Our divisions provide turnkey themed entertainment experiences →

  • Treehouse
    • Treehouse manages our master planning attraction design, executive production, and special venue development. Visit Treehouse
    • background image
  • Digital Media
    • Digital Media develops media, augmented reality and interactive experiences that ignite the imagination. Visit Digital Media
    • background image
  • Licensing
    • Licensing provides access to our unparalleled attraction systems, media content and intellectual property. Visit Licensing
    • background image

The Power of Illustration

The Power of Illustration

Experience Imagination | Episode 3

Show Host: Abhinav Narain – Project Coordinator

Studio Guests: Patrick Reilly – Senior Concept Designer, Adam Frank – Designer, Mike Wallace – Creative Director

Listen to The Power of Illustration on iTunes, Spotify, or Google Play

Artistic thoughts from behind the brush…

…Or from behind the pencil. Or digital pen. No matter the medium, concept artists working in Themed Entertainment play a crucial role in the conceptual process of any project. On this episode of Experience Imagination, we sat down with two of our Concept Artists and our Creative Director to discuss the unique challenges of being an artist in this industry and what the upcoming talent of tomorrow can do to rise above the competition.

About the Show:

Experience Imagination is a themed entertainment podcast presented by Falcon’s Creative Group. Every episode covers a new topic discussion with a panel of creative professionals. Tune in and subscribe on iTunes or GooglePlay.

The Power of Illustration Transcript:

Cecil Magpuri: You're listening to Experience Imagination, a themed entertainment design podcast presented by Falcon's Creative Group. Every episode we discuss a new topic with a panel of creative professionals. Hi, I'm Cecil Magpuri, President and Chief Creative Officer of Falcon's.

Abhinav Narain: Hey everybody. This is Abhinav our moderator for the episode. Hey Cecil, how's it going?

Cecil Magpuri: Good. How are you doing, Abhinav?

Abhinav Narain: Doing great.

Cecil Magpuri: Excellent.

Abhinav Narain: For this episode, we were talking about the power of illustration.

Cecil Magpuri: Oh, yes.

Abhinav Narain: Why is this topic important?

Cecil Magpuri: It's important because it's such a visual thing that we do, right? In entertainment, we're trying to entertain guest visually and orally, but in order for us to create what I consider instructions to build, we have to all be on the same page of what we're creating. So, like narrative, and scripts, and stories, we have that in parallel. We have also the visuals that have to reflect our vision. So, illustration is a key component to that. And there's so many layers to what we do when we talk about illustration.

Abhinav Narain: Absolutely. And who's joining us in this conversation?

Cecil Magpuri: Today who's joining us is our senior concept artist, Patrick Reilly.

Patrick Reilly: Good to be here.

Cecil Magpuri: Our concept artist, Adam Frank.

Adam Frank: How's it going?

Cecil Magpuri: And our creative director, Mike Wallace.

Mike Wallace: Hey, good to be back.

Abhinav Narain: Okay great, well we'll go ahead and get started, and we'll loop back for final thoughts with you, Cecil at the end of the conversation.

Cecil Magpuri: Perfect, sounds good.

Abhinav Narain: I wanted to start by actually taking a moment to first define all of the different types of art pieces that you guys do because when we think of art, we think of concept art, but it can be a bit more than that. So, could you guys help me kind of flesh out what are the different types of pieces that you normally work on?

Mike Wallace: We're in a brainstorming session. We're talking about a new project whatever that might be. You guys are already pads out, pencils in hand, you know, riffing off whatever we're talking about there.

Adam Frank: Already doing sketches.

Mike Wallace: Yeah, it comes back into your desk, I guess and you start to evolve it into what's necessary. I think the question at hand, though, is, we're doing concept art, we're doing character Look Dev, we're doing architectural illustration that's interior, exterior. We're doing key art, giant environmental show type pieces that are just meant to excite.

Abhinav Narain: Right.

Mike Wallace: We're doing pieces that are meant to inform, that are supposed to go to, you know, depending on whether you're sending this off to somebody who is the touchy-feely artist type or the builder-

Abhinav Narain: Yeah.

Mike Wallace: It's completely different-

Adam Frank: That's true.

Patrick Reilly: Yeah, very true.

Mike Wallace: Types of art.

Patrick Reilly: After we figure out, illustrating the actual story-

Abhinav Narain: Sure.

Patrick Reilly: You know rather than jumping right on characters and vehicle designs and stuff like that it's always fleshing out the visuals of the story first.

