The South Korean concept artist tells Gary Evans that his best work was on a project which never saw the light of day…
JC Park planned to be an engineer. At least, that’s the career his parents imagined for him. The South Korean didn’t get the grades for engineering college. He eventually completed a major in digital cartooning and began working as an illustrator and concept artist. He’s since built up a huge portfolio of mechs, vehicles and spacecrafts, with designs so intricate, so beautifully engineered, that even his parents must be proud.
JC wanted to work in comics. But when he graduated, a decade ago, the comics industry in South Korea was struggling. Meanwhile, the video games industry was expanding rapidly: PC bangs (LAN gaming centres) were growing in popularity and MMORPGs were attracting tens of millions of players. That was when JC landed a job at one of the country’s best game developers.
“The games industry was growing,” JC says, “because of games like Lineage, an MMORPG made by NCsoft. I sent a basic portfolio to NCsoft and the company invited me in for an interview. I was really lucky.
“Since I was seven years old, I enjoyed doodling for friends or family. When I drew something they were really happy; however, that wasn’t my dream job – it was just a hobby,
I thought. I liked arcade games such as Tekken, sci-fi films like The Terminator, and fantasy stuff – Dungeons & Dragons, for example. All these factors encouraged me to work in the games and film industries. There are a lot of talented artists in South Korea, so I was lucky to break into the industry and meet all these skilled people.”
just part of the process
JC worked his way up to senior concept artist, a position he held on AION – another of NCsoft’s hugely successful MMORPGs. When working on a game like this, JC usually receives a brief from the game designer. He gets to work on creating some concepts.
They then bring in a 3D designer to discuss whether or not his concepts are practical. It’s at this stage, JC says, that he must make the most amount of compromises to his ideas. Next, the team speaks to the game director and receives feedback to see if their concepts are in line with his overall vision. Once he gets the nod, JC can finalise them, before passing it on to the 3D artist, UI designer or level designer. “I think concept art,” he says, “must help the overall production of game, so I should be thinking about the final 3D result, too.”
Not all projects run this smoothly, of course. JC created concepts and illustrations for another NCsoft game, Steel Dog, which was never released. JC says he learned just as much from this failed projects as he did the more successful ones: “This was one of the best projects in my game career. I worked with one of my best directors, Mr Hwang, who had really creative ideas, a positive drive. I’ve never seen a game like this before. It called for really creative concepts. Unfortunately, this project was cancelled.”
A quick look at JC’s ArtStation or Facebook pages shows what a prolific
Concept art must help the overall production of game, so I should be thinking about the final 3D result, too
artist he is. When he’s not working on a freelance project, he’s spending time on a personal project. And when he’s not working a personal project, he’s planning his next piece.
“I’m constantly thinking about what my next my drawing is going to be,” JC says. “I’m also always gathering references, so when I do have time to draw, I can get to work straight away.”
Sp eed is key
JC often works late into the night. Sometime’s he draws while watching the TV or listening to a podcast. He doesn’t have a dedicated workspace. Instead, he sets up his Wacom and
“The vehicles of the Star Wars universe have clean shapes and simple colours. Here, I gave the vehicle a basic shape, and then worked up the details.” The Wanderer
“I took inspiration from Ridley Scott’s Prometheus to paint a mission on an uncharted planet. I wanted the foreground character to look both curious and anxious.” unknown planet
the big reveal “A moment of crisis at sea was the starting point for this painting. I imagined an attack by a huge, mysterious creature, but only wanted to show its tentacles.”