Interview with Doomfest

Doomfest is currently an art student studying Interactive Design and Game Development, and specialises in environment and prop concept art. His work has been featured in Dischan Media‘s high-quality visual novels where he works as an Art Director. If you haven’t read any of their work, Juniper’s Knot is a good place to start. Their latest VN Dysfunctional Systems is on Steam Greenlight– so please vote for them!


General

Q:

When did you start drawing?

A:

My older sister used to draw manga while growing up, so I’ve been drawing as long as I could remember. I started studies-type drawings (still lives, portraits, anatomical studies, etc…) around sophomore year in high school though. Then when I got my own computer and a graphic tablet in 2007 I’ve been digging myself deeper and deeper into this hole. :p

Pirate San vs T-Rex

Q:

What process do you typically undertake when drawing a CG piece, and how long does each part take you?

A:

Usually I start with a line drawing or a sketch, then lay down some rough values or colors under them. Depending on the intended colors and tone of the image, sometimes you can get away with starting with values and colorizing it with Overlay and Color layers. Then I paint on top with normal layer(s), and make new layers for variations of the illustration. Finally the colors get adjusted with Photoshop’s adjustment layers. Most of the time, I start with a few thumbnails (3-30). These are usually done in sequence with other thumbnails in the scene before starting illustrations for continuity reasons.

The length of each part depends on the image. I’ve had illustrations where the sketch took two days and ones where they only take thirty minutes. Polishing takes the longest time, but it really makes the image for me. Most of the event illustrations take two to five days each to finish, but some of them get adjusted way up until release, so maybe they actually take months…

Cradle Song - Outside Street 01 Concept

Q:

Does this process vary a lot when you’re drawing sprites or concept art?

A:

Yes. Sprites require a bit of planning since a pose might have a lot of variations in expressions. In addition there’s usually multiple poses involved, so everything has to be kept consistent. Sprite files get really big so layer management is more important too… I try to keep sprites somewhat painterly and that gets a little bit tricky since parts of the textures have to be transparent.

Concept art isn’t really about the final result but more about the design and lighting, so the drawing process is a lot looser. There’s a lot more photo-bashing and Photoshop tricks involved, and since they don’t have to follow a format they’re easier too. Most of the concepts aren’t even colored, just line drawings.

pew pew concepts

Q:

At which point did your hobby turn into something you wanted to study?

I think it was around 2008-9 when I realized there wasn’t anything else I could picture myself doing. At that point I had already been reading fantasy illustration / concept art magazines, blogs, and tutorials, so I knew it could be a career if I worked hard enough. Then I figured just concept art wouldn’t be that useful now that there’s so many 3D games, so I’m studying 3D art in college.

Beeps, Boops, and Explosions

Q:

What is it like to study art at an advanced level? Has the skills that you’ve obtained come in useful to your work?

A:

It feels like halfway into my class quarters I almost give up socializing in person. The way my courses are organized, everything is a project so you learn to manage your time or fail the project… And in the end getting a perfect grade isn’t that important either, since the goal is to come out of the projects with some new skills (and hopefully a portfolio piece or two). I feel that to make studying art worth it you really have to pour as many hours as you can into it— because even if you meet the project requirements your work is still being compared to the work of full-time professionals with thousands of hours of experience; something that you have to give up a lot of time as a student to make up for. No one is going to give you an easier time because you’re just a student… Some of my classmates even try to hide that they’re still students, haha…

But everything you learn in the process helps you grow as an artist, and that’s what’s important, I think! There’s so many things I learned from just being around other artists all the time too. I can’t begin to list all the useful information and techniques.

SnK: Potato-land

Q:

Which artists do you look up to, and which do you think influenced your style the most?

A:

FCP, ASK and rella on pixiv, artists like Kawata Hisashi and Tatsuki Amaduyu from Leaf, mebae, redjuice, Kousuke Fujishima, yukimi and homunculus… Then there’s the concept art guys like Feng Zhu, Khang Le, John Park, Robh Ruppel and Scott Robertson… and the 3D guys like Tor Frick and Alan Van Ryzin… Can’t list them all! I don’t think there’s a single artist who influenced my style the most, but I’ve watched more Feng Zhu tutorials on YouTube than any other set of tutorials.

Dischan

Juniper's Knot

Q:

How detailed is the description that you get while working on art for visual novels, and what’s the degree of the freedom that you have?

A:

For a character design, usually there will be a few paragraphs that describes the character’s personality, history, speech patterns, thoughts, goals, role in the story, and any important visual information. Sometimes there will be a mock interview and/or script snippet to give an idea of how the character talks and thinks. Nowadays I specifically ask for less details on the clothing and hairstyle because I think making a bunch of drawings for the staff to pick from makes for more interesting designs.

For sprites and illustrations, I’m usually given a script context, emotion they’re feeling, and a word, phrase, or paragraph to to describe the expression. Usually I get to pick the gesture.

For an illustration, there’s usually an action being described and a script to read, but I get to draft the composition, camera angle, and lighting.

Everything needs to be approved first of course, but making multiple drafts before settling on a final design is key. The goal is to find the best way to deliver the writers’ intention for a scene with visuals.

Dysfunctional Systems Ep1 Illustration

Q:

Have you had to change your UI designs so it’s more manageable in terms of programming, or is this something you keep in mind?

A:

A bit of both. Sometimes something looks good in the mockup but turns out to be impossible or just too difficult to recreate in Ren’Py, so the design needs to be changed. But since I do most of the UI programming as well I have a pretty good idea of what’s possible with the engine.

Q:

How long did it take you to animate the opening for Dysfunctional Systems?

A:

It was my first time trying something like that, so about 3 months? That time included learning a lot about Maya, rendering, and After Effects.

Q:

Did the finished product vary a lot from your initial idea?

A:

The original storyboard was twice as long and included much more animation. When it was taking too long, I removed half the cuts, simplified some of the existing cuts, and asked CombatPlayer to make a shortened version of the song to accommodate the shorter opening. The original idea for the opening and the cuts used didn’t change too much.

Q:

Are there any projects/ people that you’d like to work on in the future?

A:

I’d love to work on a space opera with freespace mechanics one day! And a mecha-musume action game! I’d also love to work with Naughty Dog (Uncharted, Last of Us), Ubisoft Montreal (Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Assassin’s Creed), Irrational Games (Bioshock1,3), Atlus, or Compile Heart, or any of the artists I look up to one day!

Links: Website // Tumblr // DeviantART // YouTube // Livestream // Twitter

We’d like to thank you Doomfest for participating in this interview.

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