Adam Frank: Yeah, it seems like-

Patrick Reilly: Then, later on, you know, start figuring out what kind of characters you're going to do, and what style it's going to be. If it's going to be cartoony or more fantasy based, or whatever it is.

Adam Frank: Yeah, it seems like we start out on broader spectrum and kind of narrow it down as we need to get to where we need to-

Mike Wallace: Pick up the one thing that looks cool, and be "Oh let's go with that."

Adam Frank: Yeah let's go with that, yeah.

Abhinav Narain: So, as you jump around between piece to piece do you feel like there is a different process that you have to go through for each one, or even thought the medium is different, does it feel like a relatively steady process that is always the right ...

Adam Frank: Yeah, it's kind of like a subconscious thing I think with the process. Everybody does their process a little bit different but like in a way, it's all the same steps that you go through.

Abhinav Narain: Of course.

Patrick Reilly: The same steps, just different in style, mainly.

Adam Frank: Yep.

Patrick Reilly: To fit the project.

Abhinav Narain: Whether it's storyboards, whether it's concept art. Whether it's an illustrative plan, it usually starts ... it sounds like it starts from sketch to broader thumbnail, to then first pass-

Patrick Reilly: Yeah. Absolutely

Abhinav Narain: Then, final rendering?

Adam Frank: Yeah.

Patrick Reilly: Depending on the client, then, it's like changes or no changes. Revisions.

Adam Frank: Yeah. Many, many changes.

Patrick Reilly: Many, many revisions.

Mike Wallace: Watching you guys work, I feel like it does differ a little bit in the start depending on the timeline that we have and the type of piece-

Patrick Reilly: Yeah.

Mike Wallace: Again we're going back to that. If we have three days to get something out-

Patrick Reilly: Yeah, we're going to have to skip step three, four, and five.

Mike Wallace: Yeah.

Patrick Reilly: To get to six or something.

Mike Wallace: Yeah, and the effort of expediting that, it's better if the drafting team or modeling team or somebody gives you something to go off of. If we can even mass up what the exterior, what the interior, what the volume is-

Patrick Reilly: Sometimes, all it takes is just a rectangle or a box on an-

Mike Wallace: On a field.

Patrick Reilly: On an environment, that's it.

Mike Wallace: That's true.

Patrick Reilly: You know, just something to build off of.

Adam Frank: Honestly, stick figures really do quite a bit of storytelling.

Abhinav Narain That makes me feel very good because that's about all I can do.

Patrick Reilly: And that's usually what it starts with, stick figures in real word rough boards or thumbnails and that's-

Adam Frank: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I sometimes even start with just an abstract shape and kind of like, if I'm creating a landscape, usually create some type of very cool shape that has a lot of translucency to it or colors or value and contrast.

Mike Wallace: Well, that's a difference from the way that I have to start stuff. I can't come close to what you guys can do from a character environment standpoint but architectural rendering and plan rendering, that kind of stuff, almost always starts for me with a background or a collage of something else. Something that I've done before.

Patrick Reilly: Yeah.

Mike Wallace: If it's an Illuster master plan it's gonna start with, "Here, I know this piece from this other park worked really well." Or this thing that I had in my head that I sketched a long time ago and I'll lay that on and I'll kind of rearrange the pieces there to make sure the underlay makes sense spatially. Sounds like, I mean, you don't have to do that really. Compositionally, you might have to do that-

Adam Frank: Yeah.

Mike Wallace: But sometimes ...

Adam Frank: Yeah, we do kind of have free range of what we need to do with an art piece.

Patrick Riley: And I think that's similar to everybody, not just you. It's like when you recall something you've done before, it's like, even when we're in a meeting and they're laying out the idea for a new project it's like, everybody's mind always goes to something they've done in the past or something they've experienced in the past-

Mike Wallace: Totally true.

Adam Frank: They use that to lock on to that.

Mike Wallace: Something that's we've been trying to push into a project for the last ten years.

Adam Frank: Yeah.

Patrick Reilly: Yeah.

Mike Wallace: I'm gonna continue drawing this until it fits-

Adam Frank: Yeah and not there.

Abhinav Narain: Can we talk a little bit about the role that reference plays in the process because working with you, all of you guys, I know how big of a part of the plan that is.

Adam Frank: Yeah.

Abhinav Narain: Gathering reference images.

