Ep.31: Fantasy worlds building with Sean Andrew Murray (City of Gateway)

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Sean is a freelance illustrator, concept artist, author and teacher living in Florida, United States. He has worked in the entertainment industry for nearly fifteen years.

The bulk of his career has been spent as a video game concept artist, working on such titles as “Dungeons & Dragons Online,” and “The Lord of the Rings Online”. His freelance client list includes, among many others: Legendary Pictures (Guillermo Del Toro), Wizards of the Coast, LEGO, EA Games and ImagineFX magazine.

His work has been chosen for the past seven Spectrum annuals and has also been featured in ImagineFX magazine, Kotaku.com, EXPOSÉ, and Prime.

He is now teaching at Ringling College of Art in Florida and he also occasionally runs his own 6-week long intensive online seminars on the subject of “world-building for concept artists and illustrators.”

The production of his illustrated fantasy book, “Gateway: The Book of Wizards,” was funded by a successful 2012 Kickstarter campaign. The book was a primer for a fantasy world centered on a vast city called “Gateway”, which he has been working on in his sketchbooks for over 15 years. Recently with his friends, he has also produced a board game: Gateway: Uprising.

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Key Takeaways

“Trust your own vision, trust your own ideas. You don’t need to worry about someone else’s property … even if they are similar, nobody can create Gateway as good as I can as long as it’s coming from an honest place”

  • Sean advises to first decide – do you want to create your own world or work for somebody else?
    • If somebody else, then adjust your portfolio to that so if they are about to hire you, they will see it’s good for them
    • If you want to create your own world, start small, start somewhere, draw in sketchbook … it took him 10 years to create concepts for Gateway
  • In world-building, don’t force it to existence, let it evolve – few characters and a spaceship – start small, somewhere, draw a map with villages, mountains, etc. it gets you thinking, but you have to give it time to evolve
  • No. 1 advice for worlds building. In order to create compelling worlds, you gotta have passion for your own world = our world – passionate about learning, going to places, cities, reading books about other subjects, going to museums. You have to be multiple things – architect, merchant, city planner, biologist, etc. – you need to keep your mental library vast to keep your inspiration running
  • Sean wishes he knew what his real value as an artist/concept artist is. How much of a disservice you do to yourself if you work on a job for less money than you are worth. Artists tend to be apologetic and nervous when somebody pushes price down. It’s dangerous and destructive attitude to have, especially as a freelancer. In a studio you got all the ‘hidden costs’ covered, but as a freelancer you got to cover it and also bill for the time when you don’t have work.
  • Billing a client on hourly basis is tricky. You should bill per project – it’s motivation for you but also satisfaction for the client

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

All artworks by Sean Murray, used with permission

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