Edvige Faini is an Italian concept artist who works internationally for the entertainment industry. Her job is to create concepts, environment, and key frames for films, video games, and commercials. In collaboration with such design studios as New Fuel Studios and The Aaron Sims Company, her work is attached to some of Hollywood’s biggest productions of 2013-14, such as: 300: Rise of an Empire, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Hansel & Gretel, Maleficent, G.I. Joe, and Kull The Conqueror. Edvige Faini is currently employed at Ubisoft Singapore as a Concept Artist for the video game Assassin’s Creed. Her website is www.edvigefaini.com
Your painting Lost World is our cover art this month: two young explorers looking over a surreal alien landscape full of lush flora and fauna, complete with a tentacled airship floating serenely along. What is the story behind this piece? What were the ideas you were working on when you painted this?
Since I was little, painting was always an exigency. I think that choosing drawing as a means to communicate my emotions was an instinctive act and became the vehicle that carried me everywhere I wanted to be, to live, to adventure in, using art to explore worlds in a reality I could never find. (Sometimes, though, it is reality that seems to be unreal.) In other words, every drawing, every concept became for me a chance to escape from reality, from the boredom of life.
To guide me, it is often not ideas but emotions that I would like to feel and that I’d like the observer of my painting to feel. Every painting starts with an emotional thrill that is encoded in the image. In the case of Lost World, it was the sense of wonder and amazement generated by a vast and pristine space clearly situated in a world different from ours, inhabited by organic/robotic creatures.
I love the hard science fiction aspect to your work: an amazing vision of futuristic mechs and structures of enormous scope. Did you ever do any dabbling in engineering or architecture? What inspired your artistic direction? When did your fascination with science fiction and fantasy first start? Is there a movie or game or book from your childhood that first caught your imagination and inspired you?
Architecture and design have always fascinated me a lot. I had the opportunity to study the history of architecture and design and explore these disciplines throughout my school career, but always from a theoretical prospective. Concept art finally gave me the chance to shape all my visions and the knowledge I had absorbed and return it to what I’m painting.
I’m firmly convinced that every single element in my paintings come from the big suitcase of knowledge, notions, memories, and experiences accumulated in a lifetime. Books, travels, people I have known, the music I listened to, movies I saw, all helped in the formation of my imagination. I was so lucky to be raised by a couple of really open-minded parents, and they always encouraged me to be curious about things, to explore interests and passions, and to experience life.
Passion for movies was one of the things they shared with me and my brother since we were really young. My mother especially is a big science fiction lover, so that may explain things. I remember that we were allowed to stay up late at night to watch SF movies or series, while the other children in school could not, but only if was a cult movie or a cult director like Carpenter, Kubrick, Lucas, Spielberg, etc. And if I had to pick one movie that had the biggest impact in my childhood, as most of the children born at the turn of the ’70s/’80s, obviously it is the Star Wars saga, above all.
Quite a few big Hollywood movies owe their look to concept art you’ve created. You’ve worked on such movies as 300: Rise of an Empire, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Hansel & Gretel, Maleficent, G.I. Joe, Kull The Conqueror. And in the gaming industry you are currently doing concept art for Assassin’s Creed. When did you realize you were going to be a creator in the speculative fiction industry? Are there any events or individuals who helped to shape your direction and where you are now?
I still can’t believe I’m creating pieces for the entertainment industry; just two years ago that was just an unlikely dream. I feel like I’m still dreaming and I don’t want to wake up. I was working as an art director in the advertising field when I had the crazy idea to change my career and go study concept art. I remember that, within a few months, I had left my country, my family, and my friends to study at the Gnomon School in Los Angeles. I had barely enough money in my pocket to pay for school, but I had all my passion and all my desire to succeed. I worked so hard and learned so many things from the teachers and all the talented artists I met. It was totally an immersive experience.
At that time I was hungry to know and learn everything possible about concept art. I spent all my time drawing and studying to improve my skills and then, suddenly, a great opportunity presented itself: the chance to join the team of the Aaron Sims Company, one of the greatest production design studios in Hollywood. I can still remember how happy I was!
Learning directly from Aaron Sims and his great team of talented artists was a real honor for me and gave me the chance to become a professional concept designer. Truly one of the great experiences of my professional life. I learned how to be professional, how to deal with the industry pipeline, and I discovered just how much I love this job. If there was one person to thank for what I’ve become, it’s Aaron Sims, who at that time decided to believe in me and in my art.
For education, you graduated from Gnomon School of Visual Effects and received a degree in communication arts and illustration from the European Institute of Design. I noticed you have also studied fine art and photographic techniques; how do those last two fit into your creative arsenal? What other things do you do to further your education and skill set?
I got my degree in visual communication when I was just 21/22 years old, but I was still hungry to keep learning and studying. That hunger didn’t abandon me even after years and years. So I attended courses in fine art, photography, and also philosophy, which is one of my big passions. As I said before, I am convinced that all these ideas and experiences, even if they come from different fields of knowledge, influence my work.
Studying photography, for example, gave me a good understanding of composition and lightning. It taught me how to combine elements in a single frame to narrate a story.
I learned how to use a camera to catch atmospheres, details, and landscape, and all the pictures I take become material I use in my paintings. I’ve created a personal digital image bank that is an important part of my art. Also I believe that curiosity for ﬁne art, literature, philosophy, and architecture are the natural consequence of being born in a place like Italy, a country with a glorious history of art and culture, where art is literally everywhere! It is impossible not to be charmed and attracted by it.
Out of curiosity, is there any difference for you when you are working on a project that is science fiction vs. something more fantasy-based? Any shifts you have to make as an artist when painting scenes/characters from one to the other?
Honestly, there is no difference for me, or any shift I have to make. I mean, for me drawing is an instinctive act, something that happens naturally immediately after an idea or a description I received. The only principle to which I try to keep attached is: No matter if you have to draw a landscape, a character, or a creature, what is important is that it needs to breathe life to be believable. What that means is you need to be able to use your mind and your feelings to be in that place, with that creature, before and during the process of drawing it.
Who are some of your influences and inspirations? If you ever get stuck on a painting, what’s your preferred method for problem solving? What does a typical day look like for you?
Whoo, I have a big list of artists, books, movies, and more that influence me! Most of my influences come (obviously) from the fine art, concept art, and illustration world. Basically, what strikes me is the ability to give perfectly, through mastery of the technique, a perfect vision of something that has never been imagined. It can be an environment, a creature, or a starship. It can be anything. I used to consult lots of portfolios every day, and I did not make a distinction between traditional artists, 3D artists, matte painters, creature designers, environmental designers, or comic book artists, because I think that the more differentiated your sources of inspirations are, the better your imagination becomes. And if I happen to get stuck on a painting I usually take a break from the piece to get relaxed, consulting some art book from my library. Many times inspiration can come from a very small detail noticed in an image or picture.
Concerning a typical day in my life: Currently I’m working full time at Ubisoft Singapore, so most of my time is dedicated to my job, which consists of providing high quality concept pieces. I consider myself a lucky person for the simple fact that my job coincides with my passion, so even if I have to work 8-9 hours every day it doesn’t really feel like “work.” It’s more like a child playing with a favorite toy. And it’s my intent to preserve in my work that same passion and seriousness with which that child plays with their toy.
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