Entertainment

Concept Artist Wes Burt On Drawing For Transformers, Thor, Skyrim And Fallout

Wesley Burt is a concept artist who has worked on prestigious film and game projects like the Transformers films, Skyrim, Fallout 3 and New Vegas, Lord Of The Rings: Online, Magic: The Gathering trading cards and Thor. In his 13 years of professional work, Wes has created some amazing art.

Early concept art for Lord Of The Rings: Online.

Burt has done some amazing work for big-name movies and triple-A gaming titles; his portfolio stretches from Dishonored to Silent Hill to League of Legends to Borderlands to the GI Joe films. A Cleveland Institute of Art alumni, he’s multi-talented, also working on graphite works and oil paintings in his spare time.

He’s presenting at the Melbourne International Design Week festival next week, at the Look Upstairs forum on April 2-4 on design, advertising, 3D and creativity alongside 40 other design professionals from 20 countries. Wes spoke to Gizmodo about his history and inspiration as a graphic artist, and about some of the amazing properties he’s worked on.

How did you get into concept art and design? What drew you to Massive Black?

I became really interested in concept art when I was an early teenager, seeing the Art of Star Wars books and other movie pre-production books. I started making my own drawings and designs of characters from my head and from books I was reading at the time.

Concept art for Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen.

While I was studying fine art in college, I began to share some work online at a couple different art forum communities, and that ended up getting me in touch with the people who gave me my first freelance jobs — a couple video game studios and trading card art. As I was finishing up school, a few of the guys I knew online were beginning to set up what would become Massive Black. They ended up with some extra work that they hired me to do, and it sort of snowballed from there.

I ended up moving out to San Francisco and stayed at Coro’s house (one of the owners) for a while. We would set up and work every night in his basement, and a couple months later we were in our first office. Cut to about 10 years later, and we’ve worked together with a handful of other guys all in the same room on countless projects and tons of fun.

The Izzet Archmage from Magic: The Gathering.

What’s the largest, or most exciting, or your favourite project that you’ve worked on?

Working on the Transformers films was really fun and exciting — having a really direct input on what things could end up looking like, and working with the director and production designers who’ve worked on so many different films. I ended doing a whole lot of the preliminary work for the Dinobots in the new film, so it will be really cool to see that come to life!

I also really enjoy working on games that are more in the historical or fantasy realm — so designing factions and costuming for Lord of The Rings Online, and also a lesser-known title called Gods & Heroes, was right up my alley. I like researching different cultures, their way of dress and types of armor and all that, so that’s always fun for me.

You work on a lot of game concept art – is there something about gaming that you find more interesting than, say, architectural or other concepts?

One of my favorite parts of concept art would be character design and creature design, so naturally that fits right into the game and film realm. For me, bringing the characters to life and adding to the narrative arc are really interesting parts of building out something larger.

Character art from Red Faction: Armageddon.

I do really like fleshing out full worlds though for characters too, so working on architectural elements or environment design is also really fun, especially when it’s in a genre or setting that is different from the present.

Can you identify any themes or tropes that you’ve noticed developing in concept art since you’ve been making it? Are there any kind of trends that pop up and/or recur?

Things certainly go through trends in the entertainment industry — it’s the natural way of it, with it being so large and [having] so many people making games and movies. Working in a freelance art house, we often work on several projects at the same time, so sometimes it’s really surprising to have two jobs going at the same time that are both asking for almost the same thing but not knowing about the other.

At one point in 2007 or so, at the height of Lost (on TV), I think Sawyer was requested as character reference on maybe 5 jobs within a short period of time. Also that year, Frye’s motorcycle boots.

Male and female character concepts from Lord Of The Rings: Online.

But outside of that, you can see a lot of similarities in the male main characters of action/adventure games. It’s sometimes disappointing because the main characters — for a variety of reasons — can get so watered down or they’re trying to appeal to such a broad base of people that they become way less interesting and a bit more cardboard cutout.

I usually like working on side characters and weird characters because of that. I’m all for seeing new and unique characters that come from diverse backgrounds and have new ideas and break some of the gender stereotypes.

What will you be talking about at Look Upstairs – is there a specific theme to your talk?

I’m going to be showing a bit of my work, and breaking down things within it that I feel are the driving forces of what helps it add to the whole process of building a game or narrative. I’ll also be talking a lot about drawing itself, and what I’ve learned over the time of doing a whole lot of it.

I’m also hoping to transition my talk into a short digital drawing demo, to highlight some of the key things that I’ll be talking about. Drawing, gesture, and design are definitely the prime subjects. [Wesley Burt on CGHub / Massive Black]

Early concepts from Transformers: Dark Side Of The Moon.


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