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Concept Artist Spotlight: Theo Prins

Concept Artist Theo Prins has worked all over the world, but has now settled at ArenaNet here in Bellevue, WA. I sat down with one of the newest members of the concept art team to discuss his unique approach to his work.

Q: Theo, you’re new to ArenaNet and to many Guild Wars 2 fans. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

 

Theo: Well, I was born in California, but I grew up in Washington State and the Netherlands. I started working in the video game industry in 2007 as a concept artist on World of Darkness at CCP games in Iceland. Next, I worked in South Korea for Reloaded Studios on a project called “The Day.” For the past few years I’ve led a somewhat nomadic existence, freelancing while traveling. I crossed the Pacific on a container ship, lived in Hong Kong for a while, and then spent some time exploring the street markets, alleyways and mountains in Nepal, India, and Vietnam. Now here I am back in Washington.

Environments have always been my focus. When I was a child I would spend a lot of time crafting little environments out of clay, cardboard, building miniature worlds in a sandbox, carving navigable tunnel systems in blackberry bushes and drawing layouts for cities. I’ve always loved arranging objects in space and creating a sense of scale and place, whether physically or on paper. I’m very excited to now be able to funnel this fascination into the Guild Wars universe.

 

 

Q: Can you talk about your technique? I’m curious how you achieve that energetic look, with visible brushstrokes? Is it all digital?

Theo: My full color paintings are made in Photoshop, but I also spend a lot of time sketching with pencil as part of the brainstorming process.

Sometimes an idea might flash in my head that I really want to paint. It’s usually vivid enough to convince me to stop whatever I happen to be doing and just start painting. I’ll then create a high contrast sketch of the shapes, values, and proportions I have visualized. It can look very abstract at first, but the goal is to catch the spirit of that initial idea.  From then on, I start wildly layering brushstrokes and creating a lot of texture. Through this process my mind’s eye stays active and ideas for potential details and color relationships begin to stand out at me in the textures.

 

Q: Can you talk about your technique? I’m curious how you achieve that energetic look, with visible brushstrokes? Is it all digital?

Theo: My full color paintings are made in Photoshop, but I also spend a lot of time sketching with pencil as part of the brainstorming process.

Sometimes an idea might flash in my head that I really want to paint. It’s usually vivid enough to convince me to stop whatever I happen to be doing and just start painting. I’ll then create a high contrast sketch of the shapes, values, and proportions I have visualized. It can look very abstract at first, but the goal is to catch the spirit of that initial idea.  From then on, I start wildly layering brushstrokes and creating a lot of texture. Through this process my mind’s eye stays active and ideas for potential details and color relationships begin to stand out at me in the textures.

 

Q: Many concept artists, particularly in sci-fi, try for a realistic look, with hyper-detailed art. Do you think there’s some advantage to creating more impressionist work? Does it force the observer to meet the artist half-way and use their imagination more to fill in the blanks?

Theo: I think suggested details or even random bits of texture can trick our brain into experiencing a sense of definition. I find it can create a much more rich and vivid experience of the world in the painting than when everything is fully defined. Since our brains end up playing a more active role in interpreting what’s happening in the painting we’re left with a very unique impression of the mood rather than a concrete logical understanding of exactly what we’re looking at.  I really like experiencing that sensation. It’s why I tend to leave my paintings loose and textural.

Q: You’ve been around the world and have experienced a diversity of cultures and environments. How has your travel influenced or informed your art?

Theo: Living in Seoul in 2008 triggered a fascination with Asian metropolises that has caused me to repeatedly draw the shapes of big grey apartment buildings, overpasses and street markets ever since then. It’s become a major pre-occupation of mine and it’s why I keep going back to Asia. All the drawings I’ve been making appear to be bits and pieces of the same massive city world. So in this case, I was definitely influenced by a place I visited.

However, the results aren’t always as obvious. Most of the time it takes a while to see how a trip has impacted me, and often times the results are very subtle. I just let it be an organic process. For instance, I’ll usually walk around a city, exploring all the different districts and just trust that whatever I experienced will somehow be absorbed and incorporated into my artwork.

 

 

 

 

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