Peter Han is an unsung hero among concept artists. When I met him two years ago at San Diego Comic-Con, two separate friends of mine had approached me and mentioned that I needed to meet Pete in Artist Alley — “He’s really great”. That was a Saturday, the craziest and busiest day of the convention. I was juggling 10 artist shoots and info was sort of flying in one ear and bouncing every which chaotic direction, so I think I gave my friends the nod, smile “Oh yea?” and carried on futzing with lighting gear, carrying 4 conversations simultaneously and maneuvering through 16 inches of working space with the ever present hint of a hangover holding on into the late afternoon. It was Comic-Con after all.
Pete just didn’t register on my radar that day.
By Sunday, things had calmed down a bit. I was able to take a short morning break and wandered Artist Alley grasping a cup of strong black coffee. When I came across the Sprocket and Gear table I knew I’d found someone “great”. It only took about a minute of conversation before we realized that we had both been told by friends to find one another at the convention because Pete was perfect for Sketch Theatre. He was super accommodating and cool and we scheduled him to be my last shoot of the day.
By 5:00 p.m. there was chaos unfolding from every corner of my booth, the crew were all very tired and there was little life left in us. I was being pulled in multiple directions with logistical matters, a mess… and there was Pete, right on time, armed with his supplies and ready to go. I set him up under the camera and got him started recording. It was about a half hour later that I noticed a full-on crowd had gathered to watch Peter’s masterful sketching in real time. He knocked them out and blew everyone away. Three beautiful sketches in 40 minutes, and he didn’t even care about the fact that there were a bunch a nuts spinning circles around him while he created.
A total pro.
Pete travels from San Diego to Los Angeles every week to teach his classes at Art Center College of Design. He also works full-time in the game industry and publishes his own books. Busy, busy. He took time to answer a few interview questions for Sketch Theatre and he even did that quickly. I’m amazed at his talent, work ethic, graciousness and humility. I’m so thankful that he is using his talents to teach future generations — they will certainly learn a great deal more than just how to create really killer drawings.
Peter Han is a concept artist currently working in the gaming industry at Trion Worlds studios in Del Mar, CA., An instructor for Art Center College of Design and CG Master Classes and creator of “Sprocket and Gear” which he has published since 2006. To find out more about “Sprocket and Gear” you can check out this review written by USA Today.
What made you want to pursue concept design?
I’ve always known since I was five, that I wanted to be involved with art in some way. At that age I wanted to be a paleontologist and draw dinosaurs. Then as I got a little older, comics and movies became a big part of my life. At the time I didn’t really understand the world of conceptual design, nor how important that field of design was to all areas of entertainment arts.
It wasn’t until I got into Art Center that I was really exposed to that world, and I was hooked. More than anything, the reason I found concept art so appealing was that we were the ones responsible for the realization of a whole world.
What was the inspiration for your new “Sprocket and Gear” comic, which seems more directed towards children rather than your usual, more adult-oriented, artwork?
Initially Sprocket and Gear was just a doodle I did for the pure enjoyment of it. There was no real direction or story, only a visual look of the characters at first. I had a number of ideas that I wanted to play with, but it wasn’t until I started researching Da Vinci that a light bulb went off in my head, when joining my characters with the world of Da Vinci, influenced designs began.
You have extensive experience in designing for games. We understand you plan on designing for film and animation next. Is it more or less the same or did you have to adjust to any differences?
I’ve always been interested in animation and I knew I had to develop my storytelling skills. The major differences to me were always story and communication of emotion. Definitely less strict hard design.
What is the greatest challenge for you as a concept artist?
For me it’s trying to stay sharp in a constantly growing field. It very easy to plateau and get lost in the grind of a daily job. Luckily teaching helps a lot in this area, being involved with students helps me learn new things all the time.
As an Art Center College of Design graduate and now instructor, do you feel a formal education in art is absolutely necessary in today’s concept design field?
I do. However, as important as the education is from whatever school you go to, to me the most important aspect of attending a school are the people you actually go with. You make life long friends but also make your contacts through them. In the end, its all about effort and dedication. Just because you don’t get a formal education, does not mean you cant find a job in the field. Companies are more interested in the work in your portfolio rather than a degree.
Check out Peter here on Sketch Theatre and on his regularly updated blog where he shares his current projects, behind the scenes tutorials, and links to purchase his books!
Written by Lily Feliciano
(special thanks to Fernando Caire for his excellent Q & A skills)