Baz Pringle

www.g66.co.uk

Feature

«Mistakes are as valuable as the successes»
Baz Pringle is a british illustrator and motion-designer originally from London, the UK. At an early stage in his life he swapped continents, moved to the U.S. and studied at the Laguna College of Art and Design in Laguna Beach, California. Afterwards Baz worked as 2D and 3D Art Director for several well-known companies like Virgin Interactive and Sony Entertainment. He joined forces with 2Advanced Studios for some years and worked as Senior Art Director close to people like Eric Jordan, Elder Jerez and Shane Mielke.

Right now Baz Pringle is working on game designs for next gen consoles at bottleRocket Entertainment. Baz Pringle actually has two portfolios, one for his illustration works (Grafika66) and one for his motion and CG works (GrafikaOne). He has been featured already on spyline in February 2007 as spyline's first featured artist. Luckily he returns for a more complex interview about his work and life.
Baz Pringle

Baz Pringle

Interview

Hello Baz and welcome back again. A lot of things have changed since 'last time' when you were a 2A employee. Could you give us a brief update about your current life and work situation?
Of course. I'm currently working as a graphic designer for an interactive entertainment company called bottleRocket Entertainment. My last role at 2Advanced Studios was very much 3d oriented, while my new role requires both 3D and 2D asset creation. I also continue to do freelance work under my Grafika66 and GrafikaOne monikers. Grafika66 takes the majority of my personal time, continually trying to update my portfolio and maintaining its associated blog.
An Englishman in California, how does that work out for you (culture, customs, weather, food, driving ...)?
Well, the weather is great, but I miss home a lot. California is really an outdoors-man's kind of place, and since I am anything but, it's kind of wasted on me. At least downtown L.A. is less than an hour away, so I can get some city life without driving too far.

I'm much more suited to living in the city, but for the moment, it's a good place to raise a family. I have two young daughters, and it's nice to be able to take them to the beach on a weekend, and enjoy the good climate. When they're slightly older though, I think it would be nice to expose them to European culture. I don't think I'll ever feel like the US is home. It feels more like a place I've chosen to live for a while, rather than a place I've settled permanently.
Why did you decide to leave beautiful London and why did you stay in the U.S.?
Well, just after finishing high school in London, my father was offered a job abroad. It was an exciting prospect to move to another country, so I moved with my family and entered college in California to study illustration and design. After graduating, I had planned to take a few months off to develop my portfolio. But things didn't quite work out that way. After only about a month of finishing college, I was offered a job at Virgin Interactive as a 2D artist. The opportunity was too good to turn down. Ever since, I've moved from project to project as they've come up, which have all been based in Southern California.
Do you miss the UK and Europe and do you think you will return some day?
My wife is sick of hearing me go on about how much I miss England and want to go home. I'm slowly trying to convince her to move back, but now we have a couple of very young girls, we're going to wait for a couple of years and then decide on where to call 'home'. I go back at least once a year to see family and friends, and that helps, or at least a bit. I definitely hope to make it back some day, and sooner rather than later. London will always feel like home, and I don't think I'll ever feel the same way about anywhere in the States.
Baz Pringle

Baz Pringle
How is your daily routine?
Well, first thing I do is check my email, and see if there's anything that needs addressing immediately. If I'm doing any work for any clients in Europe, I have to address any emails first thing because of the time difference. Once this is done, I then head off for my full-time job at bottleRocket Entertainment. I'm currently working on all the graphic design for two games in production, so I spend most of my day in Photoshop and Flash, and might also open up After Effects and Maya when I need to create some movie assets for the games. Once home from work, I make some time to spend with the family. Also a chance to unwind and relax a bit.

Later in the evening, I'll get back on the computer and get to work on my personal projects, or freelance assignments. I'll often work late in to the night on my art, since this is one of my favourite times of the day. Listening to some music while working late into the early hours can be extremely therapeutic, and it's the time when I feel the most creative.
How much manpower and time does an average game project of bottleRocket take?
For next generation titles such as the ones we're developing, 35 people is about the average size I'd say. It really depends on the type of game and the size of it.
How much time do you have left for your personal artworks and illustrations?
It's always important to make time. I may be tired after a long day, but I try to find at least an hour or two to do my own work. It helps me relax, and since I enjoy it so much, it doesn't really feel like work. I just happen to be illustrating or designing rather than watching the TV, or playing games. Not that I don't do either of the latter, but I certainly couldn't manage if I didn't get some time to create my own work, without any limitations other than the ones I choose to impose.
Baz Pringle
What are your favorite weapons of choice (hard- and software)?
The main programs are Photoshop, Illustrator, Maya, After Effects, and Flash. Those are the applications that make up the bulk of my arsenal. Others that I use from time to time include ZBrush, Particle Illusions, and Mudbox.

Hardware is nothing special - a typical PC with dual displays. I do use a Samsung monitor that rotates 90 degrees. I find this really beneficial when working on illustrations with a portrait orientation. It really allows me to see the whole image at a larger size when working. My Canon Rebel XSI is also used quite a bit; for gathering references, taking photos that will be converted in to Photoshop brushes, and collecting textures.
Could you elaborate on the process of creating your illustrations (scribbles, applications, duration...)?
My process does tend to vary from piece to piece. I'm always trying to find new techniques and work flows to improve the creative experience. Sometimes I'll have an idea for a piece that is strongly driven by a certain colour scheme, so I'll do a very small rough in Photoshop, a sketch that shows basic composition and colour usage. Other times I'll already have a clear idea in my head of the composition and general structure, so I'll start creating it at full-size in Photoshop and/or Illustrator. I use both these applications hand in hand, and bounce back and fourth between the two. A piece can take anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks. It really depends on the level of detail, and how many projects I have going at one time.

Once I'm done, I like to post the latest on my portfolio site, as well as a detailed description on my blog. People email me and ask about my creative processes and the like, so the blog is a good way of answering these questions, and giving people additional info about my work. At one point, I found that when answering individual emails from people, I was responding to the same questions over and over. It was then I decided a blog would probably be an ideal platform for answering these inquiries. Also, the fact that I explain some of my creative processes for each piece I post probably helps answer a lot of questions people may have.
How do you get inspired?
There are so many sources of inspiration for me. The main ones are music and film. A track I'm listening to will often trigger some imagery in my head, and will really give me a solid direction to go in. Also, travel is always inspirational. Getting away from work and clearing my head helps to 'reset the system' so to speak. This is especially true when visiting any bustling city; the energy and intensity of the surroundings will very often get some creative ideas flowing.

If I feel particularly uninspired, I may make the most of this downtime and browse the web, and see what other creatives are doing. Not only is it inspirational to see new works from artists I respect, but it also helps give me the push I need to get on with my own work, when I see others being so productive and committed.
Baz Pringle

Baz Pringle
Do you prefer to do illustrations and 2D artworks or 3D artworks and motion graphics?
I do prefer 2D illustration and design if being driven to pick one over the other. But I do really enjoy mixing it up, since it helps keep things fresh and stops me from getting bored. 3D can feel very clinical and it takes a long time to see results, while 2D gives me a much faster pay off, and a more enjoyable creative experience too. Creating 2D feels like a very free and liberating experience as opposed to creating 3D imagery. However, I do enjoy bouncing back and fourth between the two. After creating something in 2D, it's often nice to get more technical and analytical with a 3D project. I feel working in both areas makes me appreciate each one for its strengths, and they do tend to complement each other very well.
Could you name some artists and designers that inspired you most?
This is always a hard question to answer. There are so many that it's hard to know where to start. Some of the artists that I find myself checking out time and time again are Celia Calle, Hydro74, Tokidoki, Robert Lindström, Jasper Goodall, Jon Burgerman, Banksy, David Fincher, and anything from Designer's Republic and North Kingdom, to name just a few.

Sometimes I tend to like an artist for a certain aspect of their work, but wouldn't consider myself a big fan of their work as a whole. For instance, I love the energy, simplicity, and graphic intensity of Andy Warhol's work, but wouldn't consider him to be one of my favourite artists. But as an artist, I think this is a good thing, to pick pieces that inspire you from others and then create something completely original from this mix of inspirations and influences. Otherwise we'd just be redoing what someone else has done before us.
Is there any favorite project you worked on?
That's hard to answer, but one that immediately comes to mind is my first project when I worked at Virgin Interactive. It was for a video game for the 3DO system called 'Demolition Man'. This was my first assignment in the professional world, after leaving college, so it was both very exciting and very stressful. I learned a tremendous amount because the role was a varied one. I would paint 2D illustrations for the game, create conceptuals, edit and composite video footage, and animate 2D effects, among other things. It really exposed me to a wide variety of software and techniques, and was a great educational process for me.
Since you worked for 2Advanced and now for bottlerocket - how would you compare game design with interactive design?
Well, for me, there really isn't a lot of difference. I'm still doing the same kind of thing, and my day to day tasks are very similar. The biggest difference is that I now have longer deadlines. Interactive design has much shorter schedules, while games development can take 2 years or so per project. Working on an assignment with such a long life span really allows you to get engrossed in the work, and offers the opportunity of doing things you couldn't do on a shorter project, like extensive R&D. Of course, one of the benefits I really enjoy about interactive design is the variety of projects, and the range of assignments you get to be involved with.
How would you compare american design with european design
I would consider the two to be considerably different. American clients can often go for complex images with lots of glitz, so trying to sell a concept based on minimalistic elegance is a really hard sell over here. My tastes in design are far more European, so it can be a real challenge to saturate a project with unnecessary details because the client is working under the concept that more is better. So unfortunately, I think American design may get a bad reputation because many times designers have to compromise their work to suit the tastes of their clients. I think in Europe, the concept of breaking down a design to its bare essentials and creating a work of art that is beautiful because of its simplicity, not despite of it, is a widely accepted one. In America, I don't think this concept is so commonly appreciated.

