We’ve talked with concept artist Andrew Porter, who was kind to share some of the insights of artist’s work in game production.
Hello, I’m Andrew Porter, nickname “Phandy” (Facebook)! I was born and currently live and work in the UK. I’ve always enjoyed a bunch of stuff like art, videogames, sport, fitness, books, films, nature, science, traveling and more, but when I found out you could get a job making art for video games, I knew I had to try that before I did anything else. After lots of practice and study at school and university, I started off freelancing for small indie games for a year before I managed to get my first studio job at Splash Damage in London. 4 years later and I’m still working there, where I’ve managed to work on multiple great projects including Batman and Gears of War.
I think a story is important for game production and art for similar reasons. Narratives in any medium are one of the best ways to get people engaged and deliver emotional experiences that are memorable. Art, as a whole, benefits from these stories because it adds depth to it. As the viewers read into the art, they can discover more theme and ideas to make them think, and connect emotionally with it.
Most games use or create stories for the players, so conveying that story within game production art is important because it allows the rest of the team to see and understand the story on a visual level. When team members are creating anything for the game, having concept art that connects with the story will allow them to create a much more cohesive experience around the shared vision and goal of the story.
For myself, 3D is often the base upon which I build work, it is mostly a convenience for me. I use 3D to establish complex perspectives, or to speed up my process where drawing out and designing a space manually would take a lot of time. Also, for the purpose of my professional work, being able to work on top of 3D is important because I am often tasked with working on top of “block-out” 3D levels. They are simple levels with no details, created by level designers, so I must be able to use it as a base to build my ideas upon.
My general flow for using 3D in my work is to create something quite simple in 3D. Normally based on some 2D sketches or ideas I have developed a little beforehand. When creating the 3D I use big basic shapes for the main forms, I don’t like to add too much detail because I find that I become precious over it and less likely to alter it later on, even if altering it would make it better. I try to do a lot of my work within the painting part because that’s where I have more flexibility to keep iterating on the design and make sure it’s the best and most suitable for the game.
Speed painting for me is all about simplicity and confidence. I find my speed paintings are much better when I’m doing something I already know and understand, so I can paint it confidently. And if I’m doing something simple, I have more time to work on making sure it looks right and feels good. A simple composition with only a few elements is easier and quicker to balance well than something too grandiose and complicated. I also utilize some small short cuts that help make things a bit quicker; the lasso tool and layers are great for separating out parts of the painting so you can easily redo them or change their size and location. Tools like the mixer brush, custom shapes and smudging are great for building up organic density and detail quickly.
When possible, I like to keep things simple and graphic so that the composition has the strongest effect it can. By using bigger, cleaner, high contrast shapes, it’s easier to specifically guide viewers eyes around the image and make the focal point really pop out. Contrast and spacing are factors I like to use a lot in creating a focal point. Contrast of large strong shapes are easy to lead the eye around and balancing large areas of open space with spots of intense detail are great spots for the eye to rest and look around.
I always loved the idea of world building but never really found anything to sink my teeth into until about 3 years ago I was on holiday on an island in the Mediterranean and had only an empty sketchbook with me to work in. I decided I would fill it with nothing but world building ideas and started using what was around me and what I saw for inspiration; the arid landscape, the ancient ruins and the culture. I think my first drawing was a just a simple water jug! I have always loved ancient culture and fantasy settings, so stories and ideas started forming rapidly. I mixed it with some game design and narrative ideas I have had for a while, and when I got home I started fleshing things out, collecting reference and writing out my ideas in full. I even started prototyping a game idea with an artist/programmer friend of mine, so game design started having an impact on how I designed things too. Unfortunately alongside full time jobs we were unable to find enough time to satisfy our visions for a game. The project is now just something I enjoy diving into for personal pleasure. I think my aim is to just produce some kind of small book of all my sketches and designs, nothing too elaborate so that the world can speak for itself to the viewers.
I think my main piece of advice would be to keep working, iterating, and stay flexible. This applies to your whole attitude as an artist and your process per painting. Good unique concepts and artwork come with time and experimentation, so you have to be ready to fail. You need to be able to work through those failures and keep iterating, every painting or sketch of something similar, allows you to push it further. Staying flexible and not getting attached to your work means you can persevere and keep moving forwards searching for great ideas. So keep trying, failing, learning and progressing!