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Artist Spotlight: Andrii Shafetov

1) Please tell us a little something about yourself. For example: where are you from, where do you live, do you have any formal education or are you self-taught, etc.
I am 29 years old artist and game developer from Ukraine. Education-wise I have a technical background in my past as I have graduated the National Technical University in Kiev and therefore my specialty is a Radio Communication Systems engineer. Before the end of my education traditional and digital arts were just a hobby that I haven’t ever taken seriously. While being a student, I have quit considering myself as an engineer though and tried to start freelancing as a Flash animator and web-designer. I received my first full-time job also during that time, in 2008. That was Ubisoft Kiev and I was hired as a Junior Interface artist, assigned to project Tom Clancy’s H.A.W.X. However, in 2010 my contract has ended and I had to find another job. Since that time I have spent 3 years of working for different casual and indie studios and teams as 2D digital or UI artist, on freelance or full-time. The things have changed in 2013 when I was hired back to Ubisoft, to join an awesome Assassin’s Creed franchise PC development team. I have been on UI Artist and developer position since AC III and until AC Syndicate. Therefore, in 2016 I have been hired to Black Forest Games (earlier was known as Spellbound Entertainment) to join relatively small team here, working on some NDA project. So, we bot, me and my wife, moved to Germany, where we are currently living. At this time my area of responsibility became wider, as my current position is Artist Generalist. Now it includes interface development, prototyping, visual pitching and concept design. I really feel lack of any art education fundamentals, and however still have had to educate myself. This more related to environment concept art that now I am trying to master.

2) What experiences influenced your artwork? Where do you get your ideas for your artwork?
Since my childhood, I always was a passionate gamer and one of the most exciting activities to me was a game development. I have spent some time working on personal projects but was unsuccessful. Sometimes because of lacking time, sometimes – of experience though. Board games, traditional RPG’s and video games of course, books and movies, amazing artworks – those are the most crucial facts that have influenced me to become an artist. I usually find inspiration within them all and also in some real time experience while being a tourist travelling to different places. Usually, wilderness or mountain trips. To me it seems very important not only to look on things, but observe them and remember how the nature looks like in real life. I used to travel a lot, but now I don’t have enough time for this unfortunately.

3) Can you tell us a little about your creative process? How do you create your artwork? Do you sketch an idea first or do you keep the design in your head until you're finished?
It is different from time to time. Sometimes I have an idea in my mind that needs to be transferred into digital form; this is the most comfortable case. From the other hand, I can start from abstract photo-bashing or messing around with different texture brushes until I receive a mood or composition which works well. Since some time ago I am trying also use 3D software, like 3DS Max or Modo, to get some interesting shot or more complicated perspective. Still trying to learn a lot and still have a long way to go with it honestly. In most cases it usually starts from rough sketch, it can be line artwork, bashed photos, some mesh setup or just a color mood. I cannot keep myself from refining piece before the composition is being set up and that seems to be an incorrect approach as things may become really hard to tweak, but this how it is. The workflow really depends on its purpose: some can show interesting mood, others – design. However, I usually try to experiment a lot and got my comfort zone widen as possible at the moment.

4) When or how did you decide to get into digital artwork? Did you start with traditional media first or did you jump right into the digital world?
This idea was in my mind since my childhood, but it took a very long time for me to recognize it. I should admit that I have spent pretty much chaotic period of time, messing around and trying to find out what I exactly want to do with life, career, etc. Probably, this time could be spent more efficient if I did know exactly what I want to learn. It is hard to say now as I get a lot of different experience which would be pretty much impossible for me to receive if I would have been learning digital art only, for instance. In my case it was a bunch of different trials and errors, and herd way through a lot of fails. Still fail a lot honestly but trying to learn from it. As for traditional art, basically I was sketching a lot while being at school, but more or less significant efforts to improve it I started to do only few years ago. I would say it was digital art first. A lot of different art communities on Facebook, free Youtube video tutorials and Gumroad of course were insignificantly helpful.

