I began my career in animation as a traditional background painter on Prince of Egypt. My skill set expanded with each movie, as color keys, lighting design, and layout design were added to my toolbox, so to speak. This all culminated with visual development for the films. Essentially, visual development and concept art perform the same function in terms of preproduction design for a film.
I’m very much into paintings that feel like there is a little bit of story or a greater context behind them. I’m always fascinated by ordinary scenes with an element of the extraordinary—or vice versa. And that’s what I tried to do with this painting. A peaceful moment as it could appear on a postcard, with a dash of badassness!
[To create this image,] I fantasized about war and battle and a good story to paint. The idea was to paint a strong female fighter who knows her limitations, not the type who beats twenty well-trained men, then dusts off her shoulders and walks away—not the Hollywood type of hero. A warrior that has feelings and needs to rest; she could be sad about something while taking a break.
Like most artists and illustrators, I’ve had an affinity for painting and drawing since early childhood days, I doodled a lot with my crayons, not to mention my teachers were always annoyed at me for drawing little critters instead of actually listening to what they were saying. But hey, it was so much more interesting than math and other stuff.
When working on a project, let’s say an illustration, in the beginning I always look for appropriate references. Then I pick and use the best of each reference I’ve found, selecting for mood, composition, and perspective, and I assemble them into my illustration. It’s part of my learning process. As time goes by, I’m getting used to it, and I work automatically based on what I learned from the references.
Music and movies inspire me most of all. Matte painting is my favorite genre at the moment, so I really enjoy the epic scenery in films, as I hope to be able to create works like that myself one day. I like reading books, so I draw a lot of inspiration from them as well.
The whole design clicked for me when I came up with the gills on her ribcage. I thought she could inhale regular air through these gills and breathe it out through her mouth as a sort of magic air that she could manipulate.
I like the dark. And have an affinity for the symbolic, the poetic. Things hinted at, the play between hidden and obscured, abstract and real. I like trees and bones and internal organs and birds. Also, I like things reduced to their most basic idea and shape, with all the excess stripped away.
Artists do tend to focus more on people and creatures, and environment art becomes almost secondary to these designs. Problem is, someone would have to take up this task! Almost 70% of concept art generated is environment concepts because of the vast number of levels and dungeons that have to be made for an entire game; for movies, every set and scene has to be illustrated, and people almost become scale references in those illustrations.
Hrvoje Bešlić is a Croatian artist specializing in digital painting who graduated in 2007 from the Art Academy Zagreb. He learned how to draw on paper and only got his first PC a few years ago. Long hours since then spent with his Wacom tablet have brought him a long way, as you can see from the gallery. He has an affinity for fantasy, and scenes where a fight is just around the corner.