Meet the Artist: Nicolas Bouvier (AKA Sparth)

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  06 June 2005
hi sparth,

i just came back from your website... wow! i simply love your work..
and now i go back and have another looooong look..

keep up the amazing work!

  06 June 2005
twoheaded: Sparth, Im a big fan of your prince of persia 2 concept art. Great moods on some of the castle paintings.
As a student artist, I would really like to hear some recommendation on good practices to increase concept painting/drawing skills.

- first of all thanx. i really had an extremely pleasant time working on pop warior within. not to mention that i had a great time working with my fellow friends and artists.
some advices:

- i already gave that advice not long ago, but i think it is not a loss of time giving it again: while painting, always make an horizontal flip of your image. it helps training the eye to permanently spot and fix errors in your illustration.
- when working, often analyse the design/forms/architectures you are painting, and permanently ask yourself the question "could the stuff i am painting right now be realistic if i translated it unto real life", "is my actual design realistic compared to real life criterias such as light/color/radiosity?". i think that it is a great issue today in digital painting, as many artists aren't capable yet of building a link between the way light works, and their illustrations.
i am not talking about style nor realistic painting, but more about the way we see things, and how things interact in a scene.
- always focus on the subject of your illustration. not only concerning a strong theme, but also concerning the central area of your image. if nothing happens in the strict middle of your illustration, you will not be able to captivate the viewer. there must always be a focus point that will globally be located smartly in your illustration, enhanced by a logical composition. but once again, there is no rule.
- and yes, as tiger woods, being a concept artists is about going straight to the point. with the fewer steps necessary to reach the aim.
sparth construct
  06 June 2005
digital-bobert: nope, never had an agent. and the reason is simple. i started working as an employee quite early. and the freelance stuff i did aside was not important enough in order to take an agent.
if later on, i ever prefer working freelance only, i will of course grab an agent for sure.
sparth construct
  06 June 2005
neofg:Say that I (read:we)love your works is obvious...
What I ask to myself, when I start a project, and I must to sketch an idea is...How Can I obtain the level of design that I see in images like yours...

your question was passionate, so i will try to give you a passionate answer.

the question could be asked differently, like: "how can i define all the stuff i have in my head, how am i going to succeed in putting all my thoughs on paper or screen"
being in envy mode can be useful. we're all in "envy mode" when looking at mcaig's or jeffrey jones stuff. it is a stimulation.
now i guess that everythings comes from within ourselves, our culture, our education. my design and my forms are the result of my education and background.

since i was a kid, i grew up with the image of a "building" father. a dad whose job was to take care of constructions companies. it began as a regional adventure, and he finished his career taking care of the millau bridge (image google : millau bridge), as president of his company. for years, i heard about architects, buildings, skyscrapers, constructions status, constructions abroad .... could my design be a mix of all these influences? probably yes. without forgetting about all the rest. studies included.
it is a very complex process to understand. where do our style and forms come from? true we all have our inspirations and favorite artists, but your own curiosity towards your surrounding world will probably be the greatest inspiration ever.

when "return of the jedi" was released in theaters, i lived in singapore. it was in 83.
singapore being the safest country ever, i still remember grabbing a cab with my brother, at ten and nine years old.... to rush to the cinema around orchard road. i still see in my mind that gigantic painted poster in front of the cinema. they used to paint scenes from the movie at the time. dunno if they still do it today.
i went back to the same theater three times in a few weeks ....

"Get us your secret if it exist..."

hmmmm would i tell it if i knew about it? hehe
i think that the best way to achieve goals is to be able to open the right door at the right moment. if you get stuck too long in front of a closed door, find another way in.
yes, it may happen to get stuck in front of the wrong door. for exemple, during my studying years, i got the feeling i was not heading towards the right artistic direction. my motivations were average, and i felt uneasy concerning my own art. i wanted to do comics for a while, without knowing if it was going to fit me. it didn't, i know it now. ... still, i'd love to do comics now, but i've changed a lot.
what i know is that i felt a door opened for me, it was around 2001 or 2002. something happened. several other of these "doors" have opened since.
i rushed into everyone of them, and haven't stopped going straight forward since.
sparth construct
  06 June 2005
Hello Nicolas,

