Worlds Challenge Winner- Thomas Chamberlain-Keen
Thomas Chamberlain-Keen is the 2D winner of the Worlds Challenge with his piece 'Ablution.' Here, he gives us the inside scoop of his process and what makes him tick as an artist.
Inspiration: Greg Rutkowski, Even Amundsen, Sergey Kolesov, Jama Jurabaev, Wei Feng, Alex Konstad, Theo Prins, Piotr Jablonski
Average Number of Layers When You Paint: I try to stay under 10
Coffee or Tea: Tea, ideally with boba
Good Habits: Always doing something creative
Favorite Movies: REDLINE, Princess Mononoke, Angel's Egg, Atlantis, Scott Pilgrim
Favorite Games: Ratchet and Clank (PS2), Dark Souls, Borderlands
Music While Doing Art: James Holden – The Inheritors, Floex – Zorya, Made in Abyss OST, Joe Hisaishi, Tycho, Jon Hopkins, Geode, Frederic Robinson, Vorso, Aphex Twin (not so much his acid though...)
How to Bounce Back from a Bad Day: Sleep it off.
What is a Good Day: Not wanting to go to bed because you’re enjoying a painting too much.
Favorite Quote: “Grown-ups never understand anything for themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them.” -Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Future Goals: I would love my personal work to reach and resonate with an audience that can learn from my art.
Can you introduce yourself?
Hi, I’m Thomas, I've lived most of my life in Devon and have recently started work at Atomhawk in Newcastle.
What got you into 2D art, when did it all start?
I've been doing creative stuff throughout my life and I'm going to chalk that up to fantastic upbringing. Inspiration wise, I remember some book illustrations very vividly; those by Chris Riddell in The Edge Chronicles and a book called The Robot Zoo. I would draw plan views of new planets being inhabited and intricate factories, often with my siblings. Meanwhile at school, I would design spaceships that we called 'minipods' with friends. I started doing more personal work during secondary school and I got my first graphics tablet in 2011. This led to the seemingly unavoidable 'anime phase', and digital art started to consume all of my free time. I did art GCSE but dropped it at A-Level in favor of the three sciences and maths, and was very close to reading Natural Sciences at UCL for 4 years. Luckily, I was a year ahead in school and took the opportunity to do an Art Foundation course at Exeter College. This was the first time I could focus on art full time and I realized that I wanted to pursue a purely creative career. My final project at college was a redesign of the art from ICO which had me really getting into concept art. I then spent the following year studying and building my portfolio, and shortly after the WORLDS competition closed I was offered a job at Atomhawk Design.
How did you get to the level you are at today? Did you study in any particular way you would recommend?
I think the most success comes from conscious learning. I seek out art that I think is a perfect execution of a technique or style and try my best to figure out why it works so well. Then I try to apply what I learn to a new piece of my own. Subsequently, throughout the creation process I constantly ask myself why I’m making the choices that I am and use the reference to inform my decisions. Whilst it’s not really that healthy to compare yourself to other artists, I’ve learnt a whole lot by looking at the differences in retrospect. It’s just as important to form criticism of your own work as it is to receive it from others.
How did you begin the process of creating Ablution? What was your inspiration?
From the start I thought it’d be fun to follow the general theme of my submission to the ArtWar, a not-so-distant future alternative timeline of the Earth. This meant I aimed to keep the Sci-Fi elements grounded in reality. Following this train of thought I wanted to consider the new goals of the civilization I was creating, in this case to reverse the damage that had been done to the Earth. At this point I started to research modern day concepts for eco-cities and renewable technologies for both the ideas and the visual designs. I kept the research into other artists’ work to a minimum so that my piece would remain as personal as possible, and instead used photography for visual inspiration.
What was your biggest hurdle during the process? What did you do to overcome it?
Creating the sense of scale was the most difficult thing for me. This problem was most prominent early on when there was no detail to help create the illusion of depth, but even at the later stages I found myself struggling. Photography provided the most useful reference, helping me to mimic the atmospheric depth more convincingly through subtle changes in color and contrast throughout.
If you had to do it over would you do it differently? Why?
I think I would choose different weather conditions as the bright and clear weather I chose ended up making a much less interesting lighting environment. The main idea in my piece is the purification of the polluted water below and it became very difficult to emphasize the difference in water quality when the sky was demanding to be such a clear blue as well. It also added to the aforementioned problem of depth since the air was supposed to be so clear. Lastly, the piece could have been so much more dramatic if it were dark and lit by the lights of the city, or had some form of heavy rainfall in the background that could provide an interesting natural separation from the foreground. Essentially, we’ve all seen bright blue skies and puffy white clouds before so it would’ve been great to try something different.
Do you have any tips or advice for aspiring artists out there who might be looking to get to your level one day? What's your recipe for success?
You’ve really got to love it and be prepared to work hard. Like I said in my approach to studying, be conscious and thoughtful about everything you are doing. Thinking is a lot harder than copying but it’s essential to help you improve.
What got you into environment art in particular?
If I’m playing a video game I never think ‘I’d love to be this character’ but I absolutely think ‘I’d love to visit this world’. I often find character art hugely appealing and interesting, but it can’t produce the feeling of awe and desire to discover more than brilliant environment art can.
What do you think the Worlds Challenge experience taught you, and would you participate again next year if you could?
Research and planning is often too easily skipped or rushed in projects like this but it’s vitally important with an ambitious piece of design. You don’t want to start regretting early decisions a couple of days into the final illustration. And certainly, even if I don’t make my own entry it’s great fun to see everyone's work progress.
Any final thoughts?
Well done to all the participants, 2D and 3D alike, and a massive thank you to the Cubebrush staff.