Could you first introduce yourself to the reader?
Hi! I’m Olivia (AKA Livy!) I’m both a 2D and 3D artist, but my main job is working in retail while I build my portfolio and work on commissions. I also play bass for my band but love to play guitar and piano too.
What does your creative career involve? Give us the typical outline of a day?
If I’m working on some 2D (like a painting), I begin with a pen and paper and start sketching. I don’t worry too much about proportions because I can edit them when I come to the painting process! So when I have my line art finished, I’ll take a photo of it – nothing special, just with my phone camera – and then I’ll put it into Photoshop for the fun part! I begin with using the liquify tool for manipulating the line art to make sure the proportions look correct if they didn’t already. If it’s a commission or I’m working for a client, this also helps me edit any facial features to make sure I can get their likeness spot on! After this is done, I get to paint over my sketch and add shadows and highlights to bring it to life. I’m normally finished in a few hours, I never really like to go over a day on one piece of work because I don’t like to leave work unfinished. So sometimes my painting sessions last quite a while!
However, if I’m working on my 3D digital characters, this takes a long time. It usually begins with a Pinterest board so I can get as much reference for the vibe I’m going for, then I’ll start sculpting in a software called ZBrush. It’s literally like a lump of clay you get on the software and you can pull it about, carve into it, etc! This is how I create my ‘high poly’ meshes and they can then be ‘retopped’ – which is basically where you go over the high poly mesh with less detail to create a model that will actually be optimized well enough to run in a game. Then after ‘unwrapping’ my new low poly mesh, I can texture it which basically means colouring it in! In this process, I would also ‘bake’ the details from the high poly mesh onto the lower poly so it’s almost as though the eye has been tricked into thinking we are using the highly detailed sculpted mesh in-game. BUT I digress, I don’t usually get all of that done in a day especially if there’s a lot of details. I don’t normally finish the sculpt until day 2 at least!
What does being a creative mean to you?
I feel like it actually gives me a lot of power and makes me feel cool! Like yeah, I can draw *insert sunglasses emoji*. But on a serious note, I think it’s the freedom to make the images in my head come to life. Also to make a difference too, I want to make characters that people feel they can relate to because I know there is a lack of representation in the arts, though it’s definitely getting better. It’s also difficult not to have some kind of output in a world filled with so much information to take in. Upset? Arpeggiate some sad chords on the guitar. Mad or angry? Draw some kind of demon hehe!
What’s great about your job?
I have a lot of connections with really cool people I’ve met at university, and it’s just really laid back. Though I haven’t actually worked in a professional working environment, I imagine it’s a lot like the vibe we had in labs at uni, everyone sat at a desk doing their work but also chatting, listening to music etc. Also, the fact that you’re working with people that all have the same interests as you, you’ve all got this thing in common where you’re passionate about games!
What are the bits you don’t like or find challenging?
Mainly just how long it takes! The 3D anyway. And I do have quite a short attention span like I mentioned earlier with having to finish my drawings within one day. Also the fact that it just is difficult! Sometimes things just don’t work out and I don’t like how it looks, and I’ve spent so much time on it already!! Sometimes it’s even just finding the energy to get everything set up and start. Also I don’t really like the process of learning something on the guitar. The songs that inspire me are very tricky, like some Opeth riffs or one of John Petrucci’s solos. It takes forever to even get the speed up let alone learn what notes I need to be hitting! I sometimes feel I should give up guitar because I know if I’d been playing as long as I’d been drawing, I’d be amazing.
Do you think there’s any misconceptions with your job?
That it’s a ‘cheat’. A lot of people think digital art is cheating like my mum always seems a bit less impressed with my digital than with my traditional 2D art. And with this, it’s also assumed that it’s easy. But learning software and new tools is a skill in itself, and very valuable!
What are the highlights of your career to date?
Well when I was at university I asked an artist if I could make one of his characters in 3D for my final project and he let me!! He also would give me feedback and was really helpful, then he went ahead and followed me back on Instagram!! It was wild.
What was your career path into this job? Have you also worked outside the arts?
Well I started by just being really artsy at school. I would always put art first with everything, I hated all the other classes that were writing and boring stuff, but for some reason, I’d always get A’s in my art essays and written work. So I think that was a sign for me that it was a good path for me to take. I then progressed onto an Art Foundation course, which introduced me to the university and I had life drawing classes and digital 2D lessons. This is how I learnt Photoshop, which I use now! As long as I passed foundation, I was able to progress onto Game Art at De Montfort University.
There were a few other options too, but games interested me the most. I’ve been drawing video games characters since I was really young, as I used to watch my dad and my brother play on the PlayStation1 and 2! It was my brother that actually told me I should go into games after I stuck my drawing of Raziel from Soul Reaver on the fridge... And here I am!
My main source of income is from working in retail. I work in a Danish shop that sells all sorts of quirky gifts and stationery! Even houseware items – you probably know the one! It’s tough for an introvert though. I came to retail straight from uni because I felt my work wasn’t strong enough to get my foot in the games industry just yet and I needed some money! To get to this job though, it took two other retail jobs. I started at the British Heart Foundation just for some work experience because I had none! I stayed for about a month and then I left because I had a few friends working at a pop-up Halloween shop (BEST JOB EVER). I had so much fun there and I’d also stay longer sometimes just to fix broken stock or help out because I loved it there that much. It was my passion for this job that helped me get my current job at Tiger. I always worried I would be turned away from jobs because of my appearance – coloured hair and piercings don’t seem to go down well. But Tiger accepted me in all my weirdness, and for that, I am beyond grateful.
Can you describe your biggest challenge so far in your career? How did you overcome it?
Motivation. I’ve always got these great ideas, but rarely have the energy or willpower to get up and do it. I think it’s because I live in quite a cramped space and there’s been no luck in the house search to move somewhere with less clutter. So I keep telling myself not to let it demotivate me because it’s going to be like this for a while due to the pandemic, and I shouldn’t let it hold me back.
Have you noticed any changes in the industry? If so, what?
I’ve noticed there’s an increasing amount of female artists in the industry! I think there was a misconception for a while that games and even the gamesindustry is a male-only space. But the number of women has really gone up! Especially on my university course, there were a lot of girls there.
You’ve been granted the ability to send a message to 16-year-old you. What do you say?
I’d probably tell her to keep her head down and do what makes her happy! I didn’t really have a great time at school, and I’m pretty sure I have learning difficulties or something underlying that would explain my behaviour at school. I was generally well behaved but I would also not be afraid to say anything that crossed my mind. So I’d tell 16-year-old me to be a good person and just focus on progressing my art, and not worrying about what others are up to. I did compare myself to others a lot.
Do you have any advice for young people interested in doing your kind of job?
I’d say try to polish your traditional skills, colour theory, life drawing etc. People think game art is all just a load of 1’s and 0’s but you have to know the fundamentals first and hone your hand/eye coordination. These will all help you become a stronger artist and enable you to make better artistic choices within your work!