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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Exclusive Interview With Dave Greco, Lead Concept Artist for KingsIsle Entertainment


Ever wonder how your Giant Hornocerous started out? Everything begins with an idea or inspiration, and the job of a concept artist is to bring that idea to life. Dave Greco is a fantastic artist who works for KingsIsle Entertainment. Though he describes himself as “just someone who loves to paint,” his work is extraordinary, and fortunately, for everyone interested, he runs a blog where you can see some of his work at http://myelectronicdays.blogspot.com/! He's generously accepted an interview invitation to answer a series of questions for this interview.

Q: Your email signature says “Lead Concept Artist, KingsIsle Entertainment,” so I assume you work directly through KingsIsle with no go-between. When did you first start working for KingsIsle?

A: I started working at KingsIsle in March of 2011. I’m coming up on my first year anniversary.

Q: How did you learn about Wizard101 and KingsIsle Entertainment, and what caught your attention about them?

A: I previously worked at a game studio up in New York City and I had taken a look at KingsIsle well before I made the move down here to Austin, TX. I’d taken a tour of the studio and met a lot of the people that worked here and was immediately thrilled. The atmosphere at the studio is great and the people here couldn’t have been nicer. It’s fantastic to work with people who are so dedicated to their projects.

Q: How did you end up working as the lead concept artist?

A: Lead concept artist is actually a very recent promotion … a role that I am thrilled to be stepping into. We have an amazing concept team here and I am ecstatic to be a part of it.

Q: What was your initial impression of Wizard101 and the KingsIsle staff?

A: Right away, I was delighted to see the attitude of the team. Everyone here is really social and always excited to make Wizard101 a better game. This enthusiasm is something that is very important for a studio to have, and I’m proud to say that KingsIsle embraces it.

Q: How closely do you work within the company? Are you able to do art at home, or are you more often on-site?

A: I am a full time employee of KingsIsle’s Austin studio, along with the rest of the concept art team. We always work from the studio. It makes creating work a lot easier if we can compare concepts and throw ideas back and forth with our neighbors. I find that concept art always is improved when you are able to be social with the artists around you.


Q: How does the process of creating concept art work? Are you given specific details about something that is to be created, or are you asked for “an idea for a two-person mount,” in the case of the Giant Hornocerous?

A: We work very closely with the design team and usually receive a small design document for an idea they have about a certain character or environment. This document may include a short description with a few attached images as inspiration.

For the Hornocerous, for example, I was told we had an idea about creating a two-person mount for the game (it was a rhino) and that it was tied into Zafaria. Right away, I got very excited about an idea like this. I start the process with a little research. Before I start painting, I will spend some time looking at reference of Rhinos, war mounts, saddles, favorite paintings, anything that will help form an image in my head that I can begin with. I typically start with a black and white sketch to get the shapes down that I feel work correctly, and then just slowly build the painting up with color.

Q: What happens to potential content once it the art is completed?

A: Once a piece is completed, we send it over to design and studio leads for approval. They often have feedback about the concept and we typically make a few slight revisions to finalize the piece.

Q: I know that you were the artist for Dr. Von’s Monster (Frankenstein), the Basilisk, the Hornocerous, the Mammoth Gate, and several mobs! What other in-game work should we look for that you’ve done?

A: Let me think here, as far as released work, I created the concept work for the Nightmare, Crocogator, Chrismoose Mount, a few armor sets in Zafaria, and a whole lot of Zafaria environment work. I will definitely keep my blog updated as more content is released in the future.

Q: Describe a normal day as a concept artist at KI.

A: I usually show up in the morning, pour myself a warm cup of coffee, and just review e-mails and previous day’s artwork by all my surrounding artists. After finally catching up on everything, I will review my current day tasks and prioritize projects. With the coffee almost finished, I’ll grab my Wacom pen and start painting. Depending on meetings or reviews, most of the day is just spent painting a particular subject, and just getting feedback from the concept team as a whole. Often the goal is to complete most of the work on a piece by the end of the day … every day. ;)

Q: What do you consider to be the most and least exciting part of being a concept artist?

A: I think the best part of being a concept artist is the satisfaction of seeing your painted ideas translated in game. It’s great seeing how the modelers and texture artists interpret your ideas. Making games is a very collaborative process and it’s wonderful to be the artist who gets things started.

As far as least exciting, there really isn’t too much that would fit into that bubble. Small world assets usually become a little stale, but as long as you are willing to put as much imagination and creativity into them as you can, then you can find just as much enjoyment in the creative process.

Q: Do you get to test out your work in-game during your off-time?

A: I definitely take the time and see how my work translates from painting to in-game model. I try to hop on Wizard101 pretty frequently to see how my concepts look in game, and to see how the players react to them. It really helps to see what the community does and does not like with regard to creation of new content.

Q: Have you done or are you doing concept work for other online games? How does it compare to Wizard101 and KingsIsle Entertainment?

A: Before KingsIsle, I created concept work for a number of console titles. I spent years creating work for first person shooters like Frontlines: Fuel of war and most recently, Homefront. Coming from shooters to modern MMO games has been a fantastic change for me. It is a completely different world to work with, and one that I much prefer. I’ve personally always been an online gamer, specifically a mmo gamer, so I feel right at home.

Q: What can you tell us about your background in painting, art, and concept work?

A: Since I was just a kid, I’ve always had an attachment to drawing and art. I spent most of my childhood, like most kids do, just drawing favorite things. I’d spend hours drawing Ninja turtles, G.I. Joes, things that were out of this world. As I grew older, it became evident that art was something I wanted to make a career out of and take a lot more seriously.

After high school, I went to Ringling School of Art and Design and graduated in 2004 with a BFA in Illustration. Ringling was an amazing experience for me, one that molded and changed my life entirely. It was also during this time that I fell in love with creating concept art. Upon graduating from school, I was hired by Electronic Arts, where I worked on Madden 2006 and Superman returns. EA was a great learning experience and I still keep in touch with the people I met there. I left EA in 2006 to work for THQ in New York City where I really embraced creating concept work for the first time as an official concept artist.

Q: Is there any concept art that you’d like to share with us?

A: So far, the only work I can show is what I have released already.

Q: Is there any information about upcoming game features/items/etc. that you can give the readers of the blog a sneak peek of?

A: Unfortunately, I can’t speak about any upcoming content. I will say that I am absolutely in LOVE with some of the things we are working on right now. Stay tuned.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

A: Nothing I can think of, but I do want to thank you for taking the time to ask such great questions! It’s always nice to talk to people who are fans of the game or who are just fans of concept art in general! Concept art is an amazing field to get into, and I always try to encourage people consider entering the field. It takes a lot of practice and dedication to your craft, but it’s totally worth it in the end.

Thanks so much for your time, Dave! Keep up the awesome concept work!

5 comments:

  1. Awesome interview. I ran into this guys stuff a few days ago, and I've gotta say, it looks fantastic. Can't wait to see more. :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Your drawings are awesome!

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