VGA recently had the opportunity to interview a talented artist; Bryan Wynia. Bryan is currently working as a Senior Character Artist at Sony Santa Monica. Previously he worked at Naughty Dog where he contributed on Uncharted 2 and Uncharted 3. He also works as a freelance Character Designer and Sculptor. Some of his clients include, The Aaron Sims Company, Gentle Giant Studios, Electric Tiki, and Masked Avenger Studios.
Bryan worked with another sculptor, Ruben Procopio, to create this amazing sculpture of Tron for Electric Tiki…
This awesome piece of work can be purchased today at Sideshow Toy.
Here at Video Game Auctions we are always looking at items just like this statue of Tron. This interview is meant to give gamers and collectors a look into how these items are made and how character design in games is handled. All of us at VGA thank Bryan for his time on this interview. Our hope is that the readers will learn a bit about the process and appreciate the work involved.
Video Game Auctions: How were you approached with the Tron statue project and how did you first react?
Bryan Wynia: I was approached about the Tron project through a fellow sculptor, really good friend, Ruben Procopio. He and I were hanging out and I was teaching him digital sculpting and he was showing me traditional sculpting and he had been sculpting a lineup of statues for Electric Tiki and the next character in the lineup was Tron. Ruben thought it would be kinda cool to co-sculpt it together digitally. So, to be sculpting Tron with Ruben Procopio… I was really excited.
VGA: The mind boggles for most people when looking over the detail on certain sculptures. How long did you work on the Tron statue before the final model was accepted?
BW: For the Tron statue, I don’t remember the exact amount of time. Ruben and I were actually working on that during nights and weekends while we were juggling other projects. So, if you were to condense it all, it would work out to two, maybe two and a half weeks before we got that ready to be printed.
VGA: Ruben Procopio is known for doing a lot of Disney sculpture work which includes a dazzling piece from Fantasia where the animated brooms are pouring out water while Mickey holds on for dear life. Is there any particular piece of work that he has produced that left you in unexpected awe?
BW: Working and hanging out with Ruben is incredibly inspiring. It’s almost hard to pay attention because there are drawings, sketches, and sculptures everywhere. You’re constantly looking at shelves just full of awesome work.
For me, the one thing I always go to sneak a peek at while I’m there hanging out is the maquette that he did of Beast for the feature film Beauty and the Beast. That statue to me is absolutely amazing and I really enjoy it.
VGA: With sculpture, many artists find themselves forever tweaking the design and eventually leading them self too far from the original concept. How do you decide when a sculpture is finished or do you simply have to force yourself to stop?
BW: Deadlines… Deadlines to me are a great way to know when a sculpture is finished. They can be pretty helpful. For example, a lot of my personal work is usually sketches because if I had plans for some giant elaborate sculpture of some kind, I would be constantly tweaking it and changing it and would probably die before finishing. But, deadlines are nice because they help you finish a project up and move on to the next one.
With each sculpture, it’s like I have a list of chores. I have to do “A, B, C and D”, and I have a month to do it. So, I have to make sure that week one, I get “A” done. Week two, I get “B” done, and so on…
That, for me, is how I know how to call it done and move on.
VGA: In 2008, you spent some time working for Gentle Giant Studios. What projects did you work on in your time there and was there something you wished you were part of?
BW: Working at Gentle Giant, I actually worked as an intern. As an intern, I worked as a character artist for the Golden Axe remake. Gentle Giant was contacted to help create a lot of the characters along with the video game company Secret Level.
After that, I moved on to work on some of the Harry Potter licenses, and a little bit of Star Wars licensing. Gentle Giant does a lot of things and I don’t think a lot of people know that. They do 3-D scanning for feature films and television, they have their own line of collectibles, and they’ve done video game work before. While employed there, I basically got to do a little bit of everything.
One of my favorite things to do there was learning how the scanning equipment worked. One of my very last tasks as an intern there, before I went home to finish college, was to go to a set for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull to scan some of the actors for the movie. I’m a huge Indiana Jones fan and even though I like to pretend that movie doesn’t exist, it was still pretty fun to be on set and meet some of the actors. And no, I didn’t get to meet Harrison Ford, but I wish I did.
VGA: After leaving Lone Wolf Effects, what made you choose to get into character design for video games as opposed to comics or film?
BW: Working at Lone Wolf, I was making a lot of traditional monster making for low budget films on the east coast. Then when I came to L.A. with Gentle Giant my first task was working on Golden Axe and I realized how much I could contribute to video game characters. I’ve been playing video games all my life and still do probably more than I should; even though that’s not possible. It was these things that made know that I wanted to move to working on games more consistently.
I still do a little bit of freelance film work. Every now and then I’ll do some digital maquettes; creature and character designs for films. But, most of my time these days is spent making characters for video games.
VGA: While at Naughty Dog, you made several character sculpts from concept for Uncharted 2. How many revisions of a character’s 3D design are made on average in this process before the game is finished?
BW: For a game like Uncharted 2, a lot of the character designs can be incredibly tight; meaning it’s very clear what the final vision is going to be. But then there are times like with enemies where they give us, the character artists, a little freedom to kinda explore the characters a bit more and since they are enemies, they aren’t as closely scrutinized as one of the main storyline characters like Drake would be. So, there wasn’t too much back-and-forth with the enemies, but with the main characters, you definitely get some revisions and have to tweak them as they work along the pipeline.
VGA: If you had the opportunity to design a statue of any video game character of your choice for a limited release, which character would you choose and why?
BW: Wow, that is a tough question… There are about a billion things that come to mind.
A part of me would like to do something within Resident Evil 2; a diorama or maquette or something like that. Anything from the Resident Evil series, I’ve always enjoyed the Resident Evil series. That or, something from the Metal Gear Solid series.
I’ve always played video games and I have a lot of fond memories but the best memories I have would be from Resident Evil and Metal Gear Solid. Those games set me in as a “gamer”, so to do a statue or maquette from one of those and kinda tip my hat to them would be an awesome opportunity.
VGA: Are there any games set for future release that you have found to have uniquely impressive character design?
BW: Dark Souls was just released and I saw some of the guys playing it. I played the first one and even though it was incredibly tough, I like fantasy games and it had a lot of cool monsters and knights in it.
I also recently played a bit of the Diablo III beta and I really liked the character designs and over-all art direction of that game. It’s a really cool world that they have created and everything that lives in it is pretty awesome.
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I’m sure everyone now is wondering how digital sculpting is done. The following video is what some of the designers at Santa Monica Studio call a “lunch crunch”. Basically the idea is to make the best possible sculpt in an hour or less. This is Bryan’s attempt at making a realistic Bullet Bill from Super Mario Bros…
Please check out the companies mentioned in this interview and Bryan’s blog for more information.
Here are some more examples of Bryan’s talent. Click to view them full size.