Artists at the bou­tique Ger­man art stu­dio dis­cuss how they make their art so dis­tinc­tive

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sIX­MOREVODKA, the bou­tique con­cept art stu­dio, made Ber­lin its home in 2010. The com­pany pro­vides art­work, ideas and con­cep­tual ser­vices for some of the en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try’s big­gest clients, in­clud­ing Riot Games, WB Games, Mar­vel, Ubisoft, Ac­tivi­sion and Bl­iz­zard.

SIX­MOREVODKA’s char­ac­ter de­signs, nar­ra­tive il­lus­tra­tions and cover art have en­hanced many award­win­ning video games, mag­a­zines, movies and comic books. And the stu­dio has also re­leased some in­trigu­ing in-house projects of its own.

The best known are the fan­tasy world of Orken and the post-apoc­a­lyp­tic table­top RPG De­ge­n­e­sis which, as we re­ported in is­sue 164, was re­launched for 2018 to­gether with a cam­paign­cum-art book, Black At­lantic.

“De­ge­n­e­sis and Orken were de­vel­oped by our CEO and founder Marko Djur­d­je­vic, so even though they’re very dif­fer­ent from one an­other, they have a very dis­tinct, ‘Marko’ style,” ex­plains art di­rec­tor Je­lena Ke­vic

Djur­d­je­vic. “I’d de­scribe this as bold, brave and un­com­pro­mis­ing in both a vis­ual and a nar­ra­tive sense.”

But that’s not nec­es­sar­ily a style

When work­ing with clients, we’re of­ten re­quired to change our style and ex­per­i­ment

it car­ries over to its com­mer­cial work – well, not al­ways, any­way. “When we’re work­ing with clients, we’re of­ten re­quired to change our style and ex­per­i­ment,” says Je­lena, who pre­vi­ously worked as a free­lancer for Mar­vel. “We’re known for our high­end mar­ket­ing style il­lus­tra­tions and con­cepts. But our vis­ual range is much broader than that, and that’s the rea­son why clients like work­ing with us.”

exit the com­fort zone

Lead artist Ger­ald Parel, who’s also pro­duced art­work for Mar­vel, says this can be a tough chal­lenge, but it’s one he rel­ishes. “It pushes me out of my com­fort zone and forces me to an­a­lyse what I’m do­ing on a daily ba­sis,” he says. “Paint­ing a large num­ber of pic­tures, and de­liv­er­ing them with our qual­ity bench­mark in time is what we pride our­selves on, no mat­ter what prob­lems we en­counter. And that’s pos­si­ble be­cause each artist is able to both work as a solo player and a team mem­ber.”

Ju­nior artist Alessan­dro Poli ex­plains how they go about cre­at­ing con­cept art on a typ­i­cal client project. “We’ll start with thumb­nails, which usu­ally evolve into tight greyscale draw­ings,” he says. “Once these have been ap­proved by Je­lena, we’ll work on colour vari­a­tions. Again, Je­lena will pick one and that’s when we can start the ren­der­ing marathons. Of course, the process may vary from per­son to per­son. I, for ex­am­ple, have less pre­cise, rougher draw­ings that blos­som more in the paint­ing part, whereas some of my peers pre­fer go­ing for a re­ally tight draw­ing from the get-go.”

In­ter­me­di­ate artist Claudiu-An­to­niu

Magheru­san, who came from Ro­ma­nia to work at SIX­MOREVODKA, de­scribes his own ap­proach. “Re­gard­less

of the sub­ject mat­ter, I start out with a cou­ple of rough drafts so I can get a sense of what I’m aim­ing for,” he says. “Next, I usu­ally do a pass where I tighten up the draw­ing for my main el­e­ments and leave ter­tiary reads as sim­ple shapes. I then block in all my dif­fer­ent ma­te­ri­als, add their lo­cal val­ues, and start light­ing up my scene.

“At this point, if I feel that my piece is stand­ing on its feet, I start ap­ply­ing colour and a bit of tex­ture. From this point on, it’s just clean­ing and ren­der­ing un­til it looks done. The level of pol­ish might vary, based on what I want to achieve with it.”

ev­ery day’s a fun day

The work may be hard and the pace re­lent­less, but stu­dio life can also be fun, stresses Ger­ald. “There’s not one day when I’m not cry­ing of laugh­ter. These guys are in­cred­i­bly funny. We’re a bunch of artists, which means po­ten­tial ego-trips to cross – and yet we keep hav­ing a good time.”

In­ter­me­di­ate artist Monika Pałosz, who moved from Poland to work at SIX­MOREVODKA, adds that it’s also a very nur­tur­ing en­vi­ron­ment. “I’ve been here for three years now and I’ve loved ev­ery sin­gle day,” she says. “What I’ve found dif­fer­ent about this stu­dio is how much time my se­niors and col­leagues spend on shar­ing their knowl­edge and ex­per­tise.

What I’ve found dif­fer­ent about this stu­dio is how much time my col­leagues spend on shar­ing their knowl­edge

Demon­stra­tions and feed­backs are a big part of our daily rou­tine.”

It’s also a pleas­ant place to work, says Claudiu-An­to­niu. “The space it­self is amaz­ing. We work in a neat and spa­cious stu­dio, with all the ameni­ties we need to be happy and pro­duc­tive. We also live in Ber­lin, so there’s no short­age of things to keep you sane (or in­sane) out­side of work.”

And if you fancy mov­ing to the Ger­man cap­i­tal your­self, be aware that SIX­MOREVODKA is hir­ing. “We’re al­ways on the look-out for new artists to ex­pand our team,” says Je­lena. “What in­ter­ests us the most are draw­ing and paint­ing skills, anatomy, com­po­si­tion, a sense of de­sign and func­tion­al­ity, and sto­ry­telling.

“Also, we want to work with peo­ple who feel at home in the team en­vi­ron­ment, who are easy to work with, who can deal with the pres­sure and dead­lines. So it’s a mix­ture of tal­ent, drive, de­ter­mi­na­tion, pro­fes­sion­al­ism and team­work.”

Fal­berg is one of the iconic char­ac­ters from De­ge­n­e­sis, the role-play­ing game set in a ‘pri­mal punk’ world.

Char­ac­ter con­cept art for a num­ber of dif­fer­ent tribes in the world of Orken. Marko Djur­d­je­vic painted this im­pos­ing char­ac­ter from Orken, the stu­dio’s lat­est in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty.

Con­cept art­work for De­ge­n­e­sis. Al­most a decade old, the RPG was re­cently re­launched with a brand new look. Monika painted this tense en­counter from the Black At­lantic cam­paign for De­ge­n­e­sis. The SIX­MOREVODKA premises has ev­ery­thing the team needs to main­tain its cre­ative mo­men­tum.

One char­ac­ter from Orken gets their re­venge in this ac­tion piece. Lead artist Ger­ald’s per­sonal piece is dif­fer­ent from the stu­dio’s usual out­put, yet still fea­tures a strong sense of sto­ry­telling – a SIX­MOREVODKA sta­ple. Doc­tor Vega has the ca­pac­ity to harm as well as heal in the De­ge­n­e­sis uni­verse.

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