Shaddy Safadi is living the dream. His 2 year old fledgling studio One Pixel Brush recently launched its website featuring the great concept art work they did for Ryse: Son of Rome. Before this, he worked as a concept artist at Naughty Dog in LA, working on major triple-A game titles such as The Last of Us and Uncharted 2. Shaddy is also very open about sharing his techniques and training the next generation of artists by putting up free video tutorials as well as resources such as brush sets on his website.
We had a chance to chat with Shaddy about his journey as a production artist and now running his own studio.
Why did you start One Pixel Brush?
Shaddy: I love concept art! I started One Pixel Brush because I wanted to push the quality and state of art in our industry. As games and movies get closer together in production value there is a huge opportunity to bring a more evolved aesthetic to games. After nearly 10 years of experience working on AAA games I felt it was time to build a team of super talent that together could help shape what games can be.
What inspires you?
Shaddy: I love nature. I love waterfalls. I love natural, epic splendor. I organized a trip recently with all my art buddies and we went to Europe to paint. We scouted locations all over Europe using Google Earth to find the most dramatic cliffs, mountains and lakes in the region. We digitally painted every day using our laptops and special shade boxes we developed. Some our work can be found on the website I founded with Nick Pugh. It was an unbelievable trip. I feel that most aspiring artists these days are too stuck indoors playing their video games. I wanted my team to get out there and experience the natural beauty that is in the world.
How did your experience on AAA game titles shape you?
Shaddy: My experience at Naughty Dog really helped me to become more technical at making highly realistic concept art. As things progressed, we also began to explore storytelling through the environment. For example, in The Last of Us, many environments have subtle storytelling cues. You might see the aftermath of a murder or hasty escape, a formerly barricaded window or burned bed. There’s a lot of narrative that can be put into an environment while retaining technical excellence and realism and that’s something we always strive for at One Pixel Brush.
What’s your edge at One Pixel Brush?
Shaddy: When it comes to client production work, we approach it by asking what is the coolest thing that we can possibly do for them – I think as young artists starting to do professional work there is a tendency to turn off your creative fire and just “try to give the client what they want” and secretly think to yourself, “If only this was my project I would do it so much better.” WELL IT IS YOUR f@*king PROJECT! They saw your work, they hired you and they value your opinion, so GIVE it to them! At One Pixel Brush I’m constantly pushing our team to do what THEY think would make something awesome. Every time the client is blown away with the results.
About your training and resources
Shaddy: The instructional stuff I’ve done to date is available free online for now?. I have a primitive brain, so I know how to break things down in a primitive way for people to understand and at the same time give away practical resources like brushes.
In the teaching of concept art I’ve often heard that there are no tricks or shortcuts and that the secret to success is only hard work but in my experience that’s entirely untrue. Egomaniac artists (all of us) often use the ambiguous ideology of ‘hard work’ as an excuse to not give away our prized tricks but deep down we just don’t want to share them! Now OF COURSE hard work is a given but I’ve seen artists go from amateur to high level pro in 6 months with the right attitude and guidance. This is a profession that is 90% skill and 10% aesthetic sensibility. Skills can be directly taught and aesthetic sensibility can be cultivated. Our goal at One Pixel Brush is to GET you to that pro level. We’ve got nothing to hide because we need that talent.
Number 1 piece of advice to artists
Shaddy: Learn Modo! Use Modo to create or import basic models found on Google Warehouse. Set up a basic scene with parts, perhaps building a few yourself. Throw in lighting. Render it out and use that as a base to create your concept. This is not to say that designing a strong composition isn’t paramount but often times the design of that composition is not happening with a brush, but by moving stuff around in 3D or using a photo outright or as inspiration.
The second thing I would recommend is to find one piece by an artist you love and the next concept you do, try to copy their style exactly. I don’t mean use it as “inspiration” with a few other artists to create your own style. That gets you nowhere because it’s not focused. ONE artist ONE image. Use that and only that as your benchmark for finish and style. There is a reason you love that piece and it’s not for some of its qualities, it’s for all of them.
Also don’t be shy! Send us your progress as we are always on the lookout for new talent!
Big thanks to Shaddy and One Pixel Brush for the in-depth interview!
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