Hello Art World,
I am proud to introduce to you, if you do not know her already, the one and only Kirsten Zirngibl. Kirsten is in her third semester at TAD, and is a leader in the 2D Entertainment Development program. I wish to congratulate her as she has been awarded the very first internship with Massive Black Shanghai, where she is beginning to develop characters and work with Art Director "Dirty Iron" (Abe) whom is a featured artist atop this site. As you will see by her work, she has earned it.
I am particularly fond of the work Kirsten has done for Valve Software's assignments from last semesters visit when the talented team there swung by to share knowledge, and the summer workshop with Andrea Wicklund who came out to lend a valuable hand. Other work was from the visits from Blizzard and we even had art directors from Rolling Stone, Popular Mechanics, THQ and a host of other companies. Honestly, I am fond of all of her work and am proud of her efforts to learn and grow as an artist.
There are few in this world who work so hard at their art that they have nothing in their way to complete success but time. Kirsten is one of those artists. She is a passionate, gifted, and focused artist who will surely be a leader in this field in a matter of years. She, like all TAD students, is a dreamer who does, who acts to make her vision for her creative future real.
With all that said, we are happy to share this with you all.
The Art Department
Brilliant Colors (MB Shanghai)
Massive Black Inc.
Spotlight 3: Kirsten Zirngibl, Semester 3, TAD.
1. Where would you like to be five years from now with your art and career?
One of the reasons I'm at TAD in the first place is to answer this question for myself, which makes it hard to specify right now. But I am very excited for the future regardless of what path I take.
For awhile now, my dream has been to write and illustrate my own sci-fi world in book form, and pitch it to other mediums if it gains commercial success. I would love to create and manage properties, license them, and possibly art direct, without sacrificing the ability to keep making my own art as well.
I realize that the world of licensing is incredibly hard to break into, especially for someone with no real industry experience or big name. It requires a lot of business and legal knowledge I don't have yet, but I expect TAD to give me the tools to give me a fighting chance. I'm undecided as to whether I should pursue my own content directly out of school, or take some time at a more “normal” industry job first.
My backup plan is to be a concept artist. Ideally, I would be freelance or work for an outsourcing company like MB, because I think I'd enjoy the variety and switching mental gears. It would help me learn more about the industry than just working in one studio. My dream project would be to help develop an entirely new, rich sci-fi world for a MMORPG, or film.
I would also like to be an illustrator for the publishing industry, and/or a gallery artist on the side. I always want to have polished images be part of my career.
2. What have been the biggest influences for you and your work so far?
Unlike many people breaking into the entertainment business, I think I've been influenced less by video games/film, and more by literature. Not to conjure images of flamboyant library corkboards, but there's a “magic” to well-written imaginative novels that can't be replicated in any other medium. It has always made me want to do them visual justice, and especially to write on my own.
I also draw influence by looking at other artists and designers. I was blown away when I first discovered concept art, and I look up to many of these artists, especially the ones trained as industrial designers who combine the imaginative with the analytical so well (Daniel Simon, Doug Chiang, Syd Mead, Ryan Church, Scott Robertson, etc...).
I am also very influenced by late 19th century painters and “golden age” illustrators. They do such solid, rich, gripping work that to me will always be timeless.
Also, there is some great inspiration from nature. There are so many weird and wonderful things out there that make the aliens of our imagination seem mundane in comparison.
Finally, I'm influenced by current technology trends and breakthroughs, and thinking how they might be extrapolated. I try to bring them into my work if possible.
3. What are three things you learned at TAD which you will use during your career?
A. How to cultivate ideas as a team without watering them down. Before this semester, I'd figured that artistic teamwork always resulted in less than the sum of its parts. Now, I realize it can actually be more.
B. “Work smarter, before working harder” -- Design, compose, and paint for the purpose of clarity before complexity. It will usually make your work MORE pro. (I actually learned that in the 2009 Illustration Academy, but TAD is steadily helping drive it home.)
C. “Teach-a-man-to-fish”-- Something I learned last semester, especially from Marshall Vandruff, are small exercises to do daily and habituate, in order to keep improving for the rest of my life. Comp studies, figure turnarounds, film stills, that kind of thing. To be redundant, I like the teaching that teaches us to teach ourselves in the long haul.
