David Benzal is a concept artist with an extensive record of participation in...
David Benzal: "We have schools that are doing a great job and training excellent professionals"
David Benzal is a concept artist with an extensive record of participation in international projects. With over 20 years of experience, he has worked for major producers like Playstation, Netflix, HBO or Universal Studios.
In En primera persona we talk to him about the audiovisual and creative sector and his participation in the NonStop Visual Development Seminar. On July 10 he will give a master class at the Barcelona Disseny Hub.
What is a ‘concept artist’?
A more precise name might be ‘Concept Designer’. It’s the person in charge of design, characters, settings ... all the elements present in a product, whether it’s cinema or video games. In the same way as when you buy a piece of clothing, behind it there’s someone who’s designed it, when we watch a film or play a video game, behind it there’s someone who’s designed all the elements that make it up.
You started out in a more “classic” world, oil and watercolour painting. How did you come to work in the digital world?
It was a gradual process. When I finished my classic art studies, I began to work in an illustration studio and the working process there was based on graphite drawing and digital colour, and with the passing of time everything moved to a totally digital process, for its speed and ease of making changes.
You’ve worked for big companies like Playstation, Netflix, HBO or Universal Studios. What has the experience been like?
Well, it’s a great experience, to tell the truth. When the most important companies in the industry place their total confidence in you and give you the possibility of giving life to their characters, or they ask you for advice on the best technical options for conveying their ideas to the public, it’s a marvellous feeling. Plus, being able to see how your designs take life in one of your favourite series, or when you’re playing a video game with the character you’ve created and who’s moving around the settings you’ve designed, it’s an enormous satisfaction.
What’s the creative process for large-scale projects like Game of Thrones or Jurassic World?
Normally you’re in contact with the artistic director and the production team. In most cases they have a basic general idea as a starting point, and from there we begin to explore all the possibilities. This stage of pre-production, where the project is alive and growing, is one of the best moments of the creative phase.
If you had to choose a project you’re especially proud of, which would it be?
That’s a very difficult question because I’ve got great memories and experiences of lots of projects. Maybe the most recent, in terms of premieres, is the episode ‘Snow in the Desert’ of the Netflix animation series Love Death and Robots, in which I was working for many months on the design of the characters. It was a really unbelievable process!
What are you working on at the moment?
In this industry there are always lots of secrets locked under contracts and we can’t say much about the details. But I can say I’m working on two Hollywood films, one’s a horror movie and the other a thriller.
What will be the theme of your master class at the NonStop Festival?
I’m going to make a quick review of my professional career, showing some parts of my most significant projects or the ones that, in one way or another, have signified important steps in my career. I’ll also talk about the elements to be taken into account when you’re working in this industry, techniques and concepts.
What professional profile is it addressed to?
To people who dedicate or want to dedicate themselves to the creative part of the entertainment industry.
Do you think it’s important for initiatives like the NonStop to exist here?
More than important, I’d say it’s indispensable, especially taking into account the large quantity of artists and talent our country has.
What’s your opinion about the state of the audiovisual and creative sector in Barcelona? And at the training level?
Fortunately, in recent years I’ve observed an important growth in the audiovisual sector. Personally, I think in Barcelona we’ve always had a very high level of creation and in the last few years I’ve observed a very interesting growth in training. I know it’s a process that takes time, but the fact is that we have schools that are doing a great job and training excellent professionals.
For many people, the world of ‘concept art’ is an unknown world. Do you think it’s undervalued?
At the international level, I’d say that it’s entirely the contrary, it’s one of the most valued professions. In fact, if we study the credits of many cinema productions, we see the production and direction teams and the actors and actresses, and then the art department. In contrast, in our country, yes, I do think it’s undervalued. In my opinion, the professions with an artistic nature have never been valued enough.
But a very important and positive point is that in the last few years I’ve observed an increased need to incorporate a concept artist into national productions. And this is very interesting.
What would you say to someone who’s just starting in the world of illustration and ‘concept art’?
If this is what they like, then they have to work hard and try to improve every day. To do it as comfortably as possible, and especially, not to run too fast and to enjoy the process.
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