What's the difference between being a concept artist and drawing comics?

The best concept art tells a story, all by itself. But what's the difference between creating concept art for movies, versus drawing comics or illustrating books? We asked some of our favorite concept artists, and here's what they said.

James Clyne (War Of The Worlds, The Fountain, Star Trek, Avatar and Battle Angel):

I think there is quite a big difference being a concept artist than other commercial artist like comic or book illustrators. Concept artists are asked to develop a range of assets that I find more demanding than any other artistic profession. For example, one day we are required to problem solve the visual look of a futuristic urban environment, the next day we could be asked to churn out the visual language for the ancient Trojan army. As a concept artist, you just never know what will be asked of you. It's that crazy problem solving design energy that I crave, and is exactly why I wanted to go into this profession in the first place. It's also a true collaborative effort, working with like-minded artists, craftsman, photographers and directors. This is not something you accomplish in a vacuum, you're constantly working with others with a common goal in mind.


Warren Manser (The Matrix, X-Men, Spider-Man, Minority Report, Serenity, The Last Airbender, Transformers 3):

Concept art differs from comic art and book illustration in many ways. It is extremely rare that a concept art piece is actually seen by the audience, whereas other forms of illustration display a faithful reproduction of the art piece itself. Concept art depicts a set, scene, or object that will be built by carpenters, model makers, or digital artists, so the concept artist has to have some idea of the reality of the final product. And, the concept art piece can be created to depict its subject in a cinematic manner. That is, in some instances a 2D piece that is illustrated, however beautifully, potentially depicts a scene that can not be shot with a camera.

Miles Teves (Robocop, Terminator 3, Spider-Man, Chronicles Of Riddick, Pirates Of The Caribbean 4):

I have only done a bit of book illustration and no comic art at all. I would say that book illustrators and comic book artists get to work at home, and though they are art directed, have more freedom in their work. A concept artist, more often than not, shows up every day to work after a long commute across Los Angeles, only to work in a dark and moldy environment, devoid of windows, crammed in a small space with other illustrators, and has a production designer hovering over them often art directing their pencil or stylus even before it is finished making it's first stroke. If one is lucky, and the production designer has a long meeting or is gone for the day, one can actually get some creative work done.


Wayne Barlowe (Galaxy Quest, Blade II, Hellboy, Harry Potter, The Day The Earth Stood Still, Avatar, John Carter Of Mars):

The primary difference is that one has to think in the round. One has to make sure that a design works from all angles and that it can also be created either in CG or as a practical costume. Illustrators do not have to contend with those issues. For my part, as a former illustrator, I had always wanted to see my creations come alive on the screen -it was the ultimate reality. It's been very gratifying to see just that.


Dawn Brown (Star Trek, Alice In Wonderland, The Last Airbender, Pirates Of The Caribbean 4)

The concept artist creates visuals to define a world or a character or something that serves the story. The comic book artist creates the visuals that actually tell the story. Although related, they are definitely two very different jobs. I wanted to become a concept artist because it pays better that being a comic book artist. Ha!


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