You're my favourite digital painter so, I asked CGTalk to invite you in these sessions 2 weeks ago in the suggestion thread and here you are. Wow! They're quick Seriously I don't think I have anything to do with it, but I'm glad to have you here. I'm so glad that I can't think of any relevant question for now. hehe
I'll ask a practical quetsion until I find better

- I've read Ubisoft is about to be sold to another company (at least part of it) or a partnership. (The name of Electronic Arts has been heard.) Maybe you're not the best person to answer that, but do you think it will have an impact on the choices (design, style of games, etc)Ubisoft makes? I love Ubisoft because of the originality of their games and the great designs. They take risks, the dare to try things and I like them for that. Do you think it will change?

That's all for now. I'll be back.
Thanks for your time. You're a real inspiration to me.
"If only you could see what I've seen with your eyes..."
  06 June 2005

destroyfred:1- Tout d'abord je tiens à te féliciter pour tes travaux, qui sont vraiment de toute beauté. J'aime beaucoup ton style et ton univers graphique.
- TY!

destroyfred: 2- Je vois que tu as étudié ENSAD. Je voudrais savoir comment s'est déroulé cette formation et ce qu'elle t'as apporté. En es-tu satisfait ?
arctis: I would like to ask you a little question (that may interest only a few french dudes ) :- Did it help you to come from ENSAD, and if yes or no, why ?

- to be honest i really had difficult times at first at the ENSAD, but i still can't determine wether it was because of the personality i had at the time, or because of other factors from within the school. both i suppose, but let me develop.
unless the teaching over there has drastically changed, but i felt there was really a sort of "theory" syndrome happening in the school. no practice, no real technical theories, and teachers focused on the revolution of 68. then again, it was in 1990.

but i wouldn't want to consider them responsible for all the stuff i've probably done wrong during those years.
in 1990 i entered into a small preparatory school called "l'atelier de sevres". the training lasted a year, i worked like hell, never stopped, produced hundreds and hundreds of sketches, painting and illustrations. it was a productive year. i worked so much in order to pass the contests: and when the time came, i succeeded both at "olivier de serre" school and the ENSAD on the first year. i just had to chose. and of course, there was no hesitation as all the wise voices around advised me to chose the ENSAD. well it was publicly known that the ENSAD had quite a lot of financial resources anyway.
and when i arrived at the ENSAD, then everything went down. probably because we had been doing so much for the contest, and we were quite astonished to hear people telling you you could relax a bit, and that things were going normally slow.
i think it also comes from the fact that you had to personally do a lot more on your own, nobody was taking you by the hand. a bit like any conventionnal university.

on the positive side: i could be wrong arctis, but you would probably not be what you are today if you had not lived these moments. i am still asking myself the question to be honest.
true, when you arrive on the market, it's a fact that you feel you've got to catch up a lot compared to all the dudes who have been putting their technique up to date with an easier access to the industry. but it doesn't mean you have wasted you time during these years, as i am certain all the things you have learned are somewhere, maybe hidden, within your personality. but it's there somewhere for sure.
see, the fact of being directly confronted to the gaming industry does not allow you to experiment in unknown creative fields. i remember that because of the AII (atelier d'image et d'informatique, at the time ....) around 91 or 92, i was lucky enough being able to test digital media tools for the first time.
look at it the good way: we had more time to focus on non financial works and experiments.
there's a difference between forging yourself an artistic personnality and having the time to do so, and being up to date and competitive in the gaming industry.

still, i probably needed years to realize these facts.
let's consider ourselves lucky .....

