10 Questions with Kieran Lockwood
- You are currently a student in art school just getting started in your industry. Can you tell me how you feel about your experience at school and how you feel it is supporting you now as you move forward? Do you feel differently about the decision to go to art school and pursue a degree now that you are done with it than you did going in, and if so, in what ways?
Going to university was a brilliant decision, it’s taught me a lot about different industries such as games, film, and animation. I’ve learned a range of software and various techniques, so it has definitely been a useful experience. I don’t feel differently about my decision, but it has developed my career prospects.
Making friends and connections with other like-minded people has been a great experience because I have learned a lot from them and made me more open-minded and professional. It has developed crucial skills such as interpersonal skills, communication, etc. I’ve found it is important to not be a complete introvert. It’s a small world and you’re going to bump into these people further down the line. So be nice, connect and remind them you exist.
Although, in my personal opinion there are plenty of improvements that need to be made on my course. As a course rep, I have made aware mine and other students’ thoughts, though major changes are yet to be seen.
For example, I wish that we had a studio of our own that we are obligated to attend. With a 9-5 schedule at least 3 days a week rather than having the odd practical/lecture here and there dotted around the weekly timetable. In addition, we should have group feedback sessions weekly, so peers can spot improvements and suggestions that tutors may not have touched on.
I would also like to see changes to the marking criteria, both attendance and ‘effort’ should have a fair contribution to your final mark- this would enthuse students to come in and work every day. Attendance is the main reason we don’t have a packed weekly schedule which is frustrating for someone like me who is in class 100% of the time.
- You’ve told me you love games and Warhammer in particular. What about the industry captivates you and makes you want to be a part of it?
I have loved the hobby since I was a kid, contributing to something I love is important to me, being able to make other people and myself excited about new toys is the perfect role for me. Not only that but being in this industry means I can work in a studio, surrounded by like-minded creative individuals and being able to see each step of the process. A studio environment is so inspiring as everyone gets involved and is on hand to help each other out. Every day has something new and different to offer.
- What does it mean to you to be an artist? How does your decision to pursue your art as your means of income influence your identity and how you perceive yourself?
“Expressions is survival” – Haley Williams. This quote, I believe, answers the first question in itself. But to elaborate- Being able to feel and be creative is so important, it’s the sense of productivity and freedom to illustrate what excites you. In my case, expression is to visualize the craziest, darkest corners of the imagination and “express” my (not-so) inner child by bringing these ideas to life.
Doing something you love for a living IS living. I think it’s crucial to enjoy what you do every day and having a personal interest in the subject means you work better, create cooler shit better than someone that maybe isn’t as interested in the subject. Additionally, to get paid for drawing sadistic freaks and question my own sanity on a daily basis is just such an ideal world that I want to make for myself.
In terms of how it influences my perspective upon myself, it shows I’m serious and driven about my career path to dedicate myself to a creative role. It also means I have a further drive to improve and grow as an artist. It is one of the most, if not, the most challenging and competitive industry.
Also drawing fictional creatures is as close as I’m going to get to being a God…
- As a working artist, where do you feel the most inspired lately to dive in and create new work? Is it in projects that you are creating for others or personal pieces? Why do you feel that way?
Projects for others. This is because you have a set deadline and a consistently high standard is needed, you are on their time after all. Receiving a brief that is clear and concise is so exciting, seeing it before you, unthought of and waiting for you to visualize and explore. This is when I’m my most driven and inspired because I get a flood of ideas and I enjoy the process of breaking a brief down and extrapolating what I can and taking it further. Even thinking of how I can go the extra mile with it is exciting because it’s an opportunity to impress myself and the client/director.
- We all have strengths, and too often we are taught to hold back and not brag about them. Here’s permission to give yourself some much-deserved praise! What is something that you are really amazing at? What do you like about it, and how have you capitalized on that?
(inserts head up own ass) I realize I’m really proficient at quick iteration and thumbnailing, getting lots of ideas down and fast. I like how free and loose it is. You can interpret shapes and form in various ways that themselves create new ideas. I often impress my peers and tutors with how many I turn out with. From art college, I learned a great exercise called “Challenge 100” which has resonated with me time and time again. Basically, what you do is give yourself a time limit, say 1 hour. Then sketch out as many ideas as possible before the time is up. Simple and effective. Plus, after time is up you can go back and count them and feel proud that you have produced so many drawings. If you don’t get to 100, then you know you have to work faster!
It is the most fun part of concepting, so naturally, it has become my strongest skill in my opinion.
- On the opposite coin, we all have weaknesses, too. What is something that you feel you are bad or unskilled at? Why does it concern you? Have you taken steps to counteract the situation or improve your ability in this area?
(Removes head) Through feedback and practice, I’ve found my weakness lies within the final render of digital paintings. I’m constantly trying to improve my technique and polish, I love the feel and look of a sketch and I always want to keep the final design true to that. As it feels more hand-crafted. I almost always scan a sketch and work on top of it rather than doing a fine line art or painting in Photoshop. It’s a skill I definitely want to improve on as I want to display my ideas as fully realized illustrations. This summer I’m working on my painting technique and trying to improve my final polish across all subjects.
