We love to say something smart about games being an art form. But who are we? Better let the artist him (or her)self do the talking. Every week a game artist gets his (or her, obviously) moment in the limelight. He (or.. well you get it) agrees to create an exclusive piece of artwork and tell something about himself. What inspires him, what tools does he use, how did he get his big break in the industry, what’s his favorite color and so on. This week we talk to Ryan Wheeler, freelance concept artist.

Artist of the week

Tell us the story behind this artwork.

“This piece fits into the same world as most of my other images. It’s nice to have a consistent world in your head that you can work from. Each painting you create fills in a little bit more of that world. This particular piece is set in a vast forest far from civilisation, where a lone soldier has discovered a giant stone head, with a gaping maw leading to untouched caves. Most of the time my paintings don’t really have a story as such. I prefer to let people decide for themselves what’s going on.”

How did you get in to (game) art?

“It’s the stereotypical story: Ever since I was a young’un I’ve drawn weird fantasy things. It was only recently though, nearing the end of college, that I really got into art as a serious pursuit. I discovered digital art and all of the fantastic concept artists that come with it. Game concept art drew my attention the most though, whether that be for high budget titles or indie creations. There is something so fascinating about the prospect of designing worlds, characters, monsters etc that could then be brought to life on screen. I’m still at university at the moment, studying animation, so I suppose I’m not ‘in’ yet, but I’ll be there soon hopefully.”

How would you describe your style?

“Non-consistent? I’m not sure I really have a style to be perfectly honest. It changes so much it’s hard to pin down. Whatever my style, I’m not happy with letting it rest yet. I still want to develop it and push it further to see where it goes. I’m always hesitant to say ‘Right, this is it: my style.’ How do I know that if I haven’t tried every style yet? So I haven’t found it. Currently I’m going through a sci-fi stage, which consists of slapping texture all over stuff until there is some semblance of a good image. I much prefer the ‘darker’ side of art. I love seeing artists produce stunning fairytale images but for me it’s got to be dark caves and desolate futures. And a healthy chunk of space thrown in for good measure. Kinda cliche, right?”

Interview continues below the gallery.

What tools do you prefer?

“I mainly use Photoshop for digital painting, although Maya comes in handy occasionally for quickly building models to paint over. I like to revisit traditional art every now and then. You just can’t beat the smell of oil paints! One tool I can’t recommend enough to other artists is Alchemy. It’s a small art program that allows you to generate a lot of interesting shapes really quickly, which can then spark some inspiration for your next piece of art, depending on what you see in the mass of squiggles on the screen. And of course there’s my trusty Wacom Bamboo. It’s a small one but it’s been good to me over the past few years.”

What inspires you?

I’m a big fan of Richard Anderson‘s work at the moment, as well as Tom Scholes. They produce excellent work. Seeing the incredible mind blowing pieces that fellow artists produce, peer or superior, always gives me a big push. Other than that, it’s a bit of everything really. Films, music, games, all the normal stuff. The weirder the better though seems to be the general rule for me! I like art that’s strange, weird, makes you think and deviates from the norm. I think most inspiring for me though is just exploring different places, whether that be walking through the countryside or clambering around mountains, or visiting a new city or country I’ve never seen before, after which I always find that my artistic fuel tank is refilled.”

What is your ambition, your ultimate goal?

“I spent far too long pondering this question. It’s easy to say ‘I wanna be working for this company or that company’ or ‘I wanna be a world famous artist’. It gets a bit tricky if you start setting loads of goals for yourself. If you don’t achieve them then you beat yourself up over it, and if and when you do reach them…then what? Whilst it would be great to work at your dream company and become lauded the world over, I think I would be happiest if people looked at my work and were inspired by it, enough so to go off and create their own art, just like my artistic heroes have done for me. If I’m able to do that then I’ll feel like I’ve accomplished something.”