You know what I love? When you ask people questions and they basically write the article for you. God bless you, Domen Kozelj. God bless you.
Was checking through submissions and opened a picture of a big angry hill and loved it instantly. Sometimes you just feel like you’re a big angry hill. Let’s go on a journey with Domen and look at this gorgeous conceptual art from Slovenia.
Where is Slovenia?
Hi Domen! Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m a freelance concept artist from Slovenia and I have in fact studied art. Originally I enrolled to the Ljubljana college for design and photography and later went to the academy of fine arts in Ljubljana, so I spent a total of 7 years studying art in formal institutions, however I never got to finishing my diploma as I shifted focus to entertainment design in the last couple of years and started getting indie concept art gigs soon after.
How did you start drawing? Was it something you always knew you wanted to do?
I’ve been drawing ever since I can remember. Growing up It was always something I felt good at. I wouldn’t say I was always aware of this being an actual career path but after a while, I decided I would be most excited pursuing visual expression, so I went for that. Despite my drawing since my early childhood and actually dedicating study time to the subject for the better part of 10 years now, I wouldn’t say I’m particularly talented. In fact, I feel like each breakthrough I make in the way I paint, the way I use light and color and the way I design is a hard fought battle and I suppose that in a way, that’s what keeps it so exciting.
Tell us about your artwork.
Well to make a long story short I wouldn’t call most of the paintings I’ve done in recent time artwork as such. Back when I was still studying at the academy, I used to do these large 1.5×2.2m canvas abstract pieces and they were a study of color and personal expression and were (successful or not) pieces of artwork. And without any intention of sounding too cliché, the philosophical nature and social circles that inevitably gather around such material started feeling like they were getting in the way of my enjoying the work itself. So I decided to combine my passion for video games with my training in fine art to focus on design, using visual language as a tool to illustrate ideas. So in a sense when I define my work as “design” or “concept art” rather than “artwork” in the classical sense of the word, I like to think it takes a bit of that heavy weight off my shoulders and enjoy myself. To answer the question more bluntly, I paint the way I do as a result of a lot of time studying color and light and a lot of time playing video games, reading comic books and watching cartoons.
Let’s go on a journey! Take us through the process of one of your images.
Well I try and make it a habit to keep my process fresh so as to not get into a creative rut as I work but there are constants that I try to focus on in each image that I might be able to walk you through.
I use adobe Photoshop CC as my main tool along with a Wacom Intuos 5. The ideas themselves are usually a set of words, sketches and concepts I’ll compile around my clients initial specs. For instance, I’ll take something like a character or an environment spec for a client, write down as many functional or moody details about it such as what the character would carry with them if they were going on a long trip, or who might have passed by this place or what kinds of flora might grow there. Then I’ll proceed to gather visual references such as historical, cultural or nature imagery and do a couple of design passes to bring all of it together in an organised design sheet. In the end I like to do a couple scene shots for mood and atmosphere to tie things together.
Do you have a favourite image? Do you have a particular highlight in your career? Anything you’re proud of or especially loved working on.
I tend not to dwell on the images I produce and make it a habit of moving on and finding ways to improve on what I’ve learned both in terms of design and execution. At the end of the day the images themselves are just there to serve whatever project I work on and If I add a bit of extra charm and character to that, then it’s mission accomplished. In terms of projects, I’d worked on a bunch of upcoming indie games and some tabletop ones as well. The thing is I find each project has its unique set of challenges and I enjoy those equally, however since most of the projects I’ve worked on since I’ve started are still in development, I can’t really talk about them due to NDAs. I will however post progress on these on my blog as they start to trickle in.
A couple of titles I’ve worked on that have either been released or announced are SettleForge (design work and comic rendering), Nephils Fall (environments), Arcania (Box Art and game prop illustrations). There are also a bunch of other projects I can’t speak of yet but will be able to soon enough!