developer, who has worked on a number of great images for some of the biggest companies in the entertainment and advertising business. He worked with NBC, Ubisoft, Walt Disney Company, ArenaNet/NCsoft, Aston Martin, WBros, Tera Media, Sony, SCEJ and many others. His works are defined by very artistic design with awesome impressionistic look. We’ve talked about concept art, storytelling in art and the way art direction works in games and movies.
My name is Simon Goinard. I’m a concept designer specialized in full visual development. People usually ask me to help them built or sell an IP, which means working on everything, from pitch sketches, mood paintings and world development, to classic concept arts and marketing pictures if need be. I grew up and studied graphic design and animation in a city called Montpellier in the south of France, and as of today I’ve worked for three different continents, and probably around fifty companies, most of the time with incredibly interesting people, and I’m grateful for that.
Being an Impressionist in Concept Art
I’m definitely impressionistic at heart, because I try to give a sense of purpose to my strokes, that’s the definition of mastery for me, to be able to express something with your lines, so for this reason I’m definitely in that category yes, I try to build a picture with the fewest strokes possible, it helps to capture the moment, the feeling, again, the impression. After that I have to be very realistic too, because as a designer you have to carry more than moods, you have to carry ideas, themes, directions, so I put an emphasis on realism too just after the composition build up.
I have a simple rule for that part; always depicting the subject with a more accurate optical effect of color, light or details. Basically I put a focus point on the picture, and in that focus I’m more grounded and realistic, and that’s my approach and the trick of the style.
Gravitating between realism and impressionism is indeed complex but doable with a bit of thought, and if you look closely at the history of art, you’ll see that it has always been like that, every major currents built a bridge between two others to emerge, so what I’m doing is I must confess not new at all.
The Importance of Background
The story and narrative are very important, in fact it’s all that matters if you look closely, because without them a picture is only at best a skills demo, and that’s not really interesting for me.
The background + the story equal the subject and mood of the picture, frankly the only things that make sense if you’re not working abstractedly. And from a pure professional perspective, concept artists are here to illustrate thoughts and concepts, ours or the ones from the client, so the influences of the ideas have to be major.
The more you think the world you’re painting, the more profound the piece will be, and the more people will feel carried away and intimate with what you’re trying to depict. Conceptualizing is the fact that we’re translating thoughts into visual language, so if the picture is not influenced by the narrative, it’s clearly not a success for me.
Characters are the easy road that leads to storytelling, after twenty years of practice I’m pretty sure of that now, and that is why portrait is such a powerful genre. People are what we see the most everyday in our lives, and what we affiliate the most with emotions, so that make them kind of an easy trick (and maybe a trap) for a painter who wants to narrate something easily.
I often fell for this, and when I don’t have time to create a larger picture, I always end up creating a portrait because of that, because it’s faster to create a story with a face and a costume than with a battle scene or a coronation.
The look and feel of my characters are very distinctive of that play, they’re like theatre masks for me, that’s how it works; the romantic effect probably comes from what I told earlier about the tension between realism and impressionism, and the feeling that sometimes makes them special often comes with my experience of playing this “character trick”, knowing instantly what will show up in the end when I paint a distinctive look on the face, when I’m putting a specific costume, or precise details or certain colors, and then mixing all of that.
Digital & Analogue Tools and
Professionally I only work with digital tools now, but I was an analog painter first, and I think that it’s very important to keep practising that way even though the industry standard these days is digital.
It’s vital to say that there’s no conflict between the two either, none at all, it’s not redundant, and even more importantly for me one thing has to be said, neither of the two methods are better than the other.
A basic example about that; In their lifetime, JM Turner and Picasso each produced more than 25 thousand pieces of work. That’s more than 600 pieces of work a year. I know lots of those are sketches but nonetheless that’s impressive, and I personally don’t know any digital artists today that produce as much work each year. So again, for me the digital media is not the answer to everything, it’s not necessarily faster than the analog one, and not better either, they’re just different and they should definitely work together.
Approach to World Building
For me world building//storytelling is the new “style quest” these days. The pattern to build a style is simple : time, practice, experience, maturity will lead you to find it, it’s usually a long process, and until recently it was the way to be unique in the industry, but today the media is evolving too quickly for this pattern. It’s mostly due to the fact that everyone is interconnected now, and they’re lots of aspiring artists that thanks to the Internet, tutorials, software simplifications and more, are growing technically faster than their style is.
It means that most of them have that same “style” and that’s why they’re trying to difference them self with something else, aka: storytelling. Nonetheless I enjoy seeing good world building, because again it is essential to a great picture. Personally I don’t have a simple method to build good ideas, if I had one I would probably be a billionaire, but you have some patterns for everything, ideas included, so my advice would be to start by asking yourself what you want to construct and try to build it brick by brick. I think it’s a good ideology.
Understanding Art Direction
Everything is in the title, a good clear direction is the most important part of the process. You have so much people involved in a production, that you need to have a sense of direction and someone capable of maintaining everyone on the same road to built a project properly.
Sometimes that road will change but the idea will stay the same, trying to link everything and everyone together, and make things move in a coherent way, that’s for me the essence and importance of art direction.
You have some patterns to that too, good communication is very important, a good understanding of the main idea behind the project, a good knowledge of the people you’re working with, all of these make some good pillars to build on. The role of concept art in all of this is simple for me, concept art is the visual communication of the art direction, that’s its main role and responsibility, and the main boundary of the artists on the project as well.