This is yet another wonderful Friday and time to get moving with another Artist Corner. This time, we will tame things down with concept character work developed by a very talented artist in this field, who goes by the name of Ionen. Here is what he told me:
HM: Hello and thank you for accepting my invitation. It is a real pleasure having you here in my virtual chair. Let’s start with the simple and basic questions. What was your first encounter with art and how did you decide you would become an artist?
I came from a completely un-artistic family, becoming an artist was just not something I ever really thought of. I was however always fascinated by cartoons. When I was in middle school was when Cartoon Network’s Toonami came out, where they pushed Dragonball Z and Sailor Moon. I got really into anime for awhile, but didn’t really put pencil to paper until I was about 16. After watching Gundam Wing I wanted to create my own Gundam designs, and I guess that’s where I really started.
It was still more of a hobby than anything else until I was 18 and decided to go to an animation school. Drawing was fun, but I wanted to be more involved than that.
HM: Another tradition with the “Artist Corner” is to say something about yourself. Who is ionen and why did you chose this interesting sounding username for your DA profile?
Ionen is actually a name of one of the characters from the Aphelion series, I tend to use the names of my characters.
HM: Who are the artists that inspired and influenced you the most?
Hyung-Tae Kim is a huge inspiration, but Shunya Yamashita, Feng Zhu, James Hawkins, Limha Lekan, and Jeong Juno are also some favorites.
HM: Your work is fantasy in the computer and video game sense of the genre. Are you by chance an avid gamer and are games your primary source of inspiration for your imagination?
I’ve a huge gamer probably to the point that when I design characters I think about how they would be built in 3D as I work. I went to an animation school that focused on video game production as well. That streamlined my thinking in that way.
I’m also at the beginning of my career as an indie game developer.
HM: What attracts you to the out of the ordinary and fantasy? Different people find something entirely unique for themselves and I always like hearing a new answer on the subject.
There seems to be sort of a Western style and an Eastern style of sci-fi and fantasy. Western tends to be gritty, muted, realistic and often dark. Eastern tends to be saturated, fantastical, and young. My interest is bringing those two groups together, as both have elements I like and dislike, and the two groups are rarely mixed together in the video game world.
HM: Most of your work resembles pin-ups and calling cards for characters in different poses, but usually static and on gray font. What attracts you to this type of art, is it safe to say concept art, or do you also plan to bring in a full piece with background and a story behind it?
Being a character artist primarily I tend to focus on just the character, and I feel that the viewer should be looking at the character, not the background. Since a lot of the colors I use are highly saturated or high-contrast, a middle or dark-gray tends to make the viewer focus on the brighter colors.
I have actually done quite a bit of environmental work as well, I just tend to keep things separated.
HM: What you do is fascinating towards the details in armor and weaponry. To me this looks like a complex brain surgery, but how hard is it actually to apply detail to armor and other objects? What’s your way of doing it?
It is hard for me to really explain it. For me, creating the details is usually the easy part. My brain sort of shuts down and goes on auto-drive.
HM: I also couldn’t miss the slightly pointed years, fair complexion and silken hair you attribute quite a number of your female characters. How great a fan of elves are you and are they inspired from somewhere, because I do catch a slight Lineage vibe in your vision?
Adding pointy ears just seems to make the drawing suddenly a lot more fun to work on, and it can add a lot to the character, a lot of mysticism without changing the character much.
HM: What is your working process? Do you paint by traditional means or do you also mix in with the digital world?
Now I work exclusively digitally. There are some elements I miss, but using a scanner was always incredibly annoying to me.
HM: Another completely customary question would be about your work process. How much does it usually take to complete a piece from start to finish and what’s your way of doing things?
It can actually range quite a bit for me depending on the detail, sketches and how developed the character already is. On a fresh full-body concept it’s usually around 10 hours though.
Research – If I need to find references it is the first thing I do.
Thumbnail sketches – Do some quick sketches of various poses and costume ideas.
Quick lineart – After I’ve chosen the best thumbnail I scale it up and clean it.
Base colors – Put some flat colors down underneath the sketch.
Shade everything – Add layers of color and start blending them together. I generally start with the face or skin.
Add details/lighting – Add in minute details and if there’s a backlight this is generally when I add it.
Polish – Fine tune things, let the painting rest for awhile and see if there’s anything that needs to be fixed.
HM:Judging by your gallery, you have updated a considerable amount of commissions you have done over the last year or so. I’ve been curious for quite awhile about the whole process. What’s your experience so far mainly with the people, who hire your talent?
Most experiences have been positive. I can’t speak for everyone, but the majority of my commissions through DeviantArt are from people who have their own story and want to be able to visualize their character better.
HM: Since you have been quite popular with commissions does this mean that you are a freelance artist and does art pay the bills in your case?
Yes, I work freelance on a variety of projects. I’m currently a concept artist on a sci-fi comic, and have done various work for game companies and RPG books.
HM: Every once and awhile I spot a slightly fan-fic themed art. A lot of people bash and disregard fan art as a testament that an artists has no original ideas of their own. What’s your opinion on the matter?
Some people only enjoy drawing fanart, some people may use it as a crutch. I rarely do fanart, because designing the costume and how the character acts and moves is a lot of the challenge. Duplicating an existing character doesn’t take nearly as much thought.
HM:To close off this session I will ask the frequent last question. What are we to expect from such a talented artist?
A long list of games created under our group, Lunatic Studios, and hopefully I will progress and become better at painting. :)