How video game concept artist Janice Chu finds inspiration in limitations


Unlike a lot of artists, Janice Chu didn’t necessarily grow up knowing she wanted to draw things for a living. In fact, she originally went to university to study computer science, but that only lasted a semester. “There was just too much math,” she says. Eventually she switched to studying animation, and three years in she decided that what she really wanted to do was create concept art for video games. “The school didn't teach concept art,” says Chu, “so I had to learn on my own.”

Since then the Vancouver-based artist has gone on to work on a pretty wide range of projects. She spent time at game developer Digital Extremes, doing everything from concept art for Halo 4 maps to designing user interface icons and sci-fi weapons for free-to-play shooter Warframe. She’s also illustrated a handful of covers for the Power Rangers comic book, and created some incredible fan art for the likes of Stranger Things and The Last Guardian. Right now she’s working as a concept artist at Vancouver design and animation house Animal Logic.

Her portfolio is huge and varied, with everything from tiny icons to vast, detailed scenes. But to Chu, they’re not as different as they may seem. "I feel that UI art is the simpler form of graphic design, and then concept art can still be graphic but on a larger scale like an environment," she says. "If you strip it down to its bare bones, they are made up of graphic shapes composed around a subject matter."

In her current role, she’s able to work on a variety of projects, including blockbuster movies like the upcoming sequel to The Lego Movie. "It's a fun challenge thinking with constrained rules," she says of that project, "it's definitely a different way of thinking which is awesome."

In the future though, she’d like to not only work on a game, but help create her own. It’s the process of building new worlds that excites, and games afford ample opportunity to create a myriad of new things, from weapons to locations to in-game icons. (In her spare time she's been crafting an intriguing fantasy world called "Knight Hood.") And though she’d prefer to create her dream game with a small team, that isn’t stopping her from thinking big.

"My dream project is probably to make my own game one day that a lot of people can enjoy," says Chu. "Something as memorable as Zelda."

You can find more of her work on her site.

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