Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Featured Artist: Sam Hogg

Artist Profile
Sam "Zephyri" Hogg
Job Title: Concept Artist
Freelance? Yes, but only as a sideline to my main job
Client/Employer List:
Jagex, Bizarre Creations, number of independent authors
Nothing after the age of 18! Interestingly, Art was my lowest graded exam at 18.
Years Experience:
Professional years of art experience, about 3, though I have 8 years as a graphic designer under my belt too.
Favourite Medium:
Watercolour and pencils and Photoshop.
Adaptability... the ability to work in a variation of styles, subjects and mediums, but subject wise, dark romantic images featuring couples.
Accepting Private Commissions?
Not currently, no.

Contact Info
Website or Web Portfolio:
www.zephyri.com/ www.zephyri.deviantart.com
Online Art Communities:
Deviantart, Conceptart, Pixelbrush and CGTalk, all under the name Zephyri
Available through my deviantart gallery.

I've been a fan of Sam's work since before she signed on with Jagex and joined me in the world of the games industry. She first caught my eye over a Pixelbrush with some seriously sexy WIP pieces, and since then I've been in love with her versatility and unpredictability. From miniatures to coloured pencils to digital painting, everything in her gallery is a little different, but still has that touch of something which is uniquely "her". I grabbed hold of her for a brief interview about her work and her life as a concept artist.

Often artists will show a bias towards one gender or another, but you seem to paint men as often as you paint women, and quite a lot of your art features couples. Do you consciously try to keep up a variety, or is it just something you do naturally?
I think it's just something I do naturally - both men and women have traits that I find fascinating. Couples are often a good way of dealing with the contrasts of both at once, and I love the interplay between human beings. A lot of fantastical art focuses simply on the aesthetic, or on the emotions of a key character, and I find that strange, given the subtle emotional things you can work into two people interacting - it's kind of like using a complementary colour scheme, one augments the other
You can go from Luis Royo (disturbingly sexy) to Art Nouveau (soft and romantic), but almost all of your art has some degree of sensuality, even the darker, more tragic or sad pieces. Is it a favourite theme?
Most definitely. Sensuality, contrasts and balance are the big themes in my work and myself as a person. Emotion is what my life is governed by, be it good or bad, and art is the main outlet I have for dealing with it. It's one of the reasons my subject matter is so diverse - it's reflecting the myriad of emotional states I go through. I get most joy out of a piece when I can sit back and look at it and still feel the base emotions that sparked the piece in the first place. And being a realism artist means that sometimes emotional content can be diluted by the need to make sure everything looks right, be it anatomy, or composition, or finding the right reference. Having said that though, getting the same emotional responses from people who view my art is one of the reasons I keep doing it. I'm a romantic at heart, but I'm also very much a pessimist, and grounded in real life, which is why many of my images seem to hold a melancholy undertone to them. A moment of happiness can be made so much more intense by knowing that tragedy might follow, or has gone before, and trying to capture that little piece of story telling in an image of the emotions between two people is something I take great joy in.
I believe you write as well as draw and paint. Is storytelling a big part of your artwork too?
Writing is something I'm less confident about, in terms of sharing with the masses, but it's something that seems to come more easily to me than art, weirdly. It used to be very much something that inspired my art, and vice versa, but with working for others a lot more lately, it's showing up less in my art. However, having said that, when I work on personal pieces, I find images weave stories about them, or stories might spring from random things I see or hear during the day that in turn spark imagery in my head. Sometimes I find the two are almost blended to one... that telling a story with an image is just as important as painting pictures in someone's head with words.
The games industry in the UK isn't the biggest to begin with, and so the number of women who work in it is even smaller. Has being a woman ever been a help or a hindrance to your career?
This is very true... I'm one of only two women in a 60 strong graphics team at my company, and our overall female to male percentage is 15/85%. However, having come from a design background, where it's less of a contrast, but still a mostly male-run industry, it was never a big shock, or something unexpected. Being a woman can be both a help and a hindrance. For one thing, we're something of a curiosity, and that can be turned to your advantage, as it can make you stand out in a crowd of guys. I have also noticed I can get away with a little more than my male counterparts do when things go wrong... not that I don't get held accountable - I'm usually the first to hold up my hands, but the backlash can sometimes not be as blunt. In terms of how I'm treated with the work I do, I don't think it's ever been an issue that I'm a woman. It's more to do with how you conduct yourself, and being professional and approachable is more important that your gender. The only downside I've found, oddly, is on the whole social bonding thing. One thing I'd never considered going into a wholly male environment was that I might not be seen in the same social light as the guys in the office. Sometimes I get the feeling they don't invite me to play games, or hang out because I'm a girl and I don't do guy things, or because their other halves would have an issue with it. Both of which wouldn't be an issue if I were a guy.
I've found that as a woman, I'll approach concepts/design differently to how my male coworkers would have. Do you find the same thing? Do you think having a female influence makes a difference to the direction the artwork takes?
This is a tough one! On the one hand I'd say there's not that much difference, but I notice it most when it comes to creating both male and female characters. I think we're both hormonally bound to approach these things differently.. my male counterpart's women always have a very sexy bent to them whenever he gets the chance, and are about the way she looks, whereas when I'm concepting for women, it's more about the kind of personality they might have which will dictate how they look. I definitely err on the side of confident, strong women in my art, rather than the brainless sexy type. Same with men, I'm bound to design guys I find visually appealing when given the choice, whereas guys will generally revert to the stereotypical brawn strength. I guess it's a case of both sexes projecting what they want to be or are attracted to.

Doing the concepts for Bizarre has really pushed me to think about how I concept for guys though, as they work I'm doing for them has involved a variety of male characters, from your typical gung ho confident type, to something much more refined, to the nervous everyday-looking guys. Interestingly in this particular modern genre, I feel there's much less of a divide between a male and female concepter, than there might be in the more exaggerated types of fantasy characters.
Finally, as someone who has worked both sides of the fence, how much of a change was it to go from a freelance illustrator/designer to an inhouse artist?
This one's a no brainer for me. I'm rubbish at planning my own time when I'm working solely freelance, and I have no business sense, so freelancing was hard, even though I really enjoyed having my own time, picking my own projects and being able to arrange my own schedule. It was a little bit of a shock to have to suddenly get up so early in a morning, but I'm super lucky in as much as I work for a company that's strictly 9-6, and we rarely if ever do overtime. I love the structure of having to work in an office, I love the social aspect of it, there is seriously nothing better than having other artistic people around you giving you feedback. And I get way more done in an office than I would have done at home. It's tough sometimes on the days where you just know you're not going to get anything done or anything you do do is going to be crap, but that's vastly outweighed by the sense of team accomplishment when things go right.
Image Credits:
Above: "Colours of the Wind" ©2006-2009 Sam Hogg
Below: "Underneath It All" ©2008-2009 Sam Hogg
Bottom: "The Prince's Dance" ©2006-2009 Sam Hogg
All images used here with the artist's permission


  1. Good stuff! S'all I can say.

  2. A wonderful interview with a wonderful lady.:) Always interesting to see how feminity plays a role in the industry..and also to know that it seems like the division of the genders is playing less of a role, professionally, at least from the interviews I've ready lately.