Geoffrey Ernault is a concept artist and illustrator with three years’ professional experience, currently working at Guerrilla Games‘ studio in Cambridge, UK. He has also worked on feature film and illustration projects, including book and record covers. His clients include MPC, NaturalMotion, Cyanide Studio, Steve Aoki and the art magazines ImagineFX and 2DArtist. Geoffrey will be acting as a mentor at this year’s Trojan Horse was a Unicorn festival, held in Troia, Portugal later this month, so we caught up with him to talk about his career, his inspirations – and what he’s looking forward to at THU/2014.
Tell us about your journey
When I was about seven, someone showed me StarCraft and I got addicted to it. I had been playing games for a while, but that one stood out: the art direction was spot on, and the narration had so much depth. I was transported to another world!
After that, I knew I wanted to work in videogames. I thought only 3D artists and programmers were needed to make a game (innocence is bliss), so I thought 3D was for me. A few years later, I was still doodling when I heard about tablets and how you could colour your drawings. Eager to try, I asked my parents for one. Eventually I found out you could actually paint with a tablet, and that led me to learning about concept art. After that, I worked every day to become a concept artist.
I studied art in a college in Paris, but they didn’t really have a good concept art program. I spent my first year of art school not turning in homework as I was learning about digital painting at home each night until dawn.
My first breakthrough was when [concept artist] Kan Muftic asked me to work for NaturalMotion. Working with him, along with other amazing people, taught me a lot, and brought a lot of other opportunities.
How do you want to impact the world?
I’ve had a couple of projects in the back of my mind for a couple years, but I keep telling myself that I’m not ready and that I need to learn more before I tackle them. The first is a movie, ‘Land of the Thousand Suns’ [You can see an image from it at the foot of the interview – Ed.] The second one is a videogame with robots and guns. You know, your usual 2014 game.
What are you looking forward to at THU/2014?
Mostly the people. I’m always amazed to discover mind-blowing new artists I’ve never heard of before. I’m looking forward to meeting a lot of artists I’ve been inspired by through the years. And most people at events like [THU] share amazing knowledge, ideas and life stories. That alone leaves you inspired for months.
I’m also looking forward to the mentoring sessions, as I’m sure there will be amazing portfolios. It’s a great feeling to pass on knowledge, and see how someone else’s work grows from it.
This year’s Trojan Horse was a Unicorn festival takes place in Troia, Portugal from 17 to 20 September. As well as Geoffrey Ernault, speakers include industry legends Syd Mead and Scott Ross, ILM’s Christian Alzmann, BioWare’s Furio Tedeschi, Blizzard Entertainment’s Mathias Verhasselt and Framestore UK’s Kyle McCulloch. For more information, or to buy a ticket for the show, click here.
What are you passionate about?
Stars. There’s nothing more inspiring than just stopping somewhere at night, forgetting about time, chores, daily routines and even other people, and just contemplating stars. I’ve always been a fan of jets and spaceships as well. Maybe it’s a kind of disconnection with the real world; or the idea that you can go anywhere you want.
Which leads me to my second inspiration: travel! I travelled a lot when I was a kid, following my parents around the world. Being somewhere else, discovering a new culture, different weather, shapes, colours, architecture, is really inspiring.
I also love the idea of ‘aesthetic chaos’: getting something pretty out of something that isn’t supposed to be. A weird creature that appears deadly, but displays beautiful colours or shapes, for example.
What would be your #1 advice to other artists?
Forget about the competition. It’s important to be ambitious and to push yourself, but there’s no point in comparing yourself too much to others. There’s always going to be someone better, you’re probably never going to be entirely satisfied with your art, and you’ll always have new things to learn.
Also, think about design. Form should follow function. Does your spaceship run on a specific type of fuel, like plasma? What does a plasma engine look like? What are the down sides of using plasma as a fuel? The more you try to think things through, the better your designs will become.