Kids often come up with whimsical ideas driven by imagination, oblivious of the realities, hoping the ideas would all come true one day. But such ideas do come true, in the form of Games that give visual form to imagination and creativity !
Siddhartha Valluri, our next pathbreaker, Game Concept Artist, helps design conceptual environments in Gaming to visualise what the imaginary worlds would be like, what the characters in these worlds feel like and helping make the overall vision of the Game a reality.
Siddharth talks to Shyam Krishnamurthy from The Interview Portal about taking up concept art, to combine his interests in his two favourite but diverse fields of culture and technology.
For students, you have an opportunity to relive your childhood by unleashing your imagination through Concept Art in Gaming !
Siddhartha, tell us about Your background?
I was born in New Delhi, but due to the nature of my father’s job with the Indian Railways we had the opportunity to move across the country every couple of years, these include Delhi, Bikaner, Jaipur, Hyderabad, Guwahati, Bangalore, Gorakhpur and Prayagraj.
Because of this, at a very young age, we were able to witness architecture and historical sites across the country which led me to want to become an archaeologist. Although that never happened, it further fuelled my interest in architecture, design, culture and history.
As my mother who is an editor and teacher would read a lot, I too caught onto that habit and would read a lot of books on space, technology, science fiction and history.
Eventually these diverse fields of culture and technology would clash and lead me to concept art where I was able to combine my passion for both fields through my artistic lens.
What did you do for graduation/post graduation?
I got my Bachelors Degree in Architecture from B.M.S School of Architecture in Bangalore, after that I studied at FZD School of Design at Singapore to obtain a Diploma in Industrial Design.
What made you choose such an offbeat, unconventional and cool career?
Feng Zhu, a veteran in the Entertainment Industry, inspired me to get into the field of Concept Design. I came to know about him and the industry through his school’s youtube channel, “Design Cinema – FZD School of Design”
Ash Thorp, the amazingly talented and inspiring artist, through his work and podcast “The Collective Podcast”, inspired me to keep trying to push the quality of my work and learn to be my authentic self while going through this artistic journey.
Bjarke Ingels who is one of the world’s leading architects, has been a big influence on my work by showing how he and his team simplify huge design challenges and create unique and meaningful solutions which impact the world in a big manner.
Urvashi Jalali was my teacher during the first couple of years at architecture college. She helped me nurture my conceptual and critical design thinking.
Sharan Desai who has been a friend, teacher and mentor for many years now, played a major role in my development by helping me understand the value of a good work ethic and help broaden my skill sets.
Erik Egerup who is the first Art Director I directly worked and still currently work under after joining the industry has been one of the key influential figures in my professional career. Thanks to him, I have not only learnt much about art and design, but so much more about leadership, direction and how to establish a vision to work towards.
The biggest turning point in my journey was while I was pursuing my Bachelor’s Degree in Architecture. About halfway through the course, a particular Jury Member failed my “Hospital Design” proposal deeming it too conceptual. This would be the only time I failed a class in the entire 5 years. It was a very significant turning point for me as it was at that moment I realised that I belonged in an industry that promoted conceptual thinking and allowed for the creative freedom to express those ideas. I eventually did finish the course in architecture to earn my Bachelor’s Degree, but that moment of failure pushed me to be even bolder with my ideas and designs.
How did you plan the steps to get into the career you wanted? Or how did you make a transition to a new career? Tell us about your career path
There is no specific approach that can be generalised for every person, but the key thing is to make sure no matter what, you make artwork and designs that you enjoy and apply for jobs based on that. It is only when we are happy and enjoying the work can we be truly productive.
These roles played a vital part in my development as an individual who could collaborate with multiple people and build teams to create projects together.
One of my first works was as an Editor at the launch of the first official publication of our college magazine “Reverb” at B.M.S School of Architecture (Bangalore), which was going to be unveiled during the keynote address of the biggest festival we had ever hosted, ZoNASA (Zonal National Association of Students of Architecture), an annual event which was integral to the life of every architecture student in India. This experience helped me collaborate with my juniors as well as teachers to create an amazing product in the end which would be fondly remembered for many years after the event.
I also worked as content creator for the website “Campus Diaries”, which was quite popular at the time amongst various colleges, where I would contribute artworks as well as short stories to go with the artwork. This was one of the earliest experiences I had working as a freelancer and gave me a lot of confidence in those days to pursue my path as a designer and artist.
