Behind the life of a gaming concept artist | #MemberSpotlight

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Miguel Nogueira loves research. He lives for research when he works on his beautiful artworks, and in another life, he would probably have been a traveller around the world – seeking knowledge and wisdom far and wide.

For those who are less adept at the mechanisms and biggest names of the gaming industry, Frictional Games may not ring a bell. The gaming community has learned to love and recognise their works as genre-defining in the realm of horror. It makes sense that a concept artist as talented as Miguel would land at Frictional Games, eventually.

This talented concept artist has numerous projects under his belt now, and still more in the works than he can speak of. For this Member Spotlight, we had a chat with Miguel Nogueira, Concept Artist at Frictional Games, to learn more about what it takes to be a creative professional in the gaming industry.


How did you get into the industry?

After looking for a while and applying to tons of different places, eventually, I got an email back from Frictional Games, they wanted an art test, which I did. There was a lot of back-and-forth collaboration with their art director. The process felt right at the time, the collaboration itself was a living breathing organism that produced work within the test, which even ended up being used in the game right away.

Where are you based now and who do you work for?

I'm based in Portugal, and I've been working remotely for a while in the sunny city of Porto. I've worked for Frictional Games and their recently shipped Amnesia Rebirth, as well as on an unannounced AAA MMORPG as character designer.


If you weren’t in your current industry, what would you be doing?

I'd love to be out there, exploring nature, something like archeology. I love exploring different cultures, bygone worlds, in a sense, it's very much analogous and still within the sphere of the quaint stuff I do on the job... research, research, research.  

Can you explain your creative process?

I start with discovery, mind maps, tracing possible solutions in words, then I map those words to reference boards, then sketch, then refine.


How would you describe your style?

If Quentin Tarantino had a child with Chris Cunningham...

Which individuals do you gain inspiration from? Do you have any heroes in the industry?

Who got me inspired enough to jump in the industry where Nivanh Chanthara and Darren Bartley, when I stumbled upon their robots on deviantart, I just had to try something like that, it looked like a lot of fun... and then I was hooked. They were the 'gateway drug' into concept art.  

If you had to pick one ideal client/employer, who would that be and why?

An intelligent one and with great taste. They don't even need to be an artist or designer, but one who knows where they want to be, they have a clear goal, they have the money to back up the foundation and are willing to spend it... and just have a great taste, as by-product of digesting culture and media and are inspired to execute their problem-solving need as consequence.


How has technology affected the way you work?

Not very much! I still use the software from a while ago, I rock an outdated version of Keyshot and I only update Photoshop when Creative Cloud sneaks an update without my approval. I see no reason to look outside the sphere of what already works for me.

What’s your secret to staying inspired and motivated?

A healthy balance of doing too much and not doing enough. 
Taking nature trips, sitting and meditating, hosting a Friendsgiving dinner, drawing my own work on the side  

What’s the work achievement you’re most proud of?

I think this one:


Just because it took me a while to get right, I almost gave up on it, but it was the gate for the rest of my work to come through. Using Zbrush was new to me so I re-made the project a ton of times. If I had given up on this character, I’m not sure we’d be talking today.

How do you recharge away from the office?

I try to keep a list of habits organized, things I want to achieve this week, that aren't work-related, a total disconnect, and a digital detox.
If I must be at the computer, I work on my own drawings only.  

What is one tip for other aspiring creatives looking for work?

Research on what the needs of your client are. Most of the time, we're interested in doing what we want to do, we think we know what's best for the client, like an entitled parent, but a lot of the times, the client knows more about the work than the designer does. So I'd say: listen more.


What is the one thing that you would change about the industry?

I’d fast forward it a bit, the industry is heading the right way but not fast enough. The graphic design industry doesn’t have problems that are problems in the games industry, such as crunch and unpaid overtime, art tests are heard of but not to the extent they are used in games. Things are changing, from my experience though, but that paired with ‘ghosting’ from companies after they promise mountains and worlds to the artists.. it’s just not a sign of a mature industry, not yet. 

Any websites, books or resources you would recommend?

The Alla Prima is one I'd recommend, Michael Hampton's anatomy books, as well as Scott Robertson's books on how to render.


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