Womenize! – Inspiring Stories is our weekly series featuring inspirational women from games and tech. For this edition we talked to Anthea van Leeuwen, 3D Artist at Mediatonic Games.
She explains how she found her passion and profession within the games industry; and talks about essential skill sets for environment art positions. Read more about Anthea in this interview:

Hi Anthea! When did you decide that moving into the games industry would be the right career path for yourself?

As a kid, I was always completely enamored by the magical worlds and creatures in video games. I’d fill up my homework with doodles of Nintendo characters all the way throughout elementary school, but never really thought about being able to do more with that passion. Once I finished high school, I had no idea what I wanted to pursue in terms of careers… I’m pretty sure I got my parents quite worried!

Funnily enough, a week after that I found out there was a game design course at a university in the Netherlands (my home country!). Going for that was a no-brainer to me – I could turn my doodles into something productive and make it my job. I was lucky enough to get an internship at Sumo Digital as a student, which is where things really started to take off and I truly found my place in the industry. Working on Snake Pass ignited my love for stylized art, and I got the great opportunity to work at Playtonic Games once I graduated.

Being able to learn from my childhood heroes that had worked on some of my favorite games was an absolute honor, but ultimately I decided I’d want to spread my wings a bit more. A few years later, and I’m now at Mediatonic where I’m really hoping to keep growing and spreading my passion!

What do you recommend to be part of everyone’s skill set when working as an Environment Artist?

In my experience, art shines the brightest if you combine two things: observation and imagination. Creating believable worlds means being able to recreate what people are familiar with, so you have to be able to convey scale, form, color and composition similar to that in the real world (even when working stylized!). At the same time, just copying what’s out there isn’t new or interesting, so that’s where your imagination comes in. When you’re able to combine those two, you’ve created magic! You get fantastical pieces like games ranging from the “Zelda” franchise to the “Shadow of the Colossus” to “The Last of Us”.

This rings true for every basic art fundamental though, so in terms of skill I would recommend having some experiments or side projects of your own (but be careful not to burn out!), since those are really the perfect time to test out your fundamentals. Being able to master software like Zbrush, Blender and Substance are great, but keep in mind a chef is not great because of their tools! Modeling and UVing, for example, will follow the same principles whether you’re using Blender, Maya or anything else.

Is there any piece of art you’ve created that you’re especially fond of?

Since my normal 9 to 5 is spent making environment art, whenever I work on personal projects I much prefer making something I don’t already do daily. In this case, that’s character art! They seem vastly different on the surface, but there’s so many things I’ve learnt (making environment art) that I apply on my characters, and vice versa. Environments teach you to strike a balance between detailed and less noisy areas, in order to create the best looking overall piece. For characters, you learn to observe and apply that knowledge to your own models, especially in the case of anatomy.

My particular favorite piece is this fanart that I did of Zagreus from the game “Hades”:

It started off with just being captivated by the game, and wanting to contribute to it in my own way. I realized that there was quite a bit of anatomical knowledge I had to get familiar with to execute it properly, so I’ve learned much more than I ever thought during the making of this project! In the end, posing and lighting him along with the last parts of the presentation is just a lot of fun. You get to play with colors, angles, some extra flair (like the petals) and it all comes together so nicely! I’d love to pursue another project similarly and end up feeling as satisfied as I did then. 

All in all, I wouldn’t have been able to get to where I am now if it weren’t for the huge amount of support and friendship I’ve gotten along the way. I hope to continue growing with my co-workers and friends as well as I have for the next good while!

Thanks for this interview, Anthea!

Anthea’s Links: LinkedInArtstation Portfolio

Womenize! – Inspiring Stories Feature by Sophie Brugmann