Profile: character artist Kurt Papstein

150904_KP_bioKurt Papstein has worked in the game and film industry for nine years. Currently principal character artist at Pocket Gems, he previously worked at Trion Worlds and Turtle Rock Studios, where he worked on co-op shooter Evolve early in its development. He has worked as a freelance concept artist for J. J. Abrams’ Bad Robot Productions, and has taught at Laguna College of Art and Design for nearly five years. “All in all, I’m pretty excited about what I’ve been able to do so far by just sculpting some baddies!” he says.

Tell us about your journey

I’ve always been drawing, or playing with clay in front of the TV. It was always something I wanted to do for the rest of my life; I just never had a clear plan on how I was going to make that happen.

A breakthrough moment, however, was when I took to digital sculpting: then I knew what my strength was, and what I wanted to do as a day-to-day job. I was studying in college to enter the game industry, even though that wasn’t necessarily my primary goal.

My true passion was collectibles, but I was just looking for a [way into the industry]. At the end of the day, I was happy if someone would pay me to sculpt creatures all day.

How do you want to impact the world?

That’s a big question! I love my place in the game industry, and I’m thankful for the work I’ve done in films. However, the ultimate fulfillment is my personal work. I’m always writing and creating stories.

The mark I hope to leave on the world is not from my work in the entertainment industry, but what I hope to bring to the fine art world and the collectible figurine market. I think there are many ways to express oneself, and I hope to tap into all of them.

What are you passionate about?

I’m inspired by those who thrive off their own independence, taking what they love and and turning it into something bigger. There are only a small number of artists who can say they’ve achieved that.

In the end, I’m inspired not only by cool art and great stories, but by seeing people succeed in bringing their visions to life.

What would be your #1 advice to other artists?

I recently got some great advice from another artist I look up to: “Don’t wait, do it.” It’s advice I gave myself when I took the risk of going off to school and putting everything on the line to become an artist. And it’s advice I needed to hear again, even after all this time of working as a professional.

After a while you can become complacent or too focused on what you are already doing to look further ahead. Don’t wait: invest in yourself. Nothing is more rewarding than seeing your goals come to fruition, and even if you fail at those goals you can live happily knowing you tried your hardest.

Related Links
Visit Kurt’s ArtStation gallery
Visit Kurt’s website
See Kurt’s tutorials and mentorship program on Gumroad

The Kraken: an early concept for Turtle Rock Studios' videogame Evolve.

The Kraken: an early concept for Turtle Rock Studios’ videogame Evolve.

Ikameka Pilot: Created for Pixologic, to beta test ZBrush 4R4 and for its Siggraph 2012 presentations.

Ikameka Pilot: Created for Pixologic for use in the firm’s Siggraph 2012 presentations.

Leona: a character created for the cover of 3D Artist magazine.

Leona: a character created for the cover of 3D Artist magazine.

Diver: a character created for 3D Total.

Diver: a character created for 3DTotal.

Spells and Potions Vendor: A character created for collective art book Substrata.

Spells and Potions Vendor: a character created for collective art book Substrata.

Spells and Potions Vendor: A character created for collective art book Substrata.

Spells and Potions Vendor: an untextured view of the character.

Strider: a personal art work.

Strider: a personal art work.

Watcher: a 3D printed kit.

Watcher: a 3D printed kit.

Hydrodon: a resin kit.

Hydrodon: a resin kit.

A page from Kurt's sketchbook.

A page from Kurt’s sketchbook.

A page from Kurt's sketchbook.

A page from Kurt’s sketchbook.

A page from Kurt's sketchbook.

A page from Kurt’s sketchbook.

A page from Kurt's sketchbook.

A page from Kurt’s sketchbook.


About the author

Jim Thacker is a contributing editor for ArtStation Magazine.