How Concept Artist Mitchell Stuart Created an Art Deco Metropolis
Get ready to take your worlds to new heights! With the launch of our Goliath 3D asset kit, we needed a cover art to convey the monumental scale of the new city buildings. Since the kit features a powerful Art Deco aesthetic, we immediately thought of Mitchell Stuart, whose work you may have seen in titles like HALO, Elysium, and Fast & Furious 6 (among many, many others). Recently, we caught up with the concept artist to discuss his career, his design process, and what he’s learned over the years.
KitBash3D: Hey. Mitchell, wonderful to have you back. I believe the last time we chatted was back in 2019 when we featured your “Ring World”. It’s been a crazy year and change since then, to say the least. How has it been for you – both for your career and personal work?
Mitchell Stuart: 2020 was indeed a crazy busy year. Like so many artists, my full-time job shutdown back in April. It gave me the push I needed to make my freelance business a "full-time" job. I already had a diverse client-base and when word got out that I was "fully" available, it didn't take long to become overwhelmed. The biggest challenge thus far has been scheduling, trying to keep up with the different time-zones, and learning to say no (... but always yes to KitBash3D, haha).
The largest portion of my work this past year was from a sci-fi game company in China. Six environments, about a month and half on each, with tons of KitBash3D elements (your kits have been a lifesaver!). I have so much new work to show this year but even more NDA's preventing that… so here's some personal creations from the same time-frame.
KitBash3D: It’s great that your year had a silver lining, and the art you created is terrific! And, of course, we’re grateful that you found the time to include us in your busy schedule. Hopefully it was enjoyable for you! Can you share what it was like working with Goliath to create the cover art?
Mitchell: I enjoy kits like Goliath because they present a vision of the future – even if it is a retro 1930's style. There are a lot of iconic shapes, and I love the details added into the balconies and windows. I wanted the image to center on something grand and iconic… a hub of activity. Something Goliath, as the name suggests. My entry for KitBash3D’s Art Deco contest years back did come up in the original discussions with Darren, but it was left quite open to interpretation.
I presented a few different angles to the KitBash3D team. The kit has great elevated roadways running through buildings, so I aimed to create a network of elevated bridges and roads (the foreground bridge decks are from KitBash3D Highways kit).
The next question was “from above or below?” Darren seemed to gravitate towards my 2nd version which had a superhighway leading to the heart of the tower complex. Then to give more height to the image, I included subterranean areas. I could've just scaled one tower but I went for 4 and had them connected by one of my favorite elements from the kit, an arched glass-filled facade, which I doubled up and made into a sky bridge between the towers. I was going for either a high-class viewing platform or a sinister overwatch of the city below for use by nefarious powers, but I’ll leave that up to the viewers.
Regarding the process, I'll include some of my render layers, which were done in Redshift. Other than the typical Beauty, Specular, and Occlusion passes, I separated the windows by shader, and added subterranean lights. The project took about 2.5 weeks total. I spent under 1 week building a layout in Maya with some rough lighting; got approval on a camera angle and lighting; and refined, built, and tested render layers for the second week while sending further updates. I then used the remaining 3-4 days in Photoshop, painting until done.
I like to have my artwork tell a story from different spots. I provided below, an unintentional storyboard with different slices of the image. Every corner of the final image almost becomes its own piece, or at least it tells part of the story towards the unifying purpose of the image.
KitBash3D: It really does. It’s such a robust image, I could stare at it all day! Is there anything that you’re looking forward to trying with this kit in the future or anything you’d like to see from other artists using this kit?
Mitchell: I would love to see some night shots with giant searchlights or a “King Kong” shot from the top of one of the buildings. A cool idea would be to make an actual 30s style poster in print using this kit!
KitBash3D: Yes, please! That would be awesome. Before we go, do you have any tips for the artists out there or other parting words you’d like to share?
Mitchell: With all the NFT craziness, studio closures, and economic uncertainty, combined with supporting a family getting to be too much for an artist trying to carve-out a career, all I can say is what works for me. Stay focused on "why you are doing this and what gives you happiness doing it." It's not the amount of money, nor the kind of project, it's the simple satisfaction of knowing you "created" something you are proud of each day.
I'd also like to thank the team at KitBash3D for this opportunity. Since I started using the kits a few years ago, they've gotten better and better. I dig the new texture and render options!
KitBash3D: You’re very welcome, and that advice definitely hits home. And thanks so much for your support, squeezing us into your schedule to do this interview, and creating the cover art for Goliath Kit – which will no doubt inspire the rest of the KitBash3D community!
About Mitchell Stuart
Mitchell Stuart is a Scottish Concept / Environment Artist running his own business in Vancouver, Canada. He is a winner and 3 time finalist in KitBash3D contests, and beyond his known contributions in feature films, he's been busy working on Netflix, HBO, and Amazon's upcoming slate of work, including The Handmaid's Tale, Shadow and Bone, Snowpiercer S2, The Boys S3, Halo, as well as a host of international contracts for large game companies in Asia. You can check out his publicly available work and follow him on his website, ArtStation, and LinkedIn.