An Interview with Col Price
I ran across the above piece a few weeks ago on Twitter, and was floored. The level of detail, the unique fins, the shading, the detail…it reminded me some of the great 70’s sci fi arists (Chris Foss, Peter Elson, et al) but was also unique, angular, and awesome. Being the Sci-Fi art aficionado that I am, I reached out to the artist, Col Price, for an interview, and he was kind enough to oblige!
How long have you been an artist, and what got you started?
Well I started a long time ago, I’ve always drawn, painted and Airbrushed as a kid, And always loved Sci-Fi art and fantasy, ever since seeing Jason and the Argonauts. I started in the games industry back in 1996 after finishing university. I did have the intention of going into movie VFX (fuelled by Ray Harry Hausen movies and Star Wars) but at that time the VFX digital industry was only really at its birth and video games jobs were a plenty, with lots of big studios in the UK (sadly this is no longer the case). So I kind of stumbled into games. I think for me it was, at those times, a chance to do everything. Everyone did just about everything from building the sets and worlds to characters and down to the animation. So you never got bored. Everybody mucked in at every job was a lot of fun, and I got a chance to really open up my skill set.
What are your tools of the trade?
Predominantly 3DSMax and Photoshop. I can use other stuff such as Maya and I’ve just started to learn Zbrush, 3Dcoat and Marvelous Designer but Max is what I’m used to and fastest with for the 3d side. [For 2D] I’ve used Photoshop I’ve used since it came out! Come to think of it I’ve used Max since it came out, back when it used to be 3DStudio!
I also like to use particle systems, they are really handy for building up a VFX library to work with in Photoshop. I also use After Effects and Premier for motion graphics.
What are some of your inspirations?
My Grandfather, he was an artist and my biggest and best mentor. Others are the likes of Chris Foss, Jim Burns, Peter Elson and filmmakers like Ridley Scott and Ray Harryhausen. More recently, Guillermo Del Toro and Nell Blomkamp.
Have you been inspired by any of the Dune works?
Yeah! Totally. Jodorowsky’s Dune would have been incredible, and seeing those guys I grew up with like Foss and Moebius creating the art would have been an incredible show – I’m a huge fan of the way they used colour and shape. Alien worlds and ships don’t have to conform to those stereotypes of grey [colored] and sleek ships. I prefer things that look like they shouldn’t fly, and in fact, within conventions wouldn’t fly, but that’s only mankind’s narrow mindedness. I prefer things a bit more leftfield. I don’t do shiny ships!
Do you ever build any world lore behind your works, or just the art?
All the time. Without exception, each ship has its own history and story, and each image too. I love putting story elements into my work. In my newer personal work I’m actually trying to build a whole universe and story up. I haven’t fully made up my mind what to do with it yet, possibly a book? Who knows? But putting lore and story into your work is so important. I’ll always remember talking with some artists online about this and one of them saying “why do you always try to do this? It’s just a concept, you don’t need to put a backstory in because it’s just a ship” – which is so wrong! Everything we do needs to convey a purpose or history or story. Without this a character has no backstory, or a ship hasn’t a history or life. If somebody presented me with a battered ship and couldn’t tell me why it was like and how it got its scars of life that I’d be pretty disappointed. A concept is designed to evoke an emotional response, so lore and story are incredibly important.
Some of your spaceship work looks vaguely 70s style, have you drawn inspiration from Chris Foss or Peter Elson?
Yeah, I make no apologies for this LOL. It’s been such a huge influence. I try to put my twist on things but growing up with those “Terran Trade Authority” art books (that I still have to this day!) was a huge influence to me. So when people say my work harks to those guys I take it as the biggest complement, I can only hope my style can do them justice. I also hope [my work] is not a carbon copy and has a style of its own.
Some of your pieces blend what appear to be characters from the 1800s and space craft. I’ve never seen that done before and I think it’s a really interesting concept. Can you elaborate on this style?
What fascinates me is putting the extraordinary with the mundane or the old fashioned, like a blip in time or somebody has crossed time paths. I love that idea that these things have come down at any point in time and just watched humanity unfold. I think any of those scenarios work, be it cowboys or Victorian to even just somebody doing a BBQ, it’s that WTF moment. It’s fun to create situations like that, fun to mix it up a bit!
What are some of the projects you’ve worked on?
I’ve worked on a fair few in my time. The MotorStorm franchise, Wipeout franchise, and Battlefield, and I was the visual art director on Driveclub; those are some games worth mentioning. More recently since I went freelance three years ago I’ve worked for the BBC, done a bunch of secret movie pitches and TV adverts. I’ve also worked with some amazing teams and people like ThreeOneZero on a new secret project, Boss Key, and Mark Kern on his new game Crixa. I’ve just finished another TV advert and I’m currently helping a Spanish game developer flesh out their new project. So lots of different and exciting work.
Have any advice for aspiring artists?
First: develop your own style. Give your work something to set it apart from everyone else. I see so much work online that’s fantastic but just looks the same as hundreds of others. Try and be original.
Second: don’t give up. We all have days when we look at our work and think its utter crap, I do this every day and it just keeps making me want to be better and faster. It’s natural to think this way, so don’t beat yourself up. Just keep pushing on.
I think Cole has definitely cemented a design that’s unique to him, and I love the use of angles, shading, and detail. Colin was awesome enough to send me over very high resolution, uncompressed files (which you can download from our Patreon post here!) and the level of detail is mindblowing. I work on a laptop with a 3k display and most of the images were ~5k pixels wide, so I was able to keep zooming in, seeing more and more detail each time I did. Cole’s epic use of macro, combined with minute attention to detail is absolutely amazing. Thanks for the awesome art Cole, and we at FoH are very much looking forward to more of the world building you mentioned!
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