Bojan Koturanovic is concept artist from Kraljevo, Serbia. Although he lives in a small city of central Serbia, it does not prevent him from working for foreign clients. His career ran from web designer to concept artist for AAA games. He also educates other artist by recording tutorials about concept art.
Can you tell us about your beginnings?
I loved art and especially commercial stuff like comics, cartoons and all that since I remember. That whole world seems to be very interesting since in imaginary worlds many crazy things can happen and that was super fun to watch and grow with. This whole idea that you can imagine whole universe and play with characters and story is closes thing to being god itself and it’s super fun feeling. So we are here to enjoy our staying entertain ourselves and others… that’s how I started to create my own stuff. At one point somehow I realize that this thing is something that I am good at. Everybody seems to enjoy it. Looking back to my school days and later on I was always drawing and that was my way to escape boring situations like boring lessons and classes. I can always draw even though professors and teachers thought that I don’t listen what they are saying class it seems that when I draw my concentration was even higher. I was good at school I liked science and I was getting inspiration from every place. After high school I went to study IT sciences but left my studies after few years and then started to pursuit my design career. At first I helped my father as a graphic designer and photographer since he owned photo studio back in the days and even though he didn’t draw that much I always remember his formula one drawing and his famous design for it, he was very big reason why I started to draw since he always liked to draw really cool things to me. After that I started to search for graphic design work online doing everything from flyers and logotypes to illustrations. Also since I learned a thing or two about programming I started to do web design and stayed in that field for few years. Biggest difficulty with concept art is that you need really high skill level and be good at many things to jump into the industry and that development process took lot of years and energy. Finally after some time I started to interest into 3D since it was far superior way of creating hard surface things then to draw by hand. So that’s how I get into Chiron school that was founded by former ILM technical director Predrag Bakić in Belgrade. I went there but then I want back to 2D stuff since 3D world was so intimidating at first. We did everything in Maya and I hate it. I hated the interface it was too complicated and not intuitive at all. Today Maya is much better but that first pain was something that forced me to seek another solutions.
How was the transition from graphic designers to concept artist?
Well that journey was not an easy one that’s something that I can tell you straight away. You need lot of learning, practicing and luck to get into the field of concept design. Concept design is super honest and very brutal field where your work is everything you cannot fake nothing if you are great you are if not then party is over. That’s something that I learned so far. You need to balance many things to work smart and efficient not only good. In production environment efficiency is something that is crucial maybe more crucial than anything else. You can be best artist and have amazing work but if you can’t deliver in specific time frame all other things doesn’t matter. It’s business like any other and time factor is super important. So that level of stress is something that you really need to get used to. On the other side you are very close to key figures in project creation process since you work on idea itself so it’s very satisfying to see your stuff comes to life that people are enjoying and having fun. We work hard but when all fits at the end it’s super rewarding experience. That’s why I love concept design since your job is to materialize idea into something specific into something that anybody can relate. So to sum things it’s super hard to get into the field and deliver fresh things all the time since there are already so many things out there and to be original these days is art in it’s own form and on the other side when you deliver and hit that target feeling is amazing you feel so complete and proud on yourself.
What kind of knowledge and qualities should the concept artist have to be successful?
Depends on what you want to do. These days many concept artists specialize to do specific things. For example I am doing mostly hard surface sci-fi stuff and I practice that shit a lot so that’s why I am good in it but you can either be genius and learn ultra fast and be good at many things and there are artists that are unbeatable and great but even them are not the best in anything. So some kind of specialization is good strategy especially for those who are starting in the field. I will try to grow as time goes by and that’s great challenge and also great way to live. Overall you need to find your inspiration in different places and in different things and also once more to be able to deal with all that stress and shortage of time. That’s really great challenge to all of us. Learning different stuff, taking care of yourself which I don’t do sometimes all that is necessary to be able to cope with life challenges and feel good.
In your portfolio we can see that there are weapons, vehicles and cyborg suits. Where did you get interested in them?
Well, there are many things that are still under NDA so I can’t show it just yet but right now I am in that sci-fi mood I love to imagine near or distant future and what things will look like. Also hard surface is hard to master so I started in that field since I was creating characters and creatures in my sketchbooks all the time when I was younger. So I maybe changed things subconsciously to have some kind of mind rest to grow in other fields. If you do one thing too many times it starts to be bit boring but then the best way is to switch interest and avoid artist blocks and those bad feeling when you think you are stuck but actually you just need a little mind rest so things fits together in the background. Right now I am updating my portfolio a bit so you’ll see some new things in near future. I haven’t done characters in such a long time I might go back into that field I think I am pretty confident with anatomy and stuff and maybe some potential employee don’t realize that by looking at my current portfolio.
When you receive a request from a client, how is the process of your work going?
