We have the awesome opportunity of having a short Q&A with Concept Artist and Illustrator, Suzanne Helmigh. She has done work for numerous companies that you can read all about in the Q&A below and she’s on a roll to create more awesome work for us to enjoy! Without further delay – here’s what she had to say:
1. Tell us a bit about yourself – Who are you and where are you from?
I’m Suzanne Helmigh, born in Amsterdam in 1989. Professional concept artist and illustrator for games and films. I’m moving to Malmo Sweden next week to work at a Visual Development company called Mood in Copenhagen.
Love games like Magic the gathering and Diablo. I’m very active in the art community and I travel to art-events a few times a year as well as organize sketchmeetings in cities where I live.
On Monday evenings I stream Mentor Monday’s on Twitch where I do portfolio reviews, give feedback on artwork and give constructive overpaint’s.
I stream on other day’s as well whenever I can!
2. When did you start your career and where?
I started to earn a living with my art when I was 21 (2011). I had just graduated film education some months before and threw myself straight into improving my art with a 16 hour a day workschedule (including weekends).
I lived in Oxford at the time where my boyfriend Titus Lunter worked at the time. We able to rent floor of an enormous secluded villa, the owners were always abroad. This was an amazing environment to work as it was surrounded by nature and super quiet and serene. The first well paid job I got was freelance over the internet for a mobile developer.
3. What made you decide that you want to be a concept artist & illustrator?
When I was still in film education I focused mainly on storyboarding, scenario and direction. In my graduation year I got to know more and more about concept art for films. The people who did game education got lifedrawing and painting for a term and even though it was not part of my curriculum I signed up for it.
The teacher for that class told me I had exceptional talent and told em I should study more art and aim my career towards that. I thought he was ridiculous, because I don’t believe in talent. I still don’t believe in talent, but I do believe that people can develop certain thinking patterns and skills to become good at something, sometimes while being unaware of it.
Making art was a hobby of mine back than. I went online to find more about concept art and met Titus on Deviantart who was studying concept art at the time. Not only did we fell in love, he also had me fall in love with concept art.
So the fact that I love drawing, love storytelling, love films got me into this direction.
4. What do you enjoy most about your career?/5. What do you enjoy most about working with the people in your career?
I love the people in the concept art and illustration scene. Everyone has such a great work mentality and always aiming to get better. Most of my best friends are in this scene.
It’s very inspiring to have creative friends to socialize and create artworks with. Doing such things together can really keep you going.
Now that I’ve been doing it for 5 years I often travel to various places in the world where I get invited for art events where I meet more awesome people.
6. You’ve worked for quite a few companies, tell us about how you made your break into the industry
After my first few well paid gigs as a freelancer. I got a bigger more permanent freelance job in a very rare way.
At that time(2011) I was always searching through job forums for work, usually leading so small gigs. But at some point a company called Dreamfire games hired me fulltime to work as a concept art for their game.
The idea was for me to move to London and work in the studio but I preferred to stay home, close to family for while. They were fine with me working from home. I was renting a studio space with some creative friends. I have great memories from those times! In 2013 I stared working for a gamestudio called Full Fat in Warwick and in 2014 for Sony Guerrilla in Amsterdam where I worked for Horizon Zero Dawn.
Right now I work for a visual development studio for games and films called Mood Visuals in Copenhagen.
So before all of this started happening to my career I got lots of declines and: “You don’t have enough experience.’ emails. It was very frustrating but I never gave up. I remember back in 2011 I’ve mentioned to friends: ‘I will never be good enough. I wan’t to work for companies such as Guerrilla, but it will simply not happen for me. I am not one of the chosen ones to ever make it this far.’ I was wrong!
7. What is the environment like at Mood for you?
Right now I’ve only done some work from home for them, but I am moving to Sweden next week so I can commute to Denmark-Copenhagen. I have met my fellow colleagues at mood and they are insanely skillfull and such great people to be around. I expect great time and hard work lies ahead of me!
8. Please tell us about your work on Horizon Zero Dawn (We are avid gamers! =D )
Because of NDA’s (Non disclosure agreement’s) I cannot share anything that has not yet been made public by the marketing department. I can however share that this is going to be my dream game! It’s got all the things I love from a strong female lead to robot dinosaurs and great cultural tribes. Most of all it’s got adventure and story and such luscious visuals! It was a blast to work on, being part of the character concept art team. I am missing my fun colleagues already!
9. What other projects have you worked on that has had a big impact/success towards your career?
Pretty much anything I’ve chosen to work on has given me something to learn from. Whenever I was switching jobs or when I got some extra time on my hands I also work on illustrations for RGP games. Franchises like Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings, Star wars, Talisman, Pathfinder, have been things I work on with much pleasure.
10. What is the highlight of your day in the workplace?
At Guerrilla it used to be the Friday after work hours. We would all stick around the office get some drinks, play some games and making a fool of ourselves.
This month at home it has been my cat, napping between my screen and keyboard.
11. What was your favorite project thus far?
Horizon Zero dawn and something equally big and cool that is super secret. (oooh NDA’s). [Editor: Mumble Grumble NDA’s ]
12. Coffee or tea?
Tea! Fresh mint tea or green tea, with honey!! 😀
Love the smell of coffeebeans though… just cannot drink it!.