I’m not impressed by these artists who can create life-like renders of their characters etc. As they simply don’t look manmade. I much prefer to see someone’s sketchbook or speed paints over a final piece!
Also, as a concept artist, the final polish of an artifact is someone else’s job in the pipeline. It’s my job to get them there and inspire other designers and illustrators. I should improve this part of my skillset of course, but the skills I use more often I should keep my focus on.
- Now that you’ve been so brave to share an area you want to improve or feel a bit insecure about – what would your advice be to other artists who might be struggling with the same or a similar problem?
Speak to other artists and your tutors if any, ask them about their work process and learn from it. Ask someone to do a paint over of one of your images and always, always get constructive feedback! Take it ruthlessly and USE it. Brush your feelings about your art aside and think about it critically rather than personally. If you are worried about people saying ‘bad things’ about your art, you have to throw that idea out the window and let go of the personal connection you have developed with your artwork, see it as an area to improve on. If you’re in a similar position as me (student) get used to this level of feedback now. Because you won’t make it in the industry. Grow that thick skin and be open-minded about what people have to say about your work. And ask why!
- Let’s talk about how artists in university are experiencing burnout and feelings of overwhelm before they’ve even graduated from their programs. This is heartbreaking. As someone who is in the trenches, what is going on with young artists today? What is your perspective on why they are experiencing such feelings of despair and overwhelm, and how could we better support them?
This closely relates to my previous comment. A lot of students just are very vulnerable individuals. Especially artists. We seem to be more emotionally ‘active’ than others. I’ve seen it all; meltdowns, overwhelming stress, tears and even extreme extents that involve self-harm. These feelings stem from many different independent variables. Whether that be uni work, their flatmates or something completely different. There’s so much going on and there’s not enough being done about it. But in my experience, most of the time, you just have to suck it up and deal with it and get your work done. I don’t think many people take much enjoyment in what they’re doing and that’s why it’s so stressful and they don’t manage their time effectively, so they just end up burning out and then wonder why. Personally, I love my work and enjoy it as a whole. In fact, I don’t think my course gives me enough work. But of course, for others, this may not be the case.
In recent years there has been so much improvement in mental health awareness. As a result, it has become some sort of ‘meme’ and that having things like depression or anxiety is the trend? And if you don’t have something inherently wrong with you than you are seen as uninteresting or unrelatable. Of course, there are many cases where people are in fact suffering from such problems.
To solve these problems, it comes down to a few basic things really. Firstly, talk about it. Talk about it to someone who cares, who will actively listen and not just reply with “same lol”.
Realize you’re an adult now, self-development is really important if you want to make it. Take care of yourself and work on being a more mature open-minded person, this goes hand-in-hand with time management, organize your days/weeks and set your own deadlines to work up to the final one. Eating well and keeping fit improves more than just how your body feels, you’ll feel better in your head too.
- You’ve been diligent about reaching out to your connections and keeping the lines of communication open with people who might help you advance your career and get your foot in the door. How do you approach peers and potential employers? For those of us who haven’t been great at remembering to reach out for help and to remind people we are there – how would you tell them to talk to others that might help them get their start?
Research companies that produce the products you love. Find out who their current artists are. Email the artists and introduce yourself! If they’re based quite close to where you live or if you’re visiting their city, then ask to meet them! I’ve found many artists are willing to connect and meet people. Myself included (message me!). Bring your portfolio to get advice and feedback. Remember to pass on your card! After that, message them again and thank them for their time, we are professionals after all. If you’re lucky enough to meet with an Art Director or a Manager, make yourself a list of questions and try to impress them with your portfolio.
Don’t stop there either, arrange to meet them again or at least check in with them and remind them you exist!
- Right now you are in the midst of reaching out to potential employers to land a job in the field you’ve dreamed about since childhood. How are you supporting yourself financially and emotionally as you wait for the right offer to come in? What advice do you have for others who are in the same boat? What idea serves you the most and helps you feel the most optimistic and hopeful?
Fortunately, the student loan keeps me alive but I’m taking up part-time work and commissions where I can to help support me after university. Which I suggest you do if you’re in my position, save up as much as you can, especially in your final year as employment is around the corner! So, do yourself a favor and provide yourself with a safety net to get you started after graduation.
Emotionally I’m supporting myself by keeping myself productive and cutting loose ends, don’t let anyone or anything get in the way of your career. A career is for life. Don’t restrict yourself either, set your bar high and be ambitious!
- BONUS: What is a dream project you’d like to work on, and why?
My dream project would be visualizing a whole new extension on the Warhammer 40k universe. Whether that be a new faction or an entirely different era of the lore.
This would be an incredible opportunity to both make a large contribution to something amazing and to leave my own mark on the universe for future artists to call back to and recognize my work similar to John Blanche. He has brought the Warhammer universes to life. Games Workshop consistently uses his original work as a basis for future and current projects. I would love to bring Warhammer into the next generation.
No matter who you are or where you find yourself in your career - at the beginning, transitioning to another position, or even preparing for your first professional job, all artists face the same kinds of emotional challenges and fears around their artwork and promoting themselves.
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