INSTRUCTOR SPOTLIGHT: Q & A WITH MIKE FRANCHINA
We are thrilled to announce that the highly anticipated BrushForge course with veteran concept artist Mike Franchina is officially launching this summer of 2017. The trailer, along with a course description and sign up information will be available soon on our website and an upcoming blog post, so stay tuned. In the meantime, check out this recent interview we did with Mike where he discusses the gamble he took to get his first job, his sources of inspiration, as well as one of the biggest lessons he has learned from being in the games industry.
Can you give us a quick background of your art career?
Mike: I went to a small liberal arts college in Pennsylvania called Messiah College. They didn’t really have an official art program, but I was able to enroll in a couple of art classes. I was that weird kid who was always trying to draw comic stuff, but I didn’t get into trouble with teachers or anything. After graduation, I did freelance illustration work for some pen and paper RPGs for about two years. Around that time I went to Gen Con where I was meeting companies to look for more work. At one point, I had one portfolio left when I came across the Warhammer Online team, but I told myself I was not going to bother. I figured there was no way I was ever going to get that job, but I did have that one portfolio, so I was like screw it, I’ll just do it. A couple of weeks later, Warhammer contacted me for an art test and I was hired shortly after, and it was all good.
What is one myth and one fact about working as a concept artist in the games industry?
Mike: One myth about being a concept artist is that ideas come out of nowhere, and you just get this sudden burst of inspiration or innovative idea that nobody has ever thought about before. That could happen, but the reality is that all ideas are just a rehash of other ideas in your own style. You take one or two things that you see and you combine them into your own thing. One fact is that in the games industry, you have to work with a lot of different people and you are not always going to get your way. You might think you have the greatest idea but it doesn’t always get picked, so you have to learn to roll with the punches.
What is one thing you have learned over the years that you wish you knew when you first started in the industry?
Mike: Being humble is probably the most important lesson that I have learned. When I first got the job at Warhammer, I was fresh and I was learning a ton. After a few years, I got my second job at Runic and I went in there thinking like oh man, I’m the big dog now. That mentality caused a lot of problems where I wouldn’t listen to people because I had the mindset that I knew better. Even if that was the case, I know now that you should always at least listen and hear what other people have to say because you might miss out on great ideas otherwise.
Other than games, where do you go for inspiration?
Mike: Pretty much everywhere. I read a ton of books and I watch a ton of movies. I also love Pinterest. Pinterest is awesome because you can find so much inspiration on there and collect a bunch of art that really helps to formulate your thoughts about what you enjoy. Just the process of finding images and saving it to a place on Pinterest helps you remember it even without actually going back and looking at it. It just goes into your brain a little better, similar to jotting something down.
Why did you decide to teach a BrushForge course?
Mike: I decided to teach a BrushForge course because you look on platforms like Gumroad and there is a ton of tutorials out there about how-to paint techniques, but there is not a lot about how you approach designing something or how you make it easier on yourself to come up with a good idea. I wanted to teach a course that illustrates the thought process.
Describe your course. What can students expect to learn?
Mike: My course will be focused on teaching four major points along with a bunch of sub points in between. Those four main points are story (what kind of mood are you trying to communicate?), believable detail (getting across a certain amount of reality that people don’t question), strong shapes (the impact of the design) and resonance (using what the viewer has already experienced).
What type of students are you looking for to join your course?
Mike: I am looking for students who are passionate about design, who want to improve upon their current skills, and who have a solid understanding of art fundamentals to make the most efficient and effective use of the class time.
If YOU could take a course from any of your favorite artists who would it be?
Mike: I would take a course from the creator of Hellboy, Mike Mignola. He’s probably my favorite artist. I also wouldn’t mind taking a course from Pieter Bruegel the Elder. He did this painting I really like called the Triumph of Death that depicts people with the plague getting killed by an army of skeletons. He’s also been dead for a really long time, but that would have been a great course.
If you were not an artist, which profession would you pursue?
Mike: Growing up I always wanted to be a marine biologist or an entomologist, but I don’t know if I would want to do that now. Maybe I’d be a writer, writing a book seems like a doable thing.
Thanks for the interview, Mike! For more updates on Mike’s personal work, you can follow him on his Artstation here: https://www.artstation.com/