Okay guys, so we already presented you the amazing Brandon Rollins and War.Co the game ( https://manaburnt.wordpress.com/2017/01/31/interview-with-brandon-rollins-creator-of-war-co/ ) … Now it is only fair you meet the man behind the pen and all the rad art work. Pleased to meet you; James Masino!
-Thank you for speding some time talking with us James, we really appreciate it as we know you are super busy drawing away like a mad man. So if you wouldn’t mind, to start with, could you tell our readers about what drove you to drawing: why did you choose this path, and how have you pursued your education: courses, experiences, self teaching etc.
I think what’s interesting about this path, is that I didn’t initially choose it. I went to a technical college before going to SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design) for an accelerated degree in Animation and Concept Development. What I didn’t anticipate was that the “Concept Development” part meant being trained for digital artwork for the creation of concept art. Up to that point, I barely drew at all! Learning it can be summed up by practice, and tremendous failure at first. I even had a teacher sit me down once and tell me to focus on 3D Animation over the Concept Art just because I wasn’t having much success with it. Doing it over and over and over again is what got me to where I am now, and 90% of it was on my own time through self-teaching and practice outside of class.
-Where do you get your inspiration from? Do you have any artists that you admire and do they impact your work?
My morg file consists of maybe tens of thousands of images at this point, from all over the Internet and beyond. When I’m drawing inspiration for a certain project, I look for that specific subject and kind of ask, how did other artists handle this similar subject? Then from there I’m looking to create new ideas. I’m also a huge sci-fi fan, moody dark saturated things really catch my eye. I suppose some actual artists whose work I really admire would be somebody like Steve Burg, or Halo 5’s Sparth. I’m a really big fan of Loish too, her color work is ridiculous. Forgive me, but there are probably twenty other people I can’t remember the names of that I have tons of reference from too. I would say that my work is constantly impacted by other artists, because I’m trying to learn from their methods to advance my own skill level almost constantly.
-We are aware that you are involved in many projects. Could you tell us, from a personal and professional point of view what type of projects do you like working for most?
For type of project, I’m not sure if I have a preference? I think what makes it exciting is that I can be spending one part of the year working on a card game, and another part working on a board game, or even UI design for an app. Hell, I’m doing illustration work with a concept artist background, while actively finishing my degree in Animation. Variety is fun.
-Do you have a specific format or genre that you favour?
I’m definitely bias for Sci-Fi. I’ve been asked to do fantasy a handful of times, but usually a really interesting Sci-Fi project comes along to save the day.
-You are the amazing artist for the game War Co. We have seen your impressive and impossible sci-fi scenarios. But tell us, is it different or difficult to draw illustrations for a card game than perhaps your other conceptual art pieces or your 3D work?
I think that really depends and varies from project to project. Some projects will require a very high level of detail, whereas War Co asked me to do speed painting essentially for the cards. It was about capturing mood and the subject matter so the viewer didn’t really need to spend a lot of time analyzing it. It also needed to communicate from afar due to the size being so small once printed. War Co proved a unique challenge, took a year to complete, and in the end it didn’t feel very hard. But I know there was a struggle – which mostly just came from trying to conceptualize the broad range of Machine and Technology cards while staying original every time. I think there’s like, eight different shield cards in the game? That was fun. 3D Animation work is a whole other animal.
-And how do you do it? Do you follow a set of guidelines for the cards you need to illustrate? And does your art work have an impact in the actual game play?
I think the guideline was “as cool as possible” for whatever the description might be, which would mean reading into it, and finding the aspect that not only was the most conveying, but something I knew would be visually appealing. There’s some cards that illustrated just one part of what is a whole story. The biggest challenge is just getting started. The sooner you jump in the sooner something is going to happen. I should have probably saved these, but there is more or less a War Co graveyard of cards that were attempted that just didn’t turn out that well. Sometimes it’s the process that gets you there.
– Do you have any illustrations for War Co that you like best? Or perhaps a piece of work you did not enjoy or struggle producing? And can you tell us why?