Patrick Reilly: Well, it usually first starts with getting a style and a look for it. And usually, in a meeting, we will refer to something else, like a movie or a game or something.

Abhinav Narain: Sure.

Patrick Reilly: Or even something ... not even a game or movie, just a period in time. Just to get an idea. And then we'll start doing research and getting reference images from that period of time or this specific movie or genre or something and then we build out from there.

Abhinav Narain: So if you're looking at a piece that you need to do and we start gathering references, what is usually the first thing that you're looking for? Is it color? Is it tone? Does it really depend that much on a case by case basis?

Adam Frank: I think it kind of goes back to the same way we start our process. That's the beginning process of it. We're thinking about the whole entire thing instead of thinking about maybe a color or specific shape or something like that. But it definitely goes along with the style and how it actually feels to us, I think. I think that has to be a lot of the basis of it but ...

Mike Wallace: I mean, for me to get my point across to you guys, it's always reference imagery. This room needs to feel like this-

Adam Frank: Yeah.

Mike Wallace: This space needs to feel like this. And it never really is taken one to one, which, obviously it should never be taken one to one. We're always trying to innovate and do the new thing here. But that is the quickest way to impart the intent without having to sit and do a rudimentary sketch or something like that. It is faster to grab that reference imagery which is why you find our reference folders are taking up 90% of the space on all of our servers all the time because it's hundreds and hundreds of photographs for every little bit of a thing that we work on, yeah.

Patrick Reilly: And also depends on the story. You know, if you have a darker story, you're gonna look for reference images at a more darker tone-

Mike Wallace: Yeah.

Patrick Reilly: Depending on what it is, or lighter tone, or cartoonier ...

Mike Wallace: Actually, it's never exactly this thing.

Adam Frank: Yeah.

Mike Wallace: The reference is almost always-

Patrick Reilly: Going ...

Mike Wallace: Feeling. It's emotional based-

Patrick Reilly: Yeah.

Mike Wallace: More than it is exacting.

Adam Frank: Yep. Absolutely.

Patrick Reilly: And you don't want it to be exactly like that.

Mike Wallace: Right.

Patrick Reilly: You just want that to get a feel for it and then you can start and branch off and do your own thing.

Adam Frank: I think that's the point we bring up movies and video games, too, is because when people play them or watch them, they get a certain feeling from them and you kind of want to feel that again in some type of other things. So it's like-

Patrick Reilly: Yeah, you stitch it together.

Adam Frank: Yeah.

Mike Wallace: It's helpful to have a studio full of nerds and whatnot.

Adam Frank: Yeah. Absolutely. Yeah.

Mike Wallace: That shorthand of, "Oh, it's like this movie. It's like this anime-"

Adam Frank: Yeah.

Mike Wallace: "It's like this game."

Patrick Reilly: Yeah. And there's always a part of the meeting where it's like, "Well, I'm trying to figure out this one style, this one look. I want to get this feeling across." And there's always somebody raises they're ..."Oh, I know what you're talking about."

Adam Frank: Yeah.

Patrick Reilly: "It's this movie or that-"

Adam Frank: Absolutely.

Patrick Reilly: "Video game or something like that."

Mike Wallace: And there's usually ... there might be one person in the room where you have to pull up a YouTube video to show ...

Adam Frank: Yeah.

Mike Wallace: Everybody else just gets it right away.

Abhinav Narain: No, but everybody loves that. Everybody wants to see it again.

Patrick Reilly: Of course.

Mike Wallace: Yeah. Exactly.

Adam Frank: You know we all get very excited when we start getting that rhythm going-

Abhinav Narain: You mean you haven't heard of this game? Oh my god.

Adam Frank: You know what I mean?

Mike Wallace: Oh, you have to play it.

Patrick Reilly: Go home and play this right now.

Adam Frank: Exactly.

Abhinav Narain: For research. For research.

Mike Wallace: Yeah. That's all of my video games. They're all research. Every movie that I-

Patrick Reilly: To be honest with you-

Adam Frank: Yeah. It's so much work.

Patrick Reilly: What project's that for? Oh, don't worry about it.

Abhinav Narain: How do you balance the challenge of evoking emotion in a piece verses evoking reality? And which is the greater challenge?

Adam Frank: Well, I think you have to figure out what your limits are on creating an attraction, how far you can go before it's like you know you can't go any further. It's just not possible with technology and stuff.

Abhinav Narain: Yes.

