Welcome back to our next edition of SpecArt Spotlight, with today’s guest as Flora “Grise” Silve. Flora is a fantastic artist that I’ve worked with before. She was gracious enough to allow me to use her painting Astro Ruins as inspiration for my third #20TweetTales story, Ruins. So, I thought it would be great to get back with her to learn a little about her and her art.
SM: Your ArtStation bio-line says Concept Artist & Matte Painter, can you give me a bit about what that means?
FS: Well, these are two different positions but somehow close ones as well. As a concept artist, you create images from scratch, following the Art Director’s brief. Your job is to translate the client’s idea into something they can look at instead of just describing. Your work becomes the material that the team uses to discuss the project, as it is the first draft of what it could become – or will become if the idea gets approved. It can be sceneries, characters, props, lighting and colours… It’s mainly 2D work but you have to be very quick so there’s no time to produce polished illustrations : painting, sketching, photobashing and sometimes use of the CG.
The matte painter comes later in the pipeline of a movie production. You will work on the background of the scene, the distant things that don’t have to be CG. Often, you will follow a concept art 🙂 This time, your picture will appear directly in the final product and it needs to be perfectly polished so the viewer doesn’t even realize it’s fake. It is then projected behind the action – to replace a green screen for instance. It involves mainly photomanipulation and painting skills, as well as some 3D and compositing knowledge.
SM: With your bio stating you as a concept artist and matte painter, I wanted to ask if this is your dream job… Also related… Because your work is so polished and… epic, is art your dayjob? Or is your dayjob art-adjacent?
FS: Concept artist is my dreamjob yes ! I had to respecialize my studies after 4 years in Architecture when I realized what I really loved about art. So after I graduated at ArtFX, a VFX school in Montpellier, it became my dayjob. I used to work in UK for a cinematic company, but I decided to move back to France and I am looking for a position in a video-game studio here. I am freelancing in the meantime 🙂
SM: Can you give me a little bit about your process for creating a piece? Like for example… On Vabbi’s Necropolis, I noticed your ArtStation post included some 3D assets, do you create these assets as well as the drawn portions, and how does that work for you?
FS: I am kind of experimenting regarding the workflow of my pieces, but the CG tends to come more and more often. The trick is to find the balance between the quality of the assets and the time spent on them. For Vabbi’s Necropolis I thought the architecture was so intricate that 3D was my one and only option to have something right with the perspective. CG allows me to relax a lot about composition and lighting as well. It also is a lot of fun to explore paths other than just pure painting, this diversity in the process ends up showing in the final piece something quite different.
SM: Inspiration comes from a lot of places, but I often find that there is one source I can usually come back to. For me, it’s music. Do you have a place, thing or experience that you can come back to for inspiration?
FS: I would say it comes from everything ^^. I have a very vivid imagination and anything can become the source of inspiration for a piece, from the shape of a cloud to a walk in the forest, some book I read or a dream I make. I actually struggle to choose from all of my ideas as I have more of them than time to spend on painting.
A little more than one year ago, I gathered some friends around a world building project called Veiland. Since then we try to develop a whole new universe filled with everything we like. We are aiming to make it into a game someday but for now it is an endless source of inspiration and stuff to create 🙂
SM: City Mouse or Country Mouse?
FS: Definitely a country mouse. So much more peaceful and mysterious. Anything could happen there!
|It turns out that Flora and I actually have another thing in common. If anyone follows my serial story over at Chronicles of Tyria, you may notice that we’re both fans of the game Guild Wars 2. It turns out we are both part of the former GW2 Artist Collective (Now called Alchemy Art Group) and we both contributed to their Wintersdayzine project. Flora’s suggestion for an art piece to use for this short story was pretty amazing and worked out perfectly. Though, to be honest, the story is a little longer than I expected. Still, I hope you enjoy it.|
Kahs Vyrel & The Sand Sea Pyramid
Under his mohk coverings, Kahs Vyrel barely felt the wind howling by. Mishi’s clawed feet pounded the sand below in a furious blur. Gosabeasts were fast. Kahs just hoped this one was fast enough.
Kahs glanced back over his shoulder, the first of Jatesh’s twin suns was setting behind the moon-planet’s parent world Asbesha. The second would follow soon. And just a few minutes after that, Jatesh’s own satellite, Vo, would rise into the sky. Then he’d be out of time.
Ahead, the pyramid registered as still being eleven kliks away. He was pretty sure he’d make it before moonrise. But the moon wasn’t the only thing he was racing against.