destroyfred: 3- Je remarque également que, une fois de plus, un Francais s'expatrie à l'étranger pour travailler, et en particulier au canada. Je pense aussi en disant ca a Pascal Blanché, lui aussi chez ubisoft. Est-ce si difficile de trouver un emploi stable en France ou plutot, à l'inverse, est-ce si facile d'en trouver un au canada, ou meme dans d'autres pays ?
- well, just look around you and you'll realise there not much left for our kind of jobs in paris or france. ther's a reason why so many of us have been migrating to canada. there was an article in "lemonde" not long ago, that stated that the number of positions in the gaming industry in france, had been going down from 5000 five years ago, to 500 today.
i've got to admit that i am quite angry towards france for a lot of reasons, including the fact of refusing the european constitutional treaty for exemple. but when you look at it, it's completely connected to the whole economic situation. french peeps have always been like that... maybe something will be done when we'll have touched the bottom of the pit, if it isn't too late. complaining about the lack of jobs and austerity but not doing a thing about it, and certainly not looking abroad, which is unwise and childish. anyway....

the only thing i know is that the fact of going abroad is always a wise choice. it helps you to see and think different. it helps you to widen your creative horizon.
pascal blanche actually helped me a lot at first in order to prepare my move to ubisoft in 2003. he directed me to the right persons, and i will forever be thankfull towards him for this.

concerning canada, a lot has been hapening in montreal, especially because of ubisoft. (without forgetting all the other small studios as well as all the gaming industry connected to the city). it's a great place out here, much less stress than in paris.
i'm not really an expert concerning the market over here though. all i know is that it's a bit the same than in other countries ... you will have harder times coming here without having a job first.

4- Pour le moment j'ai un niveau relativement correct en dessin mais je pêche un peu au niveau du dessin. Et je souhaite donc m'améliorer le plus possible. Que pourrais-tu me conseiller pour apprendre par moi-même ? est-ce un bon point de départ de recopier énormément de dessins pour se créer une sorte de bibliothèque de références ? Ne fais-je pas au fur et a mesure devenir dépendant de ces références à tel point que j'aurai du mal à m'en détacher ? Car pour le moment je suis dans une école de 3D qui est plus axée technique qu'artistique.
- it really depends how you consider all these references, and to what point you're copying them. it is generally not a bad thing, if it helps you to slowly gain in confidence and technicity. the best advice i could give you is grab a sketch book or two, and go around drawing and sketching what you see. do so, even more if you feel that what you're doing now is too technically oriented.
sparth construct
  06 June 2005
Hands down, your digital work inspires me more than any other digital artist I've ever seen. I pour over your site from time to time to see what's new there.

I've only recently begun trying to paint digitally (Photoshop 7.0 and Wacom Intuos3) so my skill still needs a lot of development.

I have three questions (please forgive me)...

When I looked over the section of your site devoted to discussing your process, it seems as if you can turn out a piece at breakneck speed. How long does it take you to do a "finished" piece on average?


Your compositions are breathtaking... but the process section of your site gives the impression that you just miraculously pull those amazing compositions from throwing color of varying darkness down onto your canvass. What is your process for coming up with those amazing compositions.

and finally...

What I love most about your art is the impressionism feel to it. It amazes me how much information your pieces communicate despite the broad and often vague brush strokes. Try as hard as I can, I have been unable to create such wonderful implied detail. Can you give a young (well digitally young anyway) painter some tips on how you accomplish this?

Do you really just throw down color and shade and effortlessly throw down patches of color without first sketching out your composition.
  06 June 2005
Thanks Sparth,
The "theorical syndrome" was still present in ENSAD in 2002, be confident about it !
i agree with you about the need of looking beyond our native country's frontier. I'm not sure about it, but I have sometimes the feeling that in France, gifted people that don't work (but talk a lot) are better considered that guys who are doing the job on time, (and let their work speak for themselves). At the contrary, I have the impression (on english-speaking web forums) that american artists are proud to have worked hard to become what they are : They prize a lot hard work, while in EnSAD (in France ?), for ex, hard work is depised because it means you are laborious.(for them, laborious=heavy mind=non intellectual=crap for masses)
Do you have similar feeling ?
  06 June 2005
Hello, I'm an amateur in the 3D buisness- and heard some nice things about career opportunities at ubi.soft I have some questions::

1). How difficult is it handling people within Ubi.soft?

2). Ahem.. Know anything about Ubi's red headed stepson, Shadowbane?

