Hey, my name is Ankush Sharma and I am a Freelance Concept Artist based in New Delhi, India. I graduated from Delhi College Of Arts, which gave me an understanding of art fundamentals which is the most important aspect of making art professionally for clients and for your own personal projects too. I work for the gaming and film industry.
Creating concepts and ideas for games and films. I started my career back in 2016 when I was in college, I got a freelance gig for a mobile game here in India. That was the point where I got interested in Concept Art for games, I started learning on my own on Youtube because there were not many options for me back then.
I learned whatever I could and then after my graduation in 2017 I started working in a small studio, I was not satisfied at all with the work I was doing there, it was when I got into a one-month online Mentorship and worked super hard to build portfolio pieces. After the mentorship, I took 6-7 months of time to just focus on my skills and art, build a decent portfolio, and got another job in my hometown (Delhi). After working for a few months I got a job in Technicolor India, which was an exciting moment for me, there I got to meet an amazing concept team and learn from them. I was responsible to make variations for characters and Environment concept arts for AAA titles (Not released yet). I worked for 2 years in Technicolor and now started working as a freelance Concept Artist.
What got you using Blender for your concept paintings?
Its speed and the way different artists use Blender in different ways for themselves makes it more exciting to use and it's a fun software too. There are different ways you can approach things in Blender and it’s open-source too. Blender allows me to quickly come up with different ideas and allows me to explore different possibilities for a painting. And add-ons are what make this software most compatible for concept artists.
Do you use any add-ons with Blender?
Yes, I use a lot of add-ons to get the job done. Add-ons are the most amazing part of blender there so many in build add-ons which are already good to go. I use Physical Starlight and Atmosphere to light the scene quickly and get a basic mood into my scene, Asset manager, Quick shape and Quick curve, and a lot more.
Can you give an overview of the process for creating the Just Living piece?
The process for the 'Just Living' piece or any other piece from my portfolio is pretty much the same, which I developed over the years practicing and experimenting with different things. For the first part, it starts with the research on the subject matter, I search for references for mood, lighting, and designs. Then I work in 2D first and make graphic sketches to get the ideas out on paper. I try to solve my composition and design problems in the 2D phase itself.
It is very easy to get lost and waste too much time in any 3D program just moving objects here and there. When the design part is done in 2D, then I jump into Blender and start building the assets for my Concept and texture it in Blender too.
I had my sketches and assets done, then I match every single part of my 3D scene to my sketches, I try to finish 80-90% in 3D so that I can get the most out of it. Obviously, I need to make things more natural and make them feel painted rather than just a 3D render. When I have my renders and all the passes, I jump into Photoshop and start making the scene more natural, enhance the mood, add atmosphere and I photobash for different materials and characters to get a more natural feel. This is how I approached 'Just Living'.
Where do you look for or who do you look to for inspiration when creating a painting like this?
I was heavily inspired by The art of Ghost Of Tsushima and The Last Of Us part 2. I had these two games in my mind that I want to achieve this type of quality in my art too. Pinterest is a great website to look for references and different ideas. Artstation is always the first go to find different artists who inspire you the most. There are a lot of them who inspire me but the ones I most look up to are, Jama Jurabaev, Eytan Zana, Aaron Limonick, Romain Jouandeau, and Balazs Agoston.
These are the artists who are pushing the boundaries of concept art. I love their work and attitude towards learning new things and coming up with the fastest ways to work and on top of it, sharing their knowledge with other artists too, it inspires me a lot, and gives me a boost to push my skills beyond my limits.
What is something you wish you would have known before you started your career as a concept artist?
I think I started my career at the right time, right age although there no such thing as the right age to start a career as an artist. I had an art background too, so I would say that if I would have started learning 3D a bit earlier then it would have made a difference for sure. Also, the fundamentals, as I said earlier it is the base for making amazing artwork no matter if it's 2D or 3D.
If I had practiced fundamentals more often rather than just painting portraits all the time it would have made a difference too. But again I was enjoying art and I had no idea if I was going to be a concept artist at that time. So enjoy making art and the journey of it is the most important thing I would say.
What would you recommend practicing for someone wanting to become a concept artist?
So, if you want to become a concept artist I would suggest practicing your basics and fundamentals of art, then learn 3D programs too. I see a lot of young artists making the mistake of jumping straight to Blender and blocking environments there itself and the output doesn't look good. It is because they did not have any plan before jumping to Blender or they think what they know but they will want to do it all in 3D. It can work for someone who has a lot of experience in the Concept art industry but for beginners, I would say learn your fundamentals and learn 3D too. When we use 3D it doesn't mean it's all 100% right.
We need to make sure that 3D is more appealing and improve the lighting in the painting part. Build a portfolio based on your interests, try to match the quality with the studios you are aiming at, and start applying when you think you are good enough. Having art friends is also a big help in order to improve your skills. I have a few who I trust with feedback and send them the artwork. They tell me what's off and what works best, and try to apply the feedback which you get from the artists you send your work to. Play games, watch movies, analyze them carefully, and learn something from it.
On top of that, just chill, relax and enjoy the work you do. Now as we wrap up our conversation I want to say this, determine your goals, your personal goals, and your professional goals. Meaning I want to work on realistic games, I want to make realistic art for games as my profession, but I also love painterly and more loose stuff too, which gives me peace and relaxes me from the inside.
While working on my personal goals I don't want to worry about perfection and realism. Good luck for those who want to be a Concept Artist, it's literally the best time to get into this industry. I am always happy to help and support.
Original interview found in Edge Loop Magazine. Download your free issue at edgeloopmag.com