The Gnomon Workshop

Interview with Sparth

GW: Tell us about yourself.

S: Well, to sum it up, I have been an artist since I was five. I lived abroad for many years as a kid, went back to France at the end of the eighties until 2003 when we decided to leave for Canada. In 2005, we had to solve a dilemma: leave Montréal where people are great, but where the weather was so hard to endure. We finally settled down in Dallas and I have been living here since.

GW: Looking back, who or what had the biggest impact on you?

S: I’d say my parents for having made the choices they did and having lived abroad for several years. It really helps to pull the brain out of a binary mode I suppose. It widens the horizon. There are so many factors of artistic influence it would be hard to make a list, but I’m convinced that the more you discover about the world, the more it helps you to become a better artist. Family and friends help a lot too in finding a perfect work and inspiration balance.

GW: How much of a role has networking on internet forums and having a website had on your career?

S: I suppose art sites and art blogs did have a lot of impact on my art and creativity, since it's always extremely inspiring to discover a new artist every day. Compared to a decade ago where only books could be found, the difference is indeed huge. For us artists having an internet site is mandatory as most job offers are sent after people view your portfolio online. It's different for me now because even though I always feel that I’ve got something to prove in the art field, I’m not prospecting at all to find new contracts or jobs, so my site is slowly becoming a simple portfolio kept online to show I’m still alive. I still update it of course, but at a slower pace, I admit.

GW: Why leave Ubisoft with so many prestigious projects lined up?

S: I felt I had done my time in UBISOFT. You know, it's really just a feeling, like a sixth sense, if I may say. Actually I was very happy in this company, I could have stayed, but once again I think I really wanted to see more of North America, go back to the states like when I was living in Florida. Leaving Montréal was a pretty difficult decision too because we knew we would have to start all over again, the same way we did when we arrived in Montreal from Paris in 2003. It was tough indeed, but no regrets.

GW: What was the original attraction to working at ID? Project? Artist ? direction?

S: In 2005, I got a call from a California headhunter explaining to me that Kenneth Scott wanted to talk to me about a position. Since I started playing quake 1 around 97, and that I had been very active in the quake community, doing a lot of maps and organizing contests in my spare time, it meant a lot to get a call from these guys. IDsoftware was not an avid hirer, so receiving an offer from them was already an honor. Concerning the project I’m working on, it was announced mid 2007, and it's called RAGE.

GW: Has working with the artists at ID had a positive influence on your growth as an artist? If yes, how so?

S: Many artists at ID aren't only talented in 3D, but also in illustration and photography. It’s art considered as a whole instead of a very specific specialty. I even consider myself a bit too limited compared to these guys because their passions are reaching far beyond art. It is always vital to working with peeps who have an "artistic eye" if I might say. And concerning ID, a lot of them do have that "eye" for sure.

GW: As far as production art, what do you feel is the next big challenge for you?

S: Being a bit more stable. Hence, why I preferred staying at ID instead of accepting other job offers. Stability is really an issue I have been struggling with. Also, when working on lengthy projects like RAGE, we tend to forget about the "now" and think on a long term, but the excitement of finishing a project like this one is still alive. When looking back, I admit I should have been happy already having worked on three major game titles, but we artists are never satisfied are we? We always need more.

GW: Being a family man, what were some of the adjustments you had to make in order to bring your family to the states for work? How do you find time to balance your home and work life?

S: There are some issues. For example my visa prevents my wife from finding a job and work. Now she has a very difficult job to take care of which is raising the kids and I can assure you, being a concept artist is easy compared to this! Nonetheless, it's frustrating to know this problem exists. Concerning family life, I made a lot of effort to put back some order in my schedule and I admit to having removing artistic tasks one after the other. Apart from my position at the company, I rarely do anything art oriented except book covers whenever I can. Book covers are fun - they can be done in one shot, a very different approach. I really think I need to focus more on my personal creativity, as I’m already doing a lot for ID anyway. It’s a lot of fun, but there are always constraints when you work for such a project.

GW: In the past year you have had to learn to deal with tinnitus, an aliment many are unfamiliar with. Like many talented artists you learned to deal with it. Do you have any advice for other artist dealing with similar issues?

S: I’d like to say "you learn to deal with it", but it appears that my tinnitus doesn't belong to the low type. It can really get excruciating when I’m at the top of the cycle, for example I can still hear it in my car on the highway at 60mph and with the radio on! It's a permanent fight and it disturbed me a lot, even to the point where I was wondering if it was not going to ruin my entire professional and family life. Now I’m a bit stronger when the sound comes back and I know how to handle it better, but it's a weird sickness, like some sort of permanent torture and I would advise all the artists out there to lower the sound in their headphones to prevent any ear damage. I now regret having been so careless with this matter. Music was my drug, 8 hours a day. I still listen to it with headphones, but I take frequent pauses and the sound level couldn't be lower than what it is now.

GW: Do you feel Art is a career choice for your children if so, why? If not, why?

S: I don't think I’m pushing them to become artists. With my wife we tend to concentrate more on general education and culture. When these parameters are strong, the rest follows. Now, when I’m working, I’m always explaining to the kids what it is and what it is done for. They're always very curious, but there's no "my dad works for video games" attitude. I suppose they're a bit too young or don’t realize what it really means. My older one, who is 8, is a pokemon freak though. He knows so many pokemon names, it's hilarious.

GW: Last but not least, tell us what you are working on aside from the projects at ID. Can we expect to see anything from you soon?

S: well, apart from book covers for the French and US markets, my artbook STRUCTURA should be out in the next weeks from Design Studio Press if everything goes fine. We finished working on it with Scott Robertson at the end of 2007. It will contain artwork from projects spanning from 1999 to 2007. It’s a bit like a personal portfolio, like a way to say "this is where all my efforts went during all these years". It’s a way to archive an art period and being able to easily go back to it with pleasure. The best way to do this is to actually turn the pages of a published book.

GW: Sparth, thanks for taking the time to do the interview.

S: Thank you.

Sparth - Concept Artist

*All images courtesy of Sparth.