Adam Frank: So you want to get that middle ground reality and just ... right before it's you can't go any further on it and it's still within the realm of what we can do.

Abhinav Narain: There's a point where it becomes-

Adam Frank: Yeah.

Abhinav Narain: This would be ridiculous.

Adam Frank: Yeah.

Mike Wallace: Yeah. That's a unique feature I think of our studio where we're always designing for construction. We don't wanna-

Adam Frank: Yeah.

Mike Wallace: We're spinning our wheels if you're putting out concept art that, "Oh, this wall is floating." Well, no it's not. So we're not gonna show that to anybody.

Adam Frank: Yeah.

Abhinav Narain: It does sound like there's always that risk of-

Adam Frank: Yeah.

Abhinav Narain: You want to sell the project but you might be selling them on the wrong part of the project.

Adam Frank: Yeah.

Mike Wallace: Depends on who you're dealing with, too. If it's creative to creative, you can do that kind of thing. If it's creative to builder, you need to be showing them some more reality. If it's creator to executive owner of the client, they might only be interested in what is the flashiest, most ridiculous piece that-

Patrick Reilly: Yes.

Adam Frank: Absolutely.

Mike Wallace: I could put out. I can market with. It doesn't have to be real at all.

Patrick Reilly: Yeah.

Mike Wallace: It's purely about feeling and-

Patrick Reilly: Yeah doing your-

Mike Wallace: It's billboard-esque.

Patrick Reilly: We're not going to be able to get you this, you know, but we'll still be able to get the same emotion you would get-

Abhinav Narain: Yes.

Patrick Reilly: With this. And that's what's important. You can sell them on that.

Abhinav Narain: It's the feeling that makes you ... It's the feeling of the image that you're selling.

Adam Frank: Yeah. It's also a lot of knowing, doing research about your client beforehand, you know, and figuring out what they're interested in and just in general.

Mike Wallace: Well, what are their needs?

Adam Frank: Yes. Exactly.

Mike Wallace: Are they going to ... is the client gonna have to pitch this to somebody else? Are they gonna need to be able to sell your design without you in the room? Therefore, the art has to speak for itself or the art has to speak to something greater than that pitcher.

Adam Frank: Yeah. Absolutely.

Abhinav Narain: How do you tailor art for specific clients?

Mike Wallace: It's something that is never inherent in anybody.

Patrick Reilly: It's so many variables.

Adam Frank: Yeah.

Mike Wallace: You're never gonna come out of school or the first time you put pencil to paper, know how to do that. I think there's a process that kind of starts with sitting in client meetings, understanding the types of comments they make on art, to then start to-

Mike Wallace: ... the types of comments they make on art to then start to tailor it better in round two. It's almost impossible to do it in round one. More often than not, I would have a general idea of the type of thing that I'm making. If it's a dark ride, if it's an environment, if it's a character, whatever that might be, this is how I have proposed or positioned those things before. Let me do that. I felt it was successful, and let me put it in front of this client and get their reaction.

Mike Wallace: And then after that first reaction, now all of a sudden, oh, they gravitated to this image. Why? They gravitated to the color of it, the size of it, the scale of it, the emotional intent of it. And now all of a sudden every other image starts to slowly turn to look more like that one. And the next meeting that you have with that client, all of a sudden there is five things they like and only one that they don't, that kind of thing.

Patrick Reilly: So chipping away, you get to chip away what they don't like what they like. And eventually, it just funnels down into you start getting more focused on what they're looking for.

Mike Wallace: There's always, really, one stakeholder. You just have to identify him. Sometimes you have to wade through-

Patrick Reilly: And everybody thinks they're the stakeholder.

Mike Wallace: Oh, yeah, you have to wade through a lot of folks. But there's ... I've had past projects where there's three or four different levels of art direction and creative direction. But there's really one guy who gets to decide if that's the way it's gonna be or not.

Mike Wallace: Yeah, and there's usually one other person under them somewhere that kinda knows what they're thinking and then you can start to rely on that person, and they'll give you better insight. Doing it any other way, tailoring things to that second, third, and fourth middleman just means that you're gonna get to redo things a lot.

Patrick Reilly: Yeah, absolutely.

Adam Frank: And if you show the client something that's, in a way, way too unrealistic, or out of their expectation, you're gonna get them hyped up for something that isn't achievable. You can always have an abstract way of showing it to them. But like Mike was saying about having that construction, that structure, underneath it and having the understanding of, is this going to be built? That's a very important thing to think about.

