3DTotal: Hi Robh! Now I just have to start by saying how much I love your website. It’s so chocked full of amazing images – seriously, you’ve probably got the biggest collection I’ve seen on any artist’s website! And it’s not just from one genre/medium either; there are
matte paintings, concept art, animation stills, sketches, digital plein aire pieces (outdoor paintings for all of us uneducated), fantasy art … I could go on. So I guess what I’d like to begin by asking is where did it all start for you? When did you realize that this was what you wanted to do with your life and was it difficult to get to where you are today? Robh: As a kid you have a clearer idea of what you want to do. So the answer is ever since I was four.
Now as we go through school we get pulled here and there by different interests and occupations. I studied film making and animation at the High School for Performing Arts, and Electrical Engineering, Industrial Design and Illustration in college. I ended up getting a great education but in a very roundabout way. I wouldn’t say it’s difficult to get to the kind of stage I’m at as long as you’re willingly to put in the hours. There are no shortcuts. The hours/years I spent painting and the sketchbooks I have filled is the “hard” part that most people shirk away from. The sooner you start being obsessed with what you’re doing, the sooner you’ll get “there”!
3DTotal: Looks like you’ve certainly had a well-rounded education! Was it a conscious decision to study various artistic mediums rather than just taking a straightforward artistic path, or was it something you just fell into? Where there any drawbacks to such a route? And do you think it’s shaped how your artistic style has developed? Robh: Oh no, it was process of elimination. Most people don’t know that you can make a living as an illustrator or concept artist. Nowadays it’s more prevalent and in the media, but just a short while ago (think Blade Runner) there weren’t teams of designers specializing in this kind of area. Electrical Engineering led to Industrial Design which led to studying figure drawing with Fred Fixler at the California Art Institute. It most definitely shaped me as an artist because of all the varied fields of study!
3DTotal:Now you’ve been involved in a pretty high-profile project recently: working as art director on Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. I checked out the game’s Wikipedia page and it’s won a bucketload of critical acclaim, culminating in sweeping the boards at this year’s DICE and Game Developers Choice awards. What was it like working on such a project? Did you ever dream it would becomeas successful
as it has; was there a moment when you thought, “Yes, this is going to be something special” or was it all in a day’s work? Robh: The best analogy I can give is that it’s like being in the trenches during WW1. When the bullets are flying overhead and the bombs are going off you don’t know how much ground you’ve covered until you pop your head out at the end and go, “wow”. My first inkling was when I played the follow up to very a popular game that had a huge following and went, “wait a minute, our game is looking really good in comparison”. I won’t say which game, but we were so focused on perfecting what we doing that it wasn’t until later that we could truly see what we had achieved.
3DTotal: In a practical sense, what was your involvement with the project? Were you designing any aspects of the artwork yourself or was it more of a case of managing a team? And looking back now, are there any parts you’re particularly proud of, or is there anything that you would change? Robh: There’re tons of things I would like to change, but most projects are like that. Hitchcock used to say he got about 50% of what he envisioned. And I’m much more of a hands-on lead. I try not to have much to do with Excel sheets. If you get a chance to thumb through the new Art of Uncharted 2 by Ballistic Publishing you’ll see a ton of my art, from full blown tight concepts to design sketches and matte paintings.
3DTotal: I’ve just got two words for you: Broadview Graphics. What’s it all about and how did it spring into life?
Robh: That’s an interesting story. A friend and I were lamenting how long it takes to make good, fully painted/rendered images. We said it would be so much simpler if we had a flat graphic style so I started experimenting. I’ve always loved film noir and Raymond Chandler so I invented my own line of detective fiction. The best thing I got out of it was it forced me to be a much better designer. By working so flat you’re forced to really design the silhouette shape and you become very aware of designing shape for shape’s sake. That is just as important in painting but it tends to get covered up by the modeling. Basically if it’s interesting in black and white with no form it’ll stay interesting as you layer on all the details.
3DTotal: Is there anything on the horizon for Broadview Graphics or is it all over now that you’ve established that flat graphic style you were after? Are we going to see your detective fiction gracing shop bookshelves any time in the future? Robh: A story exec who I respect a lot approached me to develop it into a pitch. We hammered out a really nice watertight story. We pitched it around but it’s pretty different so no takers. I was then talking to a publisher about doing a digital painting book and they saw the Broadview stuff and wanted to do a book on that. I spent thanksgiving and Christmas writing out the story and painting new pieces. A week before I was to turn everything in the publisher cancelled… which was disappointing to say the least. One day.