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Old 04-01-2014, 06:18 AM   #1
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Meet The Artist :: Nate Hallinan




We'd like to welcome our first guest artist for April - Nate Hallinan . Nate is a concept artist working in 2d who will be well known to some of our regular visitors for his amazing, almost photo-realistic concept art. He places his wonderful characters and creatures in their natural environments to enhance this believability. But Nate creates more than just beautiful creatures. Some of his work is inspired by popular culture, and he's also created commissions for companies like Coca-Cola, as well as the up-coming feature film, "Dust".

Nate began his career working in 3D before moving to 2D, and he worked for a number of games companies in a 3D modelling and texturing capacity before landing a job at lead concept artist at Supergenius Studio working on a variety of video game projects for Marvel, Telltale Games and more.

In 2011, Nate was offered an opportunity to work with Microsoft Games as a senior concept artist. He was responsible for early style, IP, and content development for several projects. One of those projects ended up being the innovative game Project Spark. Since Microsoft, Nate has continued stay busy as a contract/freelance artist for film and commercials in addition to video games.

We've begun by asking Nate some questions below, but feel free to pitch in on this thread and ask him whatever you like! There will be a live webinar session at 6pm PDT (LA Time) on Monday 14th April 2014. Registration essential - click here to sign up.

Also, you can learn from Nate - he's running a CGWorkshop with us beginning in May on the techniques he uses to create his unique style of concept art. Find out more here .




1. What inspired you to become an artist? Is it something you've wanted to do from a young age?

It basically came down to just wanting to have a job I would enjoy. Although, I never considered becoming an artist when I was young. I was always told that outdated and misleading anecdotal term; “starving artist.” Obviously I didn't want to grow up to starve. However, I loved to draw in my free time. Giving me a pencil and paper was something that occupied me for hours as a little kid. When I wasn't drawing, I was playing outside with my friends with a very active imagination.

By the time I went off to college there were a lot of careers I had considered, but I couldn't really decide on one. I started out taking a lot of courses focused in biology because that was something I had enjoyed in high school. Coincidentally, the biology classes I took still continue to be an invaluable source of inspiration for all the creature and environment designs I've done. Unfortunately, in high school I never took any art classes, but when I was given the opportunity in college, I jumped for it. Those classes ultimately rekindled my affinity for art. I couldn't deny it any longer and it became clear what it was I wanted to do. I started talking with my instructors and researching realistic art career options. After all that time, I realized the answer was there all long and it was something I had been doing most of my life. That's basically when I started down my path of becoming a professional artist.



2. Why did you focus on concept art? What made you head in that direction?

As I had mentioned before, I began researching artistic career options in college. It was around 2002-2003 when I discovered the work of Feng Zhu. Understanding what he did as a concept artist opened up a whole new world to me. I found a person who was getting paid to do something I had done most of my life. Lightening struck and I realized I wanted to be a concept artist too.

Growing up, some kids liked to draw action scenes, like in comic books, and other kids enjoyed sketching things from real life. There are numerous subject matters that kids gravitate to, but coming up with ideas and trying new designs was what I relished. I remember when I was little how I used to try to come up with alternate stormtrooper suits from Star Wars. My friends and I would even have these brainstorming sessions where we would come up with tons of ideas and we would sketch them all out. Concept art just ended up being the natural course to take.



3. You've become well known for your photorealistic 'Is that really 2D?" feel to your work. How long has it taken you to achieve this?

I had been working professionally for about 3 years as a concept artist when I felt like I created something that made people say, “Is that really 2D?" In fact, many people (and websites) assumed Smurf Sighting was 3D and I think there are some that still do. At first it was a little frustrating that my painting ability wasn't consistently acknowledged, but by the same token, it was gratifying the painting was so convincing. I still get emails every once in a while from various potential clients asking for 3D work. I hate turning them away, but that's how it goes.



Finishing Smurf Sighting was huge for me because it was the first time I felt like I artistically executed exactly what I imagined. The whole purpose behind it was to push myself as far as I possibly could. I didn't care how long it took me, I just wanted to see how far my painting ability could go. The background and character were all completely painted without any overlayed photo textures. I consciously did that so I wouldn't cheat myself out of learning how to create the details from scratch. There were a lot of things I painted over and over until it felt right, and that was part of why it took so long. It took about two weeks to complete the image. However, I did use one photographic element in the image, and that is the mossy conk he's walking on. I did that so I could paint him against something realistic and use it as reference for the level of detail I was aiming for. However, I ended up painting over most of the photo because it was taken on a muted cloudy day. All the dappled sunlight, shadows, grass and other details are things I painted onto it.

It's been a few years since I created Smurf Sighting and I've come a long way since then. Depending on the complexity of the subject, it usually only takes me a few hours to a couple of days to paint a realistic creature or character now. Production schedules are very time sensitive and speeding up my painting process was a necessity.






4. Can you tell us about the career achievements to date that mean the most to you, and why?

I've worked at a few studios, but being promoted to Lead Concept Artist at Supergenius Studio was a big step in my career. Not only was I providing concept and illustrative work for various projects, but I was responsible for the quality and output of the 2D department as well. It was an invaluable experience for me. They helped me become a better artist and imbued great business ethics that I continue to strive for. It was an honor to be a small part of their early development as a successful company.

