Ep.83: Old masters and the simplicity with Chris Solarski

By Iva Mikles •  Updated: Jan 04, 2018 •  Interviews

Chris is a game designer and author who specializes in the relationships between video game aesthetics and user experience—particularly the physical movements of players.

He is an author of two books:

“Chris Solarski’s book gives content creators crucial insights into interactive story composition and how to adapt these concepts for transmedia storytelling.”
Marc Forster, Film Director and Producer

Chris is currently collaborating with an internationally renowned artist, Phil Hale, to develop an indie game based on the Johnny Badhair series of paintings. He also lectures at SAE Institute in Zurich and coordinates the IGDA Switzerland Chapter.

Get in touch with Chris

Key Takeaways

“Always think big, 1000% bigger because even if you achieve only 10% of that, it’s still incredible!”

Resources mentioned

💡 Please note: We are supported by our readers. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you! For more info, please read our disclosure.

Special thanks to Chris for joining me today. See you next time!

All artworks by Chris Solarski, used with permission

Episode Transcript

Announcer  

Creative, artistic, happy! That’s you. There are endless possibilities for living a creative life. So let’s inspire each other. Art Side of Life interviews with Iva.

Iva Mikles  

Hello everyone and welcome to the next episode of Art Side of Life where I chat with inspiring artists five days a week. My name is Iva and my guest today is Chris Solarski and you will learn about the importance of studying of masters and using the simplicity to bring powerful essence to your artworks.

Chris Solarski  

Yeah, I think what was a consistent theme throughout all the people I admire is that they always study to old masters. Chris is

Iva Mikles  

a game designer and author originally from UK now living in working in Zurich, Switzerland. He specializes in the relationship between videogame aesthetics, and user experience. Particularly the physical movement of the players is an author of two books first one drawing basics and video game art and the second one interactive stories and video game art. He is also currently collaborating with renowned artists Phil Hale to develop a new end game. Moreover, to this he also lectures at SAE Creative Media Institute in Zurich and coordinates the International Game Developers Association there in Switzerland too. So please welcome Chris Solarski. And let’s get to the interview. So please welcome Chris

Chris Solarski  

Allen. Thank you very much, sir. Pleasure to be here. To take part.

Iva Mikles  

So I would like to start with with the beginning because you studied like, design art for the games, right? And then afterwards, you also studied fine art. So I would like to know kind of, what is the background? How did you get to art then the biggest decisions you had to do?

Chris Solarski  

Sure, I was actually jumping around quite a bit that originally I had no interest at all in studying and that after failing myself, my Ghana GCSE material level courses at the age of 18. I think I failed everything. And as my only interest really was to go traveling, I wanted to work doing any job I could find I worked in a stationery shop selling office supplies. So worked for my dad painting and their idea was always to save up and then go for a snowboards holiday. So for a season snowboarding or save up and around the world trip with a surfboard under my arm. And so it was always sort of more as always just curious with traveling and find exploring new things. And it was just an opportunity. So an opportunity sort of meeting, getting to know a person from Australia who happens to start to multimedia, cause that’s sort of he suggested, Why don’t you do something like that. And it was the first time that I actually thought it’s actually from all the university courses I could do. Something to do with multimedia actually wouldn’t sound like work. So it’s not sort of academic in the sense that you know, like how I see chemistry or some of the traditional sort of courses that you tend to do at university and and that quickly changed to animation. So I thought that animation would be awesome to do. And so I ended up going that route, so sort of computer animation, then games, then find out, as you mentioned, and then games and fine art combined, which is sort of my speciality at the moment. Yeah.

Iva Mikles  

But the design, I mean, you studied in a different places you studied involved. So then you studied in us, right. And so

Chris Solarski  

the US, but what’s so not the US, but in I think I’ve done some courses or short courses. So what how it happened was that I always sort of I don’t tend to think, to sort of I don’t tend to have these kind of short term goals and short term might mean a year two, three. And I’m usually sort of very focused on something that I really wanted want to achieve. And so when I decided, Okay, I’m going to do animation and the thoughts naively, I one day, I’m going to work for Pixar, sort of very simple, very simple person in that way. I kind of think I want to do something I’m going to achieve it you know, this is like, of course, this is going to happen. So I just managed to get onto the computer animation course. And towards the end, I took an interest in games just through things that I was reading at the time. And I realized this is such a medium of so much potential. That’s I thought actually get animation is interesting, but I want to get into games. So you kind of changed direction. On graduating, I was lucky to work at Sony Computer Entertainment in London. And then I worked there for just two years working in environments and characters. And at some point I got introduced to find out it was through an artist a particular call Andrew Andrew Jones. He’s sort of one of the massive black founders, because I attended a workshop that massive black, the concept art org organized in Amsterdam. And I saw Android Jones do life drawing performance on stage. And I just realized that my digital skills that I acquired, so up until then were nothing compared to his traditional skills that I really had to study more of this, you know, what he’d studied sort of anatomy, classical arts, doing life drawing, and things like that. And so again, I changed again. So there’s like, every three years, it seemed to ice into having new direction. And the new kind of goal in the back of my mind, like what kind of artists I would like to be. And after that, it was sort of not to drag this on for too long, but it was sort of the eye for a long time, then I was so fascinated by fine art, I wanted to be a portrait painter, a figurative artist, because I found new heroes to pursue, sort of to identify with, and in the end, it was actually rather than kind of dividing myself and kind of throwing away all my previous experiences, all the things I was fascinated with before, just through chance, I found a way to bring them together. And that’s sort of what my speciality was, that’s kind of this digital animation and games, then fine art, and then games and fine arts together,

Iva Mikles  

combined. But you said you started drawing digitally, right? Or you kind of?

