Updated Fri, Jan 02, 2009 by Shayalyn
Interview with Jeff Damron
I was so pleased when Nick “Glip” Parkinson contacted us and let us know there were some artists at Sigil Games Online who were willing to be put under a microscope…err interviewed.
Being an artist myself I love to hear of others experiences and take a look at their work. We were not told ahead of time who would get our interview questions, as they were sent via e-mail shortly before all of the E3 craziness. I was very pleased to get this back and find that Jeff Damron, an Associate Artist with Sigil had answered my call. Jeff previously worked as a media developer for Ntara, Inc. where he was involved with graphics, 3D, motion graphics and video production and had also contributed to The Firefly Man, an award winning animated short film produced by the Graveyard Machine.
My questions began;
I should be the one to thank you and the community for being so curious about the people behind what we are creating.
To answer your first question, I had actually never really thought about this. Unknowingly, I would say yes. Art was something that I never put ahead of anything else in my life until I got to college. Growing up, I was interested in a lot of different things, but none of them had more priority over another. Art was something I dabbled in from time to time, and it was usually me just trying to imitate other art like The Punisher comics, DragonLance art, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, or other comics.
Did you enjoy art as a child?
I did enjoy it. I remember it being very rewarding to show what you were drawing to your parents, or to get a good grade on a school book report because I decided to draw some goofy picture of a cowboy or something on the cover of my report. I did well in school but art class was always a favorite because it was one of the few classes you didn’t have to give the same answer as everyone else did.
Do you have experience in the traditional mediums, such as watercolors, oils, etc?
Not really, no. Growing up, I was always drawing with a pencil and maybe coloring with color pencils or crayons. I only messed with painting a couple of times, almost always in an art class that required me too. 2D and 3D art was my main focus once I got to college, and most of the art I made then was computer generated. I did, however, dabble in photography, which I loved. I also tried messing around with things like scratchboard. I would try anything art related really. It’s just fun to create.
Who has been your biggest inspiration? What other artists do you admire or influenced your work?
Funny story about this. The day I was interviewed at Sigil, Keith Parkinson asked me this very question. And I froze and had no answers. I felt pretty stupid talking to Keith Parkinson trying to explain why I couldn’t come up with any names of artists that influenced me. And I still can’t really answer this question very well. I always noticed art wherever it was, but I never really paid attention to who created the art in most cases. Why? I’m not sure.
An example is in high school, I used to read DragonLance novels all the time. Loved them. I loved the stories and loved the art in the books. But I never once asked myself who created the art. After I started working at Sigil, it hit me one day when Den came up to my desk and saw a DragonLance calendar on my wall and he told me that the dragon for that month was his. The next day, he showed me the original sketch he drew of it. I was blown away because I had no idea I was working with people who’s art work I admired from back in the day. I went home and dug out all my old DragonLance novels and started flipping through the pages. Seeing names like Den, Larry Elmore, and others, it was pretty stunning.
And there was also of course recognizing several of Keith’s paintings on the wall around Sigil. I had just never stopped to find out who did them when I first saw them when I was younger.
So the short answer is that I really don’t have that one big inspiration, nor can I name artists that I know have influenced my work directly. I’m drawn to a lot of different art and different styles, whether it is paintings, photography, even tattoo art. My work is influenced by all of that and more I suppose. That and I am really horrible at remembering names.
There seems to be a lot of interest in entering the gaming industry, can you share with us your educational background that led you into this field?
What led me directly to working with Sigil was that I knew some other artists working here that I went through school with. That’s how I found out about Sigil and how I ultimately got the job. It definitely was not my art house test that landed me the job, seeing as how on occasion, we like to pull it up on the computer for a good laugh.
Being fresh out of college and moving across the country, I was more than willing to land a job with Sigil. Especially a job that I was going to officially be called an artist. Being called an artist was a nice step in the right direction.
I never actually expected to be in the gaming industry though. I went through a 3d art program at a college in Tennessee. Throughout the program, I always got the feeling there were only a few choices for jobs once you graduated. Gaming was one of those. It was always the least appealing to me because I was never really impressed with the graphics in games. It always looked like the art had to sell itself short for performance or other reasons. But it’s obvious that has changed over the years, so the chance to work at Sigil with some amazing artists where you really do have a lot of freedom to create is more than I could ask for.
There have been some questions on the forums about the different programs that artists in the gaming industry use. Can you share what programs you currently use and which you feel are the most vital to an artist in the gaming field.
For me, the essential programs are Maya and Photoshop. These are what I learned in school and what I use now. These are pretty common. I’m not up to speed on all of the other alternatives out there, but training in some 3d program training would be key. I know a few people at Sigil who have switched over to Maya once here from other 3d programs, so it also really depends on the company and what they use. Knowing a 3d program that allows you to model, UV. etc would give an artist a foundation to work with if it was necessary to switch over to another 3d program than what you were familiar with.
What skills do you feel are paramount to up and coming artists looking to break into the gaming industry?
I don’t know all of the fancy words for it….light and form and shape and foreground and background, weight and balance, and this and that…you just need to know art and what looks good. The tools come second. You need to be creative because for as massive as a game as Vanguard is, you never know what you will be making from one week to the next.
When did you join Sigil and what attracted you to working for them?
I joined Sigil in May of 2004. Sigil is just a great place to work. The people, the game, the art…it’s all attractive and I was able to see a glimpse of this and the passion behind it when I interviewed. I was just lucky enough to have friends on the inside to vouch for me, and the willingness of Sigil to look past my horrible art test and give me a chance. J
There is some big heart here in creating this game. That’s exciting to be around and is easy to see when I first walked into the place. I am one for a challenge and for a startup company out to prove themselves, I was all about it.
Can you tell us what specifically in Vanguard you work on?
I am an environment artist here at Sigil. So you name it, anything non-character related, it’s up for grabs for me to work on. I have touched everything from rocks to starting villages.
What has been the most challenging project for Vanguard you’ve worked on?
It depends on the day honestly. Some days…a simple rock can be the hardest thing to create. Go figure!
At this point I had asked our trademark question… What is your favorite class and why? And what you look forward to most about Vanguard, Saga of Heroes?
Now, either due to not wanting to give out that information or perhaps a glitch in the Word file, we still don’t know. Jeff’s race and class remains a mystery but we now know one person we can thank for all the gorgeous scenery and the next time you find yourself looking at a "simple" rock in the world of Telon, just remember that there may be more behind it's creation that you think.
Thanks Jeff for taking the time to answer my questions and share a bit of yourself and your talent with us all.