3DTotal: Your blog states that you have worked in the entertainment industry for the last five years. How did you come to be a matte / concept artist and what path did you follow to arrive at where you are now? Gerhard: The process really started in 2001. It was quite simple; I was working as a waiter at the time, doing a lunch shift, and I happened to recognise one of the customers. She was the sister of a good mate of mine, who I hadn’t seen in years. We got talking and she told me that he was working as a concept artist in the film industry, in Australia. This was a revelation. I didn’t realise that this was possible in Australia. So I got his number, we met, and I decided that’s what I wanted to do. From then on it was a series of lessons in commitment. At the time I was in my last year of my BA - and that had to go so that I could commit myself fully to studying art full-time.
During the day I would be at school studying traditional art disciplines (painting, drawing etc), then at night I would play on the computer, exploring digital art. This went on for years, until I started to get paid art jobs. I didn’t care what the jobs were, as long as I could draw and get paid. I did some awful work; weird Santa Christmas stuff and nasty chocolate promotional art, but it eventually lead me to getting enough experience and production work together that I could create a decent website, with which I could apply for full-time work. I finally got a full time position as a concept artist at THQ Studio, Australia and it has all progressed from there.
3DTotal: You often hear people talk about the importance of their first career job. What proved to be the main benefits of the job at THQ and what key lessons did you learn there? Gerhard: There is definitely a certain importance to your first “full-time” industry job. I think the emphasis has to be on “full-time”. Irrespective of the company, I believe it was important to get all those hours done. It was simply a case of painting for hours and hours, under pressure. That was the main benefit. It forced me to work very hard, with a specific focus, and continually have my work reviewed. My two years at THQ allowed me to develop as an artist. It gave me time to explore, to experiment and expose my work to my peers. Unfortunately I was the only concept artist there (the concept guy that was there when I started, left after six weeks of me arriving), so I couldn’t learn off another more experienced artist. I was forced to work a lot of stuff out myself. That wasn’t ideal, as I am a big believer in mentoring new staff, especially when they were as green as me. But it meant I had to learn quickly and work hard. It enforced a discipline and a sound work ethic.
3DTotal: Many of your pieces show the human element in an almost incidental aspect - quite small and almost insignificant within the scene. What reasoning can you attribute to this? Gerhard: That’s a technique to show scale. The tiny specks (people) provide scale for the viewer, as well as a subconscious link to the image, making it less impersonal (or so I hope). I have an intense fascination with scale and epic landscapes. When I first saw the work of John Harris, I was sold. I suppose at the moment I am more interested in “place” than the “person”, hence a lot of environmental work. Also, I have principally been employed as an environmental artist, so painting environments is a bit of a habit.
3DTotal: Which software do you use and what have been the most useful aspects of working digitally, with regards to the numerous tools on offer? Gerhard: Photoshop. That’s all I use generally. At times I use Maya or Modo to create basic architecture for environments. I have tried a variety of other applications, but I have found they are not as robust or as versatile as PS. I especially love Bridge; using PS with Bridge is a treat, especially when working with a lot of photos. The digital medium means I get to play around a lot; I get to explore ideas quickly and try a whole lot of stuff out. I basically get to explore my options. PS is great as it’s a fast and stable application and well suited to working with photos (as its name suggests!)
3DTotal: There seems to be an apocalyptic theme running through some of your production art. What is the story behind these images? Gerhard: The apocalyptic theme is a result of me getting “known” for doing these types of images. Jobs would come along, with clients stating they liked an image of a bombed out city I did, and if I could do another one for them. So its market driven really, sort of being”typecast” I guess. But I do enjoy the theme. The post apocalyptic theme has, I believe, a resonance with all of us. For years we have been bombarded with imagery of “unspecified” countries bombing the living crap out of other “unspecified” countries. This is powerful stuff, and it seeps in. For me it has a fascinating aesthetic - perhaps my own fears of what’s happening in the world today. That, or simply watching too many movies and playing too many games.