I found out about halfway through that in illustrating a whole card game, not all cards are created equal, and not all cards can be created equal due to time constraints. There’s always hits and misses along the way, and the really bad misses I actually went back after card number 300, and redid. Especially since it became noticeable that my skill had elevated since the first 10 or 20 done. I’d be lying if I said I had a favorite card too, I like a lot of them for all different reasons. But then there’s “Anti-Aircraft” which I’ll never stop hating for some reason. In general I don’t like my own work very much. “Lead Crucible” was the hardest card in the game, I had that card pegged to do roughly half way through, and postponed it a dozen times due to lack of ideas, and this was after trying things out even multiple times. The description literally reads “…the Lead Crucible (which aesthetically resembled a giant lead crucible) was created with some of the properties of actual crucibles)”. That should have made this easy, but the card is a naval vessel, and for some reason at the time that threw me completely off. Though the card was met with struggle, from what I know it’s one of the most well received cards in the game (judging by Instagram likes).
-Now, digging a bit into the depths of the industry, we know it can be hard sometimes for people working in the arts. How has your experience so far been in this respect? Is there a high amount of competition for the jobs you seek out?
I’ve been very, very lucky in regards to freelance. Connections are huge, connections got me in contact with Brandon, and he just so happened to have a project that really broke me into the freelance realm. Thanks to it, I make my entire living on doing artwork. Before it I had a job at a Walgreens where I contemplated killing myself on a daily basis. Due to War Co vastly increasing my portfolio and name recognition, I actually no longer search for positions either. It’s mostly me notifying people who I’m still unavailable to take on their project just because I don’t have enough time in the day. A lot of the projects are really cool too! I think at some point I am going to be job hunting at a company once I’m finished with school of course, Animation is one of the most competitive industries out there, and it’s why I’m working professionally before graduation right now.
-We know you also have some training and education in film; is this a part of your career that we are yet to see? Will your name be in the credits of a motion picture or perhaps a video game sometime in the future, or is this something that does not interest you?
Actually before I was an artist, I made music videos for local bands in my area. Freelance for me has always been something that has been evolving. I initially went to SCAD for film since I thought I liked it a lot more than Animation, but after working in illustration, having success in animations, I decided I wanted to get a full Bachelor’s degree in Animation. Animation of course requires a huge understanding of drawing, composition, etc, as with film. Both subjects correlate. I would love to see my name in the credits for something like Wreck It Ralph or Big Hero Six!
-Do you have any professional goals set for your foreseeable future, or perhaps any dreams you are working towards?
I have a few- I’d like to start working out in the field more. Gaining experience at actual industry level studios, start getting a lot more projects under my belt, while simultaneously broadening the scope of type of projects, and increasing my level of artwork. I have started a couple small companies in the past (that turned into me just freelancing), I have thought about starting a studio of my own down the road!
-Do you have any tips for aspiring artists?
You’re going to have to make about a 1,000 bad drawings before you make one good one. And even then, you’re going to screw the one up after that. Failure is your best friend, and if you can accept it, you’ll have success. Welcome criticism, never stop practicing, and the sooner you get started, the sooner it’ll get done. Remember, there’s people like me in the world who wake up at Noon, but work until 7 AM, and then wake up at five the next day after that for school. The other biggest lesson for getting into this profession, if you want to make video games/games in general, you need to stop playing them. I played video games for about 15 hours total in the entire year of 2016. Quick note for digital artists here, expensive equipment will not make you better. The entirety of War Co was created on a Wacom Bamboo tablet. So don’t feel as if you’re limited, it’s about how you use what’s available.
-Before we leave you James, it has been a pleasure speaking with you, as always. Now as you know, our readers are all super geeks. Could you share with us your uttermost geeky passion (apart from obviously your job!).
My passion is my two kitties, but the MOST geeky? I’ve constructed my own computer and am generally a computer component enthusiast. I have the Thermaltake Level 10 GT case, a Hexacore i7 Intel chip, and four monitors- and the four monitor display actually shows up in one of the War Co cards as an Easter Egg. Also during Middle School, I logged an entire YEAR on Halo 3 Multiplayer. To say the least, I wasn’t making any games then!
The entire ManaBurnt would like to thank James once again for taking the time to talk to us, and we wish him the best in his future projects.
You can always drop him a tweet @