Designing the Coca-Cola© Polar Bears for the 2012 Superbowl was significant to me for a couple reasons. First, it was a Superbowl commercial, and second, it was the iconic Coca-Cola© Polar bears. It was a really quick turnover too: over 20 character sketch designs for various arctic animals and three realistically painted and staged final designs all completed in three days.





It surprises some people when they hear that I haven't done much film work. It’s definitely not for lack of trying, but working with Ember Lab on the upcoming short film Dust was the first time I got to design creatures for a live action film. It was an amazing experience, and it only solidified my desire to do more film work. It was an incredibly fun project, and the crew at Ember Lab were a great group to collaborate with. They had a clear and imaginative vision, and I would jump at the opportunity to work with them again.



The various times I've gone a little viral with my personal work were also pretty huge for me. The first time was with Smurf Sighting, the second was The Order of X, and more recently my realistic interpretations of The Legend of Zelda creatures: The Hyrule Bestiary (which I'm still working on). Work can still be challenging at times, and it's good to take a break and create things that renew my love for making art in the first place. It's awesome to have people like your professional work, but it feels incredibly gratifying to have people commend my personal work. It just feels great to connect to so many people who enjoy my artistic skill, style, and overall vision. That is why I'm going to start working on a completely original and personal project shortly, so keep an ear out.




5. What are you working on right now?

I am currently working on an undisclosed video game project with Mothership-Entertainment. I can't really say anything about it yet, but it's a really fun project and I can't wait to show people. The genre of concepts will be pretty different from what I've done so far. I'm also working on the new 2D Concept Art - Creature Design workshop I'll be teaching here at CGSociety. If that wasn't enough, I'm also in the process of relocating to LA and should be there at the end of April. I can't wait to get down there, and I know there's some exciting stuff on the horizon.

Please make Nate feel welcome by asking him questions in this thread - he'll log in and answer.
 
Old 04-01-2014, 06:17 PM   #2
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I'll start the ball rolling by saying thank you to CG Society for featuring me on Meet the Artist. I've been a long time visitor and contributor and its an honor to have made it to this point. I'm working on a few projects, but I'll keep this window open and refreshed for any questions that pop up. Feel free to ask me anything about my work or my upcoming workshop 2D Concept Art – Creature Design.
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Old 04-02-2014, 01:57 PM   #3
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Not too many real questions from my side but I thought it would be nice just to write a message to Nate and say Hi. :P Also I'd like to thank CGSociety for brining over such talented people to the workshop and giving us all an equal opportunity to ask question to these rare and extradionary people they have as guests in their workshops.
 
Old 04-03-2014, 07:44 AM   #4
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Hey Nate, I love your work!

I always wonder how much reference and "cheating" people use to create work like yours.
Do you gather reference first and compose it to have a rough vision of your final goal or do you use photographs as texture base? (like Feng Zhu does in some of his images)

What do you think about creating rough 3D renders to block out the composition and help with perspective? (Either as reference or to use it as a base image to paint over?)

And if you don't use these "cheats", what do you think about people who do? Does this hurt the artistic understanding or is it a viable technique in your opinion? (Especially in production, where deadlines are too tight to work from scratch?)
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Old 04-03-2014, 08:41 PM   #5
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Old 04-04-2014, 06:21 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nightmare106
Not too many real questions from my side but I thought it would be nice just to write a message to Nate and say Hi. :P Also I'd like to thank CGSociety for brining over such talented people to the workshop and giving us all an equal opportunity to ask question to these rare and extradionary people they have as guests in their workshops.

Thank you very much!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Zykras
Hey Nate, I love your work!

I always wonder how much reference and "cheating" people use to create work like yours.
Do you gather reference first and compose it to have a rough vision of your final goal or do you use photographs as texture base? (like Feng Zhu does in some of his images)

What do you think about creating rough 3D renders to block out the composition and help with perspective? (Either as reference or to use it as a base image to paint over?)

And if you don't use these "cheats", what do you think about people who do? Does this hurt the artistic understanding or is it a viable technique in your opinion? (Especially in production, where deadlines are too tight to work from scratch?)

Thank you and great question! The amount of reference used always varies across artists. I'll start off by saying reference is not cheating, it's a necessary tool. Most if not all professionals use it at some point in their career. I've only heard it used that way by people outside or new to the industry.

I'll explaining the process I use most often. For concepts or illustrations, I generally start off with painted thumbnails or sketches. IF I feel like I need references (sometimes I don't), I'll usually gather them right after the the sketch or thumbnail stage. After that, I'll start painting (blocking out shapes and values), glancing ever so often over at my references on the other screen. Once I've blocked out values and shapes to my satisfaction, I'll begin detailing. Detailing consists of me either painting the fine details or using photo textures in addition to painting the fine details. Photos are a tool (sometimes very necessary) to speed up the process.

