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Artist Advice: Michael Mowat, Atomhawk

By Michael Mowat

Web: https://www.artstation.com/michaelmowat (will open in new window)

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Date Added: 1st September 2017

Atomhawk concept artist, Michael Mowat describes his unusual route into concept art and gives a few tips about working in studios...



My name is Michael, but most call me Mick, and I am currently a concept artist at Atomhawk in sometimes sunny Newcastle. Originally from North of the Wall (Scotland) my first in-house job was down in Portsmouth for Climax studios.

How you got started

My career has taken a few turns to be honest. I went to art school in Aberdeen and specialised in 3D Design... this didn't involve Maya or anything like that, it was actually focused on jewellery design, so working with precious metals like gold, silver etc. It was in my fourth year that I realised this wasn't for me and actually discovered by happy accident that you could be a video game artist!

And another creature from the Faketastic Beasts personal project

I thought "This is it; this is the job for me.” So I focused on building a portfolio while working part time as a waiter and eventually I managed to get a few freelance gigs. These small projects gave an insight into this world and I really wanted an in-house position, so applied to a few places and luckily Climax hired me. I was actually hired as an environment artist rather than a concept artist (I didn't even know Maya or any 3d program at this point.)

Myself and the guys from work did a sketch a day for the whole of September, and so Sketchtember was born! Just a random enviro from that month

That year at Climax was the biggest learning curve I have ever experienced; it taught me 3D, Unreal and working on an actual game! I knew that I wanted to concentrate on just concept art though, so again focused on my portfolio, applied to Atomhawk, and have been here ever since.

Advice for aspiring artists

I think the only advice I can give without repeating what everyone else says (learn foundation skills etc.) is to try and focus on the work you actually want to work on. I do understand this is difficult as most junior positions expect a lot! Picking up some 3D skills is sort of expected as well these days.

Another one from Sketchtember

I would say that most artists would say to specialise in an area; for me I'm just too greedy! I like working on different things whether that's characters, environments, props, creatures. It doesn't really matter to me.

Started really getting into ZBrush end of last year and its pretty much a solid part of my workflow now. So what better than to sculpt a merman warrior!

Atomhawk send the whole art team down to Industry Workshops each year which is always good. It's great to meet other creatives and be inspired after seeing the talks. Finally, Pinterest is my best mate these days; reference really does help guys.

Like I said, big Potter fan so decided to come up with my own auror, got a few of these in the works!

How does working in a studio differ from freelancing?
It's nowhere near as lonely! Freelancing is great but for me I like being in a studio, working with other artists

Just a lazy Sunday sculpt, LOTR is a huge influence for me

What are the advantages and the disadvantages?
The advantage of a studio job is the creative workflow; you can bounce ideas off each other and can get instant feedback plus having a team of drinking buddies is no bad thing. The disadvantage is that you don't always get to work on what you would like to.

What is the best way to get into a studio job?
Although it seems simple just having a great portfolio of work. It speaks volumes. Also being a nice person helps!

This was done for Atomhawk for the "Potionmomics” game

Is there any advice specific to working in a studio that you would like to give?
You have to be okay with feedback, both from clients and colleagues. Leave the ego at the door and just work hard. Here at Atomhawk you have to be pretty flexible in terms of what you can work on! We get all sorts!

This was for the latest Injustice 2 game. Was very cool to finally see this in game; the guys at NetherRealm did a cracking job!

Related links

Check out more of Mick's Portfolio
Atomhawk create amazing art for clients across the world, visit the site to find out more
Atomhawk are currently looking for new people to join their art and production teams in the UK and Canada.
Grab a copy of The Art of Atomhawk Design - Volume 1 from the 3dtotal store

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