Stunning concept work and spot-on sci-fi scenes. What makes Senior Concept Designer Joshua Viers tick? Gain insight into his process, his past projects and his unabashed love of Star Wars.
The piece that really caught our attention was “The Empire Bargains” (header image). What can you tell us about this particular piece of artwork? We’re assuming you’re a huge Star Wars fan (like us), so what are you most looking forward to in the new movie?
Oh man, am I looking forward to Episode 7, but I’m doing my best to keep my expectations reasonable. It’s all too easy for excitement to grab my hand and fly away with me into the clouds before I even set foot in the theater. Then I leave disappointed when I’ve been forced to realize it was just a movie. I’d rather stay realistic for now and leave the theater floating.
Your work tends to veer toward the science fiction side of things. What have been your biggest artistic influences and how do you incorporate them into your work while still staying unique to your own style?
Is it that obvious that I’m a sci fi nerd? My biggest influences are the usual suspects from the 80s: Syd Mead, Ralph McQuarrie, Ron Cobb, Lebbeus Woods, to name a few. I will just stare at their work trying to break down what makes it so incredibly successful. Then, once I’ve started working, I try to keep those elements in the front of my brain. I think what makes it look like my style is that I’ve just developed a way of rendering things that’s easiest for me. Path of least resistance.
What advice can you share from your experience in dealing with directors and production designers? What’s the most important thing a concept artist should remember when creating something for someone else’s film?
Communication is key. No joke. Be specific with your words and avoid vague terms. If you’re not as clear as possible on what you should be doing before you begin work then you’ll be wasting the production’s time.
You will hear a lot of ideas that sound ridiculous, or just plain lame, that you need to bring to life. The thing to remember is that there is no excuse for your design to not be cool. Anything can be made interesting or fascinating. A huge part of your job is to find that angle and exploit the hell out of it. So when you hear about your next seemingly ludicrous assignment instead of thinking, “Ugh, this is going to be super lame,” think, “Alright, this is crazy, but I’m gonna prove that I can make this unbelievably cool.”
Definitely. The very first thing I do is hoard photo reference like a maniac. I need to be able to ground this idea in reality in my own mind before I can begin to do it for others. Second, I find artists that do this better than I do, and I stare at their work hard. Really hard. And I do my best to try to match the level of quality in their work. It’s a tough way to operate, but it keeps me sharp.
Want to see more of Josh’s work or say hello? Check out his Zerply profile.