The reasons to use photos and how to use them are kind of subjective and circumstantial. I don't think it's cheating if you use a photo to complete an image when you already have the skills to paint that image. In other words, if you can't paint something without using or depending on a photograph then your cheating yourself. If your using photo as a tool to complete an image quicker or as a method to experiment with different results, then its just part of the process. Bottom line, if your painting looks amazing, I don't care how you got there, it doesn't change the fact that it still looks amazing. It still took a strong artistic eye to get to that point.

Using 3D to block out an image is a commonly used technique especially in matte painting and environment design. I've used it on a few occasions, one where the client specifically needed it done for a 3D commercial and another for a video game where the city was already blocked out.

Every professional concept artist, modeler and animator uses some form of reference when they work. Maybe not on every single job, but at some, they'll have to. This world/universe/reality is filled with an almost infinite amount of things. There is no way any one person can contain all that stuff in their head. Using reference, in my opinion, is not only necessary its common sense. On the flip side though, you don't want to become hostage always depending on reference. If you study artistic fundamentals; anatomy, color theory, composition, etc. etc. you won't become hostage to always needing reference for the most basic and commonly used things. Knowing those fundamentals will save you time as well. Don't work harder work smarter.


Quote:
Originally Posted by JayHoo
last picture: Jean Luc Picard aka Patrick Stewart

aka Lord Charles Xaiver.
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Old 04-04-2014, 01:21 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JayHoo
last picture: Jean Luc Picard aka Patrick Stewart


Umm, I think you mean, Professor Xavier....
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Old 04-04-2014, 01:24 PM   #8
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I have one question, Nate: What size is your typical page when you're working on a painting? With such incredible detail I can only imagine it must be, what, three times larger than the intended viewing size?
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Old 04-06-2014, 09:45 AM   #9
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One question regarding workshop:

Is course will be focused only on character design and painting OR
also on environment, scene and details outside of character?
 
Old 04-06-2014, 11:30 AM   #10
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I read curiculum but curious to know will that two be in balanced ratio or not.
 
Old 04-07-2014, 08:10 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by goilo
Umm, I think you mean, Professor Xavier....

Nope, I meant Lord Charles Xavier. http://natehallinan.com/lordxavier/

If you haven't already check out my Order of X series. A re-imagining of the X-Men in a fantasy Genre. http://natehallinan.com/orderofx/

Quote:
Originally Posted by goilo
I have one question, Nate: What size is your typical page when you're working on a painting? With such incredible detail I can only imagine it must be, what, three times larger than the intended viewing size?

My rule of thumb is make it at least 2x as large as I want the finals results. You're right though, I generally like to 3x or more if my computer can handle it. The longest width or height of any image is generally around 4k-6k pixels. This gives me the freedom to print at decent sizes without losing quality.

Quote:
Originally Posted by snupi977
One question regarding workshop:

Is course will be focused only on character design and painting OR
also on environment, scene and details outside of character?

I read curiculum but curious to know will that two be in balanced ratio or not.

I'm still working on finalizing the curriculum, but it shouldn't change that much from what you read. Right now students will focus on design and ideation for the first 4 weeks and developing/painting their final concept for the last 4 weeks. The first week of the four last weeks (week 5) will focus on staging your creature which is pretty much where they paint a simple but believable environment for the creature to exist in. Less focus will be on the design of the environment and more on the quality of how it is painted. The polar bear, Niddler (monkey-bird), and the Anuran Warrior (frog dude) images above are good examples of those “simple” environments.
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Old 04-09-2014, 03:10 AM   #12
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Live webinar time with Nate

Hi all -

We've finalized a time for the live Meet-The-Artist session - next Monday 14th April at 6pm PDT (LA Time). You can log in from anywhere in the world. Registrations essential - click here to register.
 
Old 04-09-2014, 04:35 PM   #13
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Hey Nate..

I would not regret joining the workshop but i would like to pull the best from it...

My drawings could be defined as ``surreal``, slihtly ``visionary``
( currently this is my scope of interest) and i am wondering if i could fit in and really learn something which will be helpful for my intentions..

check out this link:

http://www.sendspace.com/file/8zq7fy (rar in it with jpg`s)

and u can see some of my works which i want to push further and develop real qualities like texture, deepness and real feel

So question is: Do you think workshop could be for me?

Sorry if i misunderstood something,and not to miss: your work is awesome!

Last edited by snupi977 : 04-11-2014 at 06:16 PM.
 
Old 04-10-2014, 03:37 PM   #14
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Hi Nate Nice to meet you!

Hi Nate,

I'm really looking forward to taking your course in May, however i'm curious if there will be others on the year. My wife is delivering on May 2nd, and so I will be balancing working and being a new time Dad! Will you be teaching the same course later on in the year?

Please let me know, Thank you!

Also if your interested in seeing some of my work please visit www.alexantoniou.com
It's a little dated at this point, but I hope to change that near the end of the year.

aleX
 
Old 04-15-2014, 03:16 AM   #15
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Link to the live webinar

If you missed our live Meet-The-Artist session with Nate, here's the recording.

It's mostly audio, so put your headphones on while you work:

 
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