John Sweeney is a concept artist at Naughty Dog, working on games including The Last of Us. He previously worked with Paramount Pictures, BRC Imagination Arts, 5th Planet Games and Concept Arts, where he worked on the box art for Halo: Combat Evolved – Anniversary Edition. His art from The Last of Us was included in the official selections for the prestigious Into the Pixel (ITP) collection. Later this month, John will be one of ten leading concept artists demonstrating their workflows at Gnomon Workshop Live: a series of public presentations at the Gnomon School of Visual Effects in Hollywood from 27-28 September 2014.
Tell us about your journey
Growing up, I was always encouraged to draw and paint, but I think the moment I knew what I wanted to do with my life was when my grandfather took me on a tour of Sony’s [game] studios. I remember seeing a man sitting in the middle of three drawing tables with about 500 Prismacolor markers drawing level designs for an upcoming Twisted Metal game.
I went on to study at Otis College of Art and Design where I focused on illustration and digital media. I continued my education at Red Engine School of Design for a year after graduating and continued to build my portfolio before my good friend and now colleague Eytan Zana let me know that Naughty Dog was hiring.
How do you want to impact the world?
Through my art. In many ways, The Last of Us was my dream project. I’ve had the chance to work with so many talented people who helped make the games I grew up with and love. Every day I’m excited to come into work and see what’s happening next. However, I would love to meet Sam Mendes and Roger Deakins: they’ve been a huge inspiration to me.
In terms of side projects, I plan on making a book based on some of my pencil sketches that I’ve done over the past couple of years. I have about two or three more sketchbooks to fill before that will be ready.
What are you passionate about?
I’m passionate about my work, and the game and film industry in general. I feel very fortunate to be in a position where I can use my work to influence both. And I’m inspired by my friends and co-workers who constantly keep me on my toes. If I didn’t have them to challenge me on a daily basis, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
What would be your #1 advice to other artists?
Never stop being a student. There’s so many ways to be creative, so step outside your comfort zone and try different media and approaches. You’ll learn things you wouldn’t otherwise, that you can then take back and apply to your work.
What are you going to be doing at Gnomon Workshop Live?
Showing my theory and process on art, and hopefully giving some insight about the media I work with, and the industry. Below, you can see some of the images I’ll be showing in my demo.