Concept Artists You Should Know
Concept Artists You Should Know
Back in the 1990’s, when I was in high school, I had this friend who would buy the ‘Art Of’ book of every new Disney film. These huge books were hard to find and very expensive, but they were pretty much the only way to get a glimpse of all the cool art that was produced behind the scenes of these animated classics.
How things have changed! These days there is a reasonably affordable ‘Art Of’ book for every animated film, and you can have it delivered right to your front door. And if you’re a poor art student, you can find ridiculous amounts of concept art and production design online for free. In fact, there’s so much out there, that at times you might feel a little overwhelmed.
Storyboard artist Joscha van Deijk is a new contributor. He will be writing about cinema, comics, video games, and other things that inspire him on a daily basis. His first Top 5 features artists with an impressive body of work a strong personal style. These are his five concept artists you should know:
Alberto Mielgo has worked on some extremely commercial projects like the Harry Potter films, a Beatles game and the Disney TV show Tron Uprising, for which he won an Annie and Emmy award as Best Art Director / Production Designer in 2013. But make no mistake, Mielgo has the sensitivity of a true fine-artist.
Alberto Mielgo was born in Spain and studied under the famous painter Antonio López García. Apart from his commercial assignments, Mielgo also does personal work in oil and gouache. In 2012 he held a gallery show of his oil paintings. Large, intimate paintings of adult movie stars and confronting self portraits that radiate feelings of loss and loneliness.
His signature style has an abstraction to it that, at times (paradoxically), manages to create an almost hyperrealistic effect. A great example of this can be found in the amazing backgrounds he did for the The Beatles: Rockband game intro. An amazing video (directed by Pete Candeland, with stunning character designs by Robert Valley) that, in my opinion, is one of the greatest examples of commissioned work ever done in animation.
In his still short career, Illustrator and Animation Director Kevin Dart has already worked for pretty much all the major animation studios. He interned at Pixar, worked as a Character Designer for LAIKA, did visual development at DreamWorks and Disney, and he created backgrounds for Genndy Tartakovsky’s short-lived Cartoon Network series Sym-Bionic Titan.
Dart is also the creator of Yuki 7: a 1960’s spy character that feels like a mix of the classic James Bond, Danger: Diabolik and The Thunderbirds. A similar vintage vibe can be found in the award winning commercial A Year of Sun with Mr. Persol and in his more recent short FORMS IN NATURE: Understanding Our Universe.
Kevin Dart’s work has a classic and vintage feel to it, without it ever becoming a blatant rip-off of an existing style. Instead, he manages to combine his modernist influences and his love of sixties cinema into something fresh and very personal that feels traditional and contemporary at the same time.
Just like Kevin Dart, Brittney Lee’s work is very much inspired by modernist artists from the 1950’s and 1960’s. But where Dart primarily gets his inspiration from book illustrators like Charlie Harper, Lee seems to be channeling the legendary production designer Mary Blair. So it is perfectly appropriate that Lee is now working at Disney, the same studio for which Mary Blair did her famous designs.
Some years ago Lee began experimenting with paper sculptures. Three dimensional illustrations painstakingly built up out of cut-out pieces of paper. These stunning dioramas have since become a major influence on other artists. In fact, Brittney Lee is probably one of today’s most influential animation artists.
Apart from her strong visual style, the thing that makes Lee’s work stand out is the appeal of it. ‘Appeal’ is one of the 12 animation principles defined in Disney’s animation bible The Illusion of Life, but the exact meaning of ‘appeal’ is hard to describe. Similar to something like charisma, it doesn’t necessarily have much to do with the level or skill of the artist. It’s pretty much the X-factor of animation. If you want to know more about appeal, Brittney Lee’s blog (which goes back all the way to her student-work) seems like a perfect place to start!
The work of ‘Pro Doodler’ Ian McQue is far removed from the fairylike images of Brittney Lee. It has more of a blue-collar vibe to it. Recurring subjects in his personal work are: astronauts (spacemen), robots, funky vehicles, anything with cables or tubes attached to it, and especially flying boats. He has done many illustrations of these rusty ships docking at floating scrapyard harbors or being worked on by rough welders.
McQue has a background in game design. From the mid 1990’s until 2014 he worked for Rockstar Games, where he was an Art Director and Concept Artist on the best-selling Grand Theft Auto games. These days he is working as a freelance artist for games and film.
Ian McQue works in a very clean and clear style and he is a superb draftsman. His digital work has a directness to it that is far from the meticulously rendered digital paintings that are most commonly associated with game design. Looking at his work you get a sense that he might not not be unlike those rough welder types he likes to draw: a guy that gets the job done.
Like Ian McQue, Florent Sacré has worked for some of the hottest games out there. He has been working for Ubisoft since 1997. Most recently he worked as a Creative Director on Assassin’s Creed Unity. Aside from his work as a Concept Artist, he also draws comics.
Florent Sacré is a bit of an enigma. This is a rare thing these days, now that everyone is throwing the most intimate details of their lives online. And although Sacré shares his work on Blogspot, Tumblr and Facebook there is little to be found about the artist himself.
The work of Florent Sacré is another example of concept art with a strong personal style. Sacré works in the tradition of the Franco-Belgian comics (Bande Dessinée). The thing that stands out most in his work is his bold line-work. Even when he is working digitally it feels as if his work was inked with an old fashioned crown nib. When we think of concept art we probably don’t think of work in the tradition of Tintin and Spirou, but Florent Sacré’s work perfectly shows that great concept art isn’t limited to a single style.
Joscha van Deijk is an Amsterdam based storyboard artist. He loves Film-Noir, Batman, Tintin, Rembrandt, the Beatles and more. You can find him on Twitter and Tumblr.