Kahs snapped his reins. He wasn’t sure, but it at least felt like the creature picked up its pace. From over his shoulder, he pulled out the biolum rod and gave it a shake. The lum algae inside reacted and the rod lit up with a pink glow. He didn’t need it just yet, but he would the second they reached the pyramid.
They arrived at the pyramid just as Vo had risen above the horizon. His gosabeast clicked and cooed as he guided it into the dark entrance and onto solid stone. Outside, the sands shifted and began to undulate. Within seconds, the dunes heaved like waves. This was why they called it the Great Sand Sea. With very few exceptions, anyone or anything standing in the sand when the sea came alive, would be swallowed whole.
The entrance to the pyramid was wide enough that a half-dozen gosabeast could have stood side by side, but the space quickly narrowed. Kahs patted his mount’s long neck and dismounted.
From deeper in, a faint sound echoed.
He rubbed the creatures soft chest. “Shhh… It’s okay girl.”
Mishi clicked nervously.
The biolum rod cast a warm glow on the glyph-covered walls of the narrowing corridor. Kahs could only understand little bits of the ancient, alien hieroglyphics. The writings on the entryway walls spoke of a great empire and warnings to anyone coming into the pyramid. The warnings weren’t prophetic or mystical as he’d expected, it was more like a “Keep off, dangerous machinery,” sign in a ship’s engine room.
As Kahs guided Mishi inward, the sound came again. This time he recognized it: Another gosabeast’s cooing. “Shit. Mossett’s already here.”
A little further down, the corridor opened into a small antechamber lit by two biolum rods on stands. Just as he expected, there he found Mossett’s gosabeast tied to a boulder. Kahs dismounted and wrapped the reins around another bit of broken stone.
The walls of the antechamber looked like a midnight blue stone and were also marked with the same hieroglyphics, some of which offered the same warnings as the corridor. But, other pictographs mentioned weapons and power sources. At least, that’s what Kahs thought they said.
On one wall, Kahs found an exit to another corridor, too small for a gosabeast to fit through. That must have been were Mossett had gone. A faint blue glow emanated from somewhere down that new corridor.
Kahs gave Mishi a pat on her rump. “I’ll be back soon, girl. And as soon as the moon sets, we’ll get the hells out of here.”
The gosabeast clicked and cooed back at him.
In the next corridor, Kahs realized that it looked less like a corridor than a room of densely packed pillars that had mostly crumbled to pieces, leaving a small, winding path. The few pillars still intact were embedded with lines and whorls that glowed a rich, sapphire blue.
A few dozen paces later, Kahs found himself standing before a massive chasm. Dangling over that chasm were hundreds of black vines covered in tiny white bolts of energy. The vines writhed and twisted, their deadly power filling the air with a terrifying, crackling buzz.
Stepping up as close as he dared to the edge, he peered down into the chasm. The pit seemed to stretched down into infinity. Kahs thought he even saw clouds below. Beyond the chasm was a platform with more pillars and the remnants of what was probably once a bridge acted as the only way across. Now, only a handful of stepping stones were left, sitting atop spikes of obsidian stone that reached down into the depths.
The buzzing grew louder and Kahs jumped back just as one of the vines swung by. If he hadn’t moved, even the slightest brush would have probably killed him.
For several long seconds, Kahs watched the vines. While there was no pattern to their movements, he realized that, as a whole, they seemed to undulate together. Every so often, they would move away from the stepping stone bridge. If he could time it just right…
Kahs watched and waited. Finally just as the vines started to move away, he bolted. He leaped off the ledge and hopped from one step to the next. His gaze caught a glimpse of the chasm below and a wave of vertigo washed over him. And his foot slipped.
Kahs tumbled forward, his arms flailing. Air rushed by. He was falling. The empty chasm filled his vision and…. His fingers caught on a ledge. Agony wrenched in his shoulders and his body slammed into the cliff face.
Grunting through the pain, he pulled himself up and found he’d made it to the far platform. For several long seconds, he sat staring back at where he’d come from. His chest heaved as he tried to catch his breath. The vines continued to swing back and forth, this time leaving no space for him to slip back through.
The new platform was small, less than five paces across, at the edge of which the dark blue stone walls rose up. There was a single exit into another corridor, and there were footfalls coming closer.
