Dylan Pierpont is a dedicated, focused and impassioned artist ready to make his mark on the production art industry. Based out of Colorado, Dylan has created work both in-house and freelance for several clients representing a variety of fields including games, music, sports, fashion and charity.
Dylan won my admiration with his amazing Rain Dance illustration he created for a Diablo 3 contest just before the game was released. His attention to details, the great composition and the unique concept behind the image brought Dylan a well deserved grand prize.
For more information about the artist and updated work, feel free to visit his personal website or his Deviant Art profile.. But now, let’s jump into the interview and see what Dylan has to say!
Hello, Dylan! Please, introduce yourself! Could you tell us where you’re from and how you started in the field?
Sure thing! Well my name is Dylan and I’m a 22 year old aspiring concept artist and illustrator. I’ve lived out in Colorado my whole life and the nice thing about being here is how unpredictable the weather can be from day to day. A lot of that has played into my activities outside of art; freestyle rolling, snowboarding, running, hiking there’s always something to do no matter the conditions!
But when I was younger if I wasn’t outside I was usually in the kitchen copying the Sunday Comics or inventing my own dragons and spaceships. In middle school my brothers and I got our first video game console (Xbox) and we used to save up money and buy the strategy guides for all our favorite titles. I think that was the first time I was ever exposed to what would eventually become a lifelong obsession, concept art. I had no idea that behind all our games were a team of artists drawing out what the characters looked like and how the levels were designed.
The whole idea of it flipped my world upside down and I knew that is what I wanted to do for a living someday. I wasn’t really aware of digital art though until 2006 when a good friend of mine purchased a small Wacom tablet and let me try it out one weekend…and I absolutely HATED it. Haha. I couldn’t understand how any of the tools worked in Photoshop and trying to hold the stylus while looking at the monitor was an absolute nightmare. But he convinced me to start up a portfolio on a site called Deviantart.com. I found so many inspiring artists on DA that I eventually saved up enough money to buy my own Wacom a year later. And it is the exact same one I still use every day.
Have you followed a design school? If so, how did it help you become a better artist?
When I graduated high school in 2008 I knew I wanted to earn a degree as an artist. I just didn’t know which schools offered programs that taught you how to draw stuff for movies and video games. When I finally found a few places in Florida and California the tuition was just too expensive. So I started looking at programs out here in Colorado and found the Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design. My parents and I had a meeting with the school’s advisors and had a chance to meet with a few of the professors.
I was really hesitant at first because the school’s curriculum for illustrators was very much based on traditional foundation skills: oil painting, figured drawing, still life studies, principals of design, etc. I didn’t see any class called “How to Draw Awesome Game and Movie Stuff!” But once I got into the program I started to realize just how important all these traditional skills were to my growth as an artist. I learned about color theory and anatomy. I learned how to critique others artwork and that “shading” was actually called “value”; that sunlight is generally warm during sunrise and sunset but cooler during the day.
It was here that I made friends with a bunch of other artists that also loved drawing and video games and watching movies and creating wild and crazy ideas for projects that would never make it to the big screen. What mattered most was I was slowly starting to see just how much I had learned since high school and that I wasn’t the only one struggling to figure this stuff out. I think it’s really important for artists to be able to interact and bounce ideas off one another and I can honestly say that I’ve learned more from my friends in the last 3 and a half years than I ever would have trying to do this on my own.
What do you think is the biggest challenge as a digital painter?
I think a lot of times ( from what I’ve seen and heard from some uninformed artists ) digital painting is misconstrued as a way to create breathtaking and inspiring works of art without having to really DO the work. I think some people outside of the digital sphere assume that the computer does everything and the artist is just a tool. But the opposite is true and that to me is the trickiest part of working digitally. Applications like Photoshop and Painter are tools you can use to help you answer a creative problem.
I think the problem itself is the hardest part of the entire process. “How should I set up this composition?” “Where is my focal point?” “What color pallet should I use?” I think these questions are infinitely more valuable to ask yourself and others instead of “What brushes do you use?” “How many layers should I have?” “What texture is that?” The latter questions relate to a technical problem while the formers relate to a creative one. Both sets are completely valid to ask but I think the creative questions will set a final destination for your piece; the technical ones will just give you a little push along the way.
Could you name a few artists that inspired you along the way or helped you in developing your current style?
The list of inspiring artists for me continues to expand every day. And they range from digital to traditional, modern and classical and beyond. Guys like Zdzislaw Beksinski and Jean-Léon Gérôme to Casey Baugh and Zhaoming Wu. My folder of inspirational art on my computer is rediculously large and I know I’ll probably add 50 new images to it by the end of the week. As far as illustration goes I’d have to say James Gurney, Aleksi Briclot, Gregory Manchess, Lucas Graciano, and Michael C Hayes. I love what these guys can do with color and strokes. So much fun to look at. On the concept and visual development side of things it would be remiss of me not to mention Kekai Kotaki, Michael Komarck, Jeff Simpson, Jason Chan, Martin Deschambault, Feng Zhu, Dermot Power, Marko Djurdjevic, Steve Jung, Neville Page, Dan Luvisi, Jaime Jones and Robh Ruppel.
All of these individuals have unknowingly pushed me to work towards that same dream I had in middle school and I hope someday I’ll have a chance to thank each and everyone of them in person.
If you would have to choose a mentor to guide you towards perfection, who would that be and why?
