When we weren’t punching each other, my brothers and I used to draw jungles. They kind of resembled those old side-scrolling platform games; there was no perspective, just a few layers of squiggly branches with vines conveniently placed for our tribal warriors, cyborgs and ninjas to swing around on. It was a bit of a competition. Who could come up with the coolest weapon-wielding badass on the page? Not a bad training ground for a concept artist, I suppose!
Back then, there was no such thing as perspective, form, value, colour theory or knowing what you’re doing. It was much nicer, really. These days, whenever I get stuck with a design or I can’t seem to answer the age-old question, ‘Is it cool?’, I think back to those childish competitions. I ask myself how might this creation fare against the warriors, cyborgs and ninjas in those squiggly jungles?
I’ve always been interested in art, but I never really thought I’d become a concept artist. I thought maybe I’d be something cool, like a professional fighter or commando, but in the end I went with the sensible, non-violent option. It’s turned out pretty well, I reckon. I’ve been a full-time concept artist at Weta Workshop since the beginning of 2014, where I get to draw cool stuff all day surrounded by my art heroes.
Before joining the design team at Weta, I studied Graphic Design at Auckland University of Technology. I was mad for logos, and a keen photographer, but as the degree went on I found my passion for drawing rekindled by illustration and life drawing classes. As graduation neared, I decided I wanted a chance to create my own fantasy and science fiction worlds, so I stayed on for two more years of postgraduate study. It was the best decision I could have made. Two years dedicated entirely to creating my own stories, places and characters. While it gave me time to seriously hit the grind on my art fundamentals, it also proved to be an incredible opportunity to learn about the art of storytelling and narrative theory under the guidance of my supervisor, Welby.
The works featured here are collected from various worlds and stories I’ve conjured up over the last few years. They all grew fairly organically. I find that any preconceived vision I may have for an image disappears the instant I make the first mark. The rest of the time is spent responding to what is already on the page and trying to build my way back to that initial feeling.
Most of my characters and stories are invented as I paint. When you’re staring at the same thing for hours on end, I guess you can’t help but contemplate where it may have come from or what it might be thinking. On some profound occasions, however, it feels more like discovering something real than inventing fiction.