5 questions for Atomhawk Canada

Every artist and designer is unique. They bring their own individual experiences to each project. Your ways of working, and the specific things that fire up your inspiration will always be different from every other person you work with. That’s what makes being part of a large in-house team like Atomhawk’s so exciting. Everyone brings something special and the combination is brilliant. We want to give you an idea of the energy, thinking and creative background that goes into each piece of artwork here.

Our artists and designers all have a strong work ethic, they know authenticity is key and they’ve all arrived at Atomhawk for a reason. Let’s get to know them and find out more.

Have you always wanted to work as a professional artist? What was your personal career journey leading up to Atomhawk?

Russell Jones, Senior Concept Artist:
I always drew as a kid but didn’t realize it was a career option until the end of high school, when I found an online art study group filled with artists aspiring to work professionally. I put my all into it and spent several years working on basic fundamentals and building a portfolio before I started landing some freelance gigs. Several more years of freelancing and studying, I ended up in a place where I wanted to grow more but had felt I’d hit a wall on my own. I’d never considered working in-house somewhere but found out about Atomhawk not being too far from where I lived and applied soon after.

Jin Young Song, Intermediate Concept Artist: I always wanted to do something related to art growing up but ended up studying something totally unrelated in university. It took me a few years, but my interest in design and video games eventually led me to Atomhawk!

Mauro Cerati, Principal Concept Artist: I knew I wanted to work as an artist but where I’m from, art isn’t seen as a “real job”. After studying art in school, I went to university to study Asian languages because it seemed like it would open opportunities for me. But once I graduated, I didn’t want to be a translator, so I worked for some years as a graphic designer, but the financial crisis and very poor job security didn’t make me go that far anyway, so I decided to pursue my true passion combining art and video games into a career as a concept artist. I left Italy to go to Singapore studying the fundamentals of been a concept artist for videogames. I spent a year at FZD School building my portfolio and was lucky enough to land my first job in the game industry. Finally, I was on the right path!

From there I worked for indie game devs around the world, then moved to Malaysia at an outsourcing company where I got the chance to work on AAA titles for the first time. After five years cutting my teeth, I got the job at Atomhawk, where I’m now based in Vancouver to start the Canadian chapter of my life.

Most artists have a specialty they’re drawn to, can you tell us more about yours? What is it that you love about it?

My job requires me to draw lots of different things, but I enjoy drawing humans the most. I find character and costume design the most fun.

Mauro: Of course! I love drawing all kinds of environments, but my favourite genres to play with are medieval to steampunk/diselpunk. I’ve always adored the mysteries regarding past civilizations and such, so those are always an evergreen in my concepts. Alongside Green mythology too, of course!

Russell: Characters and creatures are what I’ve always gravitated towards, especially the weird and unusual – I’ve always tended to find misfits in life the most interesting, so maybe that has something to do with it. I love storytelling with strong visuals that support overarching themes.

Concept art is all about creating new ideas. Where do you find your inspiration? Do you prefer searching for references online or elsewhere?

I tend to do a lot of research online, whatever I’m currently interested in I try to deep dive, reading and saving any intriguing accompanying imagery as I go. You start to find things you had no idea existed that can be pulled from to use in your own designs.

Jin: I’d say I draw inspiration from pretty much anything – the people I interact with, the places I visit, and of course the movies, games, and TV shows. I also reference a lot from other artists and the old masters. I think truly unique designs don’t really exist, just a unique combination of things.

Mauro: It depends on the theme and the availability of references. If I’ve already visited a place then I can pull out photos from some of my trips, otherwise the vast sea of the internet will always provide interesting references to look upon. In terms of finding the inspiration- anything really, but I find that I learn a lot from music. One line of lyrics can spark in me wonderous visuals that drive the initial spark of ideas.

How has working with a large team of artists and producers changed your art-making process?

It’s been good since I’m not alone anymore. It’s especially useful for studying together, bouncing ideas, or just solving some 3D technical issues! Everyone has their own personality, but the beautiful thing is that in Atomhawk, everyone is really down to earth and there is no ego, so this makes the connections truly great!

Russell: My process is far more structured and versatile now, working collaboratively. You may need to pass working files around, for example, making layering as simple but versatile as possible for your team to pick up is very important. With so many artists, different experiences, approaches, and styles, you also learn to pick anything up yourself right where it was left off and take it to the next step. Timings on projects in particular have been extremely helpful to my own work and organizing thought processes and steps for paintings I create in my own time.

Jin: I feel very lucky to be working in a team of wonderful artists and producers. They make working with clients much less stressful and more efficient, and there is always something new to learn from them each day.

What’s the single piece of advice you’d give your younger self about pursuing a career in art?

Absorb knowledge from everywhere and be open to learning from everyone. I was very dead set on painting a certain way early on (that of my art idol at the time) and pursuing a specific career path. Once I’d made friends with different art interests and goals, it helped me grow tenfold.

Jin: Take time to slow down and observe the world, then think about and analyze why certain things look more visually pleasing than others.

Mauro: I would say to just dive into the art career without any detour, and to trust my own willpower. But maybe if I had chosen a different path, I wouldn’t have ended up where I am now… so maybe those choices which seemed random back then, ended up working out for me in the grand scheme of things!