Chris Solarski  

Well, I wouldn’t say drawing, it was more, it was really a computer animation course where it says we had life drawing. But just like a lot of the digital art students on these courses with the traditional drawing parts, always feels very forced, like he just wants to do the special effects and animations on the computer. But then I was also always somehow kind of attracted to sort of just making myself better anyway, I could. So I always attended those courses. Although I think it was once a week or once a month, I can’t remember now. But even during the summer break, I signed up for life drawing classes in London, because I was studying in Portsmouth on the coast of south coast of England. So going back to London, where I’m from, I would just sign up for summer courses at the universities sort of in the area. And just continue drawing their tradition. And so I sort of started to take an interest there. And while working at for the games company, we also had a live drawing once a week or once a month, the current however again. And what was really changed everything like where I really started taking interest in drawing was off to this meeting chance meeting or sort of watching Android Jones do this life drawing performance. What was kind of holding me back from really getting into drawing was this kind of feeling that I’m not good enough for like I don’t have the motivation that some of my, in particular a cousin of mine house he’s been drawing from since he was a child and never had any sort of never felt sort of intimidated by by by drawing because drawing is sort of like to be the motivation to sort of, you know, go through 1000s of bad drawings to get that one that you’re actually happy with. I never found that kind of drive to push myself for I was always intimidated. And it would just this one kind of this epiphany was that I just realized, well if I sign up to lots of life drawing courses, I’ve paid for them. I have this kind of financial investment. So I’m going to go in I have to go. So I used up my holidays to go attend the painting course on Monday, would go to life during at work on Wednesdays live drawing on Fridays, Saturday mornings, all day, close on Sunday. And just through this kind of this routine, and through the repetition, in, I just started to see progress really quickly sort of it was just really exciting to see, it’s just, you know, in the end, it’s, it was kind of a funny way maybe to approach it. But, you know, once you start growing regularly see regular sort of constant improvement. And I would also document sort of my progress, taking photos and putting an online gallery. And so when I had these, as a sort of all artists do, when you have these low points where you think that you’re, you’ve lost it, or whatever it was that you had, you can always very quickly look back at your gallery and look back a month or two and see I’m still progressing, it may not feel like it, but I am moving forward. Yeah,

Iva Mikles  

I think that’s really good idea for for people who are kind of looking for motivation, and in comparing themselves with the artists who draw like, I don’t know, 20 years, and they’re like, Oh, my God, I will never get there. So I think that’s a really good idea. And when you were talking about India, that he influenced you maybe as a mentor as well, did you have other mentors or other people who inspired you to pursue your career?

Chris Solarski  

Yes, yeah, I mean, I wouldn’t sort of call them sort of mentors may perhaps in a traditional sense where someone’s can or maybe like in a formal sense that someone says, I will mentor you. But definitely, when I started learning or attending the painting classes on Monday, he was with sort of like an award winning portrait painter, called Brendan Kelly. So he’s one of the finalists, sort of think finalists or winners of the BP Portrait Award, at the National Portrait Gallery in London. So he was sort of teaching me that he was hosting this class on Mondays. And what I took from him was really, that, you know, you have this, the side of art that is very personal, that it really depends on your life experiences, and sort of what feelings you want to convey or sort of what ideas you want to convey. Whereas he was a very practical artists and and what I got from him was that there’s also this fascinating whole wealth of fine art knowledge, the craft side, that is really fascinating. And that’s something that we all can learn. So we can all learn about proportions, about composition theory about lighting concepts that the old masters sort of developed and sort of were have been passed on and sort of influencing Modern Arts and so on, sort of like these are established principles. And so this was really like, what it’s a large part of what I do now, it’s sort of defining the applying those principles that I started to learn with Brendan, to games. So sort of like I’ve been exploring and sort of trying to find this kind of craft, define the craft and define a framework for how to understand games, using the same approach that I learnt to understand how paintings, traditional paintings and drawings, conveyed emotion. So what was the kind of engineering craft side that the old masters used? To influence? Yeah, I

Iva Mikles  

really liked that approach. And when you talked about these influences, what was your best advice you ever received, and maybe the worst as well, doesn’t have to be from the same person.

