Interview with Artist Kwame Antwi

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Artist Kwame Antwi is a native of Torrington a working video game designer at Left Brain Games in Torrington. Kwame is a recent graduate of Colorado’s Westood College. Kwame has just completed Ionosphere, his first independent game production. Ionosphere is a role playing game designed for mobile devices.

Kwame teaches Artwell’s Video Game Design class, which will be offered this fall.

Here he shares with us his working philosphy and the inspirations that inform his work in this interview:

AW: How would you describe your work?

KA: I would describe my work as a “Geek’s Nightmare” I love science fiction and horror, which I think reflects strongly in my designs. I aim to design outside the “box” of conventional art and focus more on designing with the intention that the environment or character will be carried further to a game platform or entertainment media.

AW: What processes or techniques do you employ?

KA: Quite a few, depending on the final use for the piece. For my own personal work I prefer the clean inexpensive route: Photoshop. The paint features and ease of use really allows me to explore the world of art without the cost of more supplies. The average artist discards about 95% of the work they do. Adding up the time spent going to the art store and the cost of supplies, which will most likley be used in a failed design just doesn’t work for me.

For my professional work, the client will usually request a particular medium dependent upon the use for the design, usually Photoshop or 3D rendering software like 3D Studio MAX or Maya. Most game design companies will already have a workflow pipeline established by the time they contract me to do work for them. So more often than not, I need to adapt to a new process and technique with each contract.

AW: What is the most challenging aspect of your work?

KA: Criticism…It never gets less painful having someone rip apart your work. But being a professional artist is all about actually listening to the criticism and learning from it rather than growing defensive. Art directors and developers don’t want to hear your opinion or interpretation of their ideas. They want you to design exactly what they envision.

When you’re doing commissioned work, the design isn’t yours. It’s theirs, and they are calling the shots. Sometimes this can be very difficult. The bigger the client, the rougher they are going to be when critiquing your work. When I was doing work for the BBC for Dancing with the Stars, they were very forward regarding what they wanted and didn’t sugar-coat anything. This was actually better for me because it thickened my hide and got straight to the point, which in turn got the job done faster.

AW: What are your favorite sources of inspiration?

KA: Comic books and graphic novels, mainly. Sci fi and horror movies, and my personal fave: VIDEO GAMES!! Any time I hit an artistic wall, I turn on a game and veg out on it. So much fantastic artwork can be found in the gaming industry. In fact I would rather walk through a building full of game concept art rather than an art history museum.

AW: What other artists do you admire?

KA: Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, H.R.Geiger and Ryan Church mainly. But being a tattoo artist as well, I look to famous tattoo artists such as Paul Booth and Anil Gupta to set my personal par.

AW: How did you arrive at this particular medium?

KA: Both necessity and convenience. Photoshop and any other digital design programs are the industry standards for game and media artists. This is what they teach in college and what an employer expects. I do occasionally do an oil painting or pencil sketch, but these don’t sell these outside of a very exclusive fine art group.

Digital media has allowed people like me, who might obviously be laughed out of the fine art scene with my aliens, robots and visions of post apocalyptic wastelands, to attain jobs as a professional artist. People have always differed on whats is considered “Art”. Being a huge comic book and video game fan, this is my definition of art. Luckily, the internet and advancing technology has given us artistic “geeks” the opportunity to present our artwork to the world without having to get in to an artistic clique.

AW: Do you have formal training?

KA: Up until college, I failed almost every art class the school had to offer, simply because I didn’t want to draw what the teacher wanted me to. I even had points deducted for horrifying the teacher with grotesque alien and supernatural drawings, which usually wasn’t the goal of the project.

But now I have my Bachelor’s of Science Degree Conceptual Game Art Design. As it turns out, my college professors shared my love of science fiction and horror and helped me further that interest, which helped me achieve a 3.7 GPA and Dean’s list honors more semesters than not.

AW: What other mediums, if any, do you work in? Do the other mediums intersect and play off of each other?

KA: The only other medium I currently work in consistently other than digital is tattooing. I have always loved body art. Being good with designing game elements as well as tattooing has turned into quite a side job of tattooing game and movie characters. I often have people come to me for my illustrative “comic bookish” style. I’ve tattooed everything from Dragon Ball Characters to Star Wars Murals and everything in between.

AW: Can you describe your most fulfilling project?

KA: I would have to say the project I just finished for Fringe Game’s War Creed, was probably the most fun I’ve had as a game artist yet. It was a 10 month commitment involving 8 high resolution illustrations of my favorite things to paint: science fiction, aliens and dystopian future people. The other illustrators were very talented and set a very high standard for me, which I consider free training. The art direction was fantastic and I really believe this will be a successful game.

But nothing is as fulfilling as being able to put this work in my portfolio after the official game release.