INTERVIEW: Exploring The Beautiful Game Art of Aïda de Ridder

"You really have to love drawing to be able to make this a career."

Aïda de Ridder is an artist know for the art direction and animations provided for Herald, an “interactive period drama” available now on Steam.

Ridder was kind enough to talk to us about all things art, animation and gaming, and what it takes to make game art your career:

If you wouldn’t mind, could you possibly give us a brief overview of yourself and your work?
I am Aïda de Ridder, a 2D artist based in the Netherlands. I started drawing at a young age, inspired by comic books and animated movies. I was drawn to vibrant visuals and expressive characters. It was always a dream of mine to work with a team on a visual media product to tell a story. At first that was the idea of doing 2D animation, but after a course I quickly realized this wasn’t something suited for me. After college I founded my own game company with friends to realize that dream in another way, and I couldn’t be happier with that choice!

I love your 2D “portrait” style animations–could you talk a little about how each one is made? What’s the process behind them? How long do they take on average to finish?
Thank you! Each portrait starts as a single illustration, which is then cut up into pieces that are able to overlap each other. Once loaded into the Cubism software, each texture piece gets its own mesh which you are then able to deform. Using the program’s tools you start “rigging” your character and make it able to turn and move in various directions. Difficulty [is determined by] how detailed and “painted” your character is. If there is more detail in the facial features for example, it takes more time to deform every detail to look correct.

Once finished, you can animate it and load it into a game engine to control your animation and expression presets. On average it takes me four to five days to make a portrait, depending on the complexity of the textures. It takes patience and lots of tedious fiddling around, luckily I am a patient perfectionist and actually enjoy this process! The result is great and as an illustrator with a love for animation, it was the perfect tool for me to combine my two passions.

Herald animation art by Ridder

Could you tell us a little bit about your work with Herald? What does the role of Art Director entail? 
I did quite some varied work on Herald, which made it a really fun experience for me! I was responsible for designing all the characters, concepts for the environments, texture painting and promotional material, but also things like the UI graphics and lighting scenes in the engine. I learned a lot about game development doing all these things.

As the artist in the team, I automatically became the AD once we started getting interns and freelancers. It was kind of weird telling people what to do at first, especially other artists, but I ended up really enjoying bringing my vision to life with the rest of my team. I am responsible for keeping everything visual on track, and for it to conform to my vision for the project. This means checking every asset for quality and making adjustments where necessary.

Portraits by Ridder

Do you have any advice for someone who might be thinking about art/illustration as a career choice? What should they be doing to help maximize their chances at landing gigs?
The journey is different for everyone, so it’s hard to give specific advice. But be advised you really have to love drawing to be able to make this a career, basically you need to be doing it as much as you can or if you’re not, you’re thinking about it. There are so many free resources online to help make this a career, join communities, watch youtube videos, follow tutorials. Be visible online, social media is a powerful tool to get noticed and meet other artists. Drawn + Drafted has some great knowledge for any artist looking to go professional!My personal advice would be: don’t just stick to drawing, expand your knowledge and make yourself useful in your chosen field. Do you want to work in games? Get some basic knowledge of engines and asset pipelines. Explore software that might help you expand your skillset in useful ways. Be eager to learn and open for new ways of expressing yourself as an artist.

Herald art by Ridder Thanks to Aïda de Ridder for taking the time to talk to us! You can find her portfolio here, and she’s on Twitter here.

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