Those among us who have followed the development blog may recall the time when we put out a call for artists, aptly titled, “Calling All Artists”. We didn’t specify why we were looking for artists, but you’re going to see why we did and what the artists who responded created in the form of fan art.
Continuing towards Cave Story’s launch we’re going to be showing some of this fantastic artwork and while asking these very talented artists questions about themselves and how they created these works.
Meet Rey Ortega. He's a full-time illustrator and gallery artist. Throughout the year he does group shows in the States, between his illustration jobs, of course. He also does smaller projects for websites, magazines or advertising campaigns. I should mention he's also working on a comic strip at the moment.
How did you get involved in artwork?
I imagine like most folks, it started at an early age. I don't come from a family of artists, but I loved story books and cartoons, comics, all that stuff. I also liked learning about the people making these great things, and eventually I started to get the crazy idea that I could do it too.
This is probably a fairly boring answer, but in high school I took all the art courses I could get, read as many books as I could find and then after that I went to Sheridan College for the Art Fundamentals course and then the B.A.A. Illustration program. After school I just tried to get my work and my name out there in as many different ways as possible and hoped someone was listening. It wasn't easy, and I still feel like in the learning process of many things, but I rather like it that way, I think.
Were there any challenges for you as you advanced your artwork through the years? Did you ever stop and think you should do something else?
There was a point in high school where I thought I might study business and economics, and even as far as college I've had professors suggesting I take writing courses and more academic route, for things like anthropology and history. Even now I love reading tons of different stuff and writing, I've even written essays for fun, just for myself! At the end of the day, I felt like it was just "right" to be drawing and painting. Like this is where I feel the most confident and real, if that makes sense.
These days I'm trying to satisfy both my passion for writing/analysis with drawing by thinking about the images or worlds I create, maybe not too seriously, but I try and take that into consideration. I've also been looking into writing about games on blogs too, so basically I'm just spreading my wings!
What are your tools of the trade?
I use pretty average stuff. Colored pencils, ink, acrylic paints, paper that is strong enough to hold water without warping. I use computers too, Photoshop, but mostly it's in service to the hand drawn work, I try not to rely too heavily on programs. I like the act of drawing with pencil on paper, for me, this is where my "voice" comes from. So everything else, computers, or even paints and inks, it all works to complement the drawing first.
What kind of advice can you offer someone interested in getting involved with artwork and digital media?
I'm in favor of getting an education. An Art school where you can learn about the foundations, like figure drawing and painting, technical drawing. Also it's important to find a school that has a good business component to the program too.
But going to school is kind of the obvious thing to do, the real challenge is being honest with yourself and finding out if you have a real passion for art. Working as a visual artist can be tough at times, but the driving factor has to be that passion. It's not like other jobs where from 9-5 you're an accountant, and in your afterhours you can finally just do whatever. If you want to work as an artist, it's almost a bit of a lifestyle choice. You need to always be thinking about it and working at it, around the clock. Even something like keeping a sketchbook and constantly drawing in it and taking notes of the world around you, taking it whereever you go, that is a huge step in the right direction.
What are some of your favorite contemporary games? What are some of your favorite classic games?
I'm a big fan to Fumito Ueda and his studio's work on Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. Before that, I hadn't been playing many video games, and was probably starting to feel a bit jaded. Like I had seen everything there was to see. In both cases, it was like a breath of fresh air and not only did it reinvigorate my interest in games, but it also influenced my work as an artist too.
On the classic side of things, I really like Kirby for the Nintendo, and Yoshi's Island for the Super Nintendo. Those games came out late in their respective console's lives, with other fancier system's about to launch, and yet there was something incredibly vital about them. As if to say, "you don't need to have fancy graphics or more buttons to enjoy these games".
In a strange way I think Cave Story captures the essence of why I like games like Ico or Yoshi's Island, it's both a fresh experience that also feels classic at the same time.
What is your experience with Cave Story? When did you first learn about it?
