Ge­of­frey Er­nault

The French gam­ing and sci-fi con­cept artist is about to em­bark on a new ad­ven­ture.

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When Ge­of­frey Er­nault was around six years old, he found him­self con­fined to hos­pi­tal due to an eye in­jury. For a while, he was ef­fec­tively blind. “My fa­ther was next to me with Star Wars play­ing on the hos­pi­tal TV,” he re­mem­bers. “And he de­scribed each scene of the film and what was hap­pen­ing. And dur­ing all this I had all these ex­cit­ing sci-fi im­ages com­ing through my mind – su­per-cool space­ship de­signs, stormtroop­ers and ev­ery­thing.” He smiles at his first real stir­rings of artis­tic cre­ativ­ity. “Then when I saw the movie it was even bet­ter!”

Cur­tain-wipe to 2015, and the now hugely tal­ented artist is pre­par­ing to move to the Los An­ge­les area to join Riot Games as a se­nior con­cept artist – fol­low­ing a year’s stint at Guerilla Games at its Cam­bridge of­fice. In be­tween, he’s lived in Greece, China, Bel­gium, Rus­sia and back to his home coun­try of France, all the while hon­ing his craft for pro­duc­ing fan­tas­ti­cally de­tailed sci-fi land­scapes, crea­tures and many other de­signs.

“Guerilla was re­ally great,” he says of his last job. “The com­pany con­tacted me to de­velop a new IP for which it needed some­one to fig­ure out the over­all look, and to ex­plore op­tions. That IP went on to be­come RIGS, which Guer­rilla an­nounced back in June at E3. It was an amaz­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, be­cause I had a lot more re­spon­si­bil­i­ties. It was on Pro­ject Mor­pheus [Sony’s forth­com­ing vir­tual re­al­ity sys­tem], so it meant we had to find ways of cre­at­ing a good pipeline that would work with the tech, and see­ing it evolve was re­ally awe­some. I feel like I re­ally learnt a lot.”

more than a game

Ge­of­frey’s love of gam­ing, par­tic­u­larly of the sci-fi kind, also de­vel­oped at an early age. “When I was about seven, I re­mem­ber dis­cov­er­ing Star­Craft at a friend’s house,” he says. “It was a rev­e­la­tion to me. I fell in love with the uni­verse, the way the game played, the mas­sive armies and the de­signs. I just couldn’t stop play­ing it. I started play­ing more and more games, mostly Di­ablo 2, War­craft III and Earth 2150.”

The real break­through came on his 16th birth­day, when his par­ents bought him a Wa­com tablet. “I was re­ally ex­cited! While look­ing for tu­to­ri­als to use it, I re­alised you could ac­tu­ally paint with a tablet and not just use flat colour. I fo­cused all my at­ten­tion on that and any free time I’d have, I’d learn new tech­niques and learn the soft­ware at home af­ter school.”

Ge­of­frey mainly uses Pho­to­shop, along with 3ds Max, ZBrush and the Un­real En­gine as projects or whims de­mand, though he’s al­ways keen to try new soft­ware or less-con­ven­tional meth­ods of paint­ing. “For ex­am­ple I like us­ing Alchemy or tra­di­tional stuff like con­tour draw­ing some­times. I like to experiment with the pic­ture, be­cause you can’t just add a land­scape pic­ture to make a speed-paint­ing in an easy way. But what you can do is try to take a pic­ture of some­thing ab­stract and find a cool way to use it in an im­age, for a de­sign for ex­am­ple.”

In any of his con­cept de­signs, light­ing al­ways comes first, fol­lowed by com­po­si­tion, shapes and fi­nally the ac­tual de­sign. This is partly due to his love of the Im­pres­sion­ists and the work of Cas­par David Friedrich – build­ing a mood just as much as de­pict­ing sub­jects. “I think it’s kind of easy to cre­ate an im­age that looks good,” he says. “If you have the soft­ware knowl­edge and the tech­ni­cal knowl­edge,

If you have the tech­ni­cal skills, it’s kind of easy to cre­ate an im­age that looks good

you can do some­thing that looks good, with a lot of de­tail. But I re­ally like the Im­pres­sion­ists be­cause they can con­vey a mood us­ing such good use of brush strokes. They don’t need to de­tail ev­ery­thing be­cause there’s mys­tery. You have to play with your imag­i­na­tion a bit and I think it just makes the im­ages bet­ter.”

global view

His trav­els around the globe – first with his fam­ily grow­ing up, and later for his ca­reer – have also con­trib­uted much to his artis­tic world­view. “I feel like be­ing abroad boosts my cre­ativ­ity and makes me en­joy life more, as I’m con­stantly dis­cov­er­ing new things, learn­ing new lan­guages, dis­cov­er­ing cul­tures. “So when you go to Rus­sia and ev­ery­thing is su­per-grey and there’s a bliz­zard and its cold and you have big, al­most very grey­ish build­ings. Then you go to Greece and you have sand ev­ery­where, it’s hot. Ev­ery time I would just leave ev­ery­thing be­hind and just start all over.”

In­deed, while Ge­of­frey stud­ied at the pres­ti­gious L’In­sti­tut Supérieur des Arts Ap­pliqués art school, and has taught art cour­ses him­self, he’s a big be­liever in get­ting out there and get­ting on with it. “Even in France, I don’t think there’s a lot of schools that teach con­cept art. They tell you about speed-paint­ing or Pho­to­shop. But they don’t give you a real-life ex­pe­ri­ence. You don’t know how it feels to work free­lance for a client, be­ing paid badly, but you do it for the CV. You have to go through this stage. Peo­ple don’t re­alise that.”

Now LA, and the next chap­ter in Ge­of­frey’s ad­ven­ture, awaits. He’s ea­ger to get started once again. “Serge Bi­rault said art is like a drug. It feels some­times more like a curse – if you don’t paint, you feel bad. And the worst thing is if you fin­ish an im­age, even if you like it for 10 min­utes, af­ter­wards you’re go­ing to hate it be­cause you are go­ing to think about all the things that you could have cor­rected!” he laughs. “I guess it’s not about be­ing per­fect. I think we’re all seek­ing the feel­ing of be­ing con­tent with what we’re do­ing.”

This Isn’t Mars In this per­sonal piece Ge­of­frey was “prac­tis­ing edges and colours” to pro­duce the at­mo­spheric ef­fect he’s so fond of.

“Hav­ing some fun dur­ing my lunch­break, plus a bit of de­tail af­ter work,” says Ge­of­frey, who de­vel­oped a com­plex back­story for this im­age.

World Bear­ers

An evoca­tive im­age – which Ge­of­frey is keep­ing de­lib­er­ately un­ex­plained – with hints of Star Wars in the de­sign.


“I’d been watch­ing a bunch of Ghi­bli stuff,

so I went back to colour­ful sub­jects for

this paint­ing.”

The Fall This was de­signed for the game Ker­bal Space Pro­gram and cre­ated with 3ds Max, ZBrush and Pho­to­shop.

No Man’s Val­ley

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