Chris Solarski  

The best I know, because I often I will say, I never really had sort of this this kind of career advice. Often surreal, because the heroes I had were often quite distant, you know, it wasn’t that I knew them personally. But I it was always just that this idea, I think what was a consistent theme throughout all the people I admire is that they always studied the old masters that it was there’s so much that we sort of take for granted. From you know, when we look at click Go to Museum and we look at these kind of old paintings, and then the more you study the craft, the more so if you look beyond these angels and sort of religious motifs, and you find that actually the the craft is amazing, sort of like how they the how they brought to life. These figures are sort of on this from these TD canvases and made them three dimensional. It’s like something that you don’t appreciate when you’re looking at very photographic sort of imagery or old paintings inspired by photography. When you stand in front of these old paintings, there’s so much fascinating technique and also things that make you a better artist, that’s sort of what was, you know, they were very limited in terms of, you know, what we have today, what we take for granted is like the computer can undo your mistakes. And you can zoom in and zoom out, flip the canvas horizontally, and so on to see your mistakes. There’s, you know, we have anatomy references, which are amazing compared to what they have to go through to study anatomy. And so we have a very big advantage. But it was, it’s what is nice to learn from the old masters is this simplicity that this elegant simplicity, simplicity, which also communicates amazingly well. So finding the simple volumes of simple shapes, which make your artwork more powerful, and also help you to capture the essence of what it is that you’re looking at. And I think this study the old masters was the best advice. Or as the West advice. I was thinking about sort of in advance, you kindly sent me the questions to think about in advance. And as I sort of wanted more to highlight, maybe not advice, bad advice given me by someone, but sort of more the general atmosphere that you encounter, I’m sure I’m not the only one. I’ve heard other artists go through it as well. It’s just when you’re very ambitious, and you sort of you have this drive, like my drive comes from thinking that I don’t have enough time, you know, I started quite late, I have to study really quickly and absorb all I can. And so you’re often tend to encounter people who find that kind of comical that yeah, oh, you’re working so hard, you know why just slow down, take it easy. Or people that are maybe you suddenly have a little bit of success, and you encounter people who feel who’ve had success before you and you enter this new group of people, and so they get the you get the impression that you don’t belong there, and that you haven’t proved yourself enough. And so there’s this kind of implied a device that you shouldn’t try as hard as you’re trying. And I think it’s, you know, we all, none of us want to be embarrassed ourselves. None of us want to, you know, we don’t want to look silly. So once this acceptance, and so the idea that so when you have an idea that, you know, when you’re inspired and you have a goal, and you think I want to be sort of as good as this artist, or I want to just express myself through art, it’s sort of not to listen to this sort of advice, that’s the you tend to to get sort of stumbled into some consciously or subliminally, from from other people.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah, because even if you look at social networks, and artists was like a lot of following, then basically, they are posting a lot and they’re working hard, but they are not talking about it as much, maybe. So it’s just to release the volume of work. And you’re not thinking about it, like how much they actually think about it, and like studying they put into it. So yeah, that’s really angle to look at it as well. And

Chris Solarski  

also, it’s just yeah, just you because you’ll find that too. You know, it’s I’ve really started my memories, so bad finance videos of an artist that I really admire, she she was saying in another podcast that yeah, she was studying at school, she wanted to, she was already getting hired by Pixar, a few people and, and all her friends were saying, you know, just slow down, why are you working so hard. And, you know, and in a way, it’s like, you’re, as the professional artists really are. The ones at the top that I admire, just work seven days a week, and your life is so focused, I mean, you get so much pleasure from it as you are a workaholic by definition, but you get so much from it, that it doesn’t feel like work and, and then in a way it’s sort of you, you do tend to put your work in front of socializing, you know, all your friends will go out on a Friday night. And you’re preparing, you know, to be fresh for life during the next day or something like that. And so the idea is that you’re you’ll often have this kind of conflict between those socialize and be a hat kind of like a, an ordinary person. So in a way, you know, listen to the advice of my friends who, you know, for good reason want to hang out with you, or do you sort of stay focused and sort of really go, you know, so, stick to the goal that you’ve set yourself?

Iva Mikles  

Yeah, that’s true. Ben, you have a family as well. Like how do you design your day you know when you need to structure or your time for studying, teaching, creating the startup and everything. So how do you maybe plan ahead or the daily? What do you do what contributes to your success or maybe weekly, like a meditation sport, I don’t know, like, all of these kinds of

Chris Solarski  

shout outs start at the last part that sort of, I think it’s really important to have time to yourself that I think the most creative solutions, so the most creative ideas that I have for often when I’m actually not working, it’s usually when I’m out cycling, or swimming, or sleeping, sort of like or trying to sleep, my mind has the ability to wander more, and I can, so quite literally kind of revolve things, you know, have a 3d environment for a game in mind, but when I’m kind of lying in bed, so then it’s, you know, it’s dark. So my eyes closed, I can kind of visualize the space, sort of, in my mind and sort of develop ideas much better. And so I think it’s really, really important to have time to yourself sort of without maybe personal thing for me, but even without music, just No, no distractions, just you and nature. But we’re now I sort of, as you mentioned, so I’m as a father to son, an 11 month old son, and it is just chaotic. I think it just, we, my wife and I had trouble sort of finding an agreement on sort of who looks after Charlie, when at the beginning, she she’s also self employed. And so we found it’s just important to have a schedule, you know, that this day is yours. So you use clear that, you know, you’re gonna try and push that as much work into that day as possible, then the next day you’re looking after the sun. And so it’s just as scheduling and I think this is something I learned also, when I started to shift towards more the finance side after working in games, that I realized after some struggling, that’s, you know, we a lot of us tend to sort of have some experiences working in an office or doing some kind of job and there’s always someone giving you your timesheet you know this, you have to be here at work nine o’clock till five, you know, it’s in your contract. But as a freelance artist or someone who’s you know, self employed working in any discipline, it’s really important to set those start times lunch, lunch break times, even if you don’t stick to them 100% At least you have a reason to feel guilty. So you know, if you say I start work at nine or 10 o’clock in the morning, if it’s 11 o’clock, and you’re still in your pajamas, watching cartoons on television, then at least you’re you’ve kind of given yourself a schedule, and you sort of have that guilty feeling that I really have to get going otherwise. And yet, sort of whole half of the day can go by and then suddenly, finally pick up the pencil and started

Iva Mikles  

do you use a traditional planner or some app or something, what you can recommend the like,

Chris Solarski  

I just, for me, it’s I have a Gmail email account. And I just find it very useful too. Because there I have my calendar. Also, for collaborations, I have the Google Drive. And as I also use the Google Docs, the spreadsheets thing as well. And for the collaborations as well, we tend to use Slack for sort of similarity, SMS, but sort of, of course, these kind of specialized special interest groups within Slack and Trello. It’s also a nice way to visualize sort of, like post it notes, digitalized posted notes where you can kind of move cards around and set new tasks and comment on them. And, and so yeah, so Gmail, Slack and Trello.

Iva Mikles  

I really like Trello as well, because it’s like kind of self project management tool, which is really nice, visually and quite easy to plan. Yeah, I started to use it after I also left like office life and kind of being on my own. So that helps in going back maybe to the branding and the art style, kind of is there the vision or mission which you would like to communicate through all your work you mentioned like being on the shoulders of giants and study also the old artists and the traditional tools. Um, how would you describe your brand

Chris Solarski  

with the the artwork, I mean, I feel personally I feel I still haven’t arrived at a way of drawing that I would feel is consistent that I always get the same results that, you know, you and I got to know each other through the sketch that I organized. So it’s like a life drawing session with cosplayers, we have a difference. So, so we have, like a cosplayer from a game franchise or an animation every two weeks. And I find it you know, it’s just an incredible way to practice and develop your, your style, or I use the word style hesitantly, because it’s, I think it’s often a negative thing, if you think of it as a conscious thing to develop that, you know, I’m going to work in this way, because it’s different, or as has a marketing advantage or something like that. So their style, I think, is just more like what you find interesting, sort of like, what what captures your attention the most, and sort of what you feel is the most important thing to put down. And these live tutoring sessions are fantastic, because, you know, we only have like one minute or two minutes or five minutes to draw. And so you have so little time that you end up just putting down the essential statements sort of like the, they are important to you. And so there’s this, what I’m finding is important that there’s this, I study a lot of classical arts, sort of these very, sort of very precise way of observation. So it’s like it has to be the proportions have to be as as accurate as possible. And the lighting as well as decided, whereas what I find more and more is this, again, maybe it’s sort of a reflection of my background in general that it’s, you know, I also enjoy the exaggeration parts of the things that I studied myself through reading about animation techniques. And I have a few friends who specialize in character design for games and an illustration, and they have like super exaggerated characters, and I love that side says, I find my, my drawing, the more I explore it through the sketch club group is sort of like this kind of combination of sort of, a lot of maybe believable weights or, and sort of very observed as much as I can, in that short time, very observed shapes and forms. But I like to exaggerate them so that there’s bringing sort of more and more life to, to the drawing, sort of maybe, sort of pushing it that way. And as a brand, I mean, I have sort of these different aspects to my work. So I’m working on a video game, I also have these two books that explore traditional storytelling and communication and traditional arts as applied to games, and interaction. And so again, it’s sort of I think that’s sort of my current case, this kind of digital art or contemporary art, but sort of really building a solid foundation for it sort of like to understand where what the basis is of what we’re doing, and also to the simplicity, so like in my my books, I use a circle, square, and triangle is kind of the base basis of our aesthetic language. So circular shapes for movements, rectangular shapes for stability, and the triangle for aggression, or sort of this confrontation. And this all comes back to sort of Renaissance thinking or even so the ancient Greek philosophy and things like that. So it’s sort of this trying to build it’s not just a superficial understanding of art, but actually the the craft side, which I find fascinating, which is part of my, my brand. I could see. Yeah.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah, I think that’s really interesting. And where they wanted to ask because you said also that you were reading books, and you have these references, maybe what is your favorite book? Or what would you recommend people to read?

Chris Solarski  

That Oh, there are lots of sort of hard, I will just run through a few that come to my mind. Maybe later on, I might think that I should have sort of offered this one but one that maybe it’s very difficult to read because it’s sort of written in a very Victorian kind of language as the Ruskin John Ruskin book and I forget the name And then sort of like the life drawing guide to by John Ruskin or something or elements of drawing. And it’s very difficult to read, but it was because of this kind of awkward sort of old style of speaking. But it was just really eye opening because it was Brendan Kelly, the painter that was learning from that. Sort of, he used that as a basis for our course. And it was sort of looking at composition and simplicity, and all of these fundamentals. But later on, I mean, there are loads of books by Robert Beverly Hale, masterclass, and figure drawing is amazing just to like an eye opener. To understand just how simple the conceptualization was of artists like Leonardo da Vinci, and Tintoretto and all those people that they, you might see sort of like, when you look at an old painting or drawing, you might see lots of complexity or seemingly, but it’s actually very, very simple volume concepts that they had for anatomy, framed ink, a more contemporary look at composition. So just fantastic. Just eye opening as well, Harold speeds. But again, suddenly, I think it’s just good to look up Harold speed, sort of this is just you’re getting experiencing how bad my name is,

Iva Mikles  

you can send me those notes as well, like in the email, and then we can put it for, like other people to read in the show notes. So they don’t have to make notes and they can just perfect check it out.

Chris Solarski  

Much better. Yeah, my memory is so bad that it’s I think it’s Yeah, rather than have you sit through the minutes of trying to remember what the name of the course it’s Yeah, but much better

Iva Mikles  

apart. And of course, we will put the link to your books, obviously, because they need to read it. Thank you. And then what I also wanted to ask, Oh, yeah, there was about the art tools and mediums you use, kind of when people they would like to get where you are now maybe. So they can read the books as well. But if they want to buy some art supplies, or start with some software or something, what would you recommend them to start with? And maybe what do you use now as well, kind of in comparison,

Chris Solarski  

I still just a pencil and paper, it’s really and even maybe you don’t, you may not even need an eraser, it may just kind of force you to, to go with what you need. And it was just actually a question I had from somebody at the sketch club on Saturday that you know, they are so is it okay to use an iPad Pro, with with the drawing program. And I said, of course, like it’s, you know, everyone’s free to use what materials they wish. But just the problem with digital media, when you’re learning is that, can you it’s so easy to undo your mistakes that you’re you know, even if you say I will try not to you still it’s sort of like the temptation is, you know, the tools are there. So you’ll, you’ll end up making have this kind of, oh, this, this general feeling that you’re this safety, whereas traditional media, take that away from you, and you’d have to kind of feel more alive. And it’s feels more, maybe not the right word, but it feels more dangerous to draw in that way. And, and the other thing I thought was also that digital media like Photoshop, for instance, also allow you to zoom in very easily and zoom out. And especially when you’re learning you tend to zoom in too much. So that a good drawing, good image of any sorts, really, the most important things are usually sort of the composition, the big shapes that you designed for your character or your set series of characters or your landscape. And when you when you’re working over just a pencil and paper, you know, you’re sort of much you’re kind of there’s one resolution that you’re working at, you know how far your head is away from from a paper whereas when we’re working in Photoshop, it’s so tempting to draw the head and zoom in for the eyelashes and things like that and you end up wasting so much time on things which are essentially will make your final image any better. So it’s sort of the traditional stuff is the best and you know, I learned all the all the things that I learned now now about color. I learned from mixing oil paints and painting of oil as well how colors interact, the transparency of colors, you know, sort of what not to do sort of how to how to destroy them, how to keep them, how to keep your image as vibrant as possible. All these things you can’t learn, you know, when you have like an a palette of millions of colors, and you know, when you’re forced to just use a few or use it as an exercise as sort of as the traditional mediums are much better, I think at this. But otherwise, I mean, saying that I use Photoshop. So it’s a great tool with sort of like, so once you’ve I think, once you’ve spent enough time working with traditional media, I think sort of Photoshop is what I use.

Iva Mikles  

Good to combine, maybe even if you want to try right away, like Photoshop or other apps, or software then still traditional, like combined for learning purposes.

Chris Solarski  

Yes, yeah. And I mean, it’s sort of, yes, so it’s definitely don’t, whatever you do don’t cutaway. Pencil and paper is sort of so immediate and direct, you don’t have to change the size of the brush. It’s just however, however, well, you sharpen your pencil, know how hard you press how lightly press is much more a responsive, sort of much more physical direct feeling than when you’re working digitally, you lose some of the sensations, there was, you know, your, your brush, your pencil stroke, as well has a real world. Sort of this is based in the real world, sort of, you know, whereas when you’re working digitally, depending on how far you zoom in, you know, sort of everything changes constantly. And so it’s this simplicity, which is very, very important to understand. And it’s not just technical, it’s really this, this physical feelings that you get from from painting, or drawing with traditional media that make you more sensitive to the physical language of painting, which translates to visual sensitivity. So doing delicate strokes, doing aggressive ones, pressing, lightly pressing hard on the paper, and, you know, there’s, there’s this more of a performance, physical performance, I would say, which is something that we don’t appreciate someone starting to learn to draw. But as you develop, you realize that, you know, there’s this this kind of sensitivity does translate into the texture quality of your drawings later on.

Iva Mikles  

Do you have a favorite pencil and paper, something you really enjoy using something No,

Chris Solarski  

no, it’s just sort of like paper straight from the printer, the high 20s and a pencil, just a three B pencil, I find it’s just for me, it’s sort of, I can get a nice dark value from it. But I don’t have to sharpen it so much as if it was if it was sort of any softer than that. But just really as simple as possible. And I do try to mix the mediums are a little every once in a while, because it’s definitely important to do that as well, too. You know, when whenever you’re faced with new a new medium, you are forced to think a new work in a different way. And even if you end up going back to, you know, what you are most familiar with, you’ll find that you can bring new a new approach sort of back to what’s sort of like to pencil and paper for instance. So for a while, you know, we we also have at the sketch club, the Copic markers, so working with like a 10%, gray, and a fine line, for instance, sort of to lay down the shapes quicker using the thick end of the Copic marker. You know, and then sort of well, before I’ve tried to close watercolor, charcoal, all those mediums, you know, they force you to work in different way, they have different value, possibilities, from light to dark, the thickness of the medium, and so on. And so it’s important to to change. And also, I hope I don’t forget to mention this also to use these mediums and copy the old masters. So it’s sort of like I didn’t know what I wanted to sort of include that in the discussion today that a lot of what I did was in our learning from books going on courses, specialist ones, maybe one week care or sort of all the courses that I ended up doing like in Poland, which were more long term, but they are some of the best education and God was just taking one the artwork of one of my favorite artists and trying to copy it As best as I could, that’s just an amazing lesson because you by sitting there and observing something so precisely for an hour or two or three, you start to have to analyze, you know, why, why did artists do it this way? Or what are the connections between this brushstroke and another one? What is the order of the brushstrokes that they achieve? And, you know, how is the composition working? And so that’s an education you can have practically for free. And so it’s those those things. So there’s a pencil and paper ideally, but it also just studying the old masters in a very simple way in taking a book or going to the museum is also a

Iva Mikles  

important thing. That’s, that’s really good. Because then now you can also find online any image you want, and you can study it. Yes. And then we talked about the studying and practice. But what I also wanted to ask you is like, how do you find new paid projects? or new jobs? Because now you’re interested? Or maybe how did you get here? Or how do you basically find new income.

Chris Solarski  

And so it’s, I mean, it’s not at the moment, it’s quite tough, because I’m putting all my money into creating a prototype for my video game project. But it’s things have gotten a little easier finding work, since my two books that I published have been sort of quite successful. And so with, I often get invited to speak at conferences, I get some royalties, of course, I would sort of see more as sort of pocket money from the books. And just through teaching, actually, living in Switzerland, the pay is sort of higher than in other countries. But then I live very simply sort of, like really sort of, as I mentioned, I don’t go out too much. Live, sort of, yeah. So I will joke jokes that are just, you know, socks with holes in them. So like, really simple, simple living, because I all my money goes into my project. So when I work part time, sort of teaching, it sort of gives me enough money to just get by and focus on projects that I hope will bring more money in the future. But it’s sort of just in a way in my position, I’m quite lucky, because it’s, the two books are very educational. They apply to a lot of different disciplines, not just games, but film and virtual reality, and gamification, and so on. And so I can often even propose talks or things like that, and that’s also gives me some extra kind of pocket money to keep going.

Iva Mikles  

So you combine different income sources. So book

Chris Solarski  

A Yes, yeah. I mean, it’s, yeah, the goal now is really to get this prototype made. And I’m very lucky that the artists I’m collaborating with is actually one of my heroes, he was I would have his postcards of his artwork on my wall. And I was learning to paint I was, you know, I was I was thinking I one day, I want to be like Phil Hale in this or, and I had some a few other artists like Justin Mortimer as well. And so now actually collaborating with him. So we are interpreting one of his characters that he’s done a painting series of called Johnny bad hair. And because it’s partly his work is an interesting video game project, we have some really exciting people collaborating from film, so people who’ve worked on Avatar and Fight Club and the matrix sort of they’re doing in the special effects area. They’re actually doing, collaborating on our game doing sort of the programming and art and motion capture. And so it’s also because it’s an exciting project is often I have very, very kindly give me kind of friends rates. So I don’t pay what the Industrial Light and Magic might pay for their services. It’s sort of like so that’s another way to it’s not to do with making money, but it’s also like, how do I make my projects happen? And it’s sort of like, through a generosity, very, very generous generosity of people who are interested in making, making things happen that they’re also excited about.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah, but then because you are like where you are now, but who When you just finished studies, how did you get to the projects you wanted to work on? Or kind of how did you find the first new paid projects? Did you do networking or social marketing? Or like, how did you do it?

