Art of James Clyne
James Clyne, July 21 2004
Edited by Lisa Thurston
From sweeping vistas of the Washington City of the future, and
futuristic jet pack designs, to visualizations of the ancient ‘Trojan
Horse’ the Greeks gifted to Troy, CGNetworks is proud to
present the art of James Clyne. We asked Clyne about his role as
a concept designer and the transition this domain is experiencing
today from the traditional to the digital realm.
James Clyne began his career designing environments and developing
characters for game companies such as Sega, Activision, and EA.
He has also done conceptual design for movies like Fear and
Loathing in Las Vegas, Minority Report, A.I., Troy,
and the upcoming Polar Express. Clyne is currently in
Los Angeles and working on James Cameron’s next feature film
How would you describe your visual style? What do you personally
like to design?
It’s a tough question regarding my own personal visual
style. I only say this because I find myself constantly attempting
to visualize a new style or a new way of approaching fresh ideas.
I think it has a little to do with my attention span, or I should
say lack thereof. I find myself getting bored with one approach.
For example, starting with oil painting and, seized by fresh inspiration,
jumping into pastels. An alternative approach I might use is to
visualizing by deriving images from historical events. Personally,
I love exploring architecture and environmental design. In particular,
I like structures (natural or man-made) on a mammoth or larger-than-life
scale. It may have something to do with how man can find himself
often dwarfed by his own creations. I also enjoy researching a
certain cultural aesthetic and then twisting the look just slightly,
taking the look into new territory, while retaining enough of the
original idea so the viewer can relate to the content.
CGN: What is your workflow when
approaching a project or piece? Is it an entirely digital process
or do you first sketch then scan into computer?
Currently, I scan a line drawing or doodle into the computer
and finish it off in Photoshop. Rarely do I attempt a digital painting
straight from the computer. While working on various film projects,
though, I have been asked to do set extensions or digitally matte
in sky or architecture directly from a digital location photo.
CGN: What sort of tools do you
Photoshop is the primary software tool I use. For working
in the field of film production, I find it the most applicable.
It offers the greatest range and freedom for the creation of conceptual
sets, props and costume design. Hardware-wise, I’m still
toying around on Macs. I just can’t help myself when I see
such beautiful product design. Sounds a little too much like function
following form, but what can a designer do? I rarely use markers
or pen anymore. I typically just sketch out a ruff with a Sharpie
Ultra Fine Point pen and jump right into the computer.
CGN: What are your sources of inspiration?
Where do you draw ideas from? What influences do you have?
Where do I start? I apologize for being so vague, but everything
inspires me. From Piranesi’s
architectural etchings to a photo of raw meat, I seem to find inspiration
anywhere. Inspiration, for me, comes from simply paying attention
to the world around me. Whether that means walking down 5th avenue
in New York city, or opening a book on the Egyptian drawings of
David Roberts, it’s all worthy. A large and eclectic library
of music, world history, and a wide range of mind altering pharmaceuticals
(just kidding), also play a big part in my approach to design.
is James Clyne? (source)
Born in San Francisco, James Clyne and spent much of his
time as a kid indoors doodling and drawing. The Star
Wars movies and stories of J. R. R. Tolkien influenced
his fascination with sci-fi and his drawings of everything
from futuristic spaceships to dark and imaginary environments.
Drawn outdoors on to the Southern Californian beaches as
a young teenager, when his family moved south, Clyne spent hours
surfing. However, unable to ignore his gift with illustration,
Clyne enrolled in Fine Art at the University of California
at Santa Barbara. He attended the Art Center College of Design
as an Industrial Design student majoring in transportation design,
product design, and entertainment design.
Clyne also earned a Bachelor of Science with honors in 1996
after which he began his professional career designing creatures,
characters, and environments for gaming companies such as
Sega, Activision, and Pulse Entertainment. Clyne began consulting
as a concept artist for special effects houses such as Digital
Domain and Rhythm and Hues, providing conceptual designs
for clients including Nike, Disney and Intel.
Since 1998, Clyne has been working in feature films, which
he enjoys immensely. He relishes the challenge of translating
a script into visual elements and enjoys the collaboration
and variety of work he experiences in the industry
Clyne's early work in film began with Terry Gilliam's Fear
and Loathing in Las Vegas. Soon to follow were Instinct, Titan
A.E., Mission to Mars, Galaxy Quest and Mystery
Men for which he provided the conceptual designs
for environments, sets, props, matte paintings, and vehicles.
All of this work was created with sketches, gouache paintings,
and marker renderings, using the computer only minimally.
His later work on Steven Spielberg's A.I. – Artificial
Intelligence and Minority Report was rendered
completely in Photoshop. He has been designing almost exclusively
with the computer since, using a scanner to combine sketching,
painting, texture mapping and image compositing in Photoshop.