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Principal Character Artist G5 Games Elena Butenkova – about the path to the profession, teamwork and the future of the industry

A character artist is a role that many aspiring professionals dream of. To create a hero that millions of players will love, to think over his appearance, character, distinctive features – a real challenge! Recruiter G5 Games Marina Tishchenko talked with Principal Character Artist Elena Butenkova about how to become a real pro in this field and get a job at G5 Games.

– Please tell us about yourself and your path to the profession. How did you become a character artist, and then a Principal Character Artist?

Hi! In general, it can be said about me that I am a person who has been drawing for as long as I can remember, but it was only after working in an architectural bureau that I decided to make drawing a profession.

How did I become a character artist? It was funny, at my first job in game dev, they just told me: "You draw characters." I didn't have any resistance. After that, I became interested in all areas of drawing and not only, I was even a leader for a long time, but in the end I went back to where I started – to the characters, but as a Principal Character Artist in G5 Games.

I know that many artists dream of drawing characters and working on a major project. The G5 has everything for this. Therefore, I advise you to bookmark a page with vacancies and not be afraid to respond, even if there is no open position at the moment. We always need good artists! 

– Can you describe your creative process? What stages do you go through when creating a new character?

Perhaps the most difficult and important stage in development for me is to understand what others expect from the character. Very often a character is described as a set of some visual characteristics, but for me it is much more important to see the character of the character and how he lives in a given context. Therefore, at the start, I always try to get to the essence of the character and understand what emotion he should cause. Then everything is according to the classics: refs, sketches and render. 

– What tools and programs do you use in your work and why?

Anything that comes in handy! Basically it is, of course, Photoshop. But other tools can also be connected in the process – from 3D and AI to drawings on paper and photographs. We at G5 usually do not set strict limits: the main thing is to achieve the desired result, and the ways to achieve this goal can be very diverse and depend only on style, requirements or deadlines. 

– Tell us how teamwork works in G5 and what role does it play in your profession?

When you make a big product, it is very important to be a team player. Therefore, in our profession it is simply impossible without a team. At G5, we strive to build a comfortable interaction between all team members. From my personal advice on how to achieve this – when you come to someone, introduce yourself, who you are and why you bothered. Give maximum information to resolve the issue, so that it is easier for a person to help you. 

– What is the most important skill an artist should have to create characters?

I won't touch on hard skills, I think it's obvious that it will be extremely useful for a character artist to know anatomy, for example.

As for soft skills, it is, first of all, the ability to understand what task needs to be solved and for what, as well as the ability to think and think, because we live in a world where the idea becomes the main value.

We really appreciate these skills in the company where I work, but I am sure that they will be useful everywhere.  

– What should I do in order to keep my skills up to date? What should novice artists pay attention to?

Personally, I take courses, draw my own small projects, communicate with people. The experience of other artists is especially valuable to me, from whom you can learn something, peek or be inspired. If you name specific names, then one of the most inspiring artists for me is Vasily Zorin. 

I can recommend novice artists to invest in the study of the surrounding world and broaden their horizons. It's incredibly helpful to find inspiration and do non-standard things. And it will give a greater impact than a book on anatomy. But if it's still interesting, then my favorite book is Figure Drawing: Design and Invention: Hampton, Michael. 

I also recommend articles or streams with your favorite artists: watch how they think and do. Watching them helps a lot. 

Large companies often have their own knowledge sharing system within different departments. We have G5 Talks webinars where any employee can share their experience with colleagues. This is a very cool incentive to study new topics in your field and helps to expand knowledge about the work of other departments.

– What to do if there is no inspiration?

I'll be a bit of a bore, but the lack of inspiration does not prevent me from drawing! However, its absence makes it difficult to find strength for your projects and ideas. When I realize that I have no strength, it helps me to find a case that brings quick positive reinforcement. 

For example, learning to drive became such a thing for me, I had a nice instructor and the skills were quickly absorbed. I received positive reinforcement almost every lesson. I think another good option would be sports, where you can also quickly "feed up" with dopamine.

– Can you remember the most difficult and most interesting task in your career and how you coped with them?

The most difficult task is to draw a park in a realistic style. Everything was complicated by the fact that at that time I didn't know any tricks at all that simplified realistic drawing. How did I manage? If I were overly self–critical, I would say - disgusting. But the background is still in the game and looking at it many years later, I can't even call it a failure. 

And the most interesting tasks began with the words "we need to do something about it all - I trust you." Once I had to reduce a large number of images by style. There was no uniform style in them, so I had to first isolate the patterns of this style, decide how to finalize everything, and eventually write a guide for artists on how to draw in this style. By the way, the team and I did a great job in the end. 

– Tell us about your view on the future of the profession. What do you think will remain the same and what will change? What technologies or trends will play a key role?

It seems to me that the main thing will remain unchanged – this is the ability to offer a visual solution to a certain task. All technologies will be associated with simplifying the achievement of this goal. 

There is a lot of talk around AI. I can say that I am surprised at the progress and I remember the moment when all you could generate were frightening photo collages. And now it is a tool that makes you rethink your approach to the profession.

But no matter what, the main trend is the desire of people to see something unusual and new, so the idea is the main value both now and in the future. Last year, G5 Games opened several offices in different countries: Montenegro, Bulgaria, Georgia, Armenia and Kazakhstan and is now actively hiring in these locations, including for relocation. To learn more about the open vacancies of G5 Games, follow the link: /

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