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Interview: Sabin Boykinov

Sabin Boykinov

senior concept artist

Ubisoft Senior Concept Artist, Sabin Boykinov talks about working on “Assassin’s Creed” and “The Division 2”, his personal inspirations and the most important thing you need to become a concept artist…

Sabin's ArtStation

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

Sabin

I was born in the Ruse, a small city near the Danube, in Bulgaria. My artistic path started with music, as a piano player, and continued with classical art as a traditional painter. I participated in many exhibitions and worked for private collectors.

Since an early age, I was fascinated with comic art, films and videogames. Once, my father took me to watch the first Star Wars movie and it changed my mind forever. At the time I didn’t realize that many artists painted all these creatures and environments.

In 2006, I joined Haemimont Games in Sofia, Bulgaria, to work as a game concept artist. There I learned a lot about video game design, the creative process and the organization of game projects. I also got involved in the concept art workflow, from the first iteration to the final implementation in the game. My team worked on the Tropico series, Omerta city of Gangsters, Grand Ages Rome, The First Templar and Victor Vran. After several years, I moved to the Ubisoft Sofia team and I currently work there as a senior concept artist.

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Who, or what, inspires you?

Sabin

My main source of inspiration is travelling. Experiencing new places and cultures, and memorizing different landscapes and details, enriches one’s visual library and fills one’s imagination. I find great inspiration in books. Reading stimulates me to visualize different situations and worlds, and I believe this is very important for everyone’s professional development. My third source of inspiration is music. I have a background in music which has helped preserve my love for music in its numerous forms. In my imagination, I transform sounds into pictures. Of course, like every artist, I have a big list of favorite classical and modern painters and CG artists.

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Tell us about your work at Ubisoft, what projects have you worked on and what has that experience been like?

Sabin

Working for Ubisoft has been my dream ever since I played the first Assassin's Creed. That game is still one of my all time favorites.

While at Ubisoft, I contributed to AC Origins and downloadable content, Skull and Bones and Division 2. Working together with some of the most talented people in the industry is a really amazing experience, because I learn something new every day and I receive feedback and guidance from the numerous great artists and art directors in the company.

assassins creed concept art desert skulls

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What have been the most exciting or surprising aspects of working on such enormous franchises like Assassin’s Creed and The Division?

Sabin

Working on big titles is an exciting experience for any concept artist. For me, the best thing was that I finally could contribute to my favorite game!

To be on a team with some of my favorite artists like Raphael Lacostel, Martin Deschambault and Gilles Beloeil was a fantastic opportunity to learn and grow professionally was also exciting because of the different visual style and the realistic look. It was a challenge to switch between the different project art styles, but it was very satisfying at the end when I got to see my art in the games.

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What unique challenges do you face as a concept artist working in the games industry?

Sabin

To be a concept artist is a challenge on a daily basis. Facing different tasks and styles on every project stimulates your mind to build a very strong visual library and design thinking approach.

An artist needs to tackle problems on every level of the creation process, and all decisions affect the final visual style of the game. It’s very important to be a strong team player and to accept advice or criticism from your teammates. Good critics can save you a lot of time.

african woman tribal clothing sketch
ocean with octopus sketch
pirate ship with kraken sketch
dead soldiers decaying bodies sketch
crying tree sketch
pirate ship sketch

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

Sabin

This is really hard to say because I try to be better with every artwork. Possibly the concepts for Assassin’s Creed Origins: The Curse of the Pharaohs DLC are my favorites, because they involved a lot of fantasy elements and imaginative look - I like to work on such subjects.

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

Sabin

My most favorite place is my small home studio, where I am left alone with my thoughts at night. This is the perfect time and place for my personal art. My day is also full of creative work because it starts at the office and then continues at home. I mostly use music to get into creative mode.

ubisoft assassin's creed concept art desert

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What advice would you give to someone trying to break into the games industry as an artist?

Sabin

Have passion and discipline to work on artistic foundation skills. Art basics are very important and include perspective, composition and different drawing techniques. Play games as it will teach you how to be effective when creating concept art. Visit art festivals and workshops, make connections and friends, develop social skills and don’t be afraid to show your portfolio. You never know who is watching, it might be your future team mate or art director.

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How important do you think formal education is in becoming a professional artist in the games industry?

Sabin

Art education can give you the foundations. However, it is not essential because if your portfolio is good, nobody will ask you about what you studied. Nowadays everyone can find tons of good tutorials and video lectures, and use them to become a good concept artist. The only thing you need is willing to learn.

assassin's creed desert concept art

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Do you find time for personal work, what do you create when you do?

Sabin

For me, working on personal projects is extremely important. I try to find time for these almost every day, even if it’s only for one or two hours. In the last few years my passion has been to work on traditional art in my spare time, mostly pencil drawing and illustrations. I like to explore some personal subjects and themes inspired by fairy tales from around the world.

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If you had no limits on time or resources, what would your ideal project look like?

Sabin

A great question which is difficult to answer because I have so many interests! Let’s say, a big open world game which is inspired by tribal legends and fairy tales. Or a movie projects which includes surreal documentary visual exploration.

assassin's creed underwrater world concept art

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What can we expect to see from you next?

Sabin

In parallel with my game projects I also work on a small printed version of my sketchbook with a collection of personal works. The project is advancing well and I hope to finish it soon.

Some illustrated novels are still in an early stage...and a ton of stuff waiting on my drawing board!

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