Discipline Round Table: Character Art Team

What makes a great character artist? At Atomhawk, your role is part of the concept art team, where you will design characters that live and breathe inside of our clients’ worlds. Great characters help the viewer understand who your subject is at a glance. It entices them to dig deeper to learn more about a character’s personality and history through anatomy, pose, fashion and expression.

In our very first Discipline Round Table, Art Directors Drew Whitmore and Dario Jelušić join Character Expert Charlie Bowater to share their insights and expertise, working as professional character artists in the games industry. How they keep inspired and sharing memories of the coolest thing they’ve ever worked on.

What makes a great character artist at Atomhawk?

Charlie: Someone who’s got that real creative flair for design. Also someone who values being part of a team and integrating themselves with other teams. That’s so much of what we do. Always having that awareness that you are creating something for other people at the end of the day.

Dario: For me, it’s what people bring to the office. When I was 15, I was hanging out with my friends back in Croatia, and I said one day I would like to have lots of friends from lots of different parts of the world. I never dreamed that by the time I was 30, I would join Atomhawk and I will have that dream come true. So for me it’s everyone from the studio bringing something new and something fresh from their own backgrounds.

Drew: Everyone has a variety of styles, a variety of backgrounds, but I think in general, bringing an inquisitive nature about how the world works and bringing that to their art. Thinking through things with that critical design thinking. It’s about bringing those ideas and knowledge to what you’re designing. That’s an integral part of it.

Dario: They can bring something of their own. Something form their culture into the character designs or any project that we work on.

Drew: The friendship thing I think is really interesting too, because you will see people kind of doing things like watercolours together at lunch, among other interests. People playing pool.

Dario: Board games.

Drew: Yeah, board games. It’s very community atmosphere.

Dario: There’s great balance between work and life. The people here like hanging out with each other a lot.


What keeps you interested in designing new characters and how do you keep inspired?

Charlie: I was such a nineties kid into cartoons, everything animated. I really love a lot of media, like books, movies, as I’ve grown up and I just take tons of inspiration from that. And then taking just stories of people and characters and how all that translates visually.

Drew: I have a lot of commonalities with you both, but shape design is a big one for me. I just like making cool shapes and it’s kind of that interplay of like, if a character is shaped this way, what does that say about them and what they do? 

Dario: We all are characters in ourselves and each of us have a different backstory, so I feel like when I’m designing a new character for, let’s say, Mortal Kombat, I feel like I’m also designing not just the character themselves, but thinking about the whole history and all of the backstory that is coming with them on their outfit, the costume.

Charlie: It’s just endlessly inspiring. I love working on characters from all kinds of backgrounds and histories and stories of the characters. I just really love the visual design of them, like where they come from and like what their purpose is. I constantly want to work on characters all the time forever.

Dario: Do you have a certain character that you gravitate towards? 

Charlie: I mean, I love drawing women the most, but I’ll draw anybody. I don’t mind. 

Dario: I know! For me, buff men. Lots of muscles. Let’s go.


What is the coolest thing you’ve done at Atomhawk?

Charlie: I’m going to talk about two things. One that I can talk about is Surgeon Simulator. The open blue sky stuff is really, really fun. Like, we all love that. But it was also really interesting to work on a project that was taking an existing cast of characters and breathing new life into them. That was something that I hadn’t done so much of, a small redesign of seeing the way that you could bring the characters up to modern day and have a bit more fun with them. That was really interesting. The second one is one that I absolutely can’t mention the name of, but it’s one of those projects that feels like a once in a blue moon project. It is very open and right at the beginning of the project where you just get to have tons of fun, like exploring from scratch from the ground up and in this perfectly niche area where all your interests aligning. That’s been so much fun to work on. 

Dario: It’s more about the journey rather than the end product. That’s my favourite, the journey while you’re working on the project. 

Charlie: I’d love to be able to share it, but even if I can’t, I’ll know in the end. 

Drew: Yeah, I have several projects that I just absolutely love but probably will never see the light of day. And that’s fine, that’s part of the professional process.

Dario: What type of projects do you like? 

Drew: I like really stylised projects. I like colourful projects, I like projects that spark the imagination. Like, oh, I haven’t seen that before. That’s really cool. 

Charlie: I think you get used to it as well. You don’t necessarily latch onto the idea of, oh, one day I will be able to share this. It’s really nice if you can, but you learn to just have fun along the way. You appreciate the stuff that you get to see in the end result.

Dario: For me it’s the latest project that that we are working on. At the moment [of filming] that is Mortal Kombat. I’ve been a great fan of the Mortal Kombat franchise for a long time, but I bet after that, it is going to be something else, something new, something exciting because that’s why I’m here. I like that exciting new thing that is coming.


What’s a highlight of working at Atomhawk?

Dario: Oh, there’s so many of them. I’ve been here in the company for more than five years now, and I can distinctly remember one that happened when I joined the company. I was working on Mortal Kombat 11, obviously my favourite franchise. I was working on this painting, and the painting was filled with characters, filled with different things. That morning we got feedback from the client. Behind me was the Art Manager and a lead, and they were talking about how feedback and how I was going to amend that painting. The Art Manager started explaining “what about this,” and he started doing these special sounds effects like ”chu chu,” and “fa fa,” and then “pew pew”. And then he asked me: did you get it? And I, of course I did! I said, you’ve explained it so thoroughly and once I did the feedback, the client loved it. That’s one of my favourite highlights.

Charlie: This is probably a little cheesy, but like the people that work here and the variety of people. Everyone with their different backstories and how they came to be here and work as artists, and I also like project variety as well. That’s one of my favourite things about the studio in general. There’s so many people, interesting people, that work here and so many different projects on the go all the time. I love it.


Ready to start your journey as a Character Artist at Atomhawk? Check out our current available roles on our Careers page, or more of our helpful Resources.