3). ((Off Topic)) Opinion on Paul Martin?

4). This may have already been asked, but what programs do you use normally? Which ones do you prefer?

Thank you for reading my post, Sparth.
  06 June 2005
just want to thankyou for replying to my questions and comments in great detail.. thanks sparth. see you mate..

-= Man with One Chopstick , Go Hungry =-
  06 June 2005
Hi Sparth!

Do you like Camenbert cheese?
  06 June 2005
Hello Nicolas,

I thought of a few more questions. Here they are:

1) Well this is a novice question. I love how you give texture to your paintings. I read somewhere you scan actual painting and then composite it to your photoshop painting. My question is how do you blend it with the rest? Do you apply it to a new layer then play with the layer mode and oppacity? Or do you use it as a custom brush? How do you do it exactly?

2) Have you ever thought of doing a comic book? I'm sure some french comic book editors would love your style.

3) One of the multiple things that amaze me in your art is the sense of space, the gargantuan feel. How do you achieve that? Composition, attention to details...?

4) You've been doing a lot of book covers lately. Did you offer your services or did they come and ask you to work for them? Also, when you discover a book while wandering in your local library, how important is the cover art to you? (Peronaly, I would buy a rubish if the cover attracts me. It's stupid I know)

5) Something intrigues me in your personnal work (as opposite to your corporate stuff). While beeing very different from each other, all of your paintings seems to be part of the same universe. Your art is very coherent. Is it intentionnal? Don't you soemtimes think of bringing that world to live in another medium like animation (or comic books to loop back to my second question)

Last) Please, don't forget to tell us about the artists who insipre you. I'm realy interrested

Thanks a lot for the time you share with us.
Keep on amazing us.
"If only you could see what I've seen with your eyes..."
  06 June 2005
thanks very much Nicolas for your help which will be very invaluable for me. All this was very instructive. Good continuation in your professional life and all the remainder
  06 June 2005

first off i'd like to thank you. Like everybody else here I just love your work,
espescially how it looks all lose but still precise.

My first question is: you don't seem to use guidelines or something for your vanishing point in your process pictures on your homepage. How do you do your perspective? Just eyeballing?

Second: Most of your works seem to have a similar pallette. Do you have a fixed pallette or do you remix everything for every picture?

merci et bon soir,
  06 June 2005
thecleaner:I am interested to know what kind of formal Architectural studies you undertook. If non, then was it purely out of high interest in your environment, and those you visited, that you were able to produce works such as this? (theres others I highly admire, just an example of your excellent use of architectural disciplines)

Have you ever worked as an architectural concept designer, producing work for the billboards that go next to sites to show what they could look like, its what I'm interested in keeping up while studying Architecture at University. I think I could hold a great advantage if I were able to show clients conceptual art rather than just line plans which they cant make head nor tail of. I would charge for these ofcourse, but what do you think?

- i never really did any architectural studies. i did however, read a lot and explored a lot concerning this subject. architecture has always been a passion in the background, it has always been there. my parents have always been collecting books at home, thousands of books about everything, huge collections, and all the national geographics since the sixties or so. it sure helps too.

i remember that wim wenders released a pretty long movie in 91, called "jusqu'au bout du monde". and in that movie you had a few views of paris, the movie being supposed to happen in 1997 or so. and wim wenders added a tower in the paris skyline, a tower by jean nouvel which was supposed to be built in 96, but the construction never happened. the name of the tower was "la tour sans fin", but the project was abandoned.
i remember it was a great frustration, as this immense tower was amazing, and it would have been located at "la defense", which is the buisness district in paris, far from any haussmannian architecture.
today i regularly visit two amazing sites on the net, in order to be informed of what's going on concerning skyscrapers and buildings. and
both database are amazingly complete.

i think that your initial idea of doing architectural concepts as "virtual tours illustrations" is a great idea. 3d tools helps you a lot too for this matter. you can obtain very realistic and pleasant rendering by having a mix of both 2d and 3d techniques. it fits perfectly for anything related to architecture actually.
sparth construct
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