Kahs climbed to his feet. Positioning himself beside the corridor exit, he waited. It only took a few moments for a figure to appear out of the corridor. He knew that figure. The posture, the black hair shocked with white streaks pulled into a ponytail, and the ever-present grey rucksack… This was the woman who’d once been his mentor and friend. The woman who was now selling her soul to some pale god in the guise of the dangerous cult Kez Dahesh.
This was Mossett.
“Is it worth it?” Kahs knew that was stupid. He should have just snatched the rucksack and pushed her over the edge. But something in him burned for answers.
Mossett didn’t even flinch or act surprised. “Of course.”
Slowly, she turned around, a faint smile creasing her aged but chiseled face. She arched an eyebrow. “I’m impressed.”
“Don’t be. You left a trail ten kliks wide.”
She chuckled. “Well, I was in a bit of a hurry.”
Narrowing her gaze, Mossett studied him for a second. “You know, our cause could use someone as resourceful as you.”
“Our cause?” Kahs wanted to believe that she was just doing this for the money, but now he knew for sure she was a true believer. “Sorry, murdering terrorist cults are not my thing.”
Mossett nodded. From her side, she pulled a sleek, black pistol. “That’s too bad.”
“You’re very smart. You have a very bright future in xenoarcheology. You can teach us all so much about the Precursors.” She gave him a small nod then took a half-step back, her back now straighter and her face more serious. “As long as you don’t do anything stupid. I don’t want to kill you, but I will if I have to. And don’t give me some smarmy, self-righteous retort about how I won’t get away with this, because I already have.”
Kahs scoffed. His muscles vibrated with anger and urgency. Whatever she’d found, he couldn’t let her keep it. It needed to be studied and learned from, not used to kill people.
Mossett glanced back and moved onto the first stepping stone. The powered vines swung past, less than a pace away. “After I’m gone and you get out of here. I have one request. Stay away from Mahel City. Just do me that favor.”
He glared at her, his gaze hot and furious. His heart pounded. He could practically feel the adrenaline screaming through his veins. Behind his opponent, the twisting vines continued to spark with power, undulating in an almost hypnotic pattern.
Mossett shook her head. “Oh, don’t pout. At least I didn’t kill you.”
Turning, the cultist moved to dash across the stepping stones, but Kahs was already in motion. Just as she jumped for the second step, he snagged her rucksack and yanked back. Mossett fell and a powered vine swung right through where she’d been standing.
As she stepped back to catch her balance, her foot slipped right off the edge of the first step and she fell.
Again, pain ripped through Kahs’s shoulder as he was pulled to the ground. Despite the pain though, he held tight to the rucksack, and Mossett.
Craning her neck, she looked up at him. “Oh! Thank the Pale One. That vine… it would have killed me. Please, pull me up.”
Without a word, Kahs pulled, heaving the woman and her backpack up a few inches. Relief washed over her face as he grabbed onto the sack with his other arm. But that relief vanished a second later, when he reached into the pack and pulled out the artifact.
For a brief second, he stared at the strange, black cube. Lines and whorls were etched into the sides and glowed a faint blue. His former mentor called out, but she sounded far off..
“Kahs, what are you doing? Please, pull me up! I can make you rich, fund your research for a hundred years!”
But Kahs didn’t care. Mossett had revealed her true colors. She was no better than the people she worked for.
He shifted his gaze to her face. Then, she realized. “Wait, Kahs! Please!”
It didn’t matter though. Even if he’d wanted to, he couldn’t hold on to her any longer.
So he let go.
Mossett’s shrill scream echoed for several seconds as she plummeted to the foggy depths. Kahs rolled onto his back and stared up at the ceiling for a few minutes. His chest rose and fell and his shoulder throbbed, but none of that mattered. He had the artifact.
Holding the cube up, Kahs inspected it more closely. It pulsed with energy, but he couldn’t find any openings or ports or seems. Whatever this thing was, it needed to be studied.
Kahs climbed to his feet after several minutes and made his way back across the stepping stones. As he left, he tied Mossett’s gosabeast in tandem to his own, the creature didn’t deserve to be left tied to a rock just because it’s owner was a psychotic cultist.
Outside, Vo was gone from the sky and the sand seas were calm. He and Mishi and the extra gosabeast had a long trek to civilization. He gave one last glance back at the pyramid and whispered a silent prayer to the Dark Mother that the rest of his journey would be much easier.
And there you have it, another edition of SpecArt Spotlight in the bag, so to speak. Special thanks to Flora for participating in this little interview!
That’s it for now, check ya later. And remember: stay shiny and keep flying.