Nikola describes how a DVD inspired him to start drawing every day and led him to pursue a career as a concept artist
How did you get your current job?
I got into concept art after watching the extra materials on the Lord of the Rings DVDs where artists were shaping the film's landscape with a pencil and pad. From then I was hooked, and I've been drawing every day since.
After graduating, I was doing freelance work alongside a part-time job for about a year. After that, I started working as a runner for the visual effects company Framestore, but not long after that I was moved onto concept art work.
What are your main work activities?
The main activities stay the same in concept art - creating environments, characters, props and creatures.
Tasks such as painting, pitching, designing and problem-solving are all central to the role, but what changes drastically are the styles I work in. These vary depending on the job, and because of the changing styles and the need to constantly adapt, the learning never stops.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
The creativity and the collaboration are my favourite aspects of the job. Both are essential parts of my role - I get to think like a kid with the mental database of an adult, which I love.
What are the challenges?
You can't be precious about your work, as it's constantly critiqued and adapted. Having to quickly find solutions within the specific constraints of a project can be stressful, but ultimately very rewarding.
How relevant is your degree to your job?
My degree is in games art and design, so it's linked, however having a degree to work as a concept artist isn't necessary - if you're motivated, you can learn by yourself.
How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions?
Starting as a runner was a good way in to the industry. I was able to gain relevant work experience, while continuing to hone the art skills I'd developed during my studies.
It's important to have experience and strong skills before applying for runner positions though, as there isn't much time for practice once you're in the role.
My role as a concept artist hasn't really changed much, but the work varies a lot depending on the projects I'm working on. One of my long-term goals is to direct a short film.
Any advice for aspiring concept artists?
Work, work, work! If this is what you want to do, never give up and be persistent. Always go back to improving your artistic fundamentals, as these skills trump all else in concept art - composition, perspective, lighting, colour theory, anatomy, storytelling, shape and language are each vital, so continue to hone these skills whenever you can.
Also, work hard, but work smart - make sure that whatever you do is challenging you and pushing your skills forward in some way.