Last week I had the pleasure to interview a very talented young artist by the name of Efflam Mercier. He is a concept designer based in France, working both on games and film. He is probably the most well rounded digital artist I had the pleasure to know, with a strong grasp on 2D, 3D and animation.
Looking at the quality of his work at such a young age is truly a humbling experience. I hope his art and wisdom will be just as much of an inspiration for you as it is for me.
Feel free to read the interview below.
When did you start your journey as an artist, and what led you on this path?
I think all kids are artist, it’s just that I was interested enough to keep doing a lot of “art” and less of “hanging out” ..hahah.
I had quite a lot of inspirations from french comics, to all the fantasy/sci-fi novels I read as a kid, to video-games, movies, etc, so I evolved quite naturally into doing more and more drawings, paintings, I got my first tablet very early, but for some reason I never liked it too much and kept doing traditional work, a few years later my brother bought a refurbished IBM laptop that had a sort of cheap cintiq in it, this time I tried it and I was instantly hooked.
What led me on this path is both the inspirations I had as a kid, and the feeling of of amazement at all the creative possibilities opened by digital art, this feeling hasn’t left me for a second since then, I think there’s so much yet to discover!
I know you use both 2D and 3D in your day to day workflow. Do you think 3D is slowly becoming an essential tool in a digital artist’s arsenal?
It depends on a lot of things like what kind of a career you want to build, but people are going to be required to become fluent in the 3D medium to be able to communicate with the production team.
For example imagine you’re amazing at drawing/painting but the film company has very specific scale measurements for the movie set and provides you with a block-in and camera angles, now are you going to bill the client the day you spent carefully plotting the perspective grid based on the floor plan, or are you going to hire an assistant to open the 3D scene and make some renders in 10 minutes? It’s just much better to be able to do it yourself.
But I think if someone chooses not to use 3D it’s going to be increasingly difficult to stay competitive,
that’s why a lot of people easily hate on 3D and photobashing, it’s because they feel threatened, but I can assure you someone with exceptional drawing or painting skills is always going to get work.
It’s just the definition of “exceptional” is going to change dramatically in the next 5-6 years.
I think ultimately producing photo-realistic images is going to be so easy that people will be hired mostly for their design taste, vision, and thinking process, and to me that’s a good thing.
At 19 years of age you are quite a young professional artist. In your opinion what played the most important role in your success, and where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I worked like crazy, I did about 2 years worth of work in 1 year, working freelance at night after a day of work in-house, I don’t recommend it, but it did really speed up things for me.
The next thing is that I’m very involved into the work I’m tasked to do, even if I have no idea how to do it or it’s wayyy outside of my comfort zone, I’ll still do it, I stay up till 4 am if I need to, but this ensured that I’ve never been fired off a project (so far).
Another important thing is that I kept doing personal stuff for learning, but that’s also good to build some traction on site like Artstation , as well as building up a portfolio that looks AAA .
Pro tip: if you don’t have “experience” , you can create your own experience.
Well for now I’m moving to Los Angeles to work at Riot games, so that’s will change everything, I really can’t imagine what’s next, but I want to train and develop my skills to be ready when I’ll see an opportunity to “go big or go home” !
Despite the fact that you are relatively new in the field, you have an extensive resume working with big name clients both in games and film. In your experience what are the main differences between the two industries, and which one do you prefer?
Film is usually hell, Game is more chilled, it used to be that Film have much higher quality design and “thought process” (and money ), but I totally feel like games are catching up both in quality and economic importance.
For now I was really into films and game cinematic, but I’ve been accumulating a lot of stress from freelance on films , so 2016 is probably the perfect time to get a lot more into Game.
What do you find to be the most challenging part about being a digital artist?
Well to me there’s both the overwhelming weight of Art History, and the rabbit hole of digital art technology.
It makes it difficult to know “where to go” in Art , what to pursue, what to abandon ?
Especially once the pressure of “getting into the industry” has gone away, you realize it’s just the beginning of a much longer journey of developing your own ideas.
What do you consider the most rewarding part?
Some of the things we are all doing right now has just never been done before ! Isn’t it crazy?
Whether good or bad it doesn’t matter, mixing photos/3D and painting, using game engines to make films, etc… we are all pioneers, we are beginners, clumsy, inexperienced, but pioneers nonetheless !
What is an average Tuesday like in the life of Efflam Mercier?
Freelance day: 9 am : read client feedback, work work , send painting, receive feedback, sleep, then rince and repeat ^^
Personal day: wake up around 11 am, read about 20 different new technologies and software, try a few things, pretended to understand a complex scientific paper for 20 minutes, started 5 different sketches, finished 1 sketch from 1 month back, watched 2 hours of DVD tutorials, feeling super inspired for 10 minutes then bored for the next 2 hours, spending wayy too much time on facebook talking with my Art buddies, some pencil sketch studies and doodles, and then once it’s midnight I decide to do something productive until 2-3 am 😀
What were the resources that helped you learn the craft, and what resources would you recommend for someone who is just starting out in the field?
I stated out with Feng Zhu desgn cinema , then Ctrlpaint.com, Shaddy Saffadi’s videos, then FXPHD courses on VFX 101, the book Ron Brinkman “Art and Science of digital compositing” , the book by Alexis van Hurkman “color correction handbook”, Marco mateu mestre “Framed ink”, Scott Robertson’s “How to draw”, Richard Schmidt “Alla prima”.
Schoolism lectures : Nathan Fowkes color and light narrative, Sam Nielson color and light fundamentals, Dice Tsutsumi and Robert Kondo painting with color and light.
For the most advanced ones :
Massive black : Greg Manchess“Over the timberline”, Craig Mullins gnomon masteclasss DVD (hard to find ! ) , Syd Mead “airship arrival” Gnomon DVD, Mike Hill intrisic vehicle design as well as his AMAZING talk at industry Workshops.
Who are your role models? Could you name three persons — dead or alive — who inspire you, or significantly influenced your life?
I’m inspired by dead persons but at the same time it’s overwhelming, I mean, you can’t compete, they’re dead ! :’)
-Elon Musk : badass entrepreneur making a shitton of money by advancing sustainable development, what else to say?
-Craig Mullins (very original I know)
-Everyone Else : I mean, I’m inspired and learn from literally anyone, great or bad, successful or unsuccessful , but anyone with a vision, or at least a unique taste are inspiration to me .
Lastly, the almighty question – What brush do U use? And would you be kind to share your brush set with us?
Most of my brushes come from other artists and /or remixed but here’s the ones I like the most :
I would like to thank Efflam for taking the time out of his busy schedule to do this interview. If you like his work and you’d like to see more, you can check out his website here, and also his artstation profile here.