Wednesday, September 19th, 2012 Posted by Jim Thacker

Q&A: Halo concept artist Jaime Jones

In the six years since leaving art school, illustrator and concept artist Jaime Jones has built up an impressive roster of clients, including National Geographic, Warner Bros., Paramount, Burberry, Bungie and Wizards of the Coast. His recent projects include the Halo video game series and Chris Nolan’s upcoming Superman reboot, Man of Steel.

Jaime will be one of 10 leading concept artists and character designers running sessions at the upcoming Gnomon Workshop Live, which takes place in Hollywood from 29-30 September. We caught up with him in the run up to the event to find out more about his working methods, his advice to young artists – and why Photoshop’s Navigator should become your new best friend.

CG Channel: What are you going to be showing at Gnomon Workshop Live?

Jaime Jones: I’ll be showing samples of my work and going over my painting process.

CGC: So what does that process consist of?

JJ: I start with an idea for a composition. I rarely have a concrete notion of how I want to arrange it, but I’ll have a sense for the mood and story. I draw a few thumbnails on paper, so I can begin to work out the specifics, then I gather reference, sometimes shooting my own.

Once I start the painting, I build it quickly in full color, tackling the big shapes first. I make changes quickly, repainting large areas until the composition is working as a whole. When I get into the finer details, I zoom in but continue to work loosely.

Knowing when to stop on a concept piece or illustration is critical. Keep Photoshop’s Navigator open as you work, advises Jaime Jones: when you can no longer see the changes you’re making it it, it’s time to stop!

CGC: How long do you spend on a typical piece?

JJ: Anywhere from a day to two weeks. I’d say on average, three days.

CGC: How do you decide when a piece is finished?

JJ: That’s a tough one. I always paint with the Navigator open in Photoshop so that I can see how the painting looks as a thumbnail. When I’ve started to make changes I can’t see on the Navigator, I figure its time to quit.

A range of styles: Jaime tailors his handling of reference material to the client he is working for, but his actual painting process remains relatively constant, regardless of the subject matter.

CGC: How much do you have to tailor your art style to each client you work for? There must be quite a difference between working for, say, National Geographic and Wizards of the Coast.

JJ: Not much, actually. As different as those clients are, both have been open to my approach. But although my painting process itself doesn’t change, my handling of reference is very different. National Geographic is dialed in to the accuracy of details, so I have to be very careful in following their research.

CGC: So what advice would you give to someone visiting Gnomon Workshop Live who wants to embark on a commercial career?

JJ: I’ll list some of the mistakes I make, because they’re common with students. Firstly, forgetting to think. Sometimes 20 minutes of thoughtful painting does more to improve a piece than a day of distracted scribbling and photobashing. If I’m not improving a painting, I’m probably making things worse.

Secondly, getting too clever. Painting is a means to an end in concept art and illustration. This job is about communication, not proving how well we can use a brush (or Wacom tablet). ‘The operation was successful but the patient died.’

And finally, becoming attached. I have to be willing to wipe out any part of a painting that is hurting the whole. Kill your darlings!

Focus in: 20 minutes of thoughtful painting is better than a day of distracted photobashing, advises Jaime.

CGC: And what’s the single most important thing you hope people remember from your session?

JJ: I hope they leave excited to paint!

Visit Jaime Jones’ website

Register for Gnomon Workshop Live ($150 for a two-day pass)

Full disclosure: CG Channel is owned by the Gnomon School of Visual Effects.