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