Hol­ly­wood or bust!

From hav­ing no job to work­ing for Dis­ney and Marvel – Gary Evans learns how this artist’s Hol­ly­wood gam­ble paid off…

ImagineFX - - Editor’s Letter -

I loved Pablo Car­pio’s en­thu­si­as­tic ap­proach to re­al­is­ing his child­hood dream of mak­ing it as an artist.

P ablo Car­pio had a plan. He’d use the money he put aside for uni­ver­sity to pay for a trip to Hol­ly­wood. The young con­cept artist would then go to all the big stu­dios, meet all the right peo­ple, and get his big break in the film busi­ness. The Spa­niard touched down in Los An­ge­les. Re­al­ity hit. He was alone and had no idea where to go or who to see. He needed help. Pablo called up a few peo­ple from the dig­i­tal art com­mu­nity – artists he’d met on­line and at events. They called up friends, who called up their friends, and pretty soon he had a meet­ing at game de­vel­op­ers Naughty Dog and Riot Games. Then Pablo found him­self in Burbank, at the head­quar­ters of Dis­ney Stu­dios.

“At that point I didn’t have any job,” he says. “Three years later I’ve been in­volved in the cre­ation of three films from Dis­ney’s fran­chises.”

Pablo grew up in an up­per-mid­dle class fam­ily in Madrid. He de­scribed him­self as a rebel with­out a cause – un­til he found art. Peo­ple no­ticed he could draw, so he worked at it. The more hours he put into art, the more peo­ple no­ticed.

“It was just me hav­ing fun and hav­ing the cu­rios­ity to know what

would hap­pen if I could do it a bit bet­ter the fol­low­ing day,” Pablo says.

He painted Warhammer minia­tures, drew copies of the char­ac­ters from Magic: The Gath­er­ing cards, and got into gam­ing dur­ing the PlaySta­tion and PlaySta­tion 2 eras – play­ing games like Spyro, Tekken and Crash Bandi­coot. His art im­proved, but his school­work suf­fered. “Most peo­ple around me thought that I would end up liv­ing un­der a bridge if I kept painting, and not do­ing any­thing else.”

Af­ter high school, Pablo stud­ied fine art at the Com­plutense Uni­ver­sity of Madrid. This wasn’t like school. In­stead of maths and physics, it taught sculp­ture and art his­tory. He ex­celled at his stud­ies. Pablo grew up in an en­vi­ron­ment that val­ued a uni­ver­sity ed­u­ca­tion, so when he grad­u­ated in 2014, it earned him some re­spect. It didn’t last long, though. That same en­vi­ron­ment also val­ued money. “The idea of be­ing a suc­cess­ful artist was ba­si­cally nonex­is­tent among my friends and fam­ily.”

At uni­ver­sity, he got into dig­i­tal art. All those minia­tures, trad­ing cards, com­puter games – some­body had to draw them. “I dis­cov­ered they were de­signed by real hu­man be­ings with a salary, and 20 days of hol­i­days a year! Not by an­cient gods that had brought them as gifts from the sky. Sud­denly, painting and de­sign­ing mon­sters had a real pur­pose. I had an ob­jec­tive for the first time in my life.”

Zero im­pact

Pablo spent sev­eral years try­ing and fail­ing to break into the games in­dus­try. There were lots of re­jec­tions. Peo­ple tried to make him work for free, even steal his art. He wanted a job at a small in­de­pen­dent de­vel­oper, or even a job in game pub­lic­ity or ad­ver­tis­ing. “My ex­pec­ta­tions weren’t higher than

I dis­cov­ered they were de­signed by real hu­man be­ings, not by an­cient gods

that,” Pablo ad­mits. “The be­gin­ning was tough: no con­tacts, al­most zero im­pact on so­cial me­dia, and zero trust in my­self and my abil­i­ties.”

It caused prob­lems with his fam­ily. Af­ter sev­eral ar­gu­ments, they agreed to let him stay at home with­out get­ting a “real job.” Every day for the next three years he worked on his art. He drew and painted and hoped an op­por­tu­nity would even­tu­ally come his way. He made friends in the on­line dig­i­tal art com­mu­nity. He went to events and met them in per­son.

“I started to un­der­stand how the busi­ness works, and how big video game com­pa­nies and movie pro­duc­tions were not that far away. It was just about push­ing your skills to the limit and knock­ing on the right doors at the right time.”

Fi­nally, Ubisoft Mon­treal emailed. The game de­vel­oper be­hind the Far Cry, Prince of Per­sia and As­sas­sin’s Creed fran­chises in­vited him to work as a free­lance con­cept artist. “I signed the con­tracts and two days later I was work­ing on a AAA video game. Some­times re­al­ity hits you like a truck. But in a good way.”

Con­cept art is ideas

Pablo works in both 2D and 3D. He has a sim­ple setup: a tablet, lap­top and mon­i­tor. The av­er­age piece takes him three days to com­plete: a day for sketches and 3D lay­outs, a day for de­tailed 3D mod­el­ling and light ren­der­ing, and an­other for pho­to­bash­ing and 2D painting.