This is straight forward process I get the brief and then I have little conversation with art director to clear some things that are maybe confusing. After that I am trying to figure how some things fits together like if I am creating weapon or prop where it will fits and what’s the reason for that to be there. Again function is key and I like to build from there. So I am not trying to be fancy at this starting point. You can find inspiration in different places I have really big reference library that I built over the years and it’s constantly growing. Also to really understand some things you must try to build it so when I have time am trying to create visual library and make it stronger by creating small elements to practice form and language so I have it instantly in my visual vocabulary when I need it. I am trying to practice many things and not have let’s say specific style but as hard as you try you can’t escape from what’s good or cool looking to your brain so you will end up with some kind of your own mark for sure but over all I am trying to be very efficient to switch to different design language and try different things and that’s something that I am focusing in my new portfolio pieces. I am basically trying to have more variety in my portfolio and that’s whole point.
You worked on the Lawbreakers. Can you tell us more about your participation on it?
That’s some crazy experience. Super happy team adopted me and gave me that opportunity. I cannot be more happy to work with biggest names in the industry like Cliff Bleszinski (designer of Gears Of War, Unreal Tournament) Arjan Brusee (Guerrilla Games co founder) Tramell Ray Isaac (Lead artist and Art Director on Fallout, Fallout 2, Planet Side) James Hawkins, Josh Rife, Ryan Hawkins and many others that were outside the studio like Joe Peterson (Former Blizzard concept artist), Reno Lonewolf Levi (one of the best modelers on the planet), Keos Masons, Kirill Chepizhko and many many more. At first I was given a small tasks to develop smaller items to fill the gap in the production like to design a scope or some attachments and as time goes by and I delivered good stuff they gave me much more responsibility and at the end you can see my work all over the place. I did everything from weapons, props, characters, skins. Super cool experience but game has really bad luck to be developed at the same time with Bizzards Overwatch and Overwatch came out earlier and took most of that player base. Even though LawBreakers was truly unique and different and had better graphics and many other cool things one of the biggest factors for such a game to flop since it was one of the big expectations of the year is that it was made for hardcore players. It was too hard to master so casual players were confused and literally burned to the ground. I tried to play it in early stages and I sucked and I was pretty good in unreal back in the days so then I thought this will be really hard to master especially because those beta and alpha testers were one of the sickest hardcore gamers out there. So those are two biggest factors. Real sad is the fact that all those who tried had really great opinion about the game but since game is that hard to master casual players didn’t stayed that long.
What is your choice of softweres?
Right now I am using MODO, Moi3D and Zbrush for modeling, Keyshot for rendering and Photoshop. I am trying to be better with Marvelous Designer but I need to learn a lot more to consider myself to actually know that stuff. Also I would love to learn Substance Designer that’s something that I plan to do in near future.
You learned Maya, but now you are working in Modo. What influenced your decision to move from one software to another?
As I said I hated Maya for years it was so unintuitive so when I found Modo my world brightened up. Sun and sky was there again. Modo is amazing especially for modeling. You have great intuitive UI, great tools, MeshFusion and all things are improving non stop. Super intuitive and it’s growing but I hope it will not be like Maya at the end with everything in it. It’s great where it is today and hope it will stay intuitive and super productive in the years to come. Just try few tools and decide for yourself. Everybody use Max or Maya since those were industry standards for many many years but things are changing all the time. Modo is my choice so far but that doesn’t mean that it will be right for you. Give it a try and decide for yourself.
You work from Serbia for foreign clients. What are the advantages and disadvantages of working from home?
This is super important and hard question since I can’t give you a definite answer. I am trying to figure out what I really want. I love to have all that freedom and decide my own working hours but sometimes you can’t split work and free time and you end up working all day. Especially because last 3 years I was paid per project so when I finish I try to do more stuff since time is money in that case and also when you have some tight deadline you can really burn out. So I can’t decide if I want that in the future, I would love to separate my time better. Also another big downside is that you work alone or at least that’s my case so sometimes things can get lonely. There is always someone around but again sometime you need some of your friends around to talk about anything. I have many friends in the industry and we talk all the time on social media or on the phone, but I am definitely going to correct that in the future to go in some kind of partnership to form small studio or to look for in house position somewhere.
You’ve recently started working on tutorials. What’s your reason to start recording them?
Yeah that’s basically an experiment. I want to popularize Moi3D as a tool since many artists don’t know it’s even there. Top artists like Vitaly Bulgarov and many others use Moi for years now and still most of the people in the industry didn’t even heard about the software. Moi has really bad marketing so that’s why people don’t know nothing about it. As for Modo it’s same for Moi, it’s amazing tool you need to try to believe how effective it is. If you combine it with polygonal tools you will boost productivity and make your work much more fun and enjoyable. Just look at some latest Vitaly works and you’ll see how much he is using Moi these days. Super powerful and super fast at the same time. You can import sub division models and convert them into nurbs and then use all those crazy tools on your mesh. If this one goes well I’m planning to do more of those for sure. Making tutorials is really demanding but you also learn a lot in the process.
What would you recommend to younger colleagues who are just entering a job or are planning to enter?
My biggest piece of advice is to be active all the time on social media, even you are doing some super cool project, be active take your time to do some personal stuff because you are visible only when you have something to show so learn all of the tricks of social media. Sometimes artists that are not that good get the job since they are social media maniacs and they know all the tricks of promotion. That’s something that I would advice myself few years back if I could. But you learn from your mistakes on hard way. If you succeed and you get into the industry be active all the time. That’s something that’s really important these days.