Environment designer, Ayan Nag, shares insights about the nature of working in this arena and related learnings gained through the work process.
CG. To start with, could you please tell us about Environment Design as a genre and elaborate on the intricate aspects it involves?
Ayan: Environment Design is an umbrella term just like Concept Art. In general, this is a process where we plan and execute the surroundings of a given scene. From designing the colour, mood, shape and language to designing the props, everything falls under this category.
A lot of the time, these individual aspects would be undertaken by different artists and teams. Early into a project, just a handful of artists might be handling multiple aspects of the process. For example, a team of 2-3 artists could be undertaking the whole design process. As the visual language gets clearer, work would be split up amongst bigger teams and artists.
CG. What’s your own story as an artist or illustrator? Please run us through its course, as to how it all began and progressed until this point?
Ayan: I started digital painting during my early college days in 2009-10. I got a bit serious about it after I was done with college. I looked for jobs during that phase and was greatly disappointed by the overall quality and work culture. So I went with the freelance route. I am quite happy that I did that. I have been a full-time freelancer till date.
I have been quite lazy throughout most of my career. I was barely getting sufficient gigs to support myself. I think, from 2015 onwards I started taking things really seriously and actively learning more about art from whatever sources I could find. As the quality of my work improved, so did the projects. This has been an exciting journey so far and I am hoping it will stay that way in the future as well.
CG. As a freelancer, how do you approach client expectations and balance it with your own perspective as an artist?
Ayan: That’s a bit tricky. However, I feel that a good amount of communication is very important to bridge that gap. I am very open about delivering expectations and good clients are generally very understanding of that as well. My approach to this has always been to under-promise and to over-deliver.
CG. What is the “Apex Legends” series all about? What was the brief and the execution process to arrive at the final result?
Ayan: I was hired by passion pictures to do the illustrations for “Apex Legends – Legacy of Thief” official trailer. They were looking for a different style for the project and my style matched the requirements. The brief involved animatics (storyboards with basic camera movements) and I had to design and paint all the environments. I worked on the project for close to two months. Since I was the sole artist illustrating all the backgrounds, the pressure I felt was immense. But I am glad to have pulled through the whole thing.
CG. Also, what got you started with tutorials and what’s your aim behind it?
Ayan: I have been meaning to put out tutorials for a very long time. I always learn something new while trying to teach something and some passive income on the side is a huge relief for freelancers such as myself. During an ArtStation challenge, I finally decided to jump in and get it done. I had a lot of trouble during the whole process but ended up enjoying it at the end of it all. I am planning on releasing a few more tutorials this quarter. Let’s see how that goes.
CG. How do you technically achieve an effective blend of contrast, hues, lighting and shadow effects?
Ayan: Understanding the fundamentals of art like value, lighting, colour theory, perspective, etc. is a must to achieve these qualities. Doing individual studies on these and being observant during my free time has helped me a lot with them. Once you have a basic understanding of the fundamentals, studying real-life starts benefitting you.
CG. Please tell us about your experience working on paintings involving a 3D base. Also, what distinguishes the process applied therein?
Ayan: Having a 3D base to start with is very time-efficient. I already have the perspective, lighting and the basic composition figured out. It’s just a matter of painting/bashing in the textures and working on it till I finish. There are a lot of different ways to go about the process but I mostly just start painting on top of the layer and produce something presentable as soon as I can. I can always separate the layers later on when the painting gets approved or I like where it’s heading.
CG. Please throw light on the “Grand Space Opera: Light Age – Keyframe Design” Challenge. How was it different from working on earth landscapes?
Ayan: I always loved working on space-themed paintings and especially rendering spheres, so much so that I always put a sphere on my paintings just for the sake of it. When I saw the ArtStation challenge, I could not resist. I kept building the story and the world around it slowly. It was so much fun.
CG. What kind of assignments are you looking for currently and how do you wish to evolve your works and yourself as an artist hereon?
Ayan: As of now, I am mostly taking on visual development and colour design-related projects since I have the most amount of freedom when working on them. I plan on moving around a lot; experiencing a lot of new things and bettering myself as a human being. Hopefully, my art will evolve with me as well!
CG. Kindly point out one or two of your tutorials you’re most proud of and wish for growing environment designers to watch?
Ayan: As of now, I only have one tutorial which shows how I correlate the art fundamentals and design principles together to create compositions. It is a bit long and you may find it a bit boring, yet it’s overloaded with information and will definitely help if you are at a beginner to intermediate level.
CG. Finally, where do you think the future of Environment Design is headed and where would you like to direct it?
Ayan: Environment Design is a huge industry filled with amazing people from all around the world. I am just a passerby trying to paint what I enjoy; share them with the world and hopefully make a living out of it.