Abhinav Narain: How does art and illustration in themed entertainment differ from other industries?

Adam Frank: I'll start with when I first graduated from college. When I graduated, I wanted to become a video game artist. I mean, I did an internship for a video game, and I was dead set on it. And then I started applying to video game studios and realized how oversaturated the video game studios were with concept artists. So then I applied to Falcon's Treehouse and had no idea what themed entertainment design would be. It's actually so diverse and just absolutely-

Patrick Reilly: It's actually similar to a video game.

Adam Frank: Yeah, it has everything in it. It has movie design. It has video game design. It has architectural design.

Patrick Reilly: Sound.

Adam Frank: Sound. I mean, and you get to have this whole collection of interesting ideas, you know what I mean, formulating. And they actually become a reality.

Patrick Reilly: It's actually better than a movie, 'cause, I mean it's immersive.

Adam Frank: Absolutely, yeah, it is.

Patrick Reilly: I mean, you have the movie aspect going on in there, but you also have environments that surround you. You have characters you can interact with. It's physical. It's-

Adam Frank: In a way, it combines every single bit of entertainment out there and puts it into one.

Mike Wallace: It redistributes the proportions a little bit. One of the things that I always see, when I'm interviewing new artists coming in, is their focus is so heavily on characters. It's always on what is the finite little detail thing? Like, "I'm gonna just design the hell out of this weapon or this face or this backpack," whatever it is.

Mike Wallace: And trying to pull them out of that and say, "Look, forget about that, where are they? Show me what the environment looks like. Show me what the buildings look like." That's usually where the bulk of our time is spent, is in designing place more so than thing. We get a little bit of it, especially in conjunction with our digital studio, where we're having to provide that pre-vis, pre-production service where we would-

Patrick Reilly: Yeah, that might be-

Mike Wallace: ... give 'em the idea of a character, would give 'em the idea of a prop. But the bulk of what we do is environmental, which is really different from what a lot of people focus on or like to focus on.

Abhinav Narain: Adam, when you were looking into being a game artist were you finding yourself kind of falling into that same pattern of being encouraged to draw more of the thing rather than the place?

Adam Frank: Yeah, absolutely. I think one of the things that video game artists mostly concentrate on is the development of the game. So there's just hundreds of sketches, and there's hundreds of character designs.

Mike Wallace: Props.

Adam Frank: Props, clothing, there's ... And I think the reason why they do that is because the games are ... there's a lot of depth to them usually. And you wanna explore. And you wanna check out stuff. I'll bring up Uncharted. I think that's a very good explanation for the character design and the environment that it goes in, because the character was designed to be a safari explorer. He's an explorer and a treasure hunter. And the environment fits that so well. And I think the whole story of it is just holistically sound.

Mike Wallace: It's where your focus is. Pat talks about comic book art. You're keyframing on a person's face or on a torso or something else.

Patrick Reilly: Yeah, but the next frame could be a mid-shot or an establishing shot or-

Adam Frank: Absolutely.

Mike Wallace: In a film, you're constantly doing these cuts to get the emotion out of somebody's face, or whatever it might be. Games like Uncharted, like the Assassin's Creed series, stuff like that, are more in line with what theme park design does, where the game is about the world. The park is about the world. The ride is about the world, more often than not. And it's better to have the 1,000-foot observational view of what's going on.

Patrick Reilly: And it's not just about creating the world. It also involves a character. Like you said, Uncharted, even though the environments change in Uncharted, and you go to different locations, it's still within ... it's like you're living this character's life. This is what his life involves. It's all these different places, but yet, they're still part of the same world.

Abhinav Narain: It feels like there's almost a layer of time that's involved. The comic book is very much one frozen moment, and you're trying to capture all the emotion that's there. A video game is you're trying to capture the emotion of an object. And the place, is really, you're trying to capture the emotion of, it almost feels like of the timeless quality of it, right?

Mike Wallace: If you design a place, it gives every guest the opportunity to develop their own story for what happens in that place, even if it's based on an IP, or it's based on something that people are very familiar with. When I'm in that place, it's about me.

Mike Wallace: In a theme park, you go wherever you want. Go climb the wall. Look through the window backwards. Stand on your head and look down this hallway. It doesn't matter, the detail is everywhere. The difference between being able to spin 360 and see the same environment, and turning around 180 and there being cameras, and scaffold, and microphone, and lights, and all that, breaking that immersion entirely.

