3DTotal: So do you prefer to be on board with a game in the early stages of development, so that you get the chance to establish those style guides yourself? Justin: Absolutely! It’s inspiring to be on a project from the beginning, when very little’s been decided or planned and the style, look, and feel are still undetermined – that’s what I find really fulfilling and enjoyable. Being brought into Vigil at the beginning of this new MMO is really exciting.
3DTotal:Speaking of this new MMO of yours, (Warhammer 40,000), I’ve noticed that there seems to be a bit of a trend in the projects you’ve been a part of over the last several years. Are these multi-player online games something that you’ve been consciously choosing to work on? Or is it more a case of being assigned a particular project by your company? Justin: Honestly, aside from a few projects at my first company, I’ve only worked on MMO projects so far – it’s been something that I have just sort of fallen into, most projects in the Austin game circuit are MMOs. In a way working on these types of games is great because you have to create this vast world that needs to be populated, which means a lot of art needs to be produced. There are lots of different gameplay scenarios and instances that provide a variety of design prospects for the concept team. Unfortunately it’s also easier to get burnt out on projects that are in development for years and years. But I personally really enjoy the art style of the Warhammer 40,000 universe and it’s had a lot of influence on me and my own, personal style of artwork.
3DTotal: Now Dominance War III was the word on everybody’s lips a couple of months ago (particularly ours, thanks to our unexpected success in the 3D challenge!) and I noticed from my web-browsing that you came 7th in the 2D challenge – congratulations! Your image looks amazing; I can see why you placed so highly. Was this your first experience of the Dominance War competition? Can you tell me a little about the creative process behind your image? Justin: Thanks! Congrats to you guys at 3DTotal as well. This was actually my second attempt - last year I teamed up with a friend of mine who’s a character artist and we came up with a big half-mechanical alien guy and did fairly well overall. For this year, once I found out what the topic was, I started sketching out some ideas – working old school on actual paper – and I tried to come up with a design based off each element so that I could see which one had the most potential. I narrowed it down to a few sketches based off “vegetation” and “death” – I thought these might be worth taking further. I also received a lot of great ideas and tips from my fellow artists on the forums which was crucial for me in narrowing down the design. I ended up going with “vegetation”, because I thought that this would allow me to create some interesting shapes and textures and could give me a nice colour palette to work with. At the time I didn’t see too many people using that particular element, but turns out it ended up being really popular! I worked on variations of this theme and took the best idea out of those and started to plan out my illustration and model sheet. For the illustration, I worked up a few black and white thumbnails to get my composition straight and my values right – usually if I go headfirst into painting in Photoshop it turns into a disaster, so a little pre-planning at the beginning really saves me in the end. I thought it might be cool if this was a creature that could be summoned from the ground – it’s intelligent but at the same time controlled – which would give me a way to tie in the artefact that would bring this guy to life. The model sheet took forever – what I thought looked cool from one angle would look really bad or uninteresting from the side, or back, etc., so I had to do a lot of variations on that. But it was all good practice for me.
3DTotal: Looking through your portfolio, I can see that vegetation features in several of your works while others, such as your WIPs, have a definite sci-fi/futuristic feel. Much of this work was clearly produced for the particular project that you were working on at the time; with this in mind, do you get much free time to devote to your own artwork? And when you do, what do you choose to draw and where do you get inspiration from? Justin: I try to work on personal projects for myself or for other people as much as possible; I think it’s in every artist to want to create pieces that are your own, to bring your own ideas to light and to get down some of your own personal designs.
I think it’s what keeps your work fresh and saves you from getting burned out as well as gives you time to experiment with different techniques and processes and to take chances on pieces that you might not feel comfortable taking on at work. For whatever reason, I like to draw worn, beat up, post-apocalyptic stuff. I like coming up with all sorts of different shapes and details for robots and vehicles and characters, and I really enjoy coming up with alternate ways in which machines and mechanical stuff could work. I also love hazy, bleak atmospheric perspectives in environments – in no way influenced by The Matrix! I pull inspiration from movies, music, and books, as well as other artists – from old school guys like Sargent and Wyeth, to a lot of my fellow current concept artists and illustrators. I also draw inspiration and reference from places like junkyards, construction zones, and industrial areas – junked cars and machinery, old buildings. That stuff has a lot of history and character.
3DTotal:Well we’ve talked a lot about the past and the present, but I’d like to finish off be asking about the future. Do you have any particular plans for the next few years? Any burning ambitions that you hope to fulfil? Justin: I hope to continue to grow and improve as an artist, to improve my drawing, painting and design skills, to learn some traditional media like acrylics and oils, and to keep working on a variety of cool projects. If I can keep that up I’ll be happy.
3DTotal: Thanks Justin – and good luck with that future!