Here at IDRAW Creative Goods we're always on the lookout for great inspiration. Often we find it in nature, sometimes in film; sometimes we find the best inspiration in the work of our peers working in other design disciplines. There's something fascinating about watching others work through the design process, taking note of their decisions and technique in navigating form, color and composition. These are often the types of inspiration we carry with us in our career, pulling them from our quiver when the time is right.
This week I'm proud to introduce a longtime source of inspiration and one of my favorite Concept Designers in the game today: Calum Watt. I have been following Calum's blog for many years - ever since I became interested in design. His style was totally new and fresh, and his subject matter - often sci-fi characters and environments - really resonated with me (his work has repeatedly found its way onto my sci-fi art/culture blog Brave Cadet). Calum has been so kind as to post process videos of some of his most popular works, and he's taken things a step further by sharing his Sketchbook Pro brush settings for those looking to add some new tools to their toolbar.
I'd like to begin this feature by sharing some of Calum's most recent work on the newly released and hugely popular Sega game, Alien: Isolation. It's truly beautiful concept artwork and we're honored he's giving us the first opportunity to share it!
Calum, where are you from and where did you attend school?
I was born in Sheffield, England, but spending most of my educated life in Scotland. After a brief unsatisfactory period at art college, I opted for a more academic course and took a degree in film studies. From an artistic training point of view, beyond high school, I am generally self taught.
How long have you been working in the industry and what is your current gig?
I started drawing comics professionally back in the 90's, and games work since 2000. Throughout this time I have concepted, illustrated, storyboarded and graphic designed. There's a great deal of diversity to be had and it's always useful to have broad ranging skills. I'm currently working in London for Improbable, an exciting tech startup that will have far reaching potential for all game developers.
At what point did you decide that you wanted to pursue a career in Concept Design?
After I graduated I decided to fall back on my art skills and my love of comics. I spent a couple of months getting a portfolio together, finessing my skills and sent off my work to a British publisher best known for Judge Dredd and 2000AD, a staple for any comic fan growing up in the UK. I was lucky enough to secure some pages in a special, and from then on I worked for them on and off until I made the break into game art.
What are some of your favorite drawing tools both analog and digital?
I made the conscious decision about eight years ago to go completely digital in my creation process. I currently use a Wacom Cintiq combined with Autodesk Sketchbook Pro. Together these tools create -for me- the most natural digital drawing experience possible.
What were some of the biggest challenges in getting to where you are in your career?
I've been very fortunate in my career. Working hard can pay off! But I was lucky to get a break in the games industry when very few companies were hiring outside the established market. There's a fantastic community and network out there now which creates opportunities that just weren't there 15-20 years ago.
Any favorite projects, either personal or professional?
Alien Isolation and Batman Blackgate have been my highlights. Alien because I was able to delve into a universe and source material that was a big influence already, and Batman, well, because it was BATMAN!
Were there other career choices, or have you always been set on this career path?
I very nearly took the path into Film VFX, back in the day when all things were made from rubber and plywood. But it's always been something creative... and hey it's not to late to change is it?
Favorite resources? Blogs, books, websites, etc.
We're lucky in the UK that most national museums and galleries are free, and these are the most fantastic resources for reference, information and inspiration. To be able to get close to artwork and artifacts is a real benefit for motivation. With that said, who knows what may drop into my newsfeed today...
How do you stay inspired?
Reading is a great source of escape and inspiration and music always transports my mind (not to mention comics, movies, anime etc etc....). It's really important to get away from one's work too, my recent commute through the streets of London has been a constant resource of characters! Travel is great for opening your eyes and placing one into a new cultures. It's never good to force inspiration, and it's normally in those moments one least expects it that the lightbulb appears above your head...
Any advice for anyone just starting out on how to break into the industry?
Speaking personally I've always endeavoured to approach projects with my own eye and sensibilities. It's worked for me, but having a unique style can be a burden more than a benefit in today's industry. Having a good knowledge of techniques and software is of course essential, but if you have raw talent, the keyboard shortcuts can come later! But more importantly, draw, draw, DRAW!
Huge thanks to Calum for taking the time to share his work and a bit about himself with us - we expect we'll be seeing great things from him in the future!
Make sure to follow along as Calum takes over the IDRAW Instagram for the week! We'll be interested to see what he gets up to...
Take a second to check out Calum's various creative outlets:
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This week we are shining the light on Footwear Designer Jovan Popovic. We met at a College for Creative Studies portfolio review and I was taken with his enthusiasm, skills and confidence with which he spoke about his work. We pinged him to help us out putting together IDRAW SHOES, the latest addition to our series of sketchbooks. He was awesome to work with - kept the energy level high and always had new ideas for how we could teach certain aspects of Footwear Design. As a pro designer at Reebok in Boston, Mass. he's got his hands full churning out the shoes tomorrow's athletes will be rocking on the court, field and blacktop. If you're looking to get into footwear, keep an eye on Jovan because he's just getting warmed up. Read on