David Su is an Illustrator and concept artist. He is always on the quest to learn more and evolve as an artist which makes him the perfect candidate for the Creative Spotlight. Read below for the full Q&A…
I’ve learned from interviewing so many Asian creative’s that sometimes their families have a hard time grasping what they do. Did you need to explain to your mom that this is an actual career?
David: In a way I did, my parents both knew that I was really passionate about art, but as a career, they were hesitant because they aren’t familiar with the job opportunities an artist has. All they really know is that it isn’t job that would make lot of money, like a lawyer or a doctor, but they weren’t totally against the idea of me perusing Art as a career path. After my mom saw the steady about of work and the range of work that I’ve been receiving, she’s a lot more comfortable with it.
Concept art is always extremely fast turnaround. How do you create art? Painting from sketch, or photo references, etc?
David: Indeed it is! My process for conceptualizing is the same when it comes to early conceptualizing for an illustration. I start with thumbnails, trying to create nice visual shape language before I start going into detail of the image. For character designing, I tend to create a narrative, while I’m creating the character; what is their role in the world? Are they fast? Strong? Agile? Where do they live? Etc, anything that will help and add to the design! As for the process of creating a piece, I usually paint from my sketches and I really only use photo references for my illustration to capture the pose/lighting accurately.
Has life after graduation been about how you expected it to be? Could you tell us a bit about your journey using your portfolio to land clients?
David: In a way, yes and in another, no. I was hoping to be at a studio a couple of months after graduation, but the industry has been pretty though to get into now a days! Also my portfolio didn’t suit the studios I was aiming for, so I had build a portfolio that was better suited and tailored more towards the company I was applying for.
Your portfolio should always express what you want to do, if it’s character designs, show a lot of character designs with process ideations so that art director can get a sense of your thought process. Your portfolio should show examples of work that fits the job that you are currently trying to acquire, it should be broad enough to show a variety in the subject but not too much to the point where the person viewing your portfolio is confused about what you want to do for them. This doesn’t apply everywhere though; some places are different, some like to see a wide range of versatility so that they can use you for multiple things. Do your research! Get to know what you really want to do for them, show them that you can do it and give them the reason to hire you!
Do you think it benefits an artist to collect and flip through art books by other artists?
David: Definitely! I think it is a must if you’re an artist! I started collecting art books when I got into college, I would purchase any artist’ book that influence and or inspired me. Having art books that inspire/influence you helps when you’re having an art-block or filling uninspired, look through the book and remember the moment you saw that piece of art and was so awe-inspiring that it gave you the inspiration to pick up a brush and paint! I always keep a couple of my favorite art books opened to keep me energized and inspired.
As a creative who has took advantage of his alumni status and took additional coursework, do you feel a formal education in art is absolutely necessary in today’s concept design field?
David: As artist we should be constantly learning even when you’re out of school, so taking advantage of the free class I get every semester was a no brainer for me. A formal education isn’t necessary at all anymore, if you have the drive and self-motivation to learn it yourself, you can totally skip the formal education, but where the formal education does come in handy is when someone need a structure to learn from, also being surrounded by peers that share the same passion is a great source of inspiration and motivation; that is truly one of the things I miss most about being in school.
When it comes to concept art, what is the difference between films and video games? Do you have any experience with the two?
David: I don’t believe there is much of a difference between concepting for film or game, as long as you get the job done and do what is expected of you, I believe it’s the same. The only large difference is the time span of the project and budget. I haven’t had experience in film or in game as a concept artist, but I have done illustrations for them.
What are some of your favorite Asian films?
David: Anything with Stephen Chow I really enjoy, I just love his style of directing and acting; the really outrageous and over the top kind of comedies. I grew up with a lot of the Hong Kong dramas because of my family, but film wise, I really enjoy the epic fantastical Chinese movies.
As a freelancer, how have you had to compromise your vision to meet the needs of others, and do you have any input for those who are faced with the same challenge?
David: All the time! You are the hand and they are the mind! It’s your job to do what they want to see, unless they are willing to take your suggestions or they have hired you to be creative force with their project. My suggestion would be to give them what they want to see, and if you have a suggestion or an idea, it wont hurt to take the extra time and mock up a version you think would be better suited and show it to them, because you never know, they might like your idea more than what they’ve imagined!
I think an artist is best served indulging their obsessions. Looking over your work I see you are more drawn to the fantasy realm. What is it about this particular genre that makes you gravitate towards?
David: I just love the fantasy genre so much! As a kid through my teens years, I would always play magic the gathering, and always seeing those fantastical images would just blow me away. I’m not sure if I can explain why I love it so much, but I believe its because that there’s endless possibilities of creations in that universe that you can just create anything and everything!
Do you have any advice for budding artists?
David: Don’t give up, the road will be tough but the payoff is great! Keep at it and work hard!
Want to follow David’s artistic journey? Visit his cookie crumb trail below: