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October's Student Spotlight is Ohio native Kirsten Zirngibl. Kirsten has been drawn to art as long as she can remember. Her love of designing objects and spaces led her to the world of concept art, fantastical illustration, and digital media, which opened her eyes to the possibility of combining art and analytical design; the best of both worlds! After graduating early from CCAD with a major in illustration, Kirsten now attends TAD full-time, studying Entertainment 2D while she continues to work as a freelance artist.
WEBSITE | kirstenzirngibl.com
INTERVIEW WITH THE ARTIST:
1. Where would you like to be five years from now with your art and career?
One of the reasons I'm at TAD in the first place is to answer this question for myself, which makes it hard to specify right now. But I am very excited for the future regardless of what path I take.
For a while now, my dream has been to write and illustrate my own sci-fi world in book form, and pitch it to other mediums if it gains commercial success. I would love to create and manage properties, license them, and possibly art direct, without sacrificing the ability to keep making my own art as well. I realize that the world of licensing is incredibly hard to break into, especially for someone with no real industry experience or big name. It requires a lot of business and legal knowledge I don't have yet, but I expect TAD to give me the tools to give me a fighting chance. I'm undecided as to whether I should pursue my own content directly out of school, or take some time at a more “normal” industry job first.
My backup plan is to be a concept artist. Ideally, I would be freelance or work for an outsourcing company like MB [Massive Black], because I think I'd enjoy the variety and switching mental gears. It would help me learn more about the industry than just working in one studio. My dream project would be to help develop an entirely new, rich sci-fi world for a MMORPG, or film. I would also like to be an illustrator for the publishing industry, and/or a gallery artist on the side. I always want to have polished images be part of my career.
2. What have been the biggest influences for you and your work so far?
Unlike many people breaking into the entertainment business, I think I've been influenced less by video games/film, and more by literature. Not to conjure images of flamboyant library corkboards, but there's a “magic” to well-written imaginative novels that can't be replicated in any other medium. It has always made me want to do them visual justice, and especially to write on my own.
I also draw influence by looking at other artists and designers. I was blown away when I first discovered concept art, and I look up to many of these artists, especially the ones trained as industrial designers who combine the imaginative with the analytical so well (Daniel Simon, Doug Chiang, Syd Mead, Ryan Church, Scott Robertson, etc...). I am also very influenced by late 19th century painters and “golden age” illustrators. They do such solid, rich, gripping work that to me will always be timeless.
Also, there is some great inspiration from nature. There are so many weird and wonderful things out there that make the aliens of our imagination seem mundane in comparison.
3. What are three things you learned at TAD which you will use during your career?
4. What motivates you as an artist?
To put is simply and a bit blasphemously, I like playing God and thinking about how both the natural, artificial alternative world could be designed differently, or better. There's a power trip that comes with virtually omnipotent control over a piece of art, writing, or world. If you “place yourself” into your design, you can get a rush by carving kilotons from a giant structure or totally changing a character's personality... with a single brushstroke! Though I really enjoy the tug-and-pull relationship between controlling my art and letting IT control ME sometimes.
Also, I'm motivated by competition against past and present artists. I love looking at something just a little bit better than my work, and wondering about how I could top it! I suppose I could include myself on my list of rivals, too.
5. Sometimes artists wonder about learning online. Have you made friends and connections which will stick with you for your career?
Yes, I have! If you think of yourself as a geeky artist who enjoys using your imagination, you will find yourself in a room of kindred spirits. But just being in the same class isn't enough. I recommend getting to know your classmates through IM, and, even better, by meeting them at one of the workshops or staying at a POD. Just about everyone in class is facebook friends with everyone else, too. We often share our work there for support and critiques, and I hope this will last when we're out of school.
6. Do you feel a sense of community with the other TAD students even though they are all over the world?
Definitely. In some ways, I actually feel more community with my virtual class than I did in real-world classroom settings. Imagine you're in a physical classroom, but can also communicate telepathically (chat window) with all your classmates. You can offer additional critiques, share links that are relevant to the lecture, ask/answer questions of your peers, and even contribute to the same drawing simultaneously. It's an efficient system.
Anyway, my class also has a healthy share of inside jokes and lots of goofy banter. One teacher once remarked that we take our craft incredibly seriously, but don't take OURSELVES seriously. I can't think of a single class where I didn't “lol” once! (Oh, by the way guys, I'm totally NOT evil…?)
Another big aspect to what brings TAD students together is that we often teach amongst ourselves in addition to the main lectures. Students come from many different backgrounds, and those experienced in certain areas often help the newbies out with tips and crits, both inside/outside of class. I think this supportive atmosphere definitely helps to unite us. Class will start to feel even more like a family if you're an entertainment design major working on collaborative projects.
7. Who are 5 of your favorite artists and why?
My favorite artists are always shifting around, and depend heavily on criteria. I decided to prioritize artists who have gone beyond by making their own property in addition to their own art:
I love artists from the orientalist and naturalist movements, and I could chose 10 from those. But it looks like I'm out of slots!
8. Like the other Entertainment Development students at TAD, you will be creating roots of your own intellectual property and entertainment world which you can grow throughout your career. Why is this important to you?
I feel so incredibly fortunate to be living where I am, WHEN I am. In some ways, the internet has created an even playing field for anyone who knows that they're doing to compete against mainstream studios/publishers. The market is so dynamic and diverse now, that it's possible to find many audiences with specific interests.
There are a bunch of entertainment design schools springing up right now, but it seems like the goal of most is land students a job in a big studio by getting them to build a portfolio. That's fine. But the question I ask is “then what?” Even if I do choose to work for a big studio, I want to know that I always have other options and the tools to successfully go rogue.
World building is the seed of my artistic drive, as I mentioned before. I don't think I will be truly fulfilled as an artist until I'm doing this in some way, and working on MY world. (The economic freedom that can come with self ownership would be nice too!)
9. What do you like to do outside of art?
10. How has your experience at TAD helped you to improve?
11. What are some things that have inspired you lately?
Lately I've been looking at the contemporary product/transportation/interior/architectural design scene, and getting away a bit from the illustration/concept sites. Ironically, I think that modern practical design can often be MORE imaginative! Why? Because “real world” industrial designers are more limited in terms of materials, cost, and human usability. As a result, they often totally think outside the box in order to stand out, whereas many concept artists might just tack on lots of wildly-shaped pieces to a more conventional design. Even disregarding out-of-the-box concepting, there's a certain shape harmony and sensitivity to proportion in product/interior design that I think is really important to pick up on, and will set me ahead of the game if I master it.
As I mentioned before, I'm also inspired by fantastical novels and the worlds they offer, as well as nature and technology. There are endless ways to combine all of these things to make something unique. I've also just started an inspiration blog. Keeping up with it will be difficult amid all the homework, but here it is: http://zirnspiration.blogspot.com
12. If you had three simple pieces of advice for students who are just starting out now, what would they be?
Here are some things I wish I would've done sooner when starting my journey:
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