For more than 20 years, Col Price has been an Art Director and Concept artist for the Games, Film and TV industries. He has contributed to some of the biggest titles with the best studios; everything from F1 and Battlefield to Driveclub. CGSociety caught up with him recently to talk about his impressive experience and unique artistic style.
Please describe what you do.
I think the easiest thing to say is I'm a concept artist for games, film and TV.
I'm now in my second year freelancing (after leaving the warm comfort of studio life) under my company Coldesign LTD
. I'm also an Art Director, but to be honest these days I find the concept role takes on just as much as the AD role has ever done. So pretty much I get paid to draw and paint monsters and spaceships all day long, which let’s face it isn't a bad deal.
I cover a wide spectrum these days; the work on CGSociety is personal work I do for fun. I do a lot of character work and environment work; pretty much anything - storyboard, key frames, set design - it’s just all part of the job. And I think that's the best part, every job is different and fresh. So far this year I’ve worked on zombies, troll hunters, medieval battles, spaceships, and cops and robbers. So a real crazy mix
What are some of the projects you have worked on / clients or studios you've worked with?
I've been pretty lucky in my 20+ years in the games industry. I spent a few years on and off at Sony where I was Art Manager/Director on the Formula One and Wipeout franchises. From there I moved to EA and worked on a lot of different stuff, (again F1 and a few other racing titles) and helped out at different levels too. So whilst I was Art Manager/Director for the studio I also did FMV and concept work on projects. On Battlefield Modern Combat I was in charge of the VFX whilst working with the code team developing the same VFX system for the Harry Potter franchise. So I did a lot of different stuff just to widen my skill set. From EA I jumped over to Evolution studios and worked on the Motorstorm games as well as being Art Director for the Internal Concept Group (games think tank for Sony). My last visual Art Director role for the studio was Driveclub.
So, at that point I headed out to the big wide world of freelancing and I've branched out a bit working for TV with the BBC and also film. Which is where I'm currently now, and it has been fantastic fun to do. I’m currently on a secret Sci-Fi project that's pretty cool.
What’s the most indispensable tool in your software arsenal?
It’s got to be Photoshop, It’s just an incredible bit of software and lets me do pretty much whatever I want to do. The old saying of “fix it in post" is certainly true. I use CC 2014 now and the software's come on so much over the 20 years I've used it and I still haven’t used some of the functions. I've still a ton to learn!
Is there something you are currently working on, or are excited about starting, that you can tell us about?
Yeah I'm about to start work on a game based around my concept ships, I've been Skypeing a lot, and emailing and passing ideas back and forth, our main goal is to make it look exactly the way my concept images look. I think we’ll be kicking that off pretty soon. The other project I've got coming up is working with Mark Kern (World of Warcraft) and that's going to be pretty awesome, Had a real good chat with him the other night and it so nice to meet somebody that's been around as long as me:) I've been working on so much awesome stuff of late that I can’t tell you about... hopefully soon. I'm on a Sci-Fi movie at the moment and that's very exciting and extremely original. I can’t wait to show you guys some of that!
Whose work (both past and present) do you really admire and why?
Well I grew up with just an amazing set of artists at my disposal. My grandfather for one, he was an artist and he spent many hours with me, teaching me, he was always covered in oil paint and a true inspiration People such as Chris Foss, Jim Burns, Chris Moore, Boris Vallejo and Peter Elson. To be honest, without those guys I probably wouldn't be doing what I’m doing. I still have so many books by these guys. Just amazing artists, I’d seriously say to people to check them out and not a digital brush amongst them! To me they made Sci-Fi what it is. They pushed the boundaries with shape and form and colour. Space didn't have to be dark and ships didn't have to be saucer shaped.
If were talking modern day, I get inspired by so many. You only have to look on CGSociety to see so much breath-taking work.
People like Ridley Scott and Neill Blomkamp, just blow my mind. I love how they create entire believable worlds, I have so much respect for so many artists out there today, I don't think I have a day where I see amazing work, and then think I really need to up my game!
What movie from the past do you wish you had worked on and why?
Well I was going to say Bladerunner, and maybe that's a cliché? But that would have been incredible and it had a huge influence on me. I’d love to work on the new one and help push it in a new direction. The other movie has to be Guardians of the Galaxy, it was such a strong hark back to the old school Sci-Fi , just beautiful work in that movie and you can see Chris Foss' designs and influence a mile off .Oh and yeh, sign me up for the next one James Gunn!
When not creating world beating art, what do you like to do? What are you currently reading, listening to or looking at to fuel your work?
I've always got music or movies on while I'm working, So music like Porter Robison's new album and maybe a bit of jazz too. I'm a sucker for electronic music, so the soundtrack from Ex Machina is pretty cool to work with. I've got two books on my desk right now: Art of Age of Ultron and Guardians of the Galaxy. Just beautiful and inspiring work.
I also read a lot of graphic novels and comics, something I've always loved, at the moment I'm trying to build up my Alex Ross collection, his work is just breath-taking.
I also like to get out on my bike, I live by the sea, so it’s great to cycle down the coast and just soak up the views. And my son is twelve, so we seem to be spending more and more time in the Imax now, which saves my wife suffering all these Marvel movies.
What would be your #1 advice to other artists?
Don’t give up! It’s really tough out there so you have to keep going, keep working and putting stuff out for people to see. I try and get a concept done every day. Most of those images on your site are well under a day for creation, for me it’s getting speed and confidence in your work and just keep going, it may take time but you will get there. Just don't give up!
And just one more: get your own style. I think having your own style is hugely important, I see so many people trying to copy what others are doing. Don’t! Work on your style, and your take on things, I see so many Artists out there trying to make their work look like somebody else’s and they don't need to, try to be as original as you can.
Can you tell us about the above image? What inspired you to do it? Any hidden meanings? What software did you use to create it?
I was messing around with colour on this piece., I like to try and make alien craft and locations look alien, so it was like: "Well why not yellow space? And, why not this huge blue ship. I like to try and place these ships in mundane circumstances. For me it just helps create a story in the viewers mind, I like to let people build their own stories while looking at my work I try not to give them everything, if that makes sense? And, I like to try and put a bit of dark humour in my work too, when I can.
The ships are built in 3ds Max. It’s not a complex model and only took an hour or so to make. I just extrude from a really basic shape. I tend to have a rough idea of what to create but I like just to let my mood take me in directions and see what I end up with.
The background is really simple and painted up in Photoshop. Nothing complicated; it helps focus on the ships better, I also tend to work in portrait. To me it just helps me get a better sense of scale to these things.
Everything is comped together and I’ll add a few lights etc but all in all its a couple of hours work. I like to try and get one done a day when I’m not working. It helps me keep up the speed I find so vital for today, I try not to let anything take more than a day with these shots. I've always got more ideas waiting to get out anyhow.
Find more of Col Price's stunning work in his CGPortfolio