Chris Solarski  

Well, the first one was, because when I graduated, I was very, very lucky to get a job at Sony Computer Entertainment in London. And that was just two months later, so but it felt like a very, it felt like a very long time. And what I should say is sort of it was very depressing, I think there’s the very depressing time because so think it’s something that people don’t tend to talk about as, like when you finish studying. Especially in England, I’m not sure if it’s so much the same as everywhere else. But you tend to leave your family home and goes to a new city maybe to study in, you build up a whole new network of friends, and you’re with them for three years. And then you graduate after working really hard on your final project. And then everyone kind of dissipates and goes back to their hometown. And you’re suddenly on your own. And, and then you have this pressure of like, I’ve studied so long to be a games artists or an animator, and you get your first rejection, and then you get another rejection. And it can be very, very depressing. And, you know, you feel terrified. And you know, in the end, I was only without a job for two months, which is nothing but it feels like eternity, when you’re waiting for that opportunity to come through. And in general, like since then I’ve realized, you know that, so goals that I achieve, can be five years ahead, or 10 years ahead, that it’s the people I admire, almost always much, much older than me. And so they’ve gone, you know, they’ve gotten a lot of work that you don’t necessarily see. But I was just lucky to get that job because one of my school friends had already done an apprenticeship at Sony. And so he was already working there. And I just managed to get my CV to the arts, one of the art leads directly as opposed to going through an agency. And so it’s just generally I mean, it’s just, I’m sure a lot of people say it’s just through friends, is the best way. And just to always be very positive. You know, even when you don’t get the answer that you want, sort of be humble and say, you know, thank you for your time. You know, even on my side, like I get so many emails, sometimes people asking for advice on how to get into games, and sometimes I’ll write them a lengthy email, and then I wouldn’t hear anything from them. And then they’ll ask, then they’ll write again a few months later with another question. And I think, Wait, you didn’t write back to me beforehand? Why should I said I’m not like a customer service center. So it’s always, you know, people, you know, put time into, if someone writes back to you, so even if it’s not the answer that you like, to always be positive, and if you don’t have anything from somebody, just write again, you know, often people are so busy, that it’s important to, you know, just follow up and show that you’re enthusiastic, because then that’s another key thing that people enjoy, you know, that someone is shows real passion for a particular position. And also contacts, artists that you admire, because we sort of tend to be quite lonely. So they say that sort of joking. artists that are working by themselves, you know, and they actually enjoy contact from people who enjoy appreciate their work. And so you’ll be surprised that some of the artists that you think are gods are untouchable. If you write down you might be pleasantly surprised that they write back and then give you some advice or even just the context will be inspiring and pushing you to to the new in a new direction.

Iva Mikles  

So now everyone will contact you. You will. Yeah, but I think it’s really good advice. Because yeah, you never know. And then also, it’s really good to follow up because sometimes people read the email maybe they don’t have time to reply right away. And then it might get lost in the other email. So it’s really good and it’s I don’t know,

Chris Solarski  

I sorry, on the plus side so it interrupts that I also wanted to say so on the bus, the positive thing but also just sometimes you’ll get very negative responses or you know, going to conferences as well you you know, sometimes you meet your heroes and they’re exactly how you wanted them to be imagined them to be or even better. Sometimes they turn out to be really nasty people, you know who and it’s also not not to take it personally, some people don’t know how to behave correctly and a little bit of success goes to their head. And also, it’s not not to think that you don’t belong there, it’s just, you know, some people, you know, might have written a good book or made a good game or are good at art, but not to take the negative attitude that you sometimes might come across as a sign of acceptance or not. So says, That’s, once you find a nice person. And so it’s kind of like, it’s, it’s nice, but also, you know, just not to be not to be intimidated to reach out to that one bad response shouldn’t put you off being outgoing, and making as many friends as possible, because that’s really very important in the long term for your

Iva Mikles  

career, for sure, yeah. Because also, they might just have a bad day. It’s, that can happen too. So you’re never seen. But

Chris Solarski  

although I’ve met some very people who are like, surprisingly kind of arrogance, so it does happen. So but it’s a lot of time, it’s a very positive experience.

Iva Mikles  

And as I don’t want to hold you too long, so I would like to have like some final questions maybe about the future. And I would like to know, where would you see yourself in five years? What would be kind of your, your dream goal? And if you cannot fail, where would you be in five years?

