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Oliver Ryan: concept artist interview

Oliver Ryan

Concept Artist & Illustrator

Concept Artist and illustrator Oliver Ryan gives us an insight into making great concept art, why he works in the middle of the night and has some advice about learning from the process…

Oliver's Website

Adam

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

Oliver

My name is Oliver Ryan and I am a Concept Artist & Illustrator living in Brighton, UK. For the past three years I’ve been working on the art team at Moon Studios for Ori and the Will of the Wisps!

For this piece I wanted to have a sense of mystery with these mysterious human like structures

Adam

Tell us about your art, both personal and professional – What kinds of things you like to make?

Oliver

Typically I tend to lean towards painterly and slightly fantastical environments. I want to paint things that make people feel like they are getting a glimpse of a larger world, most of my focus has been on environment work because of that world building aspect. I think coming from a traditional Fine Art background has made me particularly interested in the more painterly aspects of art, I am constantly trying to push ‘how’ I am painting as much as ‘what’ I am painting. I try to keep up with the traditional art too, mostly with life drawing/painting!

This piece started with exploring interesting forms and seeing how I could build a world out of them

Adam

Who has had the biggest influence on your art?

Oliver

I think it would be hard to narrow that down to just one person! Theo Prins’ work has been a big inspiration for me; I think he embraces a lot of abstract qualities, which make the worlds he’s creating feel so much more rich and unique. I’ve always appreciated paintings where I can get lost in the brushwork. There are a lot of older traditional painters that have influenced me for similar reasons; Velázquez, Goya, Levitan and Degas to name a few.

Adam

What tools and software do you use to create your art? What would you like to learn in the future?

Oliver

I’ve only really used Photoshop for my concept art/illustration work, as well as Unity for building in-game stuff. Painting is my main focus for now, but in the future I could see myself utilizing some 3d tools! For traditional work I love working with gouache or oil paint.

was kind of a comfort zone painting, cabins and trees!

Adam

How do you start a piece of concept art? Do you begin with an idea first, or just start doodling and see where it goes? What does your process look like?

Oliver

Generally for personal work I like to keep things more open towards the start. I try to avoid working with a strict process because I think experimentation can lead to interesting ideas. I’ll often try to paint abstract shapes/compositions before molding it into actual forms and ideas for paintings. There might also be certain themes or interactions that I know I want to base a painting around, so constantly searching for interesting reference to draw ideas from is also an important part of my process.

I wanted to try and push the color palette more than my usual work in this piece

Adam

What single thing do you think a good piece of concept art needs?

Oliver

Direction. I think it’s easy to lose sight of what’s important to a project or concept and end up producing work that looks ‘cool,’ but doesn’t necessarily have much substance. Questions like ‘how does the framing of this composition serve the narrative I’m trying to put across?’ are important to ask and can contribute a lot to making concepts and illustrations feel more rich.

Adam

How do you get into your “creative zone?” Is there a place, a time of day or anything else that gets your creative juices flowing?

Oliver

I usually find myself feeling most creative in the middle of the night, probably because there are fewer distractions. Also, any situations when I’m around other artists to see how they work gives me a lot drive!

This was a piece from last year’s Inktober

Adam

Which piece of work are you most proud of and why?

Oliver

I wouldn’t say there is one particular piece I’m proud of; I tend to find that once I’ve posted a piece I immediately start to see everything wrong with it, though I suppose it’s a common trend for artists to dislike their own work! There are often one or two things about them which I consider successful and try to take forward onto future paintings, whether it’s an interesting aspect of the composition, or something as simple as the way I painted some clouds.

Life drawing from last year’s Inktober, I tend to lean more towards tonal work than line work.

Adam

If you give your younger self some advice about art and your career what might that be?

Oliver

Be less afraid to experiment. Spend more time drawing. Be less precious about putting your work out there. Although I suppose all of these points are still relevant to present-day me!

Adam

What can we expect to see from you next? Any cool projects we should look out for?

Oliver

The big thing is finishing Ori. We’ve got a 2019 release window so it will be a big push to get it done! Otherwise I will try to keep putting out personal work. “Inktober” is also something I had a lot of fun with last year and will try to do again this coming October!

I wanted to have the framing of this piece facing down towards the back of the shrine to help sell narrative of it being abandoned and rundown.