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Interview with Nicolas Ferrand


By Jo Hargreaves

Web: http://www.redwhirlpool.com (will open in new window)
Email: moc.nsm@gaiv

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Date Added: 22nd February 2012
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Hi Nicolas and welcome to the world of 3DTotal! It's become a bit of a tradition to kick of interviews with the who-are-you-what-do-you-do question, but because there's a great little bio on your website I can fill in some of the blanks already. You're a French-born concept artist currently living in Montreal, Canada, who's been working in the games industry for over 10 years now. That about sum it up?

I'd like to add that I studied Fine Arts and went to ceramic sculpting schools. I used to be a 3D artist as well and have quite a "geeky" background - I was pretty much into Game Watches, Amstrad CPC, Quake programming, 80s cartoons, Captain Harlock, Grendizer, Fist of the North Star, French comic books and anything related to the movie industry.

I am now living in Montreal and working at Square Enix, Eidos as a senior concept artist and am currently in a relationship with the best girlfriend in the world (she's working at Ubisoft). That about sums up my life for the moment...

So you used to be a 3D artist - that's something I didn't know! What prompted the move from 3D towards 2D? And can you tell us anything about the projects you're working on at the moment for Square Enix, Eidos?

3D is just a tool or bonus for me and I consider it to be a logical extension of the 2D I do. It's what can sometimes differentiate my portfolio from other concept artists (in some cases). 3D also helped me when I was trying to find a job in the French video game industry, which at the time lacked positions for Concept Artists.

When I was working in 3D I was constantly training my 2D and drawing in my free time. I'd often spend my time on 2D digital communities, assimilating techniques on forums and drawing as much as I could. When I decided to move to Montreal, I was given the opportunity to switch from 3D to 2D, which is something I really wanted because overall I prefer 2D to 3D.

In order to progress it's really important to have a sense of competition (not a bad one though).

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pro-active every day, read and execute as many tutorials as you can, share experiences with fellow concept artists and, most of all, absorb everything from the internet that can potentially help you and your art. So much knowledge and so many tools can be found on the internet. Your creativity will most often distinguish you as an artist.

Square Enix, Eidos is a really nice place to be at for the moment. There are a lot of ex-Ubisoft guys, so it's not a big change for me socially, but the projects are different. As a concept artist, I need to play with new universes and ideas, and tackle new challenges! I'm working on Thief 4 at the moment and it is going very well. The art team is amongst the strongest teams I've worked with so far in my career and I have very high hopes for this game.

Now I freely admit to being an RPG-gal myself, so I haven't actually played any of the games you've worked on, but I've certainly heard of them! That's a pretty prestigious portfolio. How did all of these opportunities come your way? And do you freelance for the companies on particular projects or are you taken on for more than one game?

Most of my projects come to me during my fulltime jobs in large studios like Ubisoft and Square Enix, Eidos. When I am done with a project in large studios, I usually have a meeting with the human resources department to discuss a possible divergence in career paths or to find out which potential projects suit me best in terms of style, longevity and compatibility.

Besides my fulltime job I am also a freelancing concept artist whenever I have the time. I am aiming to increase my freelancing, especially for the movie industry, as I would love to see my ideas transmitted into formats other then games.

Freelancing while also holding a fulltime job - you don't take it easy, do you? (Laughs). What kind of projects do you like to get involved with as a freelancer? As you have a fulltime job as well, do you have the luxury of being able to pick and choose which freelancing jobs you take on?

Yes... Often I will have the luxury of being able to determine who I want to work with depending on the time and the style of the project. I often aim for projects that completely differ from what my day-time job is like, just to broaden my horizons in different styles.

I like to work on many different styles of universe so the opportunities that come from various projects are interesting to me. The storyline and mood will also be a big source of inspiration to me.
Working for movie productions is what I am currently aiming for; I feel the movie industry has much more potential when it comes to crazy ideas. I guess this must be because movies do not have as many technical constraints as video games.

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I love concept art, particularly landscape environments, so your website is like a treasure trove of goodies! What's the actual creation process behind these images? You're given a brief, I assume, but what happens next? Do you plan out an image or just plunge straight in and see what happens?

It depends really. For production I normally have detailed briefings, but sometimes the requests are vague. The briefings could be transmitted to me verbally or as a bundle of images. Most frequently the images sent to me are mostly intended to inspire me: color palettes, specific detailing and overall mood (for full environments).

Once I've been properly briefed it's up to me to determine the composition of an image and to bring extra ideas that will then be validated by my art director. I really like this pipeline; it allows me to bring new ideas to the project.

For my personal work, my work methods are very organic. Sometimes I start an image knowing exactly what I want to do from the beginning and sometimes I like to "jump into the unknown" and let my hands decide what to do. I often experiment with abstract shapes or I start up with one color of my choosing. I like to play with different shapes while I listen to my music... It's very relaxing and gives me a feeling of freedom. I have no limits or constraints; I just let my imagination go.

I think it's essential for an artist to have some sort of equilibrium between professional and personal work. My profession will challenge me to deliver what my client wants and will give me the opportunity to work within a team, and my personal work allows me to create my own universes and easily fly through my own ideas without any limits whatsoever.

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Readers Comments (Newest on Top)
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(ID: 88497, pid: 0) Yohann on Thu, 23 February 2012 1:56pm
A great artist with an amazing job. The interview was conducted in a cool way, very interesting questions, hard too see on the web.
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