Today we have an interview with Andrew Ryan
, recent art graduate and gamer, who created cross-over illustrations of Mass Effect and Dragon Age, becoming famous on many sites around the web.
Could you describe yourself and your background?
My name is Andrew Ryan, I'm 25 years old and originally from Jessup, Maryland. I currently reside in the New York City area where I recently graduated from the School of Visual Arts as an illustration major.
What gave you the idea of drawing Mass Effect and Dragon Age cross over characters?
The idea to do Dragon effect was something that just sort of happened by accident one day when I was doing a sketch of Commander Shepard. I suddenly wondered what he'd look like in the blood dragon armor from the Dragon Age games so I finished the sketch and then realized it would be a lot of fun to visualize all of the characters in a large scale crossover project. Plus I really love a lot of the characters from Mass Effect so now that the trilogy is kind of over I wanted an opportunity to further interact with them in a unique and interesting way.
Your art has been featured on several sites including Kotaku, were you surprised by that?
To be honest I was not surprised that it's been featured on Kotaku, in fact one of my goals was to finish the series and then submit it to Kotaku to see if they'd feature it. They'd featured some of my other Mass Effect fan art before so I felt fairly confident that I could do work that would warrant another article, I was however surprised that even before I finished all of the characters it started getting a lot of exposure and has already been featured on kotaku three seperate times. It was also recently featured on the gaming section of reddit and garnered 200,000+ views in a single day which I was sort of blown away by.
Do you consider yourself a big gamer? Are you a fan of both franchises?
I consider myself a pretty big gamer though I'm very selective about how many games I play. I tend to look for very immersive games that take a long time to complete or offer a lot of re playability. Bethesda and Bioware by far make my favorite games since their titles best fulfill these requirements.
What software tools did you use to make these images and how long did it take you?
My software of choice is photoshop, I've never really used anything else for digital painting. Typically I don't like to spend more than one day on a character concept, the actual process takes about five hours though I'm constantly trying to improve my speed since most industry concept artists can probably do at least three characters in that same amount of time and I eventually want to be at the same level.
What made you decide which character should be paired with which?
As for the pairing of the characters I just sort of decided based on who I thought would compliment one another or for personal reasons, for instance My Shepard romanced Kaidan in Mass Effect so it was only natural that I paired them together in the Dragon Effect crossover and Miranda ended up with Jack because they had such an interestingly combative relationship in Mass Effect 2. Others ended up being a little more random, for instance Kasumi and Zaeed (who I'm working on currently) happened to be some of the last characters I had to complete and though they don't have a real connection in the game I find it fun to come up with a story as to how/why they're together in my crossover and have that story reflect their general personalities from the Mass Effect games.
You recently graduated from art school, how hard is it to find work or clients?
As a recent art school graduate I can't really say whether or not I'd have a hard time finding work because honestly I haven't really been job hunting. Art school left me feeling a little bitter about my skill level, I felt I didn't learn/progress as much as I should have after four years of education so since graduating in May I've mostly just been painting away day and night trying to improve my skills and feel confident enough to start job hunting. Though I have had some freelance work come my way from companies like paizo (pathfinder) and fantasy flight (Lord of the Rings card game), and I have an upcoming art convention where I'm hoping to showcase my work and possibly meet new clients so hopefully in a year or so I'll have a lot more going on. but for now having the freedom to do my own fan art has been fantastic.
Do you have any advice to offer for current students hoping to get into the same field?
My advice for current students is that while school can be a great learning device it's really up to you whether or not you achieve the necessary level of skill required to make it in this industry. A lot of the assignments given out in art school are not going to be suited for your career path and you have to pick and choose which classes you put the most effort into based on which ones will yield the most improvement in your overall technical ability. Also make sure you know who your instructorsd are going to be, my good friend had an instructor at art school with connections in the gaming industry senior year, and through that contact she is now temping for rockstar games so view your instructors not only as educators whom you can learn from but also as potential networking opportunities.
Any other cross over projects on the horizon?
As far as other crossover projects I have nothing planned at the moment but Dragon Effect has been great fun so I'm sure I'll be brainstorming other ideas in the foreseeable future.