A concept artist breathes life into the visions of the writer before they can be brought to the big screen. Few movies rely as heavily on their concept artists as the Star Wars series that is famous for being a ‘lived-in universe’. Working as the Concept Design Supervisor on Star Wars Episode II and now Episode III, and as a Senior Art Director at ILM, Ryan Church is at the forefront of film visualization. In Episode III, the emphasis on animatics has meant that he has helped visualize the entire movie, right down to color palettes and mood.
EXPOSÉ 2 Grand Master
Ryan was recently awarded with the prestigious title of Grand Master for EXPOSÉ 2, the premiere annual art book for the computer graphic arts industry. The Grand Master title is bestowed upon an artist exhibiting outstanding skill and contribution to the advancement of digital art. An internationally-acclaimed jury voted and selected Ryan Church for this honor.
“I'd like to deeply thank the judges for choosing me as the Grand Master for EXPOSÉ 2,” expresses Ryan Church. “The pages of EXPOSÉ are filled with great ideas expertly conveyed - it's an honor and a real pleasure for my work to share space with them. I'm honored and excited to have been chosen Grand Master of EXPOSÉ 2. It's a thrill for my work to share its pages with so many other expressions of hard work and original thinking. It's very satisfying to be associated with a collection of artwork such as EXPOSÉ, that celebrates such creativity and expertise, and shows that there are still so many great ideas out there waiting to be realized.”
Building a concept artist
Like many talented artists, Ryan Church started his art career at a very young age (4-5 years old). With direction from his father, an industrial designer, Church developed his drawing and painting skills by copying images from dinosaur and spaceship books, and illustrating scenes from movies. “It really helped that my father was, and still is, an Industrial Designer”, explains Church. “His enthusiasm and ability to show me illustrating techniques really allowed me to grow as a designer early on.”
Church honed his abilities at Art Center where he learned as much from fellow classmates as he did from the instructors. Church graduated in winter 1997 and immediately started at Walt Disney Imagineering, working on blue-sky concepts for future theme parks and freelancing at Universal Studios. Five months later he started as a concept designer on a digital feature in production at ILM. Moving from Southern to Northern California, he worked in the Digital Features department, commuting to teach Entertainment Design at Art Center.
Lucasfilm / Industrial Light & Magic
After two years working on various Digital Feature projects, Church moved into the position of Concept Design Supervisor that he holds to this day. “I started working on Episode 2 in December 2001”, he explains, “providing backgrounds and rough matte paintings for the detailed animatics that were created for that film”.
From there, Church’s roles expanded and he contributed designs for vehicles, droids, architecture, and environments presented as sketches, sketch paintings and finished production illustrations. “In addition to my 'wrist' work”, adds Church, “I would also go down to ILM and art direct the CG models, matte paintings, miniatures, and final shots that they were generating for the film. My biggest contribution was to the overall look and designs featured in the last third of the film. It was a real pleasure to see shots featuring my designs for large-wheeled droids and armored walking tanks as they fought each other onscreen.”
'A concept artist breathes life
into the visions of the writer
before they can be brought to
the big screen'
Images: Geonosis Arena Exterior Battle Scene - Star Wars Episode II, Lucasfilm (Page Header), Portrait of Ryan Church (Top) Rendering Matte Vehicles DVD, The Gnomon Workshop (Above)