Art Director Spotlight: KJ Yu

KJ is Concept Art House's Studio Art Director, overseeing high-level decisions in art quality, style, and creation process. We sat him down for a quick interview to find out what being an AD really means, and what advice he has to aspiring artists.

KJ Yu's personal work - concept art, mechsuit

KJ Yu's personal work - concept art, mechsuit

What steps do you take to create your art?

  • It depends on the client, but everyone should immediately do research to understand the feel and style of the game. I sometimes go straight to sketching, but only if I’m familiar with the art style of the project. The following steps vary due to different art styles and clients wants; some stylistic choices might require more color comparisons, while others need more idea sketches.

What project are you most proud of and why?

  • League of Legends. The game was on its way to the peak and we got lucky enough to be one of their major art resources of champion splash art and skin concepts. Our work is seen by millions of people around the world.

What is the most exciting aspect about your job?

  • Getting hands-on experience on all kinds of projects from around the world, on all different platforms, on all different gaming levels.

What are key factors that makes an image powerful?

  • On a technical level, the key factors would be composition, value, color, et al. From a more personal standpoint, an image is most powerful when it's exactly what you want to convey, or what your client wants to see. 

What types of art do you enjoy doing most and why?

  • Environment concept art. Creating a new environment is like creating a whole different world. Where is this place, who lives in there, what happened in the past, what is happening now? It’s so fun to explore these things.

KJ Yu's work on SCEA's social game Infamous Anarchy

KJ Yu's work on SCEA's social game Infamous Anarchy

What’s the most challenging part of your work?

  • Building a strong bridge between the client and the off-site production team. Both think and look at things from very different perspectives. The most challenging part is to be able to switch modes and find compromise between the two sides.

What’s the biggest challenge in the industry? What’s the solution?

  • Beautiful artwork is easier to create these days with such advanced technique and better tools. The biggest challenge is to make yourself stand out, whether you are an artist trying to get a job or a game dev trying to make your game successful. The solution is to find experts who really know game art and know how to utilize it. Art is a very abstract and subjective matter. A lot of times you think the art looks fine but not too many people like it, or it looks mediocre and you can’t say what’s actually wrong with it. When that happens, you need a good Art Director or a good art service provider to tell you what the problem is and how to solve it.

What do you like drawing in your leisure time?

  • Robot/character sketches, and watercolor landscape paintings.

KJ Yu's personal work - fantasy landscape with knights and a dragon

KJ Yu's personal work - fantasy landscape with knights and a dragon

Any advice to aspiring game artists?

  • While building up your art skills, build up your connections too. More often artists get jobs through connection rather than through recruiting. Go to a convention, get to know people. It’s okay if you don’t get an immediate result. Stay connected, expose yourself, plant the seed and one day it will grow.