This week I had the pleasure of hearing from Eddie Del Rio, an American concept artist, about his work and experience designing for the entertainment industry. Eddie designs for games and film and has contributed to studios LucasArts, LucasFilm, Disney, THQ, Activision, and 2k.
I am also a fan of Star Wars and to me, working at LucasArts and LucasFilms would be the pinnacle of working in the arts industry. I read in your profile that your first job was with Lucasarts and you were plucked straight out of school. How did this come about?
Yea, LucasArts was a real treat! They made the rounds at my school and they were looking at portfolios of that years graduating class. I actually had another few years to go before I graduated.
I found out where the portfolios where being kept and snuck mine in with the bunch. Haha. Now, when I went to school, there wasn’t any kind of classes that taught concept or entertainment design. So, most of the portfolios was spot illustrations or wildlife illustrations. Mine was one of the few that had aliens, space ships and other fun stuff along those lines. So, the studio director had a look at that and invited me in for an interview. It wasn’t until after I got the gig, that they realized I hadn’t graduated just yet.
Is there any advise you can give young artists wanting to work for one of the big film or game companies?
One of the keys to my hire, was working outside of the system a bit I guess. I didn’t follow the normal curriculum in class. While others where doing wild life illustrations of a zebra, I was choosing some alien. The instructors at the time didn’t know what to make of me. I actually failed a few classes because of it! Haha! But I always kept focus on what I wanted to do. Art school was actually a pretty scary time for me. I grew up pretty poor. Like, food stamps poor at times. There was a lot of trepidation in my decision to go to art school. I could of went on to a pursue a normal “safe” field of work. I was actually looking into being a pharmacist!
But my mom is the one who supported me in my desire to pursue art. So art school was stressful for me. I always was worried I would come out having to flip burgers or something. I spent a lot of time in school wondering if I made the wrong choice. Lucky, that scared the shit out of me and pushed me harder. Towards the last year I was in school, that pressure got to me. It drove me to work on my own portfolio. This was outside of normal class assignments I was also required to do. That’s what ended up getting me my first job and started me on the road! It was a lot of work and and some luck! Same for most people when you talk to them. Those two need to align!
When I did start LucasArts, it was an amazing time. They just finished Grim Fandango and they where just starting work on the new Star Wars films. I did some Star Wars work, but mostly I contributed to their adventure games. They where a blast. It was a fun time to work in games! The group at LucasArts was full of talent. A lot of the artist and designers have since went on to some amazing projects after LucasArts.
I worked for THQ and some freelance after Lucas. It wasn’t until later, that my friend and fellow concept artist, Emmanuel Shiu introduced me to Doug Chiang. He was heading up a Disney studio at the time with Robert Zhemeckis. That was the first time I worked in such a huge and talented art dept! It was amazing to see the presentations come to life on everyone monitors week after week! It was stellar stuff for sure!
After that, I did a stint at Lucasfilm and then went on to freelance! I have worked on a lot of really fun project the last six years.
On Facebook you posted about working on READY PLAYER ONE and I have to say, I’m impressed. The trailer looks phenomenal. Can you say what you worked on?
I’m not sure I can say what I did just yet on Ready Player One, of it it’s even still in the movie. Haha. But like a lot of others, I was a huge fan of the book! It was a nerds dream come true!
The first concepts I noticed on your portfolio were the amazing space ships, especially the Star Citizen concepts. Do you still draw space ships for yourself?
I most definitely design ships for myself! I have a few on my site!
I read a lot of sci-fi novels and often think to myself “That would be so cool to see”. Are there any dream projects or concepts you would love to work on?
I don’t know if there is any particular project’s or an IP I would just kill to be on these days. Usually it’s a surprise on what you end up landing on. None of it is ever really planned.
Right now, I’m most excited to work on my own IP that I have been developing for the last few years. It’s Moto-Throttlers. Some of the art is on my site but not labeled. It’s the racing mechs. I have been writing it off and on between projects and of course making a lot of art. Most of it unpublished. So, that is my dream project I guess.
Now that you primarily work from home. What does a typical day look like for you?
Even though I work from home, my typical day starts pretty early. I’m up before 7:00 to get my son to school and then back to the home studio. I usually send off work from the day before in the morning. I like to have fresh eyes on it before I hand it off. If I see something off to me in that mornings work, I may mess around with it and finesse it a bit. I then will send it off and wait for feedback. Usually there is another tasked lined up and I will work on that while I’m waiting for the feedback.
How do you stay motivated and creative?
Working at home can be tough and lonely at times. I will often Skype with other colleagues in the day and try getting out for lunches. It makes a big difference!
Where can we follow you and see more of your work?
My site is a good place to see my work – www.eddiedelrio.com
You can follow me on Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/
Or my artstation – https://www.artstation.com/