He prefers 2D for con­cept art, but by work­ing in 3D, he can pro­duce lots

The be­gin­ning was tough: no con­tacts, al­most zero im­pact on so­cial me­dia, and zero trust in my­self

of images very quickly and very ac­cu­rately, which is im­por­tant in game de­vel­op­ment when time is tight. For him, the idea is al­ways more im­por­tant than the medium.

There’s a dif­fer­ence, the artist says, be­tween draw­ing some­thing just be­cause “it looks badass” and draw­ing some­thing be­cause you want to com­mu­ni­cate. And this is what great con­cept art should do: use de­sign lan­guage, shapes, com­po­si­tion and sto­ry­telling to say some­thing, to con­vey an idea. “Con­cept art is all about ideas,” Pablo says, “not amaz­ing ren­ders with tons of ef­fects.”

The Spa­niard’s work shows us some­thing hap­pen­ing, ac­tion, a mo­ment in time. His com­po­si­tion gives us clues to what’s go­ing on. He be­lieves that a varied pal­ette of colours keeps the viewer in­ter­ested. And he uses light to cre­ate mood and to guide the eye around the im­age.

“Apart from all of that, I love cir­cles. Sounds weird, but you can see that all my images have cir­cles some­where. I think that it’s a shape which can bring lots of bal­ance, rhythm and weight to de­signs.”

Pablo has just com­pleted work on movies for Pixar and Marvel Stu­dios (un­for­tu­nately, he isn’t al­lowed to tell us which ones). Work­ing in these kind of col­lab­o­ra­tive en­vi­ron­ments meant that he had to adapt his ideas to fit the given project, the bud­get and the rest of the team.

The projects posed ques­tions, and it was his job to come up with an­swers. That, Pablo says, is what a con­cept artist does. It’s not just about mak­ing nice pic­tures. In re­turn, he learned count­less new pro­cesses, tech­niques and tools to use in his work.

the value of Good ideas

Con­cept art is all about ideas, not amaz­ing ren­ders with tons of ef­fects

Some­thing Pablo found dif­fi­cult was giv­ing away his best ideas. He in­stinc­tively wanted to keep them back for per­sonal projects. “In the end, I gain more by giv­ing my best, rather than keep­ing it all to my­self and de­liv­er­ing only half of my po­ten­tial. It shows that I’m a re­li­able artist, which

will lead to good words from my clients that can po­ten­tially in­tro­duce me to new projects and di­rec­tors.

“The re­sult? A happy client and the chance to leave my mark in a Hol­ly­wood pro­duc­tion.”

Which fi­nally brings us full cir­cle – Pablo’s very own Hol­ly­wood end­ing. Drop­ping ev­ery­thing, fly­ing out to Los An­ge­les, hop­ing to make it in the film in­dus­try de­spite not hav­ing a sin­gle meet­ing lined up… look­ing back, that was a bit of a mad idea, wasn’t it?

“It’s all about al­ways mov­ing for­ward,” he says. “It’s about risk­ing what you have and be­liev­ing in your own abil­i­ties, and if you don’t have an op­por­tu­nity, cre­ate it by your­self. Mak­ing things hap­pen starts by tak­ing bold de­ci­sions.

“I hap­pily look back and re­alise that it wasn’t as im­pos­si­ble as it looked when I was still painting on my maths book at high school.”

“I would say that this painting is to­tally in­side my com­fort zone: or­ange tones, sun­set light and a Western theme.” Com­fort zone

“This was a gift for a friend to use it for his mag­a­zine cover: a trib­ute to Mark Mag­giori’s Western land­scapes.” Trib­ute Hid­den depth “While work­ing at Marvel I started push­ing my 3D skills way more than be­fore, try­ing to cre­ate dif­fer­ent char­ac­ters just as a train­ing ex­er­cise. This is one of them.”

in­spired by anas­ta­sia “I painted this while vis­it­ing some friends in Ber­lin. I took in­spi­ra­tion from some key scenes in the an­i­mated chil­dren’s film Anas­ta­sia.”

“An­other painting from the series for League of Leg­ends, of the Dema­cia landscape. I tried to adapt the colour and light­ing to pre­vi­ous con­cepts cre­ated by the Riot team.” Dema­cia

Get­ting deep “This was an ex­er­cise in depth and scale. I was in­spired by the art of Nick Gin­draux for Un­charted 4, which is one of my favourite video games.”

“I use 3D mod­el­ling to cre­ate a base for my il­lus­tra­tion. Next, I run a first ren­der with ba­sic lights and colours, then move into Pho­to­shop where I both paint and pho­to­bash the im­age.” My process

The French band Go­jira sang about “dead bod­ies fall­ing from the sky” in their song Sil­vera, which pro­vided Pablo with a key mo­ment of in­spi­ra­tion. Sil­vera

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