This week at E3 2011, Into The Pixel is exhibiting all of the winners for the Into The Pixel 2011 exhibition. Ben Lo is one of the artists working on BioShock Infinite at Irrational Games. Check out his piece entitled "Market Fire Columbia" above (you can see a high resolution version by clicking on the artwork), and then head on beyond the break for our full interview with Ben.
"Into the Pixel showcases the incredible creativity, skill and artistic talent that pervades in the video game industry. You really see that there are great artists working across every genre of video games, and at every stage of the production process.” according to Glenn Phillips, Senior Project Specialist & Consulting Curator, Department of Architecture and Contemporary Art, at the Getty Research Institute.
The entire 2011 Into the Pixel collection will be unveiled and presented at the annual E3 Expo at the Los Angeles Convention Center from June 7-9, or you can visit our Into the Pixel 2011 gallery and check out all of the art for yourself, and see all of the winners right here.
Tell us about your background. Where did you study? What have you worked on before?
I went to Sheridan College and studied classical animation. Back then, my mind was actually set to become an animator after graduating. But during my second year, a friend influenced me to get into digital painting. At that time, they were staying after school every day painting in the computer lab. That eventually steered me to becoming a concept artist.
Before joining Irrational, I worked for EA Black Box as an art intern, doing environment concept art for a Need for Speed game. Even though I was only there for a short summer term, I learned many valuable lessons and met many friends I still treasure now.
What tools do you use to create your art?
I primarily work in Photoshop, but there are times I’m asked to include specific game assets in a painting. Then I load up 3ds Max, grab the materials from there, and plop them right in to the painting. But other than that, Photoshop is pretty much it.
What inspired this particular piece?
Actually, a lot of things inspired this particular piece. My art director Nate Wells usually provides a general direction then gives me his full support in terms of where to go from there. He often points me to a specific reference from Shorpy.com. Gotta give them credit — it’s an awesome website we’ve used to gather a lot of the reference for our game. They have tons of documentation of late-1800s to early-1900s America, and they’re all high-res too. I can’t recommend anything better to look for reference on our past century — for America, at least.
What advice would you give to students who want to become video game artists?
Even though I’ve worked at a game company for almost two years, I still feel I’m quite new to the industry, so I’m not sure I have the perfect advice. But one good approach is to pick something you really want to focus on, and keep at it. If you want to be a concept artist, paint a lot, draw a lot. If you want to become a 3D modeler, model a lot, and sculpt a lot. There’s nothing better than simply being persistent at something. Don’t give up until you get it. Hard work will eventually pay off. I know that sounds lame and old, but it actually does work. Just grab a few friends, go out and draw. Working together and constantly challenging each other will help push yourselves to your goal much faster. Sooner than you might think, you’ll be working in the industry.
What are you working on next?
I am currently working on BioShock Infinite. My role is to create environment concept art to help shape the world of Columbia. Because of its unique background and setting, it provides challenges I wouldn’t be able to find anywhere else. With the strong team we have at Irrational, I’m constantly learning from others and improving my skills to tackle those challenges. I can’t say too much about the game, but I can say it will be an awesome ride!