Q & A with Kurt Papstein
3D Concept Art presents an Q & A with a very talented Character artist specializing in Concept, Creature design, Kurt Papstein. He has been around for about seven (7) years working in production of short and feature films, and games. For companies like Bad Robot, Trion Worlds,Turtle Rock Studios, Pixologic, InXile Entertainment and is instructor for Character Pipeline for Games program. He also teaches at Laguna College of Art & Design within the fields of Character, Environment and Concept Art inside ZBrush.
He uses frequently his talent to make concepts and illustrations, both traditional and digital as a freelancer and also teaches valuable know how in different workshops. His work has been published in different international publications like 3d world, 3d artist magazine and 3D totals – Sketching from imagination. He has also been a presenter for the well known Pixologic ZBrush in different workshops in several occasions
| 3D Concept Art: Tell us about you and how did you become interested in the art of 3D modeling and your specialization in Character, Creature design?
| Kurt Papstein: → I’ve always been drawing, ever since I was little. I owe a lot of that to my Mom who was super encouraging of my desire to watch cartoons and draw on the floor. When I was about 17 or 18 I took an interest in level design and environment modeling. Mostly because I wanted to mod some of my favorite games and create levels that I thought would be fun. I quickly learned how much I was biting off but I kept drawing and painting. Most of my work revolved around creatures, I have always had a fascination with deep sea animals, Cryptozoology, I was actually on my way to be a Marine Biologist in Monterey California.
But it was the Art of Episode 2 Star Wars book where I saw the creature statues and designs. And a lightbulb went off in my head, “I could do THAT for a living?!” So I went off to school, studied as much sculpting and design as I could. Pursued my passion even when told I wouldn’t make it. Just kept it going.
| 3CA: You specialize in Character, Creature design and you often come up with very unique and interesting models, what is your approach and process for finding that uniqueness and the balance in the overall personality without loosing the believability?
| K.P: → Thats a hard one. Because I’m still trying to get a grasp on what my look really is. Seems everyone else has me figured out more than I do haha. But I think the key to my art is allowing myself to really relax. I don’t force anything, and even if I’m excited for an idea I keep it in my mind as a source of inspiration but understand that it won’t come out the same or be right on target. I let it become better than what I imagined.
Ultimately it’s about having a relationship with my tools, letting them do what they do best. I’ve found ways to create controlled chaos and happy accidents in my work so that I see a new direction or idea come to life in front of me instead of forcing everything into shape. I figure, I might have a good idea but the idea can become great if you let it change and evolve.
| 3CA: Where do you get inspiration from and who are your role models?
| K.P: → kind of answered that one in the previous question. In a way I end up inspiring myself as I work (sounds really egotistical haha) but it’s okay I think to get excited about what you are making. Artists that have really influenced me, there are a lot for sure. Ranges from fashion designers, toy designers, to conceptual artists in movies and games. But some of the biggest inspirations to me lately have been individuals like Ashley Wood.
I’m inspired by the amount of work he can turn out, his stories and IP’s are also very involved, and ultimately he’s doing his own thing. He’s made a successful brand for himself and has the luxury to make his personal art his full time thing. Something I’m hoping to achieve myself. My direct influences however, would be my friends. I’m blessed to be friends with so many talented people, and I think we all really drive each other to be better artists and it’s crazy to see where it’s all going.
| 3CA: What are the main differences between making models for film and for games, what are the most important aspects to think about and the problems than can occur when working in those different fields?
| K.P: → Most of the work I do for film is concept related, not much on the production side lately. I think both are challenging in their own ways. Concept art in movies has become more than just a basic idea, it needs to be something production can look at as a final shot and base everything off of that. Yet the time frame is still like… a day of work. It’s cool though, it forces you to get faster, find shortcuts, whatever it takes to get it done. Game art is different, needs to look good in real time. It’s way more technical and honestly only about half of it is fun for me.
I got tired of the pipeline after a while. So much can go wrong during the process, and I just want to make art. I feel like a technician or something, it’s a different kind of art. Starting out in my career I was thrilled, it was so exciting to see it in game. I think my attention span has decreased dramatically since then haha. Working in both industries is great, but yeah it can be difficult. I see the game production stuff slipping into my concept work all the time, I find myself overly working a piece from every angle when it won’t even be seen. It’s made me a completionist, which isn’t a bad thing I guess. If a client wants to see the design from the back or whatever, I can quickly turn out an image.
| 3CA: Any good advices for artists and students who want to get into the business as a 3D Artist in fields like Creature and Character design?
| K.P: → Be an animal lover. Study them, pretend to be them, really get into it. Understanding how animals work is extremely important to create your own creatures. It’s like the old saying, you have to understand it before you break it. Start with studies, draw a lot. I mean tons. Sculpt a lot too. You basically have to submerge yourself in it as a lifestyle. Everyone seems to want to be a creature artist, and everyone thinks they can pick it up easier than other subjects. But in my opinion most of it out there is forgettable.
Sounds kind of harsh, but it’s rare when something creature related stands out to me. It’s usually too soft, too mushy, unthought out, or rushed. You can see the thought process behind most of it, “creatures are pretty easy, it’s just some organic shapes.” But that comes through in your work. And it falls on its face. Study study study.
3D Concept Art Community thanks Kurt Papstein for sharing his knowledge and advices in this interview. Hopefully this will help readers on how to become a better artist and get insights on how you become an artist. The road to this point is not easy, it’s hard work involved.