Interview: Klaus Pillon

Concept artist and illustrator Klaus Pillon tells us how he fell in love with concept art, his ambition to tell stories and his favorite ways to create...

Concept artist and illustrator Klaus Pillon tells us how he fell in love with concept art, his ambition to tell stories and his favorite ways to create...

3dtotal: Tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you, what do you do, and where are you located?
Klaus Pillon: My name is Klaus Pillon. I am a French freelance concept artist and illustrator for video games and movies. I also enjoy working on book covers and RPG books. I currently live in Paris, France.

I originally studied 3D production for animation at ESIA 3D in Lyon, but soon before graduating I realized that what I really wanted to do was concept art and illustration. For the following couple of years I went on to learn everything I could about it in order to be able to get my foot in the door someday, and even though I am now working professionally, the learning part never stops.

3dt: What inspired you to get into art? Who are your favorite artists?
KP: Growing up I spent a lot of time reading a lot of comics, whether they were Belgian, French and American comics or Manga, I couldnt get enough. And of course that led me to never stop drawing. From a young age I copied and made my own comics, I loved all the possibilities of storytelling you can get with the medium. After high school I knew that I could only do something which would allow me to tell stories through art; this is what got me to join a 3D school.

It would be hard to pin down just a couple of my favorite artists as I have so many, each relating to a period of my life. I guess one of my first big revelations was when my dad introduced me to Frank Frazetta, to this day he is still one of my favorite artist. And to name a few others in a completely chaotic order: Tissot, Craig Mullins, Gerome, Eytan Zana, Andree Wallin, John Wallin Liberto, Maciej Kuciara, Dorje Bellbrook, Marco Mateu Mestre, Jaime Jones, but there are so many more that are inspiring in their own different ways.

3dt: Tell us about the type of work you love to make. Where do you draw inspiration from?
KP: I guess the type of work that I love doing the most is environment concept art or illustration. I am deeply inspired by cinema and love trying to emulate that cinematic feel, all the while working on the storytelling of the piece.

Even if its a pure concept work I try to put as many details as possible to tell a story through them. I also try to get out of my comfort zone as much as possible, as I find it a nice way to keep the process entertaining and its always interesting to find new ways of working.

Im inspired by a lot of things, books, movies, games, art, nature, technology and so on; even simple things such as light coming in the window from a certain angle can be inspiring. I also try to travel as much as possible as I find that discovering new places has tremendous value.

3dt: Theres lots of Fantasy and Sci-Fi in your work, if you could visit any of the worlds youve depicted which would it be?
KP: Thats a tough one, I guess it would be the one in which a couple are discovering new places, mixing sci-fi technology with mythical and extinct creatures such as dragons, dinosaurs etc, and huge scale environments. I would love to visit a place where youre surrounded by huge and fantastic animals that live in the wild, where you dont have a choice but to be awed and intimidated by nature. Wait, this is kind of the world we live in!

3dt: What software do you use in your usual workflow?
KP: I use primarily Photoshop for all my work, and I used to use 3dsmax for the most complex scenes, and when Im stuck with perspective, or just to gain time.

Now that Im only using a Mac laptop I had to get familiar with an alternative solution, so Im trying Cinema 4D which I find very easy to learn and can be very powerful, Im also trying rendering software such as Keyshot, which is just magical.

I also like to use just pen and paper; I find it the quickest and most efficient way to get multiple ideas out, but generally only I can read them so its not a very efficient way of working for clients.

3dt: What are your artistic ambitions?
KP: I would love to be able to live off of my personal work someday; putting a book, making a film, theres so many things to do!

But in the near future I would love to get the opportunity to work more with the movie industry. I find it so interesting to be part of that giant machine, seeing your designs coming to life through the work of other people, its so humbling. I also want to try my hands on a few different mediums, and maybe going back to my love of comics someday.

3dt: How do you keep your portfolio updated?
KP: Thats a tricky question as I have a hard time doing it lately, most of my work is under NDA and I have to wait before showing it. I try to work on personal work whenever I have some free time, but its usually studies or sketches that I keep to myself. Every now and then I try to finish a full piece though.

A great way that worked for me before was to do some work with indie developers as they usually are happy when I share the work I did for them, its exposure for both of us which is a system that I think should be more widespread.

3dt: What would you say is the single most important aspect when creating concept art?
KP: I would say that you shouldnt forget that concept art is just a part in a bigger process and know accordingly what you want or need to convey through your image and put an emphasis on it.

For example, if you were commissioned to design a castle for 3D production, you would get a different result if you were designing the mood of a castle scene. Concept art is just a process used to portray ideas that others can opt to use later.

3dt: What new skills, software or techniques would you like to learn in the future?
KP: So many! I think the next step will be to be more efficient in how I incorporate a 3D workflow into the concept art process. I feel that it should open so many doors in terms of creativity.

I am also very interested in learning more about the process of lighting and shooting a movie, maybe trying it myself, I think that you can get really good result now by mixing a lot of technique and Im eager to discover how I can make everything work together.

3dt: What advice would you give to an aspiring artist?
KP: Know what your goals are and work towards them. Even though these might change with time, knowing where youre headed is fundamental in order to know what you need to focus on and learn. Create realistic steps that will lead you to your unrealistic goal. And dont forget that the learning curve is endless, it might feel insurmountable from time to time, but if you keep at it you shoul be just fine.

3dt: What can we expect to see from you next? Any cool projects lined up?
KP: Well there sure are a few projects coming but I cannot disclose them at the moment due to NDA agreements. Hopefully more personal work in the coming months, and also a few things Ive got cooking that I want to keep secret at the moment until theyre more concrete.

Related links

Check out Klaus Pillons portfolio at his website
Pick up a copy of Beginner's Guide to Digital Painting in Photoshop: Sci-fi and Fantasy
Grab a copy of Digital Painting Techniques: Volume 8