In this edition of our bi-weekly developer interview, our community team took the opportunity to sit down with concept artist for Galaxy in Turmoil- Zora Lenz Kastner.
(Pictured Above: Zora)
So, Zora, introduce yourself if you will?
I’m Zora, 28 years old, I’m German but I have lived in the French part of Canada since March. I studied scenery painting and have worked for some movies in the past. After that, I decided to switch to digital arts and video games. This line of work is much cooler.
You worked on movies? That’s very impressive, any that we might have heard of?
Just a couple of German ones you definitely haven’t heard of (one of them was shown at the Berlinale). Oh, and also one movie from an American film artist (Reynold Reynolds).
How did you find yourself in this line of work?
Well, many happy accidents brought me here. I always wanted to be a zookeeper but I didn’t have the strength for it. I often painted as a child and I’ve always enjoyed video games. I used to play them a lot with my mother. One day, I got the chance to test my scenery painting skills and then I started as a trainee. I finished and got some small jobs in that direction, although I felt that this was definitely not what I wanted to do (I got rather fed up of the work). I then went on to work as gamemaster for an exit-game-company, matte painter for a film production company and I also taught myself 3D and even made a 3D-model for a movie. I then met my husband (who is an extremely good concept artist) and then I realized, that’s exactly what I want to do as well.
That’s certainly quite a journey! You said you prefer “digital arts and video games” now. Since that covers a very broad amount of things, could you perhaps specify what it is you do at Frontwire Studios?
Concept art. The majority of my work has been character design, but now I’m starting work on some props. I would also like to make some environments but I still have to learn a lot in that field, so maybe later?
(Alex portrait – Credit : Zora)
What is the general aesthetic that you have being going for with these characters?
Well, my biggest inspiration are the concepts of my husband (cheesy, I know), art nouveau and the stuff from Sergi Brosa. So I try to find my own unique style whilst still taking some inspiration from these art styles.
What would you recommend to aspiring artists to help realize their passion?
I couldn’t afford a graphics tablet in the beginning, but there was still pen and paper! You can learn a lot with those. Go to live drawings (very important) and meet people with the same interest. Always search for new idols to draw inspiration from. Always be willing to try other mediums, like photography for example. That could give you interesting and helpful input for your actual field of choice.
Tell us about your initial experience with Frontwire Studios including how you ended up working there.
Well, actually my husband was asked if he would like to be a concept artist here, but as he was already employed elsewhere, he asked if I would like to do it instead. So Frontwire Studios wrote to me and they were very happy with my test concept. And now, I’m very happy that they have given me the chance to prove and improve myself whilst actually working on a real project.
That’s a rather fortunate turn of events!
Yes, a happy accident; a common occurrence in my life!
What would you consider to be a common mistake in your profession? Something that you plan to go out of your way to avoid in your work on Galaxy in Turmoil?
I never want to think that I’m already good enough, I still have so much to learn. I want to take criticism as something good and don’t want to be ashamed when I have to make corrections. I always want to ask myself if the concepts that I come up with really have something to do with the overall style of the project. I would say the biggest mistake I often see others make is that they think that they can’t get better, that they’ve hit their ceiling and as a result, they decided to stop learning. But there is always room for improvement! Hopefully I can see these improvements in my own work whilst I’m contributing to Galaxy in Turmoil. I don’t want to give you the best I can, I want to become better for you.
(Catching a Star – Credit : Zora)
Are there any games/films/TV shows/works of art that acted as an inspiration for the character designs that you’ve been working on for Galaxy in Turmoil?
Not really. I sure looked at a lot of sci-fi art before I started working on the concepts. First Star Wars, but then more and more different stuff. Nothing in particular. Just browsing through a lot of futuristic artwork and concepts. Sometimes I still look for new inspirations, but I am absolutely wary of copying anything. I want to do my own thing and so I lock other artists’ work away before I start drawing. But what I find really helps is listening to sci-fi music whilst working. Music is a big source of inspiration for me.
What do you listen to while working?
Mostly soundtracks from movies or games, such as: Tron, Moon, Fifth Element, Interstellar, Transistor, No Mans Sky. Sometimes just ambient music that fits?
How much control would you say you personally have over design direction, and on a similar note: how would you describe the overall design direction?
To combine that: there doesn’t seem to be a fixed style guide for now since everything is new and exciting and the writers themselves seem to be very open to new ideas. That gives me a lot of control over the style of my own work. I just do what my head comes up with. But soon enough, that will change, which is also very good. At some point, I’d be happy to get more instructions. For now, I’m just happy that I can just freak out and try new things.
In terms of character design, what do you feel is the largest obstacle you’ve needed to overcome?
Well, my initial designs didn’t fit in with the sci-fi theme. So I had to try something that I’d never done before since I stuck to medieval fantasy up until then. But that was actually something I was very happy about. Like I said, always try something new to get better. I was happy to be forced to do something I thought I wasn’t capable of.
Let’s have a look at some of the character designs you’ve done for Galaxy in Turmoil.
I’m impressed by the fact you’ve managed to create designs that look otherworldly but also practical, which is an aspect I feel many “otherworldly” designs lack.
Well, sometimes it seems to be one of those bad habits I have; try to get everything looking practical. It often keeps me from trying some more crazy stuff because everything has to function.
I’d consider it to be a virtue rather than a bad habit.
It really depends on the task, but yes, in general I like the things looking more like they could really work.
(Zora working on ‘La Belle Rosine’)
I’ve notice on your blog that you do archery. That’s rather cool.
Yeah, I’ve participated in live action role playing games for a while and played as an archer. I still love it and would like to do it on a more professional basis.
By the way I’m always happy about visitors on my blog. I designed a funny game with a UI-like interface and yes, I also tried HTML and even C++ when I was younger.
To finish off, if you could sneak an Easter egg into Galaxy in Turmoil what would it be?
Well, something that relates to the game and the background. Since it was originally a Star Wars based game, I would show obeisance to the franchise with a little nod to it perhaps.