Concept Art for Games with Matthew Kohr

Focusing on the functional roles that objects play in games, Concept Art for Games on ArtStation Learning takes an ‘inside-out’ approach to design thinking.  Learn to critically investigate forms beyond surface-level shapes. With an emphasis on logic and problem-solving, no pre-existing drawing skills are required for this course.

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Matt Kohr is a Seattle-based freelance concept artist in the game industry and creator of the website, Ctrl+Paint. Previously, he worked at Motiga Games, Vicious Cycle Software, and Hi-Rez Studios.

Behind the course:

How can we use color to indicate the monster’s weak underbelly? What shape language will warn the player upon entering a dangerous new landscape? This course explores the core of concept art: visual problem-solving.

When I got my first concept art job in games 12 years ago, I was chasing a fantasy. Introduced to concept art by my Fellowship of the Ring DVD, I thought the job was all about painting stunning vistas and gruesome dragons. And though that’s part of the job, I had no idea about the primary responsibility: visual problem-solving. After years spent designing robots, enemy lairs, and missile launchers – problem-solving is my favorite part, which is why I want to put it on your radar.

Most memorable learning experience:

As a highschooler, art school seemed to be the ultimate opportunity. In hindsight, I’ve learned way more about concept art online than during the 4 years I spent at a prominent art college. No matter how niche or specific my studies may drift, the internet overflows with resources to guide the way.

1 piece of advice:

“Why?” is the most useful phrase in the English language. Memorable art & design isn’t random. It’s not a collection of beautiful shapes on a white page. All of the most iconic Hollywood designs were solutions to production challenges.

Some designs help communicate or foreshadow narrative elements. Other designs grab the viewer’s attention and guide them down the correct path while others impart the authenticity of real-world science & research. All different goals, but they share a single root: problem-solving.

Favorite concept art work experience:

My most recent shipped title, Marvel’s Iron Man VR, was pretty special. Day to day, I developed drones, architecture, weapons, and props for Tony Stark, which was pretty surreal. There’s something magical about watching a player experience the end result in VR.

By ‘putting on the Iron Man suit’, and flying around with virtual thrusters, the player was completely transported into the world I’d been contributing to. While my drones, guns, or buildings don’t steal the show, it’s great knowing that they helped pluck a player out of their living room, and thrust them into a red metal suit flying 200mph.

ArtStation Learning courses are included in all ArtStation premium subscriptions. Find out more >

See more of Matt’s work here.

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About the author

Sierra is the Editor of ArtStation Magazine.