Interview with Christina Myrvold: Concept Artist
Heyy! My name is Christina Myrvold, and I'm a Freelance Artist and Online Educator originally from "the land of the Vikings", otherwise known as Scandinavia, or Norway to be specific. I made the decision to move to the UK years ago after studying at Teesside University in England for a couple of years. I fell in love with the language, the culture, the industry and never really felt tempted to move back home. I currently reside in Glasgow, Scotland, and primarily work as a 2D Cover Artist, but I also dabble quite a lot in 3D, which is present in all of my work for the past two years.
I've seen that you do a lot of cover art, what got you into that particular area of art creation?
I think it's a personality thing more than anything! I have an odd and fairly uncommon condition called "Aphantasia", which basically means I am unable to conjure up any imagery in my mind's eye. Without going into too much detail, this essentially means I can't rely on visual memory to create pieces of artwork, and as a result made it very difficult for me to generate quick concepts or sketches, which isn’t ideal as a Concept Artist for instance. Instead I rely on methodical thinking and proper construction in order to create a piece of artwork that looks half-decent.
In short, I'm a super slow worker that requires a lot of time to figure things out, such as composition, anatomy, lighting, etc., and working on cover artwork allows me to focus all of my efforts on one piece of artwork at a time, and making that one particular piece look great. I also love experimenting with new methods and techniques methods and techniques for every piece of artwork that I make, and since cover illustration usually has a longer turnover time than industry-standard concept artwork, it allows me to just retreat into my little cave and go nuts, like a mad scientist of sorts.
What was the general workflow of your latest project?
Since I can't rely on my visual memory to help out with concept creation, I have for the past few years used an increasing amount of 3D in my work to not only make my artwork look more realistic and believable, but to also educate myself about form, lighting, perspective and how to think about each illustration as a full 3D scene and not just a flat 2D image. Blender has been my saving grace, and is by far the best creative tool I've ever used.
A client usually comes to me with a vague description of a scene from their product, and it is my job to interpret that particular moment, and breathe life into it. I lean heavily towards storytelling in my pieces, so I try to approach the shot as a Film Director. And I mean that quite literally. I set up a full scene in Blender utilizing various add-ons, add a camera, lighting, special effects and also custom-model and sculpt a lot of assets to make the scene feel as believable as possible.
I used to just roughly block out a quick scene in Blender, and just spend most of the time painting over everything, but over the past few years I've learnt more efficient ways of working in 3D, and I've started to lean more heavily towards getting to the finished product as soon as possible in 3D, and doing a quick paintover in Photoshop to wrap up the illustration.
What are your ambitions as a digital artist, where would you like your career to take you?
My partner and I are both Freelance Artists, and earlier this year we launched our first ever collaborative product, POLYCOSM, which is an educational YouTube channel focused on Concept Creation from a 2D and 3D perspective. He's a brilliant Concept Artist, so combining his brilliant ideas and concepts with my technical 3D knowledge has been a very interesting experience for us both, as we're both treading unknown territory, not really knowing where it will take us. We're hoping to keep growing POLYCOSM, help educate any creatives along the way, and hopefully turn the side-project into a proper business capable of all kinds of creative productions.
From a personal standpoint, I'm rather easy to please. As long as I can keep creating the stuff I love, and there's still food on the table, that's good enough for me!
Do you use any other software for work or personal projects?
Oh yes! Although Blender will always be my main 3D software that I use for any kind of production, I also love creative softwares such as 3D Coat and DAZ Studio. Although Blender's sculpting software has improved tremendously over the past few years thanks to our lord and saviour Pablo Dobarro, there's just something about sculpting with proper voxels in 3D Coat that is so freeing and satisfying.
Do you use any add-ons for Blender, what are they and why do you use them?
Hah, do I ever! I swear, I'm a hoarder of add-ons. If I were to list them all, we'd be here all day, but my most used add-ons are "DAZ Importer" (from Diffeomorphic), which allows you to import DAZ models including the armature rig and skin textures. For worldbuilding I use the fantastic "Sketchfab" add-on, "Physical Atmosphere and Starlight" for lighting, "Botaniq" for flora, "Extreme PBR Evo" for texturing, and both "Garment Tool" and "Simply Cloth" for cloth simulation and clothing creation. I've also recently started using "QuickShape" which is an amazing concept tool I'd recommend to any artist out there, especially 2D artists that might not have a lot of 3D technical skills.
Who are a few artists that you look to for inspiration and why?
Although I have a lot of 2D and 3D artists I worship, the ones that really stick out to me are Ian Hubert, Jama Jurabaev and Pablo Dobarro. Not only are they great artists, but they're also knowledge-seekers and educators.
They have the mindset of constantly being in the pursuit of knowledge and growth, and I relate to that a lot. The reason I love working in Blender is because it's like a magical treasure chest of sorts. There's always something new to learn, and the more you learn, the more you expand on the possibilities of what's even possible within Blender. Pablo Dobarro is literally paving the way we approach sculpting and physics in 3D, which is a huge inspiration and extremely exciting to see happen before our very eyes. Ian Hubert and Jama Juarbaev have both opened my eyes in terms of what you're able to do in 3D, and not only that -- they share all that they learn, which is such a tremendous gift to the community. My partner and I hope to do the same with POLYCOSM one day.
What’s a piece of advice that you would like to give to someone wanting to become a digital artist?
What you think you want as an artist versus what you actually want is a fickle thing. Mix in years of experience and that line gets blurred even more. When I started out, I thought for sure I wanted to be a 2D Concept Artist working in the Games industry. That path for me was set in stone since I was 15. When I turned 22, after years of pouring myself into digital drawing, I found myself at the end of my education, with no real desire to work in the Games Industry. I hadn't suddenly changed my mind, but I didn't feel ready. Although I was probably hireable as a Junior Artist, it just didn't feel right. I told myself I'd keep working on my skills as a Freelancer and one day I'd feel ready.
Well, you can probably guess that that day never came. Something funny happened during those miserable years of 10+ hour work days, living on an air mattress and barely earning a living. I was forced to work on all kinds of illustration projects, and although I was absolutely miserable, I started finding my artistic voice. That voice guided me through tough times, and when I finally felt financially stable, the thought of working in a Game Studio was extremely off-putting. I'd proven to myself that I could work solely on my own, even in difficult circumstances, and I wanted to keep going down that path. I'm still walking down that same path today, but I'm wholeheartedly enjoying the process. I'm in a place I never thought I'd be.
To wrap up this long-winded explanation, just because you think you want something as an artist, doesn't always mean that's actually what would fuel your artistic soul. I think a lot of students and beginners have this idea that they need to make it in a Studio or their artistic career is over, but the truth is, art is what you make of it. Don't fuss over what kind of work you want to be doing, or even what style, that'll all come to you later in your artistic path.
The best thing you can do for yourself is just be as open-minded as possible, experiment as much as you can, put in the hours, and you'll eventually find that artistic voice.