From 2004 to 2008 I was working for Midway Games in Chicago as a visual art director on the game Stranglehold , and later as creative visual director for the studio. Whilst I was there I was leading the Chicago concept group, and was involved in many different projects taken up by the different Midway studios. It was during this period that I was introduced to the work of a group of artists working at Midway Games in Newcastle, England, on a game called Wheelman . I remember being at my computer reviewing the different projects that were to be presented during our annual company summit, and as I was scrolling down the presentations my finger suddenly froze. The concepts I was looking at were stunning. The environment pieces were strong, dynamic and demonstrated an excellent understanding of composition, mood and light. They were also very clear and had all the visual information necessary for production. Similarly the character concepts and story panels showed a remarkable sense of realism and storytelling. They were both dynamic and well executed. I instantly found myself wishing that this team was working with me in Chicago.
A few months later Midway Games was no more and as everyone went their different ways looking for new opportunities, I found myself wondering what would happen to these artists. It didn’t take long for me to find out. I was settling into Dallas to art direct Rage for id Software when I was contacted by this same group and told of the creation of Atomhawk Design. I was very impressed and excited to find out that these talented artists had decided to take a big risk and start a studio from scratch in a difficult economy. Having been part of the creation of a new studio in the past I was also very aware of how difficult and challenging such a decision can be.
The game industry is large and competitive and when one company creates a successful IP it doesn’t take long for the competition to try to emulate that success. To be successful, however, and to make sure their games don’t get labeled as “inferior look-alikes”, companies constantly need to find ways to technically and visually stand out. This is why concept art has become an indispensable part of the entertainment industry. Good concept art is about conveying interesting ideas and setting up compelling visions. As an art director I am always looking for those artists that not only have great skills, but can also provide me with solid and original concepts to bring strength, excitement and uniqueness to a project.
In just a few years Atomhawk has managed to do just that. Not only have these artists anchored themselves firmly in an uncertain industry, but they’ve managed to do it with great skill. The art in this book not only showcases a variety of subjects and ideas, but also demonstrates a keen sense of storytelling. This is what concept art is all about: skills, technique and originality; a good understanding of the production pipeline and the needs of the clients; the ability to create unique characters, bring compelling designs to vehicles and create environments with a strong narrative. In short, it is about creating visual excitement and establishing a unique, compelling vision.
Atomhawk Design has proved that it can produce great work that stands out from the crowd. As an art director I can only be excited. As a concept artist these guys will keep me on my toes. I have no doubt that our paths will cross again and look forward to the day when I will have the opportunity to work with such a talented group. Until then, I remain a big fan.
- Stephan Martiniere