Today we sit down with Jamie Flack of Cat & Crown Artwork, a graphic design company located out of England. This 25 year old freelance graphic designer, illustrator and photographer comes straight out of the UK and has been freelancing for nearly 2 years now. From playing video games, designing monsters and annoying cats to bringing the very ideas behind a project to paper or screen, here is our conversation!
GP- What was your biggest push to drive you to become a Graphic Artist, did you have video game design in mind at all when you started?
Jamie- In all honesty, I kind of fell into graphic art by chance. When I was younger I was primarily an illustrator and worked with biros, pencils, that sort of thing. But when I went to college, it became quite obvious that the market for that was really, really slim. I’ve always had a great interest in art and design as it is, but the school I went to didn’t really have any knowledge of what was So I took graphic design as one of my courses and started applying it to my illustration work, whilst at the same time learning how to digitally paint. The benefit of having a mixed skill range is that my illustration work came in very useful with my graphic design job that I used to work at, and vice versa. I’ve always loved video games, from getting an N64 when I was a kid, so games have always been a big part of my life. As I’ve grown up, I’ve seen graphics and the artwork in games develop and get better and better, so it’s been fascinating learning about the process that goes into it all. So I would be lying if I said I didn’t want to design and work in the games industry, but its only in the last few years that I’ve felt my skills have been good enough to actually contribute to a polished game in any way.
GP- What helps you focus when designing the graphics for a video game and other various projects you work on?
Jamie- As I work freelance, I get to work from my home office, which can be great, but it also makes it easier to slack off. What I tend to do is plug in a playlist of music and just keep focused on the projects I’ve got going on. Having a good soundtrack to inspire you as you paint is always good, but I often shove on a film or two if that doesn’t work. That’s the benefit of having two screens at my desk. It allows me to pop on videos or music without disrupting Photoshop. I also find making time for breaks is important. I can quite easily work from 9 am to 1 in the morning without really realizing, and it’s not great for the long term! So just making sure I take the proper breaks and giving myself to relaxation time means I’m less likely to lose my focus whilst in work hours.
GP- How do you come up with the concepts for your games designs, do you go off of developers original designs or do you get room to play with the art?
It’s a bit of a mixture of both. Often a developer will have a rough concept or vision for what they intend a character to be like, and from that I’ll have to reimagine, or add to that concept. Sometimes it’s the opposite, that they have a finished idea and simply want it translated into a digital format, which can be as equally challenging. There’s nothing worse than a client that can’t quite articulate their vision, but still knows exactly what’s wrong with the image. In this particular instance, with Madowl games, after I submitted my first design, they were very keen for me to play with the concepts of the heroes, the villain and the space station. I think we’ve both benefited from that level of trust in each other’s abilities there.
GP- In your opinion would you say the graphics of a game or the soundtrack set the overall emotions of a game
Jamie- Absolutely! The games mechanics and how it plays are integral for the enjoyment of the game, but the art style, character design and music make it feel as though you’re immersed in the games world. As art in games continues to develop and graphics get more and more impressive, it only becomes more important too. The more people get used to impressive graphics, the bigger the need for the emotion of the game to really grip you early on. Whilst older games are remembered fondly, I’ve noticed that games these days have come a lot further in really touching people. Not that I cried at the end of ‘The Last of Us…not at all.
GP- What games or larges pieces of work are you currently designing? Any games you’re looking forward to working on in the future?
Jamie- At the moment, my primary concern is getting Hex Defender ready for launch, which should be in a month or so. We are looking to enter it in some really cool contests that would be great for exposure in Europe. I have the background art and some other in-game concepts that need to be finished, but the majority of the work is done. It’s been a really interesting learning experience for me, as space imagery isn’t something I’ve really done before. After that, I’m working on some large t shirt designs for a company in London, and some photo editing work. But what is going to be really interesting is when we get to work on our next game at Madowl, Horde. Very excited for that!