JC Park

The South Korean con­cept artist tells Gary Evans that his best work was on a project which never saw the light of day…

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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.”

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