I first learned about Cave Story in college, around 05/06. At the time, there weren't many fancy console games that I was interested in, but I started to look into indie games and everyone was always talking about Cave Story. I think the game had this extra bit of mystery and allure to it because I was just learning about indie games, not much was known about the creator Daisuke Amaya, there was already a fan following with great art around it. I had to fuss around with my computer to run it, with the proper translation patch but it was worth it.
Of course I loved it, and it started a minor revolution amongst my circle of friends, everyone was discovering this little game and remembering why we liked to play in the first place. Since that day I've played the game several times in different formats and I can't wait to try it on the Wii. Each time I play Cave Story I'm just as excited as I was the first time trying it.
I had never played a "metriodvania" style game until Cave Story, and because I loved it so much I went back and played all of those great games everyone else had experienced years ago, like Symphony of the Night and the other Castlevanias. All thanks to Cave Story!
Anyone who has played Cave Story for more than 10 minutes will instantly recognize the scene you selected. What can you tell us about it?
The thing about that moment in Cave Story, is that it's kind of a story sequence, and yet you're still playing and moving around. I think in other games they might make it an unplayable cinematic, but here it's kind of this subtle, mysterious thing. You might ask yourself why is there a grave?
It looks important...Who is this crazy orange guy? You only see him once in the game... All of these little things you have to sort of piece together yourself. It's not exactly some kind of grand mystery, but it's rewarding to figure it all out, and you get the sense that the world of Cave Story extends much further than the boundaries of the game. It's so good!
For me, it's like, such a perfect little moment and the game is filled with cool touches like that. Cave Story is all about exploration and mystery, about the adventure and the joy of discovery. So that part sums up why I love the game so much.
After I finished working on this, I instantly thought about working on more stuff, there's just so many interesting things going on in that game. At one point I was considering the outer wall and the cat that shoots yarn at you, or even just an image of a broken down, rusty robot.I'd love to come back and draw more images about Cave Story.
How long did it take you to put together?
It took me maybe two or three sessions. Although I take a lot of breaks in between.
Can you tell us a little bit about the process of creating it? Do you have any work-ups or anything we can see?
The hard part is trying to come up with a concept that felt in keeping with the spirit of the game and also that felt like a part of my own body of work. This is more of a conceptual process than it is a visual one. I jotted down a bunch of words that I felt summed up what Cave Story meant, and I tried to think about those aspects in relationship to the images I like to create. For me, that was the sense of wonder and discovery in the world. In many ways, Quote is like a child learning about the world around him, how scary and thrilling that can be, which is a theme that resonates with me.
The easy and fun part is actually drawing it. Once I have my mind made up, I really don't do much preparatory sketches. I did two quick thumbnails to decide if I wanted the image to be portrait or landscape format. It's a little embarrassing to show these, since they aren't impressive at all - but it's worth noting that really, this is all the information you need when you want to sketch something out. Don't get caught up in the details. I already could tell that a landscape format version of this image wasn't going to work, and all I really drew was a triangle.
Lastly, here is the original painting, you can see that I didn't really add much with photoshop after I scanned it in. Mostly just bringing out a few details and adjusting things. Since I don't do many preparatory sketches, all the work is done on the final image. I like the spontanaiety of drawing and painting and I'm happy to live with all the ink splatters and erased lines, if you look closely you can still see some rough lines, I feel like all of that gives the work a certain kind of "energy".
Where can people find your work?
You can go to my website, www.rey-o.com, which is currently a little outdated and I'm looking to create a new one. More of my recent work can be found on flickr. In May I'll be having my first solo exhibit at the WWA Gallery in Culver City, CA, which is pretty exciting. I'm mostly focusing on that show right now.
What's your latest painting?
I did this little image for a fundraising effort to support Haiti. Before that I was in a Holiday show at Show & Tell Gallery, here is one of the pieces I created for it.
I'd just like to add that I want to thank you, Tyrone, for inviting me to be a part of this cool project. I wanted to contribute something to a game that brought me so much enjoyment. Of course I want to thank Pixel (Daisuke Amaya) for creating Cave Story and the entire Nicalis team who will be bringing it to a larger audience. I'm excited that so many people will be getting a chance to discover this game for the first time.