Chris Solarski  

Well, the main project I’m doing now is like a dream countries, as I’m collaborating with one of my heroes for sale, Hale, and, but not how I imagined, you know, I thought I’d be a figurative painter one day, sort of, like competing against sort of competing in a positive way, sort of the National Portrait Gallery, the BP Portrait Award or something. Whereas now I’m actually making a video game with him using my kind of a specialization of classical art and games, to sort of translate. And I mean, I would just be happy to make that game. Sort of awesome. So like the, you know, how I imagined it to be sort of were even better sort of, like, based on sort of how, what, what we have already. And then just to continue on, I mean, there are so many, sort of comic artists or illustrators, and musicians that I would love to kind of keep the momentum going. So assuming the game is success, then I can use that as a way to show that, you know, I have a unique way of creating games, that it’s sort of not my paths, not the traditional kind of shooting platforming, Assassin’s Creed style games, but they’re actually games that try to in a certain very sensitive way interprets a traditional painting series or music, based on sort of the techniques that I’ve developed. So I have a few names in mind, but maybe I don’t want to embarrass myself. But I usually sort of think very, I tend to think very big. Good, because I’ve heard I’ve heard it say said before, and I as, as is the theme of this interview, I forget the name of who it was. But I but it’s sort of just the thinking that you should think maybe it was even Steve Jobs or something like that. But it was the you should always think kind of 1,000% You know, like something that is just ridiculous. And everyone thinks this guy is a clown, you know, he’s never going to achieve that. Because even your 10% is going to be amazing, you know, much better than everybody else. It’s, that’s because life tends to create a lot of friction, that, you know, whatever you try to do. There’s money involved. There’s time, finances, health, all these things. So your idea always has this gets chipped away, sort of it starts to become much smaller. Yeah. So if your goal is very average, or it’s kind of very safe, you’re only gonna achieve 10% of that very safe goal. Yeah. Whereas if your goal is incredible, and it’s sort of gonna change the world some way then even your 10% is going to be better than everybody else’s attempt. So yeah, that’s how I tend to

Iva Mikles  

because I also heard when you want to be like millionaire, then you should learn from billionaires. So kind of to reach higher level and then just to learn the from someone who is much better than you and set those goals. Because, yeah, as you said, it’s really hard to read them. But if you can imagine them, it can become true. So,

Chris Solarski  

yes, yeah, and you’ll be surprised here that it’s sort of just, you know, even on a daily example, in are you, you know, to, to reach your 100% of your goal, you know, you’d really have to say your schedule is mine working mind to identify what six every day, one lunch break, you would have to work, you know, exactly to your schedule, you’d have to be perfect in your execution every single time. You know, every single artwork that you do sort of perfect sort of development. Whereas, you know, art doesn’t work like that, that you have, you make mistakes all the time. And when mistakes you, you try things out, and they maybe take you in the wrong direction, or very useful experiment and forms another idea. And so this is all time, which is not calculated into this development of your goal. And so it’s, you know, you cannot possibly achieve 100%, what you set out to do, there’s always something in the way and so that’s why it’s better to dream incredibly big. And then you’re, you know, make things and put yourself in a position where it’s almost kind of life or death, like you, you know, jumping out and, you know, like, when I quit Sony, it was also, you know, I wanted to do find out now, and so I was quitting a job that paid fairly well, and, you know, I could comfortably stay there for a long time. But it just wasn’t what I wanted. And sort of, like deciding to go back to studying is also, you know, just, you know, you hope that something will come of it. But it’s better not to think too hard, and most of us are lucky that our families, you know, we will not end up on the street or something, you know, we are most of us, you know, I know, I’m sort of in a very privileged position. But I know that nothing seriously bad could happen, you know, like I would be kind of kept in place by my family. And so it’s sort of this risk isn’t so bad when you think about it. But it’s sort of good to put yourself in that situation where you, you have to make things happen, otherwise, you fall back to sort of nothing.

Iva Mikles  

And the last question, I would like to ask you, what would you like to be remembered for 100 years, maybe.

Chris Solarski  

I mean, I am sort of very proud of my second book, in particular, I think it’s, it would be nice if it was sort of like became more, sort of more and more sort of a common palette of sort of more common understanding of how we see games and art. And also the game I’m working on now, I suppose it’s, there are some storytelling approaches that we’re doing that I hope will be kind of seen as new and innovative. So there are things like that sort of like a way to remember it for understand a new way of thinking about game art and storytelling and practices, and maybe sort of like, some innovations in storytelling through interactivity.

Iva Mikles  

Oh, yeah. I think it would be super cool. I’m really looking forward to see the game. And I just want to thank you so much for joining us today. And also everyone for for watching and listening and see you next time.

Chris Solarski  

It was a pleasure. Okay, bye. Bye.

Iva Mikles  

Hope you guys enjoyed this interview. You can find all the resources mentioned in this episode at artsideoflife.com. Just type a guest name in the search bar. There is also a little freebie waiting for you. So go check it out. If you enjoyed this episode, please leave a review on iTunes, hopefully five stars so I can read and inspire more people like you. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to Art Side of Life podcast because I post new interview every single workday. If you want to watch the interviews, head over to artsideoflife.com/youtube. Thank you so much for listening. Don’t forget to inspire each other. And I will talk to you guys in the next episode. Bye.

Announcer  

Thanks for listening to the Art Side of Life podcast at www.artsideoflife.com

Hi, I am Iva (rhymes with “viva”). I am an artist, illustrator, founder of Art Side of Life®, and Top Teacher on Skillshare. Since 2009 I've worked as an illustrator, character designer, art director, and branding specialist focusing on illustration, storytelling, concepts, and animation. I believe that we are all creative in infinite numbers of ways, so I've made it my mission to teach you everything I know and help either wake up or develop your creative genius. Learn more about me.

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