I think there are some great American artists that I highly respect, and studios on the West and East coasts that do some exceptional work. I think especially in the area of motion graphics, America compares very well. This is an area where the idea of very detailed imagery with lots of elements helps the medium, giving plenty of assets to work with when animating. Personally I think this is where American design is strongest, on the motion side of things.
How do you keep updated about latest designs and trends?
I spend a lot of time looking through magazines and books, but I find the best way of keeping up to date is browsing the web. There's always something new to check out, and the Internet makes it easy to see what's going on not only locally, but also all over the world.
Do you care solely about graphic-design when you visit design portals?
No, I wouldn't say so. I like to consider the whole package, and the graphic design is just part of that. I appreciate sites that have intelligent UI considerations, and that use the technology available in a way that benefits the user experience, rather than letting the technology drive the design, which so often seems to happen.
Baz Pringle
Since you created the bottleRocket website all by yourself: What about your flash skills?
I think I started using flash back in 1999. I taught myself just because I wanted to redo my portfolio site in Flash, and wanted total control, rather than using someone else to do it for me. It's something that I've used ever since, but I've never worked as a Flash developer professionally. It's a piece of software that I've used to complement my existing skill set rather than heading it. I love it because it allows me to combine all my skills into one medium, and produce something that uses assets created from a wide variety of sources; be it animations from After Effects, graphic vectors from Illustrator, or renders from Maya.

At the moment I'm using it more extensively than ever because I'm working on the menus for the current games we have in development, and we're using Flash to create them. We have special middle-ware that allows us to use SWF files in-game, so this gives us a tremendous amount of power and flexibility in creating our menus that so often is lacking in game development.
Your actual website is no longer with Flash. Is there any particular reason for that?
There are two main reasons really, firstly I find that creating Flash sites requires more time, and more planning. Time is very valuable, so I thought it would be better to avoid Flash. Secondly, my portfolio sites are all about letting the work speak for itself, while the site remains secondary, so I thought Flash really wasn't needed. I also love the ease of updating my sites now, without digging in to a Flash file. Adding a new piece is so simple; I can easily keep the sites fresh and up to date without major rework.
The future of design portfolios is flashless - would you agree?
No, I wouldn't say that. I really love some of the Photography portfolio sites out there right now. The ones that use full screen and show the work at an amazing resolution, at the full size of the user's monitor. These sites are normally minimalistic, and Flash is used to improve the user experience, rather that distract from the work itself. A prime example of how Flash is best used in my opinion.
Do you have any advices for young and talented graphic-designers / illustrators?
I am a great believer in education. There are plenty of great artists out there who have no formal training and have taught themselves, but taking a degree helps so much in getting the proper grounding in the basic principles of art. Many times, I see really strong artists who have great rendering skills, but the colour theory is off, or the perspective is off, or one of the other fundamentals is off. I believe colour theory is the hardest thing to teach yourself. When I took my colour class in college, I was taught things that I still wonder if I would have ever picked up by myself. I see lots of 3D art with white lights, and grey shadows; a key sign of no colour theory. So I think a good, solid education will get you pointed in the right direction, with the fundamentals that will carry through the rest of your art career.

I would also say experimentation is key. Always try new techniques and work flows. This is really just continuing the educational process by yourself. Continue learning new approaches and your work will benefit from it. A lot of it may go to waste, but the mistakes are as valuable as the successes. They all add up to improving your knowledge base and your strength as a well rounded artist.
Well, Baz. Thanks a lot for your time, take care and hopefully we will see some of your new projects very soon.
I'd just like to thank you so much for having me contribute to Spyline, and thanks to everyone for reading.


This interview was conducted in November 2008

www.g66.co.uk