Eytan Zana is currently a concept artist at Naughty Dog. Specializing in environment design, Eytan has worked on such titles as Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End and The Last Of Us. Previous clients include Paramount Pictures, Wizards of The Coast and Digital Domain. When not working, Eytan enjoys digital plein-air painting and traveling abroad, where he hopes “to one day punch a shark in the face”. Later this month, Eytan will be one of ten leading concept artists demonstrating their workflows at Gnomon Workshop Live: a series of public demos at the Gnomon School of Visual Effects in Hollywood from 27-28 September 2014.
Tell us about your journey
Like many people in this business, I grew up on a hearty diet of videogames and film. My biggest inspirations were Indiana Jones, Final Fantasy and Hook. I doodled all through middle school, but it wasn’t until my junior year of high school that I really took it seriously, in the hopes of going to art school.
I studied at Otis College of Art and Design with a focus on concept art, which was a very new major at the time. I initially wanted to focus on doing characters but eventually fell in love with environments.
At the end of my junior year, my good friend and now co-worker John Sweeney made me sit down and play Uncharted 2. The amount of polish in every facet of the game was beyond impressive; I didn’t know it was possible to have a game that was exciting to play, incredible to look at, and had such a compelling story.
I knew then that I needed to work on a Naughty Dog game; I didn’t know how or when, I just had to. Fast forward to the end of my senior year: my teacher brought in [Naughty Dog] art director Robh Ruppel. He really enjoyed my work, and a few days later I got the call to come for a short-term contract that eventually led to a full-time position.
How do you want to impact the world?
By inspiring people the same way I was inspired as a kid. I love being part of a team that is committed to excellence in all aspects of our games. Designing the worlds of The Last Of Us and the Uncharted franchise has been a dream come true.
In the future I’d love to work on a fantasy game with some crazy, never-before-seen environments. I’ve also been developing a handful of IPs for my own dream project. I’m having a blast inventing a whole new world and story.
What are you passionate about?
Aside from my supremely talented co-workers, the thing that inspires me the most is traveling. My favorite locations so far have been Kauai, The Dolomites, and Big Sur, California. If I could do art and travel for the rest of my life I’d be happy.
What would be your #1 advice to other artists?
Never stop experimenting! Do your own personal work, try something crazy, try a completely different method for starting a painting. Don’t ever stop learning; when you stop learning, you stop growing.
As far as specific tips go, learning a 3D program is invaluable, and painting outdoors is one of the best ways to learn about color, perspective, and composition.
What are you going to be doing at Gnomon Workshop Live?
I’m going to be talking about the importance of experimenting and the things I’ve learned through my own experiments. I’ll also be going through my process with step-by-step images of my work. You can see some of it below.