Abhinav Narain: The next one that I have, color, do you normally find that color starts becoming an important part of the process early on or later? How frequently do you start with color? Or do you usually start with a black and white sketch?

Patrick Reilly: Usually, once I hear part of the story, or some, at least I know where the feel of the attraction is going, whether it's dark, or light, or light-hearted, or ... And that already starts getting me on a track of what kinda colors I'll be using. Something really dark, obviously, I'm gonna use blues, and aqua greens, and stuff like that. If it's gonna be light-hearted, I'll use bright colors, primary colors, and stuff like that or pastels, so, whatever.

Adam Frank: Yeah, I think that there's also a lot of, today's time, especially with the digital age, since we work mostly in Photoshop, it's kinda more accessible to choose what color options you like and get a better feeling about it, you know what I mean, based off of choosing several colors, several different iterations. You know what I mean? Even, it could just happen off of the first iteration, but I think what Pat was saying was it's based off of the feeling at first, and then you kinda refine it as it slowly goes on.

Abhinav Narain: What software do you use the most?

Patrick Reilly: Photoshop.

Mike Wallace: Photoshop.

Adam Frank: Photoshop, 100%. We use Illustrator too, just if you need to create something that's a vector image.

Mike Wallace: As a studio, we're using everything, signage, and graphics-

Adam Frank: Definitely the cutting edge.

Mike Wallace: ... might start in Photoshop, but have to move to Illustrator for production.

Patrick Reilly: Then when I started here, I was using Painter. Have you used Painter before?

Adam Frank: Mm-hmm (affirmative), yep.

Mike Wallace: Just MS Paint.

Patrick Reilly: Yeah. No, it's Painter, Corel Painter. That was actually a pretty good program. I mean, slowly, I moved over to Photoshop. I had used both at the one time. But it was more realistic textures and stuff like oil paintings and stuff. But the thing is, customizing your brush zone there, you'd be sitting there for a week just customizing because there were so many options. It was just like-

Mike Wallace: Was that something that you were using before coming here? You were using that for other-

Patrick Reilly: I was using that about 50/50 with Photoshop. There were certain things Photoshop couldn't do that I liked in Painter, and then I'd switch over to Photoshop. And I could save 'em and open the other one in Photoshop, continue, and whatever. But eventually, by the time I got here, Photoshop came out with some new features and stuff that kinda caught up with Painter, and I just totally switched to Photoshop.

Adam Frank: It's funny that, actually, he talks about that, 'cause switching back and forth between programs, I think that that's one big thing that our studio does. And I think when you said, "several programs" ... 'cause we don't technically stick with one program. I mean, I know there's several artists that do out there. But having that multiple range of mediums and programs, it really gives you the upper hand.

Abhinav Narain: Are companies looking for an iconic, crisp, visual style, or are they looking for a diversity in styles? What do you think is more appealing?

Patrick Reilly: Probably diversity, I would think so. That's just my opinion.

Mike Wallace: I think there's ... In a studio environment, very rarely are you the only person that's ever gonna work on a thing.

Patrick Reilly: Yeah, it's gonna pass through many hands.

Mike Wallace: Yeah, your style has to be able to adapt to other people's styles so that there's no loss of continuity among a design package or in a series of images or series of storyboards, because, yeah, there's never a guarantee that you're the only person that's ever gonna work on it. So being able to adapt your style, or at least kinda mimic to a reasonable extent somebody else's style, is very helpful.

Mike Wallace: I mean, I've found in the planning world there's really one look that everybody gravitates to and understands. And it's the line extension, the little bit of overlap, the little bit of wiggle, that general look, everybody just automatically associates, "Oh, that's a master plan."

Adam Frank: It's that aesthetic.

Mike Wallace: Yeah, but it was designed around feeling incomplete so that a client still has the idea of change or control. It feels architectural, for lack of a better term. I mean, people look at it and go, "Oh, that's structure. They know how to do structure."

Adam Frank: That's measured.

Mike Wallace: Right, and picking up on that style, it only took maybe six months or so in the industry before I realized that every single person-

Adam Frank: Was doing that style.

Mike Wallace: ... was doing that same thing. And there had to be a reason for it.

Adam Frank: I think everyone kind of influences each other, definitely, with their styles. And I remember I was, just this past year, one of my coworkers, Bruce and Patrick here, they'll send me an image that they just finished of a concept or an environment.

