Darren Bartley is an artist with a decade’s experience in the videogame industry. He is currently senior concept artist at Ubisoft Montreal. Darren previously worked at Crytek, where he was a character artist for Xbox One launch title Ryse: Son of Rome, and at RuneScape developer Jagex, where he worked on a sci-fi MMO that ultimately never saw the light of day. “I have worked on many, many cancelled and unannounced projects,” he reflects ruefully. Darren works in 2D and 3D, creating crisp, striking designs that make strong use of contrast. We caught up with him to discuss his career, and the unlikely sources he draws on in his art.
Tell us about your journey
I was brought onto the planet in 1979, unfortunately too late to see Star Wars in the cinema. I’ve always drawn, and I play a lot of video games and watch a lot of movies. These three things have been a constant in my life.
I studied art at high school (dull), then did a year at a local art college (small-minded and dull) and finally a degree in computer game design (useless and dull). I wanted to work in games but didn’t know how – I didn’t even know concept art existed. This all changed when I saw some of Feng Zhu‘s work in Edge magazine. From then on I knew what I had to do.
I consumed tutorials at a ridiculous rate: the early Gnomon DVDs especially. This led to me landing my first job at Jagex, where I worked on a sci-fi MMO for five years. The project was cancelled, but those years were extremely important to me; they allowed me to practise the craft day in day out, and to learn a hell of a lot from the people around me. Since then I’ve worked at Crytek and Ubisoft, as well as doing freelance. I love the act of creating things and hope it never goes away.
How do you want to impact the world?
I`d like nothing less than to save the entire human race and cure cancer through my crappy character designs. Either that or dig deeper into my personal IP, TRIBAL, and have it resonate with people. One of them might be doable.
What are you passionate about?
My inspiration mainly comes from nature (insects especially), robotics, Bill Watterson and Mike Mignola. Artistically I love big bold shapes, orange, sloppy lines, anything that covers people’s eyes, and more orange.
What would be your #1 advice to other artists?
I see a lot of work that is extremely strong from a technical standpoint, with great rendering, lighting and so on, but which lacks anything interesting in terms of shape, proportion and form language.
So my advice to concept artists is to push the design side of things just as much, if not more, than the art side of things. Use rhythm and balance as much as you can, in the repetition of shape, detail, contrast, materials and lighting. Don’t shotgun-blast details willy-nilly. Pick the right spots and allow the eye to breathe!
And try to have fun. Some people take all of this way too seriously.