This article is part of Virtuos Insider, a series of interviews where Virtuosi share about their careers and experiences in the company and video game industry at large. In this instalment, hear from concept artist Issree Pittayayon as she talks about her move to Montreal and video games as an art form.
As a game developer with a presence in multiple locations around the world, it’s not unusual at Virtuos to have talent joining up with studios half a planet away from them.
Take Issree Pittayayon, one of our concept artists for example. Born and raised in Bangkok, Thailand, her interest in games and concept art has led her on a journey of learning and discovery overseas. Now, she helps to produce world-class concept art as one of our team of artists at Virtuos Montreal.
Issree has graciously taken some time out of her busy schedule to speak with us on her experiences, interests, and what it means to be a concept artist. Read on for the full interview!
Tell us a bit about your history leading up to your current job at Virtuos. How did you come to join us?
I started playing video games when I was around 12 years old and I just got my first PSP. I remember Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core being the first game that I ever played and I was hooked. It was around that period of time when I realized that I wanted to work in the gaming industry.
Later on in life, I went to university for a Bachelor’s degree in Animation Production, came to learn about concept art, and decided that that’s what I wanted to be. In 2018, a year after my graduation, I joined Syn Studio’s Concept Art Diploma in Montreal Quebec. That’s where I met my teacher, David Cheung, who’d later be the guy that invited me to join the studio, which I did just seven months ago. I’m forever grateful to him for giving me this opportunity.
What’s your favorite thing about working at the Virtuos Montreal studio?
The people, definitely. The entire team is very supportive of each other. I’ve learned so much from the feedback I get from them. Everyone is here to help each other grow and improve. We don’t engage in toxic competition at all.
The other thing I love is the city itself. Montreal is awesome; good food, friendly people, many beautiful places to visit. I could go on.
What’s a normal work day like for you as a concept artist?
My days tend to start with an internal meeting. We go over work in progress or discuss finishing concepts before sending them off to the clients. What I do after the meeting changes day to day depending on the tasks I receive, although I pretty much sit on my desk all day. I might have a lunch break and smaller coffee breaks here and there depending on how I’m feeling. Sometimes I’d skip food if I’m working on priority tasks, though (please don’t try this at home).
For some games, it’s actually common for fans to purchase prints of the concept art and display it in their homes, purely because they appreciate the artwork. As an artist, what do you think about games as a form of art?
Recognizing that video games are an art form is the reason why I joined this industry. There are so many crafts that goes into a game – the visual, the music, the writing, the acting and more. Games can convey emotions as well as any other kind of media, through their narrative or even just through the gameplay. There are so many aspects of art combined together to make one cohesive game and I think that’s why video games should be considered a legitimate art form, just like how people recognized films as such.
Is there anything about being a concept artist that you wish more people should know about?
I wish more people would understand that concept art is not just about physically putting things down on paper; much of the work being done occurs within the artist’s mind. Concept artists usually design or invent things that don’t exist in the real world, but are still realistic enough to be believable. That requires a lot of thinking and research, with at least a basic knowledge of many different topics: history, anatomy, engineering, fashion design, graphic design, architecture, etc.
In essence, one could say that the creation of concept art requires a lot of focus and brain power, and not just muscle memory. It would be great if these aspects of being a concept artist are more widely understood and appreciated.
Above: Concept art from Issree’s personal collection.
Tell us a bit about your personal life. How did you get exposed to technology and games?
I played a lot of video games before coming to Canada. However, while I was in school for concept art, I completely stopped playing video games to focus on school. Now that I’ve graduated, I’m waiting to get my hands on the PlayStation 5. I’d love to get back to playing video games again as that’s the very reason why I do what I do. Unfortunately, I’ve not managed to get a PS5 yet. Hopefully, I’ll manage to snatch one soon!
As for technology – YouTube is what I use to satisfy my curiosity. I love watching videos about anything ranging from space to robotics. Audiobooks are also another one of my go-tos as well.
Do you do any art on your own spare time? Any personal interests?
For now, I’m doing more studies and practice in my spare time, not so much personal art, since my main focus right now is improving my skills. I do plan to work personal art into my schedule more in the future however. I think doing your own art outside of work is very important to prevent yourself from getting tired with art in general.
Outside of video games, I’m interested in so many things. The two biggest ones would be fashion and science – weird combo, I know! I’m also huge into music. Playing instruments is probably the thing I do the most, second from art. In fact, I like to relax by playing the guitar or the piano, but sometimes I prefer watching movies on the couch with my Frenchie puppy.
Is there anything you would like to say to anyone reading up about Virtuos?
You’re reading up on the right company (*wink*). Virtuos is a great company filled with great people. If you’re interested in game development, it’s a good opportunity!