Please tell us about yourself – who you are and what you are currently doing.
My name is Lynton Levengood, I’m 30 years old, a husband, concept artist, illustrator and story teller. I am currently Art Director at Sunrise Animation Studios. So my current responsibilities involve producing artwork and overseeing artwork created by an amazingly talented team of artists to ensure it fits with the vision the director has for the productions the studio is working on. It’s an great pleasure and privilege. When I’m not at work I’m busy being a husband to my wife Lizelle and looking after our two cats Flash and Teddy. Also producing artwork for my own intellectual properties “themoderndragon.com“. Which is my blog where I explore the lives of the worlds remaining dragons, and Draconis comic, which is a collaboration between my friend Friedl Jooste (writer) and myself (illustrator).
How did you start out in your career?
I studied at The Animation School and started working at Character Matters Animation as an animator in 2007 and it took 3 years for me to figure out concept art was all I wanted to do. I started on my journey to a concept art career in 2010. That was when I said to myself, I want to do concept art only and get paid for it, but my skills were not there yet. I started off by just creating art in my own time, anything I wanted really: alien worlds, fan art etc. and posting it on sites like Deviant Art and CG society. Then I started personal studies to work on my weak areas, and to be honest I’m still doing that because the more I learn and study other artists, the more I’m aware of my weak areas.
What has been the biggest obstacle for you to overcome in your career as an artist?
I was in the animation industry already and I was doing a bit of everything, modeling, texturing and even concept art but the expectation was that I can’t JUST do that. Which was frustrating because that was where my heart was at. It’s hard to excel at something when you are being prevented from specializing. I feel like I’ve only just made that leap in the last year, but time will tell if I can remain exclusively in concept art. That said, NONE of the time I spent doing the other facets of the 3D pipeline was wasted. It allows me to know what goes into the realization of turning 2D into 3D and hopefully design in a way that is more helpful to the artists that follow after me and realize those concepts. As an Art Director it helps me to give feedback that is less vague as well. So at least in my case the obstacles I faced really ended up helping me.
What is your daily routine for staying inspired?
(Editor:Kick dust particles faster than Bruce Lee, massage your temples until thunderstorms form in the Kalahari?)
Ha ha, I haven’t really thought of that much before. I guess I look at other artists doing amazing things in illustration, film and games and I suffer from FOMO so I keep pushing on my own things! Something that has also helped me stay inspired or “happily creating” (might be another way of saying it) is to change mediums, not working exclusively in digital format but also painting in water color and acrylic or just sketching. Sometimes your not bored of creating art but bored of using the same method again and again. That’s something I learned from my friend Lorraine Alverez Pozen and it has worked quite well.
What do you find is the best part of your day job?
Aside from the joy of creating pretty pictures for the productions I work on, I would have to say working with other talented artists. Collaborating with other artists is the best! It stretches me, I learn all the time.
Who is your all time favorite artist?
John Howe who art directed and produced much of the concept art for the Lord Of The Rings and Hobbit films would have to take that spot.
What is your favorite food?
Chicken schnitzel! You can’t get it wrong.
You do the Modern Dragon Blog and sell beautiful art pieces of your dragons that remind us so much about cats. Please tell us where you draw your inspiration from for all the images that have us in stitches from laughter?
I draw inspiration from mythology, cryptozoology, history and modern day life. Of course cats and dogs too! Because they are such characters already you can read more about the Modern Dragon here: http://www.themoderndragon.com
You are an established artist and well-known figure here in South Africa – please tell us about how you keep your presence alive and how you ensure people know about your creations?
I don’t think of myself that way. I keep my presence alive by creating art and sharing it on Facebook, Twitter, my blog, Instagram, Artstation, Behance, Deviant Art, CG Society and any other place that will let me exhibit my art. Thankfully I have amazing people who follow my work and share it too! I’m sure there are people who do this aspect better than me but so far that is what I have been doing. I’m looking into expanding into other sites soon, so it never ends.
What is your favorite drink in the mornings? We like coffee – strong coffee.
Nespresso for the win! Best Christmas present ever!
You and Friedl Jooste are the creators of Draconis Comic. Please tell us about how this wonderful art came into existence?
Friedl and I clicked creatively when I started working with him in 2007 at Character Matters. He always gave good and honest input into ideas and valued my input into ideas he was working on. We honestly would end up just laughing all the time at gags and stories we worked on for fun, we still do. Draconis was a story that I wanted to tell visually and had the initial idea of telling a story that had dragons as main characters, sentient and in control of their own politics. I asked Friedl if he would be willing to write on it and collaborate and he was excited to do so. He has control of the writing but we developed the world and characters together. Of course I illustrated it and the end result was the comic.
Is there anything you want to say to upstart artists trying to make their break into the industry?
Steel yourself for a long journey and even then realize in life there are no guarantees. But I believe with commitment, you can find a way through to doing more of what you want and less of what frustrates you. Be patient and don’t quit your day job, just take control of your brand. No one is going to give you this creative life you want to live. You have to just do it, be the guy or girl with a sketchbook everywhere you go, work at your art every day, make art and show it to people. Sooner or later someone will like it. Be humble and learn from others. try a new medium as well. Most important of all is be nice to work with. Make peoples days better for having worked with you.
Do you play any console or PC Games and if so, which games are your favorite?
Really! How dare you ask! Of course I only work all the time and don’t waste hundreds of hours playing Skyrim… wife clears throat behind me. Ok so maybe Skyrim is my guilty pleasure.
Do you have any words of wisdom for students currently building a skill set to make their break into the industry? (these students may or may not be studying online instead of at an institute)
Look at what your industry requires most and ask if your portfolio reflects that, or ask an industry professional to critique your portfolio if you struggle with that. For instance, the greatest need out there in games and app games etc is prop design so if you produce consistent good art and use that as a portfolio you could pick up work faster than focusing on characters or environments which have a much higher level of competition. The good news is that doing so will allow you to double up on the purpose of your work by combining material and light studies with creating portfolio content.Don’t shun powerful tools that can help you. If you struggle with perspective take on learning something like Epic’s carapace art tool or use Google sketchup and build your models from that to get perspective right in an image. If photobashing helps you achieve a better result then experiment with it and own it. Just use images that are free or you own.In concept don’t shun powerful tools that can help you. If you struggle with perspective take on learning something like Epic’s carapace art tool or use Google
In concept, don’t shun powerful tools that can help you. If you struggle with perspective take on learning something like Epic’s carapace art tool or use Google sketchup and build your models from that to get perspective right in an image. If photobashing helps you achieve a better result then experiment with it and own it. Just use images that are free or you own. In concept art all that matters is the final result and getting it done faster and better than the next guy. So get out of the mindset of this or that is “cheating”. Do what you need to do to get the best result in your images, all those things are tools and the effectiveness with which you use them will be limited by your knowledge of the fundamentals.