Ryan Dening is a concept artist, designer and illustrator. Having studied at Sheridan College, he began his career as a model-maker and designer of theme-park attractions, before moving into concept art for videogames. He worked as lead concept artist on Star Trek Online then, following stints at Activision and Midway Games, moved to BioWare Austin to work on Star Wars: The Old Republic, eventually becoming lead concept artist on the title. He is currently working freelance on a number of upcoming videogames, alongside projects ranging from iOS games that let you control robot cars to cards inspired by classic science fiction.
Tell us about your journey
I grew up loving spaceships, either drawing them or building them out of LEGO. Some of my favorite books were [Del Rey’s] Art of Star Wars series and the Star Trek: The Next Generation Technical Manual – I wanted to design spaceships when I grew up. That pretty much held on as I got older and went to school for illustration. My first job out of college was drawing LEGO men for a theme park, and I stayed in theme parks for five years, but the desire to design science-fiction worlds was still grabbing me. I quit my job and worked on my portfolio, helped by instructional DVDs by Ryan Church and Feng Zhu. From there, I landed my first game job in Germany. Since then I’ve been blessed with opportunities to work on Star Wars and Star Trek – designing spaceships! I’ve stayed in entertainment because I enjoy designing and painting things that don’t exist. Every new job has a unique challenge that keeps it fresh.
How do you want to impact the world?
Honestly, at this point I’m mostly focused on being a good husband and father. Doing what I love helps me to be better at that. I also hope that using the skills that I’ve been blessed with is pleasing to my creator. I’d love to be able to impact his world with them in a more direct way, but I haven’t figured that out yet. Currently I’m just focused on the family bit.
What are you passionate about?
For me, the most exciting part is the idea process: I love designing things. I also relish the act of drawing and painting during that process. My favorite concepts are still the Joe Johnston ink-and-marker sketches for Star Wars. I love it when concept art retains the life of the sketch.
What would be your #1 advice to other artists?
Don’t be discouraged by all the super-awesome art out there. Looking at other people’s work can be a double-edged sword: it can make your work sharper, or it can cut in and get you thinking you can’t compete. If people say they like your work – especially if they are paying you for it – believe them! Do what you love, keep striving to get better, but don’t let you bring yourself down by being your worst critic.
Ryan Dening’s website