Adam Frank: They'll send me an image that they just finished of a concept or an environment or something like that, and in a way, you can learn quite a bit from the artist and it's kind of like master studying or master copies. We used to paint Leonardo da Vinci and a bunch, all those guys.

Mike Wallace: That was within the first couple of weeks as a scenic painting class in theater. It was always, make this wood texture, make this marble texture, make it in tablature, and then copy this piece of art. And how accurate can you get?

Adam Frank: Yep. It's about figuring out how they did it and then you sort of realize, as you're doing that, there's no step-by-step, they did this, they did that. There are but we're thinking about people who, back in the day, in the 18th century that didn't have a tutorial to tell you. You gotta figure it out yourself. It's a lot of experimenting and understanding it.

Abhinav Narain: It almost sounds like it's a little more about familiarizing yourself intuitively with the thought process. Absorbing the thought process so that you can then develop your own.

Adam Frank: One thing that I see people doing with master copies tends to be the wrong way to look at it, is, they just wanna copy what they see, and they don't copy by thinking about it.

Abhinav Narain: They're copying the final product, not the technique?

Adam Frank: Absolutely, yeah.

Abhinav Narain: Interesting.

Patrick Reilly: Now you can extrapolate how to apply it to different styles.

Mike Wallace: The modern day version of that is going into somebody else's file and looking at their layer structure.

Adam Frank: Absolutely, yeah.

Mike Wallace: Going into Photoshop and looking at how somebody else layers a file, you immediately know what they did and when.

Mike Wallace: It usually starts really organized and the background is super organized and it's folder-ed and it's colored and then the last hundred and fifty are just nonsense and random new new revision, new layer, layer thirty-seven, copy twenty.

Abhinav Narain: What would you look for in a portfolio?

Patrick Reilly: As we said earlier, I think it's diversity.

Adam Frank: It's style and content.

Patrick Reilly: It's style and content. When I was growing up and I started illustrating, I would go from one style, there was a point where I was like, get to comic books, and I'd do comic books up till I got to a point where I'm like, okay that's good enough, and then I'd move on to something like a Disney style, and then I'd move on to fantasy painting style, and then I'd move on to sci-fi or something else or pick an artist. I'd see an artist with a certain style and say, oh I wanna kinda get that same feel as this artist, so maybe I should practice his style for a while and then I can incorporate it into other styles and stuff, so just kinda doing a little bit of everything, 'cause we were talking earlier, I see a lot of kids doing just anime all the time and that's all they're gonna know. Unless you get a job that's specifically looking for anime, it's gonna be very hard.

Patrick Reilly: Diversity.

Adam Frank: Diversity.

Mike Wallace: It's a battle for a lot of students, now especially, as, from a job search perspective, unless you find the one studio that's looking for that exact thing, you're gonna be in trouble.

Mike Wallace: Even take theme parks. As a whole, there's a lot of work going on right now. But let's say there's twenty attractions that people would wanna be working on right now that are in development, they're in concept right now across the Disneys and the Universals and the Six Flags and SeaWorld, everybody. The chances that that one style that you have is the style that a creative director or an art director is looking for their ride is so remote-

Adam Frank: Yeah, it's very slim.

Patrick Reilly: And even if that is the style, that's it. Once you get that job, it's like that's it and you're moving on to something else. It's not gonna be that style again.

Mike Wallace: You're gonna freelance for the one gig and then you're out. Even, you look at the way that Disney has evolved over the last decade or so, they aren't even doing their own cartoons the way that they used to. They're gonna put an entire attraction in based on the most modern version of Mickey Mouse, which is not the one that we grew up with.

Adam Frank: Just don't get too comfortable. Keep challenging yourself.

Abhinav Narain: I got one more question to wrap us up. What art style comes most naturally to you? And what has been one of the most challenging? If you're doing multiple art styles.

Adam Frank: For me, it's realism. I've always had a keen eye for that. I feel like I can understand it. And then when I try and draw something more cartoonish, I can do it but it's very difficult for me.

Abhinav Narain: I would probably say cartoonish style and comic book-ish style's probably where I'm most comfortable. Linework.

Adam Frank: That's why we work better together.

Abhinav Narain: And then from that cartoonish style or comic book style I can add color and then all of the sudden slip right into fantasy painting 'cause all it is is you just get rid of the line work and then you have what you filled in with color and shading and tone and stuff.