4. What motivates you as an artist?
To put is simply and a bit blasphemously, I like playing God and thinking about how both the natural, artificial alternative world could be designed differently, or better. There's a power trip that comes with virtually omnipotent control over a piece of art, writing, or world. If you “place yourself” into your design, you can get a rush by carving kilotons from a giant structure or totally changing a character's personality... with a single brushstroke! Though I really enjoy the tug-and-pull relationship between controlling my art and letting IT control ME sometimes.
Also, I'm motivated by competition against past and present artists. I love looking at something just a little bit better than my work, and wondering about how I could top it! I suppose I could include myself on my list of rivals, too.
5. Sometimes artists wonder about learning online. Have you made friends and connections which will stick with you for your career?
Yes, I have! If you think of yourself as a geeky artist who enjoys using your imagination, you will find yourself in a room of kindred spirits. But just being in the same class isn't enough. I recommend getting to know your classmates through IM, and, even better, by meeting them at one of the workshops or staying at a POD. Just about everyone in class is facebook friends with everyone else, too. We often share our work there for support and critiques, and I hope this will last when we're out of school.
6. Do you feel a sense of community with the other TAD students even though they are all over the world?
Definitely. In some ways, I actually feel more community with my virtual class than I did in real-world classroom settings. Imagine you're in a physical classroom, but can also communicate telepathically (chat window) with all your classmates. You can offer additional critiques, share links that are relevant to the lecture, ask/answer questions of your peers, and even contribute to the same drawing simultaneously. It's an efficient system.
Anyway, my class also has a healthy share of inside jokes and lots of goofy banter. One teacher once remarked that we take our craft incredibly seriously, but don't take OURSELVES seriously. I can't think of a single class where I didn't “lol” once! (Oh, by the way guys, I'm totally NOT evil... … …?)
Another big aspect to what brings TAD students together is that we often teach amongst ourselves in addition to the main lectures. Students come from many different backgrounds, and those experienced in certain areas often help the newbies out with tips and crits, both inside/outside of class. I think this supportive atmosphere definitely helps to unite us. Class will start to feel even more like a family if you're an entertainment design major working on collaborative projects.
7. Who are 5 of your favorite artists and why?
My favorite artists are always shifting around, and depends heavily on criteria. I decided to prioritize artists who have gone beyond by making their own property in addition to their own art.
--James Gurney – Gurney is a solid illustrator and painter and awesome world builder, and has done great things with the two. I love his continuing quest to understand art theory share it with the world. I love his imagination and dedication, to I aspire to do what he's done in some shape or form.
--John Singer Sargent – Even though I don't go much for portrait work, I absolutely love Sargent's paintings. When I first ran into one at the Met, it simply blew me away. His paintings are so exciting, rich, and full of life. He put thought and care into making things seem spontaneous, which is something I'm trying to do more, myself. (Along this line, I also love the work of J.C. Leyendecker, and want to add elements of his painting into my own.)
--Daniel Simon – I have many industrial designer/concept artist/world builders on my list, and Daniel Simon is an example. His vehicle concepts are imaginative, exciting, and really solid in the design department, He has a way of making clean rendering very dynamic, too. Finally, I love how he unified so many of his ideas in book form (“Cosmic Motors”).
(I put Doug Chiang, Syd Mead, Ryan Church, Scott Robertson, and several others in my hard-surface category too.)
--Wayne Barlowe – I almost didn't put him here because I'm not a big fan of his paintings, but I love the way he thinks and designs, and puts it into writing. His book “Expedition” and the way he creates an alternative ecosystem is especially inspiring to me.
--Daniel Dociu – I am enamored with his environments. I love the uniqueness and beautiful complexity of his designs, and the depth of the color and texture. There's a visual richness to his work that I absolutely love. I also admire the fact that he's an art director with a lot of influence over the distinctive look of Guild wars, and still manages to make his own art as well.
I love artists from the orientalist and naturalist movements, and I could chose 10 from those. But it looks like I'm out of slots!
8. Like the other Entertainment Development students at TAD, you will be creating roots of your own intellectual property and entertainment world which you can grow throughout your career. Why is this important to you?
