Joe Hurley on Creating Cool Concept Art
Joe Hurley is a UK based concept artist. His work graces SEMI ZINE this week along with an interview where we spoke to him about his influences and work process. His influences range from heavy concept art and stylised work from the great french artist Moebius to the romantic, classical work of John Singer Sargent. We loved how he drew from classical styles like impressionism to create painterly and visually stimulating landscapes and characters. His work creates an almost 'in-universe' type style. Do these characters interact with each other in some way in their own universe? Asking questions like this we realised how easily Joe creates an emotive, creative and imaginative response from an audience, making you truly question how his universe unfolds and who is going to feature next in the 'Joe Hurley Universe'. His designs reminded us of great artists like Zedig and Gop Gap. He brings his own unique style to the concept art world - a style we're excited to see more of.
Abstract: There are so so many artists whose work I love and that inspire me every time I look online. The digital art community in particular are very generous and humble. Some of my favourite artists include Moebius, Daniel Chavez (his sketchbook is definitely worth buying!), Alexander ‘zedig’ Diboine, Gop Gap, Anthony Holden, Vince Aparo, Sergey Kolesov…
PW: Tell us more about you and your artwork.
JH: I’m Joe I’m a concept artist in the games industry. I work mainly on mobile and indie games at the moment. I like very stylised work and enjoy colourful and fun design, which is what I try to accomplish with my own work!
I’m also working on a graphic novel at the moment called ‘XAQ’. It’s about a ‘space mailman’ who delivers packages across the galaxy with his robotic sidekick ‘Presto’. The art is very stylised and isn’t anything like classic comic booky, super hero art.
PW: How did you plan for this project? What was your creative process?
JH: I didn’t! Contrary to what my job proposals say, I am very unorganised when it comes to my own work and more or less jumped head first into working on the story some days, painting and planning out panels and text the next day (all with a lot of help from friends who know more about story telling that I do.)
That said, I do like to sketch everything on a page out first, it looks really rough and it’s only a placeholder for what I want the page to look like (which often changes several times) but I find it helpful to have an idea of what I want it to look like before I start getting stuck into the painting.
I did also study the great Moebius’ ‘Arzach’ and ‘L’incal’ and tried to understand how he lays out his comics so well.
PW: What work inspires or has inspired you?
JH: There are so so many artists whose work I love and that inspire me every time I look online. The digital art community in particular are very generous and humble. Some of my favourite artists include Moebius, Daniel Chavez (his sketchbook is definitely worth buying!), Alexander ‘zedig’ Diboine, Gop Gap, Anthony Holden, Vince Aparo, Sergey Kolesov… There are way too many to name sorry!
These artists’ work is great to me for a number of different reasons, but I really just like how they paint and draw, and their approaches to design are inspiring to me.
I also always enjoy a cool robot.
PW: Are there any artistic movements you enjoy in particular and why?
JH: Besides digital art I’ve always liked impressionist painters for their colours and the way they approach painting, but I also really enjoy the work of old masters (not sure what movement they come under) like John Singer Sargent, Velasquez and Anders Zorn as you can learn so much from studying their work. They’re the best!
PW: Do you have any opinions or ideals underlying your art?
JH: Like my favourite artists, I enjoy trying to bring new ideas to classic design problems like “Draw a cool character” or “Make this game level more fun”. Trying to think outside the box is half of the job and is important in making cool art.
The closest thing I would have to an artistic ideal is to try and approach artistic problems with fresh and fun ideas. Besides drawing ability, I would say that is one of the most important things about concept art.
PW: What brushes, software and hardware do you use to create your beautiful drawings? Do you have any training techniques for in between work and projects? I’ve heard Kim Jung Gi draws every morning for a couple hours every day and has done since he decided he would draw for a living.
JH: His work is crazy! He would definitely be in the list above of favourite artists. Unfortunately, I’m not as disciplined as him and I don’t study in the mornings like that. I do however like to try new approaches to making concept art like photobashing, thumbnailing and playing with Photoshop layers and features are all ways to get new ideas for a painting or to get rid of art block.
I use an Intuos pro 5 and a laptop with photoshop, but what hardware and which program you use really doesn’t matter and it comes down to what you feel comfortable with. I know artists way better than me who use the cheapest Wacom you can get with free software!
PW: Any words for aspiring concept artists?
JH: When I was just starting out I asked one of my favourite artists ‘how do you become a concept artist?’
His response was more or less “Just keep drawing!”
This is kind of the perfect answer as there are hundreds of things you can worry about and get confused when starting getting into digital art but drawing is definitely the most important thing.
PW: Is there anything you’re currently working on?
JH: Apart from XAQ, I’ve been making concept art for an indie game which has been great. It’s mainly been character concepts so far, as well as some promotional art. I also got to design some bosses for it which was really great.
I love that Semi Zine is promoting upcoming artists the way it is and I am very honoured to have been featured here! Thanks so much and best wishes to the Semi Zine team!