Over time these experiences gave me a lot of confidence in my abilities to create art as well as polish my communication skills which is an extremely vital yet underrated skill.
I interned at Cadence Architects (Bangalore) which was part of my curriculum while studying architecture. This was my first introduction to the professional studio system, and gave me a lot of valuable lessons while working in an organisation. Prior to that, I did do some small freelance gigs while at college but nothing significant though.
Though I have a bachelor’s degree in architecture and diploma in Industrial Design, nothing beats a well made portfolio, which is the best way to stand out and showcase your work.
It is very very important to learn from your seniors and juniors if you are studying at a college, as they are able to give you a lot of tips and tricks that are relevant to your situation. If you are not studying at a college and are learning on your own, social media is the best place to reach out to artists and ask them thoughtful questions to learn from them. Also there are so many interviews and podcasts with pretty much all of the best designers out there, listen to them, understand their journey. We can learn so much from their trajectory. It almost always boils down to some fundamental aspects of struggle, handwork and rewards.
How did you get your first break?
After applying to many studios and facing rejections, and failed art tests, I was starting to feel very demotivated, but after receiving help and motivation from my friend Priyanka Chavan, who is an amazing artist, I was able to land my first break at Dhruva Interactive.
What were the challenges you faced? How did you address them?
I can’t really categorize the challenges into bullet points, but two of the biggest challenges I have faced so far are, first the inability to be patient. I have a lot of ideas that I want to execute, but often not enough skills or resources to see it through. The only way to work around that is to be consistent. And secondly, finding my own unique voice in this artistic endeavour. There is no clear answer to that, as it is something always evolving and ongoing. The main way to tackle that, I believe is, to experimenting and keep learning.
Where do you work now? Tell us about your work in Concept Art
I work at Rockstar Games right now.
As a concept artist, our job is to solve design problems to establish a clear pathway for the other departments that will take the work forward by setting a clear mood and tone for the game.
Familiarity with software packages such Photoshop, 3D modelling packages is pretty much industry standard at this point. The more important aspect is design thinking and developing a unique taste which is an endless journey or acquiring new knowledge and ideas from various sources. Ability to quickly sketch out your ideas and present your thoughts are very important in any design job. Communication skills is something that is very much overlooked by a lot of people but this is probably one of the most important aspects, especially while working in a team.
A typical day goes in lots of painting and designing. Rinse and repeat.
I love the fact that I have the opportunity to learn and collaborate with people far more senior to me in the industry.
The easiest way to explain what concept art is to a young kid is to ask them if they have seen “The Lord of the Rings” or perhaps played games such as “Dragon Age” or “Destiny”. All of these amazing games, in their early stages of production, are nothing but concept art. These concepts help visualise what the worlds would be like, what the characters in these worlds feel like and help make them a reality.
As tools get better and better each year, the need to be able to work quickly in 2d and 3d digitally is absolutely vital, but the basic skill of being able to illustrate an idea on paper is something that is always needed. But it would be a lie to say that any major work in a professional setting gets done on paper. The ability to sketch is more for the individual artist, to test out new ideas and thoughts and then eventually bring those ideas into the digital realm to take them to a final polished quality.
How does your work benefit society?
As a concept artist, I get a chance to contribute to vast artistic experiences which will be enjoyed by people across the world. Having the ability to tell stories through this medium is a great opportunity.
This field has also given me the great privilege of being able to communicate my own vision and ideas with the world and it is a great feeling when those ideas resonate with people.
Tell us an example of a specific work you did that is very close to you!
During the 3rd Term at FZD School of Design I created a project under the art direction of Tze Wei Foo called Spirit Code. This project was the first time I was creating a world of my own from scratch and designing various aspects of that world. This project combined my love for architecture, culture, sci-fi and much more. Looking back, even though the concepts are not of the most polished quality anymore, it was a great learning experience and helped me gain a lot of confidence.
Your advice to students based on your experience?
The most important thing I could probably tell students is something that I myself am still learning, and that is to be patient and work on your craft. The skills and ideas will slowly materialise and your visions will come true, but it is very vital to stick to the path and keep working towards that.
This is not a very unique piece of advice but something most artists do struggle with, myself included, so I think it would be a good thing to keep in mind while working on developing your skills.
I am currently working on larger personal projects which put me quite outside my comfort zone, it is daunting and exciting. However I cannot reveal much at the moment, maybe in a couple of months 😉
In the meantime you can check out my work by going to the link below.
Here are some samples of my Artwork :