Designing Balem’s clip­per

ImagineFX: Sci-fi & Fantasy Art magazine - - George Hull -

Ge­orge de­scribes the ideas that led to the look of this el­e­gant space­ship from Jupiter As­cend­ing “One of my ca­reer goals was to de­sign a high-con­cept ve­hi­cle for a big science fic­tion film. I worked very hard to draw some­thing unique that hadn’t been seen be­fore in the genre, which is the hard­est chal­lenge as a designer.

“I love the idea of a float­ing palace com­bined with a space­ship, com­plete with stat­ues and dec­o­ra­tive stylings. My start­ing point was think­ing if Napoleon or mem­bers of the Third Re­ich ex­isted in a space opera set­ting, how would they get around the galaxy? It turned into the lead char­ac­ter and vil­lain Balem’s run­about: a gi­ant clip­per ship that docks in his fac­tory within the eye of the storms on Jupiter.

“I’ve al­ways loved to read sto­ries and see movies that in var­i­ous ways ask, “Can you imag­ine if...?” Sure, it’s just me tap­ping into my child­hood won­der­ment of the fan­tas­tic. But even though movies are in the busi­ness of en­ter­tain­ment, I like to think that cre­atively in­spired minds leav­ing the cinema is a good thing.”

Once more, Ge­orge re­minded him­self who he wanted to be as an artist and af­ter six years at ILM, he hung up his hat. Un­em­ployed, he spent the sum­mer work­ing on his port­fo­lio and blindly sent it to the di­rec­tors of the Ma­trix movies. “I yelled with ex­cite­ment, “he says, re­mem­ber­ing how he felt when the phone rang and he was of­fered a place among the Wa­chowskis’ de­sign team. “Work­ing so close to the cre­ative process and with the di­rec­tors was a dream job.”

So, what’s it like in­side the mind of the man who makes such grand and dra­matic images? How does he fire the furnaces of his imag­i­na­tion? “Mu­sic,” Ge­orge replies. “When I work I set the mood with sound­track mu­sic and I play it loud.”

De­spite the of­ten fu­tur­is­tic na­ture of his art, Ge­orge’s cre­ations are born in a very ba­sic world. “I like to start off in blue pen­cil, ink and a sketch­book,“he ex­plains. “I’ll thumb­nail ideas for large en­vi­ron­ments. From there I’ll jump into a 3D or 2D work­flow and ex­plore the big pic­tures.” Yet part of his process doesn’t in­volve any drawing tools or me­dia at all. “I think day­dream­ing is highly un­der­rated,” he says.

da ydream be­liever

Ge­orge’s day­dream­ing took on a force­ful form for the re­cent film Jupiter As­cend­ing, where he was asked to de­sign a new vis­ual vo­cab­u­lary for sev­eral dy­nas­ties, each dec­o­rat­ing its space­ships in dif­fer­ent ways. The task, he says, al­ways starts by break­ing the spell of the blank page.

“I al­ways look to the story first. I dis­cuss ev­ery­thing with a direc­tor or pro­duc­tion designer. I ask about the feel or theme that should be con­veyed.” Usu­ally, he re­veals, they’ll use words like el­e­gant, im­pe­ri­al­is­tic, ag­gres­sive or scary. For one of his tasks on Jupiter As­cend­ing, Ge­orge needed to cre­ate a ship de­sign that was strong, el­e­gant and highly dec­o­rated: “I used cues from Si­amese fight­ing fish and art deco, as well as a beau­ti­ful Ra­jasthani dag­ger and pis­tol.”

Sum­ming up his take on the cre­ative process, Ge­orge says: ”I feel good de­sign comes from a com­bi­na­tion of thought­ful prob­lem solv­ing and blue sky think­ing – and find­ing the in­ter­sec­tion where both can work to­gether.”

Just as we go to press, the artist tells us he’s got the call to work on a new project. He can’t say pre­cisely what it is, apart from it’s his “favourite fran­chise of all time.” Clearly, Ge­orge’s dreams have come true.

Drawing a unique space­ship never seen be­fore was my hard­est chal­lenge

fol­low your pass ion “De­fine what it is that you’re pas­sion­ate about, what makes you jaw drop wish­ing you could cre­ate? What would you re­gret not try­ing for when you are look­ing back at your life?”

“En­vi­ron­ment, mood and light­ing study for the re­cent film Chap­pie.”

SAL­VAGE SHIP CON­CEPT

“Here’s the Aegis Re­claimer and its sal­vage drones, which

I painted for Star Cit­i­zen.” RO BOT TESTING LAB

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