Have you ever seen the artwork for your favourite video game and wished you could create something similar but didn’t know where to start? Esben Lash Rasmussen, a gaming illustration guru at Riot Games, explains all you need to know about becoming a gaming illustrator.
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Esben grew up drawing for as long as he could remember and enjoying stuff like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Dragon Ball Z, much like many other people. He was inspired by two classmates who were talented artists when he was younger and worked hard to match their abilities. His friends quit drawing once they entered adolescence, but Esben persisted. He worked for Atomhawk, Sixmorevodka, and Artwoork before relocating to Los Angeles to work for Riot Games. He studied for a bachelor’s degree at the Animation Workshop in Denmark and attended summer camps for game development.
He offers incredibly wise guidance on how to produce worthwhile work and describes the job in this interview. You might be surprised by his advice on how to personalise and spice up your job.
What do hiring directors want to see? What is the interview process like?
Typically, if someone is interviewing you, it’s because they enjoy your art. There is typically an art test, and they want to see how you interact with others, whether you encourage teamwork, and how you respond to criticism.
What do you need to show in your portfolio?
It depends on the business and on your knowledge about the type of work you seek. What you put in your portfolio will determine what you get employed for. I would study what businesses do and demonstrate that you could follow their lead and comprehend their worldview while still offering something fresh.
I had a thorough idea of what Riot Games’ product was, the rendering quality, and the aesthetic because I had previously worked for them. Because I enjoyed illustration, I always had a natural inclination to express stories through images.
What is a typical work day like?
I typically work at Riot from 10:30 am until 6:00 pm. There is a really organic framework, and we discuss our goals, the emotions we want the viewer to experience, and the information that needs to be conveyed in the image when we meet. It’s typically a collaborative process, but you do typically have some influence over what you want to. Whatever their job, I cowork with my coworkers rather closely. I enjoy collaborating with Riot’s numerous artists since there is nothing more beneficial than learning about other people’s processes and approaches to problems.
What are common mistakes made by people in your line of work and how to avoid them?
Art is a language, and you have to condense it to the most simple and pure form.
The primary error I believe most students make is trying to create “cool” things, which leads to bland and generic results. Whatever your topic is, you must be able to explain why it is intriguing to me as a spectator. The fact that you are articulating an idea is more important than any technical skill at all. Art is a language, and you must simplify, crystallise, and keep it as pure as you can.
Any tips/ tricks on how to stand out?
Whenever you have an idea, you need to find a way to twist or flip it.
Apply your personal experiences or subjects about which you have a strong passion to your work. Your personal emotions will begin to guide your creative decisions and help you determine whether the spectator will experience the emotions you intend them to. Make it personal to add some flair. Being vulnerable seems risky and difficult.
Here’s a helpful hint to spice things up: What matters is contrast. Every time you get an idea, you should consider how you can twist or reverse it. Consider the lion that ate the butterfly as an example and try flipping it to the butterfly that ate the lion. There is an immediate more intriguing proposition. From there, you can create a really intriguing story, but you’ll need to figure out how to make it plausible. What distinguishes you from others is doing it and having the guts to do something unusual.
What’s one thing you absolutely have to work on to be a gaming illustrator?
The hardest part in 2D, in my opinion, is illustration because you have to learn and master everything. Perspective, design, acting, colours, rendering, cinematography, and camera lenses are only a few examples. It’s difficult to learn how to control so many facets of drawing and balance them into a convincing image. Finding and sharing that ideal moment in your tale is both terrifying and thrilling.
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