Emmanuel Shiu began his career in CG as a generalist at Lucasfilm, going on to work as a matte painter and then matte painting supervisor at The Orphanage, and as a concept artist at ImageMovers Digital. Now freelance, he currently specializes in concept design, illustration and visual development for the film and videogame industries, working on movies including The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Cloud Atlas, Star Trek Into Darkness, Looper, Superman Returns and Hellboy, and on videogames including Lost Planet 3, Star Citizen and Call of Duty. We caught up with Emmanuel to discuss his career, and his luminous, sci-fi-inflected artwork.
Tell us about your journey
Photography was my first passion. I started practicing at the age of 13 and have been hooked ever since!
I was originally an art major at the Art Center in Pasadena, but due to a motorcycle accident, I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area and studied at California College of the Arts instead. I transferred from photography to interior architecture, as I felt that the program offered the best mixture of many different kinds of design.
I was introduced to the computer 3D package form.Z and loved it so much that I invested substantially in the system to learn all I could. I found designing for the entertainment world much more liberating than architecture.
My first interview was a trip. I knew very little about software, and turned up to the interview with my work on two floppy disks. The owner of the company happened to be a race car designer, and I was a race car driver at the time, so we clicked instantly. He hired me and the rest is history.
How do you want to impact the world?
I am currently working on my own book and IP and am trying save enough money so that I can take time off to fully realize this project. It keeps me going!
I’d also love to work with Guillermo Del Toro. I had the privilege of meeting him briefly while working on Hellboy, and I love how he sees the world, his creativity, energy and passion. It would be great to learn from someone like that.
What are you passionate about?
I find inspiration everywhere. For example, seeing an old married couple being sweet to each other could inspire my next painting. I’m also curious about nature, and the thorax of an ant could inspire the structure of my next ship design. People who are eager to learn will never be short of inspiration. The main thing is to keep your eyes open!
What would be your #1 advice to other artists?
Be persistent. I firmly believe in the 10,000 hours theory – that you have to invest enough time to achieve the results you’re after. Everyone is capable of becoming a professional artist; you just have to believe, stay true to course and work your ass off. If you want it enough, it will happen.
And don’t be afraid to ask questions, especially of those whom you hold in high regard. There is nothing to lose, and only incredible nuggets of advice to gain.