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Gina Nelson: 2D artist interview

Gina Nelson

Lead Artist

South African, London-based 2D concept artist Gina Nelson helps create games for a living – check out her story and workflow, and some art from her portfolio...

South African, London-based 2D concept artist Gina Nelson helps create games for a living – check out her story and workflow, and some art from her portfolio...

3dtotal: Tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you, what do you do, and where are you located?
Gina Nelson: I'm a 2D artist from South Africa currently working as the lead artist at a London-based games studio called The Secret Police. We're a small team and we're busy working on our first game. I never studied art at any sort of institution, but I always knew I was going to be an artist. I started my career directly after finishing high school when I joined a local games company in Johannesburg, learning on the job and teaching myself the rest.

3dt: Where did you find the inspiration for your latest gallery entry? What's the story behind its creation?
GN: I created the Arcade Jinx piece the weekend after Riot had announced their new set of Arcade skins for some of their characters. I just loved the idea and the whole look of the arcade approach and thought that Jinx (who is a great character) really needed something too. That's why I made the image. I don't often do fan art, but League of Legends is such a gorgeous looking game I think it deserves all the fan art it gets!

This was a concept I did for a little game idea I had a while back. I'll probably never make it, but I still like the image

This was a concept I did for a little game idea I had a while back. I'll probably never make it, but I still like the image

3dt: What software and plug-ins did you use to create this image? Did you face any difficulties, and how did you overcome them?
GN: I only used Photoshop when I worked on this. To be honest, there aren't a lot of tools or plug-ins that I use; occasionally I might use Lazy Nezumi which allows you to add smoothing to your line work, but even that I'll only use if the line work is really very important to the image that I'm working on.

Creating a dynamic piece that makes use of foreshortening is always a challenge for me. With this piece I remember getting stuck on some of the details and forgetting about the piece as a whole, which is a dangerous mistake to make, but luckily having some fresh eyes look over your work always helps, and after all, that's what having artists as friends is for! Never be afraid to get a second opinion on what you're working on, it's easy to miss things when you've been staring at the same artwork for hours on end.

Wretched Mother

Wretched Mother

3dt: Are there any particular techniques that you use often? Or do you like to experiment?
GN: I approach most of my artworks very differently; I think that's partly why I don't seem to have an identifying style. A few years ago I read a poem that is in the beginning of The Animators Survival Kit (a book I highly recommend all artists read, weather you're an animator or not!) The poem goes like this:

"He found a formula for drawing comic rabbits:
This formula for drawing comic rabbits paid.
Till in the end he could not change the tragic habits
This formula for drawing comic rabbits made.”

- Robert Graves

Reading this was a defining moment for me. I realized that a lot of artists out there stick to the same techniques. They get artistically stuck and in the end all their work looks the same. I would like to create something completely new with every piece that I make, and that's why I don't really stick to any techniques; I just work in the way that feels right for each specific piece. Always try new things, I think that's really important – sometimes they work and sometimes they don't.

The Shadow Keeper

The Shadow Keeper

3dt: What are your artistic ambitions?
GN: I'd like to keep learning and growing and working on exciting projects with great people. I'm lucky enough to be able to do a job that I love full-time. I would really just like to be the best artist that I can be and hopefully I can continue to create beautiful looking games. Outside of my job I really would love to have an exhibition of oil paintings someday – that's something that is definitely on my to do list for the years to come.

I used to spend a lot of time looking through art books (well I still do) and feeling inspired by other artists. I'd really like to be one of those artists who can inspire others. I know that sounds cheesy as hell, but I'm only doing what I do because of the people who have inspired me throughout the years.

This guy was just swimming around in my head for a few days

This guy was just swimming around in my head for a few days

3dt: How do you keep your portfolio up-to-date? Any tips?
GN: Creating art is more than a job to me. I draw on the train, I draw at work, I spend my weekends and my evenings drawing. Most of the work I create gets hidden in folders on my PC or sketchbook pages that no one will ever see, but occasionally I come up with an idea that I really feel good about. These are the pieces that end up in my portfolio. You'll notice that I don't actually have any of my professional work in my portfolio; I try to keep my portfolio to pieces that are really mine. I know that it can be hard to stay motivated when you're working on putting a good portfolio together. The best advice I think I can give is to just keep creating. Make a hundred drawings! Maybe a few of those will be great, but never try and force everything you do into your portfolio. I keep updating my portfolio not because I'm trying to update my portfolio, but because I'm constantly drawing out of love for what I do.

Arcade Jinx

Arcade Jinx

Related links

Head over to Gina's website
Arcade Jinx in the gallery

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