13. Any specific mentors in your career you would like to give a shout out to?
Samantha Hogg has been a great friend and Mentor at the time when I worked at Full Fat. Ilya Golitsyn was the hammer of improvement at Sony Guerrilla. But my daily mentor is Titus Lunter.
14. What was the best day you’ve had at work?
It was a day at Guerrilla where we were asked to work on a storyboard for the E3 cinematic. We had to work together on getting some awesome panels done and all and all it was a super energetic productive day.
We ended up going for a completely different trailer though. But that’s the thing that people from the outside often don’t see. There is so much art that gets done that never gets used!
15. Are there any fond memories you have from your first day and where?
It’s hard to remember first days. All I know is that my first week, at any of the places I worked always flew by within seconds. Time did not seem relative.
16. Do you plan on expanding your skill set any further to include more tools/software packages?
I’m trying to get more comfortable with 3D. It’s a great asset to have when wring in concept art.
17. Do you have a funny or embarrassing moment you’ve had at work that you would like to share?
This happened at one of the studio’s I worked for: I was an hour early for my interview at the studio so I went into the city to buy some new shoes to throw the old ones away. I got myself a pair of awesome blue sneakers.. but one street further I felt my first blisters coming up. I went into a store to buy some anti-blister’s bandage.
That store had a glass wall and while I was looking ad the band aid’s an elderly woman walked face first straight into that glass wall. she fainted and her body dropped backwards smashing her head on the tiled floor. I rushed towards her and provided some first aid. When she was in the bands of professional medical people I realized I had to rush to the company as I would have my interview in 5 minutes. The entrance of the company was locked and guarded by a security guard from within. I knocked the glass door and the security guard made handsignals to me suggesting I needed another door to the left.
So I went to a door on the left that got opened immediately and friendly people greeted me. I said I had an interview with X. they replied that I was at the wrong company and needed to be at the door where I just was. So I knocked on the glass door again and this time the Security guard opened it for me. “are you lost?’ he asked me. ‘This is Company X right? I got an interview with X.’ I replied. The security guard flushed red and said: ‘Oh i’m so sorry! I assumed since you were a girl you had ot be next door (a traveling agency). ….derp. This has been the only time ever that I’ve been gender discriminated. All an all, it was a crazy day.
18. How do you kick start your creativity every day? (Punch caterpillars, play Xbox, gardening, yoga, gym etc)
I listen to music, got some v shows on my second monitor and while in public transport I read books about the psychology of being creative and motivational topics.
To wind down I play some games like Diablo 3 and paint lifestudies.
19. Which comic book heroin would you be if you could choose?
That’s a tough one. While i was trying to think of one I just kept coming up with male comic book heroes. I think we need more cool female heroes without the sexual overload! 😛 (not saying she cannot be sexy at times, as long as it’s not done as a characteristic)
20. What are the biggest factors in your career that motivate you to keep on doing what you do?
Always wanting to get better. The thing that most artists suffer from is never being satisfied with your current work and I have exactly that. I’ve always got new Ideas and aims to realize. very likely till the moment I die.
21. If you could say anything that you want to aspiring animators that are just starting out and pursuing a career in animation, what would you say to them?
Animation is a whole lot of work! You gotta really love it to become good at it. Keep an eye open for the small details and never give up!.
22. Please tell us about Caldyra – what is it about?
Caldyra is about an unlikely gang of 3 people who get thrown together due to circumstances and build an everlasting friendship while unraveling the secrets of the world they life in. Ninae, young woman of 22 who’s never been outside of her city but thirsty to get to know new things, Borus an immortal seemingly 40 year old warrior with a dark past and Fennek an alchemist who used to be a boy who got cursed by a witch. The world they life in is fantasy themed and has lots of amazing creatures and places to discover. The human race used to be on top of the foodchain because of the magic they harvested from the Caldyra trees (hey! the title).
These Caldyra leaves, bark, twigs, sap’s etc were used as a drug to temporarily enhance the magical potential that humans have. Yet human kind got to greedy and the Caldyra trees died out. Without this magical powers the arrogant human kind got reduced to a 10% when other smart naturally magical creatures took over en killed and enslaved humans. Our story takes place 80 years after the fall of the last Caldyra tree, so Ninae grew up in a world without magic, being cooped up in her city that is the last save-haven for her kind. It’s protected by a large magic dome.. supposedly everlasting… or is it..
23. What inspired Caldyra?
I want to include all the things I love into the story. Indiana Jones, Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Lord of the rings and many more things.
24. How long have you been working on this project?
It’s been off and on Since August 2013. I think it will take another two more years realistically before I can release the first artbook.
25. Will Caldyra be an ongoing project with an evolving story?
Yes! Caldyra will be an ongoing project with an evolving story. I will release books based on chapters, much like comic book issues except with a different format.
The story will be told with images and a few sentences, the books will also include concept art of characters, creatures, environments props , pretty much anything that is involved in that part of the story.
26. What are your end goals for Caldyra?
I hope I can keep enjoying it. I hope to launch a Kickstarter campaign for it’s release once the first book is done.
I’ve got a few artists friends who’d also like to make some artwork for it, so the books will be hosting guest artworks as well.
I host contests now and then for young artists and the winners of these contest can end up in the book with their work. (they also get prices like actual artbooks)
Always love to hear any feedback or ideas! 😀 I love talking about Caldyra! This is the Facebook page where I collect all the artwork I want to show (there is more art that I keep hidden to be shown in the books later)
Thank you for the great interview Suzanne! Stay Awesome!
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