4a) What tools do you use to create your artwork?
In all cases the process includes Wacom tablet and Photoshop, more or less. As for preproduction or basic setup it can include renders, done in Modo to get the proper perspective, ambient occlusion or more complex shot. The other case is to use Unreal Engine 4 for that purpose. Also, I am using Flash and After Effects for some simple scene background animation as well as for interface prototyping to show the visual pitch idea of how the thing can work and look like.

5) What piece of artwork are you most proud of? Why?
This was the one of old Icewind Dale fan arts. To me this piece can be considered as the one I am most proud of because it was really a breakthrough point of mine. That was honestly the first piece which I personally considered as more or less good. Comparing with the other ones of course, as now I can see a lot of issues with, to be honest. But only from this one I have explored the field to improve further. I received a definition of what to do and to learn next.

6) What keeps you motivated when things don't seem to be going your way? What are some challenges you've faced in your career?
I don’t have any art blocks or something, just from time to time I can have like ‘bad days’. During those I am trying to find inspiration among the huge number of famous artists that I follow, old traditional masterpieces or just play favorite games. Sometimes it just requires switching to other sort of work and postponing drawing for a while. In my career I am always trying to find challenges, at least I have to learn and learn a lot for further. So, it is always a struggle with permanent failures. I really consider that fails – are the only way to learn. The one should fail and fail a lot to get the valuable experience.

7) Do you accept commissions from people who enjoy your artwork?
I used to accept a lot of them on freelance basis earlier. At the moment I usually don’t have time. There were a whole bunch of different ones: website designs, animation sprites sheets, game assets, e.g. interface, props; and environment concept design in most cases.

7a) If you do accept commissions, have you worked for worked for many clients? How does your creative process differ when making your own artwork compared to making artwork for a client?
I can’t say that I have been freelancing for a lot of big companies; the only one rather big was Herocraft. In most case those were different indie teams or small studios. Sometimes – individuals who required some illustration works. I mean, to me there is a difference between the commission work and personal, at least you have to stick to relevant timeframes. Because you can work as long as you want to on personal piece. And the other case is that the client is always right and he might have his own vision which will include a lot of corrections. I am okay with those, just trying to compromise between the thing I suggest good and the ones that the client wants. Good point is to communicate with client a lot during the process, to avoid any problems in further.

8) How do you handle criticism of your artwork?
I am good at criticism. I used to critique my works by myself a lot, sometimes even too much. Just trying to filter proper critiques and learn from it and avoid rude people and trolls. It seems a definitely good way to improve. I am an active participant in different art communities so I used to get a lot of critiques every time.

9) What advice do you have for up-and-coming artists who want to improve their artwork?
Never quit, keep practicing and make a lot of fails instead of being afraid of them. The more hours the one can put into it – the better skill will become. Have a wide look on what are people around doing, be social, no need to isolate yourself. Take part in challenges and contests as much as you can. Those are the things I am trying to reinforce within myself every time.

10) Some people claim that digital art isn't "real art" mainly because it's made with software programs. How would you respond to this?
This is another holy war matter. Those things have different process but finally they serve the one common purpose. The other thing is a production related art which involves strict timeframes and required to be done quickly. I believe people should stop arguing about the process, tools and complicity and judge the final result and the idea behind it that the person has put into.

11) What are some of your more notable achievements? Have you been published in a magazine or exhibited your artwork at an art festival or gallery?
I haven’t those, I am afraid. No any fancy publishments or featuring, or any contest prizes. I am not sure I truly deserve those exhibitions right now as there are a lot of other famous people that have a lot to express.

12) Any other comments or anything else you'd like to say?
Thank you very much for your attention to my profile, I really appreciate this. I just wanted to wish everybody the best of luck and permanent great inspiration that will be always following nearby!

Where can people go to see more of your artwork? Do you have your own portfolio website or do you post your images mainly at ArtStation?
ArtStation in most cases: https://www.artstation.com/artist/andriishafetov
My Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/andrii.shafetov
Blog: http://ashafetov.blogspot.de/



     


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