Mike Wallace: The photo collage thing, I think, has been easier for me to do. If I have to convey the organization of an environment or a scene, it's easier to, I'm gonna build a model, I'm gonna mash some stuff on top of it and then give it to you guys as intent.

Patrick Reilly: I think it's been a real game-changer, the ability to photo mash stuff and just chop up photos and just come up with an image 'cause a lot of time we just don't have the time to do something illustrated and then paint it and stuff. It would just take twice as long. I was even recently working on a piece of key art and I'd started on it and I got half a day into it and I'm like, I'm not gonna have this done by...So I can just use what I could and scrap what I couldn't and just start chopping up photos and stuff. And in the end, you're a little disappointed that you didn't get to illustrate it yourself, but at the same time, what needs to be done needs to be done.

Adam Frank: Yeah, it is a time aspect.

Abhinav Narain: I think that about wraps us up. Thanks, everybody. We wanna thank our three panelists again for joining us on this terrific conversation. Cecil, what are your thoughts?

Cecil Magpuri: It was refreshing to hear the dialogue. Really nice to hear that they love our industry. For me, personally, that's a really good sign. Totally wanna echo their thoughts, though. It is truly, for me as well, knowing our industry embraces feature-film quality content and music, as well as architecture and interactive game design. It's all in one location.

Abhinav Narain: So many different disciplines, so many different layers of expertise from so many different places, it all comes together.

Cecil Magpuri: All comes together and take advantage of each other. The synergy. One of the things that I wanted to elevate also is the sequential art component.

Abhinav Narain: Storyboarding-

Cecil Magpuri: The storyboarding and how to create the sequence of events that happen and that's a key component as well that our team does, and that's an art in itself.

Abhinav Narain: It really is, absolutely. One thing that I loved about that conversation was how we got to talk to catering the level of detail and the style of your art to your audience. Even when art is such an internal, conceptual thing, you still have to be cognizant of who's seeing it. What are you trying to communicate? Is this something to get you excited about the overall concept, about a feeling? It's all communicating an overall vision, but it's speaking different languages even within the same image.

Cecil Magpuri: Yeah, and I think there are so many layers that people don't realize influence and is elevated through the imagery. The point of view, the lighting. One of our biggest things is our vendors embrace us a lot is that the theatrical lighting aspects. So our lighting vendors that help us support creating these brick and mortar environments love our illustrations 'cause it determines the temperature and color palate for them to start doing their job. So when Mike was talking about how important these assets are when we create these illustrations, they're tailored to multiple disciplines. One for the client to get inspired, one is also to the vendors who are gonna have to realize this and react to the vision, and all that with true foundations of do-ability. You talked about some of the profound illustrations that can happen but may not be realized because it's over-the-top. We're really good about that. We make sure that we do the underlays, for example, for some of the key are and Sketch-Up or Maya, making sure that the venue's scale is accurate before we go off and illustrate those key art pieces that kind of reflect the experience. So that's something that's a responsibility of ours when we deliver it so both the client and everyone who visualizes that asset understands what can actually be realized.

Abhinav Narain: And the sense that I get from you and from talking with those guys is that that's also the level of responsibility that we want to see in portfolios from you and upcoming artists.

Cecil Magpuri: That's true. That's a very good point. We typically look at portfolios to see if the potential and capabilities are there. Usually, a lot of the candidates don't get exposed to the profound nature of what we do from a brick and mortar standpoint. Some, like Adam, have gone from the video game industry-

Abhinav Narain: Fully virtual-

Cecil Magpuri: Exactly, which has no constraints on physics.

Abhinav Narain: It can, sometimes, but there's a lot of creative freedom.

Cecil Magpuri: Exactly. There is no life safety involved in creating an environment-

Abhinav Narain: Except maybe with VR.

Cecil Magpuri: Exactly.

Abhinav Narain: Don't trip over your chair.

Cecil Magpuri: Exactly. We look at it and we have to see if the candidate is capable of starting to learn about some of the design filters that we have to deal with, but that was really good dialogue. I really enjoyed it.

Abhinav Narain: Absolutely. Alright, well, we'll see you in the next episode.

Cecil Magpuri: That's great.

Cecil Magpuri: This has been Experience Imagination. For more information about this episode's discussion, be sure to visit our blog at falconscreativegroup.com. And don't forget to follow Falcon's Creative Group on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram. We'll see you next time. Thanks!

Schedule a Conversation

We'll share our insights and help you experience imagination with your project.