Devon Fay is a senior environment artist at Infinity Ward. After graduating in 2009 from the Gnomon School of Visual Effects, he began his career in Blizzard Entertainment‘s film department, becoming matte painting lead for Diablo III, World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria and Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm. Seeking new challenges, Devon decided to transfer to real-time environments for games, his latest project being Call of Duty: Ghosts. Devon will be presenting a workshop at this year’s Trojan Horse was a Unicorn festival, 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
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been interested in creating things. As a young kid I drew a lot, mostly cartoons, but once I was introduced to computer games – Myst being a key one – I took a pretty sharp turn into learning CG. I was only about nine or ten, so everything I did at the time was very bad, but it was great for learning the process.
The most important step in my career was getting accepted into the Gnomon School of Visual Effects. I met amazing people, many of whom I’m still in regular contact with. Working on portfolio pieces 24/7 in the labs there, along with some lucky timing, allowed me to get my first industry job at Blizzard Entertainment’s cinematics department. Since then, I have pursued work with real-time environments for games at [fellow Activision Blizzard studios] Neversoft and Infinity Ward.
How do you want to impact the world?
I think it’s awesome that I can create things that others can enjoy: whether it’s a level they end up playing over and over in a game, or an image that they use as wallpaper for a few days. Seeing amazing work is what drove me to continue to create my own and improve with every piece, and if I can help others in a similar way, that makes me pretty happy!
That’s why it’s been really cool going back to Gnomon as an instructor. It’s amazing when you can help someone in a class, then see them become successful in their own career. Some students have even taught me cool stuff they’ve learned from the studios they ended up working at!
What are you looking forward to at THU/2014?
Honestly, every bit of it. I’ll get to learn from some amazing and inspiring artists. I’ll be able to network with even more like-minded, talented people. I’ll get to be in a beautiful area of Portugal. And I’ll get to do all of that while relaxing at the end of the day with drinks with friends! I’m also excited to share some of my own knowledge: I’ll be working together with the Gnomon School of Visual Effects, presenting almost six hours of workshops about environment creation.
This year’s Trojan Horse was a Unicorn festival takes place in Troia, Portugal from 17 to 20 September. As well as Devon Fay, the 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?
I’m very lucky to be doing my passion as my career. And when I get off work, I can’t help but work on personal projects – to learn new techniques, or test out new ideas. It helps me stay inspired to keep pushing to finish pieces.
What would be your #1 advice to other artists?
Find – and keep – a community of artists who can offer good feedback on your work. While working in a studio, you tend to get a bit spoiled: if you get stuck on something, you have directors, art directors, concept artists and other colleagues to help you find a direction. It’s harder if you’re working at home, but still extremely important. While I am working on personal projects, I email WIPs to old colleagues, old classmates, friends, and even bring them in to work to discuss during lunch.
I can’t emphasise enough how important constant critique has helped me grow as an artist. While not everyone has access to this kind of social network, we all have access to the large and talented communities that have been created online. I highly recommend posting work-in-progress threads and getting as much input as possible at all stages of your process.