ConceptArt.Org Interview with Raph Lacoste - Ubisoft Art Director: Assassins Creed.
Raphael Lacoste has joined ConceptArt.Org as an instructor at the upcoming International Art and Design Symposium. Raph has been guiding the vision for the blockbuster Assassins Creed franchise as Art Director and Brand Director. We are honored to have him with us and CA.O's Daniel Rizea and I took some time to pick his brain for a little creative truth.
Raphael Lacoste- ConceptArt Workshop Interview Number 1.
1) We are excited to see you are participating at the International Art and Design Symposium entitled “Imagination”, which will take place in London this May. Please share a little bit about yourself.
Hello! I am Raphael, Born in France in 1974 and living in Canada since 2002. I have been working as set designer and Photographer for theatre before diving in the CG industry. I have been Art Director on video game titles like Prince of Persia and Assassin’s Creed for 10 years now and also Concept Artist in the Film industry.
2) At ConceptArt.Org workshops, instructors often present work for commercial and personal projects or demonstrate their process and ideas. Can you talk a bit about the themes you are going to touch on at the International Art and Design Symposium?
I am sure that People will be interested to know more about my work and process as an Art director but also as independent Artist. I will show my Artistic Direction process on the creation of big open worlds but also historical epic settings, the challenges are very different from working on linear and scripted games. I work more specifically on a talk about image composition in AC and open world settings creation, this can be interesting and valuable for 3d environment artists and illustrators. I will also show my process of creation on more personal illustrations in environment design.
3) As an Art Director you were part of some of the biggest projects in the Entertainment Industry. Games like Prince of Persia and Assassins Creed had a huge influence upon, and inspired people across the globe. You also worked as a Concept Artist and Matte Painter in both games and film. What are a couple of the biggest challenges you faced, and how did you overcome them?
The Challenges are quite different, I have been, indeed, working as Matte Painter, Concept Artist for Film and Art Director for AAA games, and every job had different challenges. Working for film was very unique for me, a lot of senior artists are working in this industry, as it is an older industry than video games. You can learn a lot on the shows and be creatively challenged on different genres, by different kind of directors. ;)
I loved the diversity of the shows being for environment design and Matte painting. Matte Production is unfortunately very technical so I think I finally enjoyed less that part ;) When I got back to video games, it was to have also more stability in my private life and work with more freedom as an artist. In video games, your work can have more impact on the overall production as it is still a bit less compartmentalized than Film. But hell yes, being an AD on a big franchise is still a huge responsibility ;)
4) If you had to go back in time and tell the young Raphael Lacoste two important things, when he was first getting started, what would they be?
Draw more and don’t care too much about people’s judgment ;-)
5) There is plenty of advice on the ConceptArt.Org forums and around the industry about what a successful portfolio looks like. As an Art Director you had your fair share of portfolio reviews, what makes an artist’s portfolio click for you?
I love when the portfolios show an individual talent and personality. The good thing with internet is that everything is accessible from your place, mood boards, films, photos, illustrations, traditional paintings… the bad thing is maybe that a lot of people are a lot influenced by the style of the others and the overall result can be sometime impersonal. This is why I really like to see more personal stuff, with good compositions and style. Also, sometimes the sketches are excellent but the rendered version of the sketch ends up static and more descriptive, less dynamic. The challenge is to keep the strength of the sketch and bring it to a next level.
6) The CG industry changes with astonishing speed. How do you see 3D art evolving in the next three to five years, and how important is the concept artist role in the future?
10 years ago,(wow I feel old!) the front pages of some famous forums where showcasing mainly 3D renders. Now, we see mainly 2D illustrations online ;) I think this is showing a great evolution, people don’t want any more to spend 20-40 hours on a single image, I think this is good to be more creative and less descriptive…
A Concept Artist’s role will be more and more important as we need to drive the visual creation of big memorable “worlds” and epic visual effects on both videogames and film blockbusters. There is also an alternate path like in the casual gaming industry which allows illustrators to take part of the production and have a real impact on the final picture.
7) The life of aspiring artists is a relentless learning process. Artists inspire each other and grow together here in the community. Hollywood feature films and the blockbuster games are sources of inspiration, outside of these, where should a young artist be looking for influences?
I personally think that it is always good to look back and study from the Classical Masters. I am sure there is a lot of inspiration in the industry and many contemporary talents are a fantastic source of inspiration, but the classical Art is also still a real benchmark imho ;)
Also, I feel like if looking at competition is good, but we should open our eyes and be inspired by other mediums like photography, traditional Art... going to the museums is a good thing!
8) At some point you decided to challenge yourself and you stepped away from the game industry and worked for some major productions, films like “Terminator Salvation”, “Journey to the Center of the Earth” and “Repo Men” to name a few. In 2009 you returned as a Senior Art Director for Electronic Arts and then Brand Art Director at Ubisoft. What was it that brought you back to the games industry?
As Said before, I needed more stability in my private life, I have young kids and being away in production for weeks was not a good thing (which can happen in film). Also, video games is a younger industry and is offering more individual creativity from my personal experience, but again, this is my opinion ;)
9) After working on dream projects and exploring both in film and games what does the future hold for Raphael Lacoste?
Traveling in the world, meet great people and be a true Globetrotter ;-)
10) If you had one message to share with the talented community of ConceptArt.Org and artists around the world, what would that be?
Work, but don’t forget to open your eyes and walk (or run). You learn more in the voyages than on the web ;)
Thank you for your time Raphael and now at the end of our interview I would like to ask where can people go and find more about your work?
Off course, my personal website: www.Raphael-lacoste.com but also my online photographic portfolio: http://www.flickr.com/photos/el-rafo/
Thanks a lot !
ConceptArt.Org and the International Art and Design Symposium thanks Raphael Lacoste for taking the time to share his thoughts and we look forward to seeing everyone at the workshop! Now...back to making art!! You heard him folks :)