• CGSociety :: Artist Profile

    5 April 2013, by Paul Hellard



    Jakob Eirich sketches out a living in Salzgitter, Germany, close to the inspirational landscapes of the mountains, lakes and forests in the middle of the country. He emerged as the winner of the Image Master Award in the CGSociety CGChallenge ‘TEN’. Jakob has a strong history of participation in our challenges, as well as submitting for the Ballistic books. He was published in EXPOSÉ 7.

    Eirich grew up drawing his favorite comic characters like Batman, Wolverine, characters from Looney Toons and Dragonball, with a side-serving of sports cars and everything else that inspired him. “It was always quite clear to me to do this for a living, though my field of expertise changed quite often,” he explains. “It began with architecture, over towards transportation design and then to graphic design.”

    By 2006, he’d begun studying at the HAWK- University of Applied Sciences and Arts in Hildesheim, and had bought a graphic tablet for himself. This was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. It was at this point that the extent of the digital universe became apparent to him and he seriously started working on his skills. A career in this field seemed too good to pass up. “Right after I graduated in mid-2009, I found my first professional freelance appointment working on The Settlers 7: Paths to a Kingdom for Ubisoft. Shortly after that I went to Scotland working for Realtime Worlds as Concept/2D artist. Since then I’ve worked at game companies, some advertising, and created images for books and magazines back here in Germany for the last three years.”

    'Mill10naire$!'

    “It wasn’t easy to find a theme for the TEN Challenge. In fact it was easy to have one idea, but I wanted something different than just TEN things from something or throw an obvious TEN or ‘10’ at the viewer,” says Eirich. “I wanted it to point to a bigger story but still allow TEN to be an important part of it. The painting should be able to speak for itself without the need for the viewer to know the theme or the importance of TEN.”

    After some time holding onto some ideas, without thinking too hard and having it rest in the back of his head for some days, he suddenly thought of a theme and started sketching madly. He nailed the visual essence of it with his first sketch, but realized that only after the next sketches that didn‘t work out that well. He went back and started filling the gaps in the storytelling and refining the visuals. Many things just developed by themselves, while others needed feedback from friends. Eirich aimed for an ageless theme that many people could relate. “We’ve all seen muscle cars being chased by cops before, on the TV,” he demands. “Especially in the deserts of Nevada!”

    But the image needed a twist. In this case, quite literally. “The perspective plays a major role in that concept,” Jakob explains. “I‘ve heard different reactions to that flying spin, both good and bad, but the major point is people react to it and that‘s always good in art. To keep the interest there are those two ‘Bonnie & Clyde’-like characters in their death-defying run from the cops. You see them interact with their environment and understand their story through the details.”

    The heightened vertigo was something Eirich wanted to apply in this graphical style, adding his own influence. He emphasized the speed of the cars through reduced detail of the environment to long rectangular shapes. He played around with colors and shapes and got to the point where it worked for him, carrying a fresh appeal in its angles and height.

    A Bit of History

    True. Jakob Eirich didn’t just come out of nowhere and he isn’t an overnight success. His ‘The Night of the living Geek’ piece, won an Excellence Prize in one of CGSociety previous CGChallenges, the B-Movie CGChallenge, having competed in a series of CGSociety CGChallenges in the past.

    “The CGChallenges have always been a big push for me. I saw it as the time to compete with the professionals and show myself what I am capable of and where I stand technically. I tried to push my boundaries, get out of my comfort zone and learn new things, but on a bigger scale than usual. Very important for all this was of course the exchanges with others in the huge community. This helped to see my work with different eyes and minds and improve the way I alone probably wouldn‘t have been able to,” says Eirich.

    TECHNIQUES

    Eirich begins by setting up the basic form of the piece, trying to block out all influences. He then refines it by looking at random things in real life that could somehow be of any help. “I then research how other artist’s approach subjects I am struggling with, or where it is clear I need a fresh eye,” he explains. “But there‘s no step-by-step list I work through to get a good result. It always depends.” Sometimes he starts in monochrome and adds color after, sometimes the other way around. Nothing is set in stone. It‘s all about what serves the task best. He always tries to stay flexible and react to the needs of the image as it forms.

     

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    STORY Story is very important for Eirich in his images. It satisfies him so much more to hear people noticing the little hidden details after a closer look. “Of course it‘s not like that in every painting I make, but I try when the chance is there. Finding that extra detail can be very hard. Sometimes it‘s just there, sometimes it needs time or a little spark of inspiration from somewhere,” he adds. He finds leading an active life helps greatly in finding inspiration for images and work generally. He goes out a lot, travels, reads, catches up with others and finds the activity keeps his mind inventive.

    NOTE: Over the page, watch Jakob's Eirich's winning 'MILL10NAIRES' image take shape in a special slideshow step-by-step.

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    COLORS

    Colors are a very important part in an image, that controls a big part of the feelings that are conveyed. In my “MILL10NAIRES” painting, I thought about that aspect for some time and ended up in a warm and sunny color palette, to get a rather light-hearted mood. This is despite of the content: criminals shooting at cops, breaking laws. With a cooler palette and reduced saturation the same image would convey a completely different maybe serious message.

    “In “The Night of the Living Geek”, the goal was to have a creepy mood, so I thought the color purple would serve well,” says Jakob. “The right choice of color is of course essential. I always think first about what mood it should communicate and then decide which colors help me to achieve that. I always experiment with Adjustment layers in Photoshop to get different results that may lead to happy accidents. But it‘s also important to have a harmonizing color palette, for that I trust my judgement and minor tricks in photoshop, like a low opacity overlay color layer for example. Also the gradient map adjustment layer combined with different layer modes became one of my favorite tools to play around and get fresh results.

    “The shadow of the flying car in Mill10naires! came in quite late. Before that he felt something was missing. There was somehow no connection between the car and the background. Then I had the idea to add the shadow and the viewer could immediately understand better the relationships and dimensions, the connection to the background was established. It also helped the composition with a counterweight on the upper half to the dark car on the lower half of the image. It feels more balanced this way.”

    Jakob has always wanted to work on games and movies. Since games is now part of his business, the next step is to find a spot in movie production. He also wants to step back to traditional mediums like oils and acrylics like he did on commissions about a decade ago. “That would be great to do this more for a living some day again, but I got enough digital work to do, so this has to wait,” he says.

    “I worked on the cover artwork for The Settlers 7: Gold Edition at Blue Byte, then as character concept artist for Anno 2070 at Related Designs. I was illustrator and concept artist who created all 2D artworks on Paradox Interactives’ Pirates of Black Cove at Nitrogames and then a lead illustrator on Animanca at Migros, the largest retailing company in Switzerland.” There have been many other smaller commissions for magazines, books, advertising, mobile devices and browsers including the Jagged Alliance and Shadowrun franchises and some undisclosed projects. “I also worked on the second issue of Steam Noir as color artist,” he adds.

    “My office is at my home, I got my shelf full of books about art, artists, references and comics. At home he works on a Wacom Cintiq 24HD on his MacBook Pro. I also have a corner for my easel, oils, an air brush, sculpting material and photography.” It’s his creative place.

     


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