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Cristina Lavina: concept artist interview

Spanish concept artist and character designed Cristina Lavina lives in Vancouver, working for Blackbird Interactive on video game titles. She values the experience that working in a studio has given her. Find out more…

Cristina's website

Adam

Tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you, what do you do, and where are you located?

Cristina

I’m Cristina Lavina and I’m a concept artist from Barcelona, Spain. I moved to London around 8 years ago to work as a concept artist in an outsourcing studio called Opus Artz. I grew up so much there as an artist. I had the luck to have a great lead and passionate colleagues to learn from, I’ll be forever grateful to all of them. I’m currently living in Vancouver and working at Blackbird Interactive.

My main job is focused on characters; that’s where my passion lies, but I learned how to love all different disciplines and styles. Blackbird is such an inspiring place to be at, you can breathe art and creativity in every corner. We have a sketch hour at the end of every Friday where people from all different disciplines are invited to do a piece following a theme. Audio artists, designers, concept artist, and even programmers all collaborate – it’s great!

Adam

How do you get into the “creative zone?” Do you prefer a particular place or time of day?

Cristina

I’m a person that needs time in the morning, I’m such a sloth. I need to get to work, have my breakfast and coffee and then I can start working. My brain doesn’t function before that. In my journey to work I’m always with my music, sometimes I go to work thinking about the task I have do and try to get into the zone, although I still need my coffee before even grabbing the stylus.

Adam

Which piece of work are you most proud of? Why?

Cristina

To be honest, as every artist, we’re never 100-percent with what we do. I feel we’re quite tough with ourselves but at the same time, that’s what makes us improve. I try to be happy though with what I deliver. I never send anything I’m not convinced with. I learned the lesson precisely when I was in London working at Opuz Artz. We were working illustrations for a famous card game.

The way we worked is that we made three sketches of an illustration. So I made three sketches of my assigned illustration and in one of them I didn’t put as much love as the other two. I showed it to my lead artist and he asked me “Are you happy with the three sketches?” and I said “Yes, well, maybe not so much option number one, but I think they wouldn’t choose that one.” The next thing he said is “Okay, let’s send it over to them.”

The client ended up choosing the sketch I wasn’t happy with and my lead artist gave me a valuable lesson that day. The three sketches were not bad – that’s why we sent them – but I had to work an entire illustration from a sketch I wasn’t fully happy with. So from that day, absolutely everything I deliver has to be as good as the rest. Thank you Bjorn!

The three sketches were not bad – that’s why we sent them – but I had to work an entire illustration from a sketch I wasn’t fully happy with. So from that day, absolutely everything I deliver has to be as good as the rest

Adam

How do you keep your portfolio up-to-date? Any tips?

Cristina

That’s a tough question. To be honest I don’t have much time to work on massive pieces at home, I want to live life as well (which by the way, is a thing that lots of young artists tend to forget!) What I do is I set myself goals I can achieve and focus on the things I want to improve. In my case, I’ve never been super interested in rendering techniques, I know how to render obviously, but my main passion is designing. So I tend to focus on designing characters with just simple line art, but challenge myself by mixing briefs.

For instance, one of the pieces I worked on lately is Space Orcs. I wanted to draw orcs because I love them but I wanted to make them different, we’ve seen so many fantasy orcs, they’re done to death. I’m not the best with sci-fi so I decided to combine them both to create those new characters. I put some basic color and a nice presentation and called it done. I think whoever will look at those characters will see through to the line art and will focus on the design, which was my main goal from the beginning.

Adam

How important is the recognition of your peers?

Cristina

I’m not too worried about the recognition you can have online or on social media. Don’t get me wrong, it’s always cool when the artist you love likes your work. But to me that’s never been the recognition I liked. The ones I like to please and make happy are the people I’m directly working with. Especially now at Blackbird; everybody is so enthusiastic and talented that I want to do good just for them. It’s obvious you need to feel valued in your work space as well, that makes you more productive and inspired because they trust you and your skills. I’m so lucky being at a place like Blackbird that they value their artists so much.

Adam

What are your artistic ambitions?

Cristina

My biggest motivation is always to work as a character designer for good projects and have fun with what I do. I like to work with characters that mean things to people that play them. I would love to work on a meaningful story game where the characters and the narrative moves you. I guess it’s because those are the games I like to play. I could conclude by saying that what I love the most is not only designing characters, but designing real people.

Adam

Who are your favorite artists, traditional or digital, and can you explain why?

Cristina

There are many artists I like! If I can point out the ones that were most influential during my career those were Frank Frazetta, Tatsuyuki Tanaka, and Kekai Kotaki. I used to look at Icon (Frazetta’s book) over and over; I was obsessed with how much strength his work had. All his poses and characters feel so real to me.

Cannabis Works is Tanaka’s book, another one I have full of post-its and notes everywhere. I absolutely loved Tanaka’s brain and creativity, his pencils are incredible. And Kekai I could say is the one I have to really thank the most. Back in the day, a friend of mine gave me Guild Wars as a present. I’d watched anime and manga before and it was the first time I saw a book of concept art for video games that wasn’t Japanese. When I saw Kekai’s work I was blown away and it was then that I decided I wanted to work for video games. So he probably doesn’t know he was that much of an influence to me, but I’ll always be grateful to him and his art!

Adam

What can we expect to see from you next?

Cristina

More characters!! I want you to be moved by the characters I create in one way or another, so I truly hope that next time you see my work you’ll find something special for you!

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