Concept artist Samantha Kung interview
Samantha’s Staff Pick for October, Night, was very cinematic and evocative. “This is my first time working on a matte painting without 3D, just using texture brushes and real photos to create a drawing, so it is really out of my expectation to have been Staff Picked last month.” Find out more…
Chinese concept artist Samantha Kung is an imaginative creator of deeply detailed environments, sometimes dark and moody, sometimes vibrant, depending on the project. She sometimes utilizes 3D models in her 2D work, to get accurate perspective with paintovers – though not always – which felt like a natural process following her Architectural Design education. Inspired by watching the behind-the-scenes of a movie, and seeing the set design, this set her future goals in stone.
Since then, she says she has been “exploring my interests from animation to concept art. After setting my goal to be an environment concept artist, I keep pushing myself further to learn 3D programs and to improve my 2D drawing skills by using various techniques.”
“I am currently working as a freelancer in the game industry,” she explains, “with experience of mobile games and AAA games. It is fun to explore different drawing styles and themes.” But when it comes to set design, two movies that come to her mind as inspiration include Les Misérables and Skyfall.
“After watching the Les Misérables behind-the-scenes documentary, I realized that the process of creating a movie is complicated and all the designs including props, costume, and make-up also need a lot of thought and discussions from concepts to final result. The movie also reminded me of the time when learning classical music. Watching orchestra concerts, ballet, and opera were mostly my childhood activities. Every opera and ballet set design has its own story behind it that reflects the social, cultural, and political aspects of that particular period of time. This attracted me the most and inspired me to study architecture afterwards.”
The second movie documentary that inspired Samantha was Skyfalland its cinematography. “I decided to change my Architecture Degree to Animation after watching the behind-the-scenes. I really like the cinematography in this movie using camera and lighting work to make the story great, and to adapt to the script.”
Samantha’s Staff Pick for October, Night, was very cinematic and evocative. “This is my first time working on a matte painting without 3D, just using texture brushes and real photos to create a drawing, so it is really out of my expectation to have been Staff Picked last month. My usual workflow is to build models in 3D software and to do paintover on top. To challenge myself, I tried to use another working process and came out with this drawing Night.”
“The story behind it was inspired by Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 17, “Tempest” that is one of my favorite piano pieces. The “Tempest” Sonata was written when Beethoven suffered from his progressive hearing loss. He expressed a subdued feeling of grief and anxiety through this piece of music. It is always the calm before the storm, from a sorrowful descent to emotional outbursts. This is the tragic feeling that I want to express in my drawing Night, creating a pathetic mood with tenderness, rather than an energetic feel.”
When it comes to professional work, as a concept artist, Samantha’s workflow can vary depending on the different projects. “Each drawing has its own challenge. Some are more stylized while others are in realism, so I need to adapt to different styles and themes.”
With that in mind, she recommends that beginners should “always stay curious and keep learning. I focus more on environmental design, so it is better to understand different architectural structures and to observe more of the natural world. As the technology is changing rapidly, the 3D workflow in concept art becomes more relevant, which can provide different angles and ideas in a more efficient way. Other than learning 3D programs, it is necessary to analyze traditional paintings and movies as well. To learn from masters and understand how they compose images, and how they use colors.”
For now, Samantha will keep on working hard. “I will keep on learning to solidify my drawing fundamentals, and follow gaming trends. Although 3D modeling can improve productivity, having a solid 2D hand drawing skill is essential as well, especially when doing drafts or pre-production works.”