When ever I think about character designs, particularly for RPG; I immediately remember this gentle guy Mates Laurentiu (friendly called Larry) founder and the lead artist of Avatar Art. His skills on bringing out the light and shadows are prodigious. Many of the characters designed by him have penetrated and haunted me for days... To excite you all with the same feelings, we had stolen a little time from his busy schedules exclusively for CG Today readers. Hope you all enjoy this small journey with Larry…
CG Today : Can you tell us a little about yourself and avatar art?
Larry : I'm from a small city in south eastern Romania where I still live. I started drawing like any kid around age four but the real awakening to the love of drawing was a year later, during a visit to a county fair where I saw an artist drawing portraits for the paying customers. I don't remember how good he was but I'm sure he was good enough for me to tell myself "I want to do that". For a long time I exercised this desire drawing only with pen and pencil until I discovered the comics and the pencil and pen became the logical companions in my adventure to do comics. During my high school years I even published for a couple of years for a fanzine in Bucharest, my first bump with an artist's life and all the trouble with money and being payed. I discovered the digital possibilities around 1995 during a visit to a friend's house. He had a Pentium 486 if I well remember an awful piece of machine in comparison with anything today but a marvel of technology back then. Believe it or not, my first clash was not with the digital painting but with 3d modeling. The Blizzard cinematics from Warcraft 2, Diablo and Starcraft had a lot to do with that (deep bow to the team of those years). So after a few jobs that had nothing to do with drawing, painting or 3d modeling I raised enough money for my first computer and launched myself into the world of freelancing. For about a year I struggled with my portfolio, making myself as known as possible on the web, trying to get a better internet connection (which back then was an "amazing" speed of 48 kb a second). It was a hard but adventurous period which resulted in the first tries on making a web page and the first choosing of a name - which was in fact Avatar's Realm (since my chosen "nom du guerre" (pseudonym )on the art forums was "Avatar"). I had quite a few good commissions to start with, making character design for a couple of games that unfortunately didn't make it on the market. And then I discovered the market of Dungeon and Dragons players and so it was that in the winter of 2000 I met my present partner, Steve Gerke and the marvelous world of working character portraits and scenes for this fantasy domain. Together we changed the name of the enterprise to Avatar Art and plunged into a realm of building worlds and personalities for imaginary beings.
CG Today : Can you tell us about Avatar Arts team and services?
Larry : Originally the team of Avatar Art was comprised only of me as an artist and Steve as a manager but nowadays we are in partnership with Justin Mason and his amazing Mythic Design enterprise while taking in a few other artists that decided on freelancing. Even more, we joined hands with known sites of the "D&D" community, exchanging banners and organizing events, opening stalls with our art offers to Gen Con and other such conventions. Our services are not limited to only character portraits and scenes but expanded to logos, book covers and illustration, mascot design and environmental design.
CG Today : How long have you been working in the animation/gaming industry?
Larry : I worked for a few months in a classic animation studio around 1994 where I received my basic animation training so you can say that was the year I stepped on this road. After that, I got self trained in the 3d animation in later years 'thou I didn't kept track with this skill during the years of my freelancing, focusing later on to digital painting and character design. As for the gaming industry, that came a bit later, in the spring of 2001 when I started to receive my first commission from gaming enterprises.
CG Today : What kind of education did it take to get you where you are today?
Larry : I can't pride myself with much academic achievements to be honest. I finished the high school with a "Foreign Languages" diploma and after that I got lost in jobs and the work of building myself as a freelancer. So I'm what people call "self-taught". That doesn't mean I didn't had to study and that talent was enough. Passion helped a lot and I got to study with the greatest artists of the world, past and present; who inspired and instructed me through their work.
CG Today : What prompted you to move into a career in animation? How did you go about pursuing it?
Larry : Simply put I wanted to see my work move. I was naive and ignorant enough to believe it was a simple process but that was straightened for me soon enough. After that, I kept animation more as a hobby and focused on designing characters for animation which was a simpler approach to my goal. I got to see my work move without doing all the hard stuff myself.
CG Today : Name a few of the projects you've worked on in the past.
Larry : As far as animation projects go I worked on animations like "A Hard life", "Misfortune" and "Desperately". My first gaming commission came with the game "Getica", a Romanian project. I've worked for a short while on a card game, "Warcards" and collaborated for a couple of years with a German gaming company, "Evilgrin", on their upcoming game, "Canipes". These being the bigger projects, I also worked for smaller game projects as pen and paper games and web games, like "Proteus", at www.base113.com. Other than that I worked on book cover and advertising illustrations for the fantasy writer Jayel Gybson, the sci-fi writer Chandra Amaravadi and many others.
CG Today : The most memorable or the most loved projects you worked before, and what's special about it?
Larry : I loved working for the "Canipes" project. I worked on and off with "Evilgrin" for more than two years and I admired their dedication and I was in love with the world they were trying to create. That and the fact they gave me free reign to create with little restrain. I did restrained myself 'thou thinking of the resources that had to sustain my creations. I also enjoyed working illustrations and book covers for Jayel Gybson. She's a great writer and a beautiful person. Aside my paying commission jobs, the most joy came for me from charity projects. I worked on a fantasy image for a toy that was to be donated to an orphanage and, more recently, I worked on a series of characters that were used to raise money for the US gulf disaster.
CG Today : Before you start designing the characters or environments is there any particular design process you apply to the project?
Larry : I try to get as much information as I can about the personality or the environment of the character/creature. This usually gives me an insight about its evolution and guides me towards a certain approach. If it's a grim character this can be expressed either through its posture or expression. Maybe a character is always home sick and always carries with him a box with a bit of dirt from his home town. Maybe a monster likes to keep trophies of his victims and adorn him self with them. There is always a background to everything and this background can reflect on the character or creature making him more original and real.
CG Today : The toughest job is to produce others imagination, how you handle this? And particularly working online with clients?
Larry : It was never too hard for me. I have good imagination skills, which usually gets activated by words or events so that a description of a character constructs the character in my mind. That is enough for a first sketch; after that I work with the client on improving that sketch to the finite product.
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