I feel so incredibly fortunate to be living where I am, WHEN I am. In some ways, the internet has created an even playing field for anyone who knows that they're doing to compete against mainstream studios/publishers. The market is so dynamic and diverse now, that it's possible to find many audiences with specific interests.
There are a bunch of entertainment design schools springing up right now, but it seems like the goal of most is land students a job in a big studio by getting them to build a portfolio. That's fine. But the question I ask is “then what?” Even if I do choose to work for a big studio, I want to know that I always have other options and the tools to successfully go rogue.
World building is the seed of my artistic drive, as I mentioned before. I don't think I will be truly fulfilled as an artist until I'm doing this in some way, and working on MY world. (The economic freedom that can come with self ownership would be nice too!)
9. What do you like to do outside of art?
--I love reading, mostly sci-fi. It scratches an itch in me that nothing else can. Also, graphic novels.
--I still love playing with legos/bionicles when I have the time, and plan to start getting into model kits.
--My favorite physical activity is skiing. I love the speed, and it's the closest I can get to the feeling of personal flight until I can start wingsuiting. But lately I've just been riding my bike. And climbing trees occasionally (never too old for that).
--I used to play violin/viola/piano, but I haven't lately.
--One thing I haven't been doing enough is exposing msyelf to the overwhelming world of pop culture, gaming specifically. For awhile now, I've sacrificed gaming/movie time in exchange for art time, and I'm starting to see the downside of that. I feel like I don't have enough self-discipline to NOT work, sometimes.
10. How has your experience at TAD helped you to improve?
--I've learned that I tend to be too analytical too early in the design process, which can squelch the sense of style and fun. I need to always step back and look at things as a whole, and turn off that nagging side of my brain that says “but it wouldn't work!” I've slowly but surely been getting better about it.
--I've discovered that the amount of communication required to collaborate on an illustration or design project is a lot more than I'd thought, and can actually take more time than the work itself. I'm learning how to do that better.
--TAD has also enhanced gaps in my foundations, specifically my knowledge of human anatomy, which was rather spotty from my previous reliance on photo ref. I still have a ways to go for sure, but definitely have the tools to study it the RIGHT way now. I'm also more mindful of my composition and sequential skills.
11. What are some things that have inspired you lately?
Lately I've been looking at the contemporary product/transportation/interior/architectural design scene, and getting away a bit from the illustration/concept sites.
Ironically, I think that modern practical design can often be MORE imaginative! Why? Because “real world” industrial designers are more limited in terms of materials, cost, and human usability. As a result, they often totally think outside the box in order to stand out, whereas many concept artists might just tack on lots of wildly-shaped pieces to a more conventional design.
Even disregarding out-of-the-box concepting, there's a certain shape harmony and sensitivity to proportion in product/interior design that I think is really important to pick up on, and will set me ahead of the game if I master it.
As I mentioned before, I'm also inspired by fantastical novels and the worlds they offer, as well as nature and technology. There are endless ways to combine all of these things to make something unique.
I've also just started an inspiration blog. Keeping up with it will be difficult amid all the homework, but here it is: http://zirnspiration.blogspot.com/
12. If you had three simple pieces of advice for students who are just starting out now, what would they be?
Here are some things I wish I would've done sooner when starting my journey:
A. Copy, but copy MINDFULLY: Beginning students have probably been told to do master copies. This is good advice, but not if you go about it the wrong by blindly replicating. Think about the reasoning behind every stroke before you put it down. How does it contribute to the painting? If it doesn't seem to contribute, leave it out and see what happens. You could copy something pixel by pixel and not learn much from it. Same goes for anatomy books and the like. Also, when you're done, try to draw your study from imagination to see how much you retained.
B. In a related note, make studies “your own.” Whether they're from life, an anatomy book, or a master copy, find a way to add an element of imagination. Example: If you do a master copy of a landscape, internalize how the scene is lit, and throw in an imaginative creature or building. Then you can test what you learned by trying to make it integrate into the scene. I'm still doing this, such as in my figure painting class.
C. Be growth mindset (Google that), not fixed mindset. Work to expand your comfort zone, not to try to prove skills you already have.