Efflam Mercier turned his love of French comic books and video games into a successful career in digital art that is going from strength to strength.
Let’s go way back. Where were you born and raised? Where are you now? What sparked your interest in digital art?
I was born and raised in Britanny, France. I'm still here for about a month or so before my big move to the US!
I think my interest in digital art came from a wide variety of influences, such as my love for French comic books. I was later exposed to illustration books/tutorials, and most of the books mentioned “using the computer to create artwork" like it was some kind of obscure arcane science.
In parallel to that I was really, really into playing video games (like, way too much). Around the age of 7, I got my first videogame - Guild Wars: Prophecies. Unfortunately my CD key was wrong and I couldn't play the game. We spent 2 months calling the customer service, during all that time I only had the game guide; an amazing little book filled with concept art from Daniel Dociu, Kekai Kotaki and Jaime Jones, as well as stories about the lore of the game. I was 7... so, of course I was totally blown away when we got the game to actually start.
Later, when I was 13 years old, there was a time when I wanted to play Age of Conan Online, but my computer was so bad and the game was all laggy. I had to read a guide on graphic optimization and graphic rendering, and started to understand concepts like anti-aliasing, cull distances, FPS, resolution, ambient occlusion, screen space-reflections, motion blur, shader models etc.
At the same time I was discovering all the matte painting videos and VFX demo reels on YouTube and googling "how do people do this amazing stuff??" Eventually I downloaded Blender and After Effects, and this really got the ball rolling for me! I stopped playing videogames and went 100% into 3D VFX.
At one point I also discovered Feng Zhu's videos on concept art and bought a graphic tablet and started doing paintings in Photoshop, but it took me such a long time to realize I could actually combine all of these fields.
Clearly, with all these influences, there was no way I wasn't going to try and work in entertainment too!
Please describe what you do. What are some of the projects you have worked on / clients or studios you've worked with?
I do a wide variety of things. I started my career doing a lot of cartoon advertising work in 2014-2015, at Cube creative as a matte painter on Cartier's Winter Tale. I then worked as a concept artist and later digital compositor on Prince de Lu.
Cartier's Winter Tale Prince de Lu
Since I started working in the industry less than 2 years ago, most of the projects I've worked on haven't been released yet, and I can't talk about it, but I did some Level design/environment concept art on Bosskey's Lawbreakers, I then got hired by 3Dtotal and contributed to a lot of educational content for their books and magazines, I then worked with Tobias Trebeljar, making set designs for the film production company on Iron Sky II, my first movie!
With 2015 about to wrap up, it was the time for bigger clients and projects: I worked on lighting design for Ubisoft's The Division (can't say more, but I’ll be able to show stuff very soon ). I was contacted by Wizards of the Coast to work on Magic: The Gathering and paint illustrations regularly for them, I worked on keyframe paintings for a project with DreamWorks and West studios, then started working with MPC on a ton of big film projects, (Including X-men Apocalypse).
What kind of projects would you like to work on in the future?
I'd like to work on a project that's actually good. What I mean by that is so many film productions today are all about money, and people who know how to make money are in charge, instead of people who know how to make good films or games.
I think that a project where the financial risk is low and ALL the focus is put on content quality, plus with really strong creators who know how to do stuff in a collaborative environment, that would be good ! :)
I'm sure some company is going to figure out how to do it sooner or later; having the marketing/money people do what they're good at, and the artists/creators do what they're good at.
I mean, wouldn't it be easier to market any game/movie if it was actually fundamentally a rewarding experience, and therefore naturally engaging the audience?
What’s the most important tool you use?
My brain! Hahahah. I change my tools , software, and painting techniques every 4 months or so anyway.
The main two things that matter is expertise and taste: knowing what I’m doing and how , and knowing where I’m going and why.
Is there something you are currently working on, or are excited about starting, that you can tell us about?
On the Professional side I'm really excited to start working at Riot Games! (Can’t tell much about what projects I’ll be working on, but it's awesome).
About personal stuff, I'm going to try to get into making some low budget short films to learn more on cinematography and designing a story, maybe some more photography.
I'm also planning to consolidate my foundation skills as soon as I move to LA, probably lots of life drawing, plein air painting (gouache, watercolor).
I usually only complete 30% of my personal projects, but even that makes me happy!
What movie and/or game from the past do you wish you had worked on and why?
Oh, I really wish I had worked on so many of the great movies that have become references, either for story or for design, but honestly more for learning than contributing. What would you do to a masterpiece eh?
For games , the original Guild Wars: Prophecies of course, Warcraft III, in general projects where a new concept or technology that all the sudden opened up so many creative possibilities for artists.
What do you like to do away from the computer?
I rarely am! But when I'm away from the computer I like to do plein air paintings or taking some photos of natural landscapes.
Thanks Efflam! We look forward to watching your career.
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