Dylan Cole or Raphael Lacoste…period. I’m constantly amazed at the work these guys put out and the projects they are a part of. I could pick just about any major movie off my bookshelf right now and find Dylan Cole’s name in the credits somewhere. And when I get a free minute to game I’m usually playing an Assassin’s Creed title. The vistas in AC are just gorgeous and you can tell how Raphael Lacoste influenced some of the earlier titles going all the way back to Prince of Persia. I absolutely love it.
And I think more than anything I’d just want to see first hand how these gentlemen can lead a team of top notch artists on a big budget IP, time and time again, and still maintain the highest standard of quality in their own work. Both of these guys are just incredible and have been an inspiration to me since day 1.
What are the steps you follow when making a new illustration?
RMCAD taught me how to establish a general pipeline for producing images. I should mention that my process for doing concept work and doing illustration work will vary slightly depending on the deadline and subject matter. But overall I like to start with thumbnails. They’re a really quick way of figuring out, on a small scale, what will and will not work for your particular assignment. If it’s an illustration I’ll usually start with at least 4 ideas (more if I haven’t quite hit the mark yet.) Even If I think I have a very clear understanding of the image in my mind I still try to sketch up at least 3 additional thumbs just to be sure that the first one is still going to work. Otherwise I’ll keep going till I find something I can use.
From there I like to do some clean up and refine the lines a bit so the positioning and overall composition is reading the way I want it to. While I’m dealing with the line art I’m thinking about possible lighting setups and color options. By the time the line art is done I have a pretty good idea of what the values will look like so I’ll start blocking in my lights and darks on a mid-tone gray background. In the past I’ve done this using just grayscale values and saved the color-glazing for later. But recently I’ve tried to be a bit bolder with my values and jump straight in with color albeit very neutral tones to start out. For me this presents a bit of a challenge because I have to balance value, hue, temperature and saturation all at once. So I try to take it in stages: first I’ll establish where my light source is and try to hit the general temperature, local colors and value of both the lights and the darks.
Then I’ll scribble around trying to push and pull the hues and get a good mix of warm against cools/cools against warms trying to work a bit of each into the other where needed. This helps me unify my pallet and stay consistent with the temperature shifts. When I’m happy with the overall feel of the colors and the values I’ll start adding new layers styles to pump up or lower the saturation in spots. All of this will be done in a color study that will influence the final painting. To put it another way, the thumbnails are to the final line art what the color studies are to the final painting. It’s just a stepping stone to the final image. When the colors are set in place and the lines are well thought-out it’s time to get crazy and start rounding out the forms and painting in all the little details. This part is probably the most tedious but causes the least amount of stress on my brain just because the image was pretty much finished once the color study was chosen. My composition is working, the colors look good, the values are clear and defined, all that’s left are surface details and you’re done!
How long does it take you to create something?
This can be a tough question to answer. It really depends on what the project is and how for the image needs to be taken. For my concept work I try to move a bit faster and looser because it’s all about generating functional and pleasing designs more so than it is creating a highly polished masterpiece. However, if there’s time I always try to push an idea as far as I can and maintain a nice shine to the final image. For illustration work more often than not I’m either doing it for myself or for a client that has a general style in mind. On average I could easily spend a week on a full illustration with figures and background but for my Blizzard entry I managed to pull off the whole thing in about 36 hours. It all really depends on the deadline and the complexity of the assignment.
How often do you experiment with new styles and how do you decide which suits you best?
I wouldn’t say I experiment so much with styles as I do approaches to various personal projects. I don’t exactly look to an artist I like and try to copy his or her strokes but I do get involved with different methods and techniques that might have something to offer my creative process. For example right now I’m working on an image where I’m using much more matte painting techniques than I am straight paint and brush strokes. It’s a much more technical approach to image making than I’m used to, which is both slightly frustrating and refreshing. Haha. I feel like I also push images fairly far in terms of the line art and rendering when sometimes I could afford to stop a bit earlier on both and leave the piece feeling a bit more active and lively. I’ve definitely over-worked images before and 9 times out of 10 that makes the piece feel static and unresponsive.
I also had my first go at Zbrush last month and I’m definitely thinking some of the 3D modeling aspects, both organic and hard surface, will start to sneak their way into my workflow soon enough.
What are your plans for the future and what do you hope to accomplish in the next couple of years?
My immediate plans are to finalize my portfolio and start applying to various game and film studios around the world. It’s such a unique and fantastic field to be working in and I hope to be a part of it very soon! I would really like to take the next few years to find someplace that I can learn and grow with, meet new artists, share ideas and hopefully make a name for myself so one day I can give back to this inspiring community. I would love to be involved with both film and games and hopefully get the opportunity to shake hands with some of the names that I’ve looked up to for so long now. I have a long road ahead of me but I can’t wait to take the next couple steps and see where I land.
Thank you, Dylan, for this opportunity to interview you! Any final thoughts for our readers?
I just want to say thank you to all my friends and family and teachers that have supported me and pushed me to do what I love most. To my brothers who keep me on my toes and remind me of those summer days playing Halo that started this whole crazy career path. To my parents that let me live in the house while I draw pictures upstairs in my room all day (I promise its work I’m not just doodling!) Big thanks to the whole RMCAD crew. Can’t wait to start working with you all out in the industry someday! Thanks to Gods of Art for setting up this interview. I’m so humbled to have been a part of this and be in the company of some truly amazing talent. Thank you.
And to anyone that has ever let me sketch them, knowingly or unknowingly, in coffee shops and airports, on busses and sidewalks. You guys are awesome whether you know it or not ;)