Today we have a special article about the Concept Art of Assassin’s Creed with the work of Gilles Beloeil, who has been very kind to sit down and have a chat with us about his profession, passions about this artform in an Assassin’s Creed Interview.
Frequent readers of Escape The Level may already know that we have showcased a lot of concept art when it comes to Assassin’s Creed. We have showcased the work of Nacho Yague, Zhou Shuo and some of you early readers may even remember our very first article being the work of Fernando Acosta.
What we haven’t done, however, is display the work of someone who has been there, more or less, since the beginning (or close to it!). Today however we are taking that moment to venture through the work of Gilles Beloeil, and without further ado let’s jump right in!
ASSASSIN’S CREED INTERVIEW WITH GILLES BELOEIL
Escape The Level: Hey Gilles, thank you for allowing us to interview you today and gain some insight into the work that you do and your personal experiences too – Care to introduce yourself to readers?
Gilles Beloeil: Hi! Sure, I am from Rennes in France and now I am also Canadian living in Montreal since 2000. I am actually a Senior Concept Artist at Ubisoft Montreal on the Assassin’s Creed brand. I am married and I have a boy too!
Escape The Level: Before we jump into Assassin’s Creed questions, how long have you been working as a Senior Concept Artist? When did you start working with Ubisoft and how was that at the start versus now?
Gilles Beloeil: After 5 years working in the VFX industry as a lighting technical director and digital matte painter, Ubisoft hired me in 2007 to do matte paintings within their Cinematic Department. On several occasions, I had the chance to do some concept art and I really enjoyed it.
In 2008, I had the opportunity to join the Assassin’s Creed 2 art team to help them during a crunch time. I am now working full time as a concept artist for Ubisoft Montreal, especially for the Assassin’s Creed games.
At the time, all the concept artists for the game were based in Montreal, we were at least seven. Now there are concept artists located in all the different studios working on the game. In Montreal, we are only a team of four for Assassin’s Creed (2 for environments, 2 for characters).
Assassin’s Creed Unity Trailer created by Elastic.tv
Escape The Level: Are there any individuals within the Videogaming industry and also more towards your field in Art that you look upto, what inspired you to begin this path?
Gilles Beloeil: Before entering at Ubisoft, I didn’t know much about concept art. I was more into digital matte painting stuff and I was very inspired by Yannick Dussault or Mathieu Reynault. Then I discovered the works from guys like Nicolas Bouvier (Sparth). There were some of his concept artworks on the walls at Ubisoft and it fascinated me. I also discovered the work of Craig Mullins and I had a total crush on his stuff. I still love what he does. All these great artists (and others) inspired me to become the concept artist/matte painter I am today.
Gilles Beloeil: As a gamer I like sports games like FIFA, PES or formula 1, and it is not particulary because I like the visual but because I found them fun. If I want to watch only a beautiful game art direction, I like a lot of games like The Division, God of Wars, Uncharted, etc..
Escape The Level: You’ve worked on seven Assassin’s Creed projects since your time at Ubisoft now, that is almost very nearly every entry into the main series bar one or two – How much change have you seen during that time, how has things grown for you personally and for the team?
Gilles Beloeil: The main change is about the technology. The difference between console generations is huge graphically speaking. For Assassin’s Creed 2, I had the feeling I was doing concept art to inspire the team and give main ideas about some environment setups. Today, I can see my concept art directly in the game, it is very impressive. The technology evolved a lot. So I have to give more information and detail in my paintings now, more details (unfortunately).
Escape The Level: In a sense there is a very fine balance between historical accuracy, fantasy elements and also just being outright awesome within the franchise – How difficult is it to achieve that balance?
Gilles Beloeil: The Assassin’s Creed brand managers are very strict about the historical accuracy. So the Art Director often has to fight a bit to try to exaggerate some aspects of the environment to make it more interesting to look at, more epic. So we cannot add fantasy that much, even if we try to push it as far as we can to make the game look cool.
Escape The Level: How do you even start with the work that you do, whats the first step for you and how long does the entire process usually take to completion?
Gilles Beloeil: After I got the brief from the Art Director, I begin to look for a lot of visual references. When I think I get enough, I begin to sketch something. Sometimes in black and white and sometime directly in colors. When I get something I think is good enough, I show it to the Art Director and he tells me what iI have to adjust/correct.
The whole process can take from 2 to 5 days, depending if I have a lot of corrections to make, depending also on the complexity of the piece (2 men on horses fighting on medieval Paris rooftops is more complex than a silhouette of a guy in a thick smoggy desert), and the level of details you want on the final piece (details =time). Most of the time, after 3 days, I’m done.
Escape The Level: Did you ever hit a point where things had become a struggle, how do you overcome those obstacles? Was a particular location significantly harder to cover than others?
Gilles Beloeil: I often struggle, of course. In fact, I do most of the time. Usually, the secret is to not panic, and to not stop working on it. You can take a pause of course, but never give up. After working on your painting for a while, things begin to make more sense. I can remember some of my best images were the worst struggles (Boston Common for AC3 for example). It was a nightmare; I hated it until the end. I didn’t give up on it though and suddenly, it was like a miracle, it became a good concept! May be one of my best ever…
But sometimes, this kind of struggle ends up miserably, with a poor image that is Just ok to deliver on time, but the kind of concept you want everybody to forget two minutes later.. Never mind, you have to accept it and to tell yourself that you did learn something from this failure. And I am sure you did. Failure is a good sign, because it tells you that you went out of your comfort zone. So you just made a progress in your learning, even if it is difficult to stay positive and confidant sometimes…
Escape The Level: What is the end game for the work that you do, what do you feel you wish people to know in many years time and you’ve got your feet up on a Monday morning?
Gilles Beloeil: I think that, to be happy, every human being has to feel he is evolving in his life, in as many fields as possible. Every day, my goal is to continue to progress as an artist and as a person. What I like in painting and drawing is that you can feel sometimes that you are progressing, but as you evolve, you also feel that you won’t have enough of a lifetime to learn everything you should learn to become an accomplished artist. I think I would feel depressed if I knew I had nothing left to learn. Learning is the fun part and the main goal.
Escape The Level: I’d like to thank you for taking the time out to share your experience with us Gilles, finally, what’s the best bit of advice you’ve ever been given and what advice do you want to express to readers who may want to jump into the same career path as you?
Gilles Beloeil: Thank you! My main advice for students would be this: don’t compare with others but with yourself. Concentrate on your own evolution. Share with others, read about and study artists you like. Just ask yourself what you should work on to be better. Watch your own learning curve. Don’t be competitive with others, but be hard on yourself. If you think that way you will become a better artist and a happy person I think.
Keen to check out more of the work of Gilles Beloeil? We’ve only shown a small portion of his portfolio, check it out over here.
If you’d like to check out more of our growing collection of interviews, do check out this link for more!