Article By: Rens.Eno
Roland Tamayo, Concept and Tradition artist received his BFA in Illustration from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena California. With a background in Video Game design, he fused his digital skills to canvas, developing a new style of flying creatures and octopus infested homes. He now focuses on his gallery work, combining objects and creatures, and creating playful juxtapositions that embraces his childhood memories.
So what’s up with the flying sea creatures? Watch Treasure Island much?
Yes, I’ve watched Treasure Island, and have been exposed to many other influences which may have played a role in my visual direction. But the flying sea creatures just happened. Back in 06’ I was fortunate to win an opportunity to show a piece in Gallery1988 for the I AM 8-Bit show. That led to an invite to create ten more pieces for a future group show. I was a Concept Artist for games at the time so I had to switch gears from digital to traditional and wrap my head around what I wanted to show. It was scary but exciting because I always knew I wanted to show in galleries, and I knew what I wanted to express, but wasn’t sure how I would style it. So for that particular show, I just had fun creating things that were familiar to me and looked to things in nature that inspired me. Since then, I’ve continued to push and add to those images and it just evolved into more flying sea creatures.
When you say you had to switch gears from digital to traditional, how much of a transition is it?
No, nothing like that. During the day job, I had gotten use to creating art in Photoshop with a tablet and I hadn’t painted a traditional painting for a few years. So it took a bit of warming up to mixing and layering paints again. The process is a bit different between painting digital and traditional, but what I found out was that the mileage I got painting digitally seemed to translate toward my personal paintings. I mean, I still have a lot of improving to do, but I guess creating art in a different way and being more seasoned as an artist seemed to help.
Do you have a preference on between doing digital and traditional, and why?
For now, I’d say traditional only because that’s what I’m focusing in on right now with the gallery shows and have the desire to improve upon. But I do enjoy both.
Speaking of galleries, you mentioned earlier that you won to show a piece at Gallery1988. Did you really win it, or did Gallery1988 somehow discover you?
Both. By winning an online contest through IGN.com, I did have the opportunity to show my winning entry for the I AM 8-BIT show at Gallery1988. But what was kind of cool for me was that I was familiar with the owners because I had been a customer in the past. So when I dropped off the piece, there was a “hey, we know you!” moment. So yes, I was fortunate to have a wonderful opportunity to show with them at first, and they did take a chance on me afterward to see if I could cultivate some kind of following. I owe so much to them and they have been really great to work with. Obviously I wouldn’t be even having this conversation if not for them.
Apparently so. What about your video gaming experience. Do you really visualize the worlds you create before actually creating it? There seems to be a lot of details to every world created. Or is it something that happens just as you go?
Visualizing the game happened very early, usually with a couple of 3D artists to mock up what was imagined. This normally happens towards the middle to end of an existing project and in between projects. It was also a blue sky phase, where any idea is thrown out there to see where it can go. Lots of drawings and painting were made to get the teams excited about a direction. During actual production, guys on the concept team would still work closely with the artist, designers, and programmers to hammer out some of the finer details. But as far as the overall theme, mood, style, could a level be an ice planet or lava planet kind of stuff, that was worked out very early by the concept team.
If you could choose any world that you’ve created to live in, which world would it be, and why? What aspect of it makes it that appealing to you?
The Ratchet and Clank worlds have always been so fun to me and there are so many to choose from. They are so lush and vibrant, full of alien plants and quirky creatures. One level that I’m particularly fond of was Kerchu City. What was really fun about that one for me was it was tropical, but mixed with architecture that had a heavy mechanical influence. A lot of the levels were styled that way, but this city went a bit over the top with that. There were these giant turning gears, bellowing smokestacks, and buildings that were made out of treads from giant bulldozers. It was beautiful and organic, but mixed heavily with gritty industrial elements. It’s funny, because I enjoy combining my personal images in that way too.
Is there a game series you’ve always wanted to work on?
There are so many games that I am fond of, but the two that come off the top of my head is Zelda and God of War. I did have a good time with alien worlds or with the war torn landscapes with Resistance, but I have always wanted to work on something more in the fantasy, mythological realm. Zelda is one of my favorite games series, and God of War is so much fun and so beautiful to look at. I’m actually really excited because I just got my copy of God of War 3, and now that I have a tiny break after a recent show, I’m planning on letting out my inner Kratos.
Funny that you should mention that. God of War concept artist Cecil Kim is part of our Vancouver art show lineup! Perhaps I should introduce you to him. So besides video games and traditional painting, are there any other mediums or styles that you’ve always wanted to try out?
That would be great! If not, please relay what a huge fan I am! As far as other mediums, I have always had an interest in sculpting. I was able to do a few Marquette’s in school, but nothing I was ever proud of. Now that I’m a bit more experienced as an artist, I think that is something I would love to play around with and maybe introduce some into shows. I’m not sure if this counts, but I have been curious to see if my designs could be used for tees. I enjoy sporting a fun graphic tee now and then, so I think it would be interesting to see if my art can translate that way as well.
How about I put you both in our Los Angeles art show at HoldUp Art Gallery on May 14 2011, and I’ll introduce you there? I would actually like to see you sculpt. There’s not many artists with our demographic that gets into that other than vinyl toys. You ever thought of creating a vinyl toy? If so, what would it be of?
That sounds pretty awesome to me! Thanks for the invitation! The thought has crossed my mind about the vinyl toys, but I was never really sure how to go about getting one started and if there would be any interest in a vinyl toy that I would create. But thinking back to some images that I’ve done before along with some current ones, maybe my turtles with smoke stakes as shells, the T.V.s or houses with octopus tentacles coming out of the bottom, or one of my whales with smokes stakes coming out of their backs.
You have this fascination about objects coming out of other objects. What’s the story behind that?
My fascination is really combining animals, sea creatures most recently with man made objects. There is obvious beauty and purity in nature’s creatures and their beauty comes out even more while contrasting them with harder-edged, rustic surfaces I think. Weathered wood, tattered surfaces, rusted and oxidized metals, and whimsical smoke coming out of chimneys all have a beauty about them to me as well, even though some do seem a bit nature disrupting. Combining things like this a fun and interesting way for me to tell the stories and quick and random thoughts I have running in my head.
So to be a bit more specific about why this works for me regarding your question, the octopus tentacles that are coming out of a building or home like in the image “Want What You Can’t get”, the octopus inside the structure represents someone having something that myself or others might be envious of. The second octopus wrapped around the building represents the envious. It could be a lesson I’ve learned, say, to not be envious, be happy for others, and enjoy what you have and work hard for what you want. Something I could teach my boys someday. When they grow up and understand my art more, they might wonder what’s up with the whales and smoke stacks thing. But in the end, I want them to see that their dad tries to relay positive messages through his art.
Your kids? Do I sense future artists? What would be the best advice you could give your kids into perusing their dreams?
Yes, I have twin boys who just turned 2. It’s tough to say right now about a future artist. I’m kind of an oddity in my family, so another artist may not come until a few generations from now. But it would be great if one or both wanted to go down that path eventually.
Your next question is a tough one for me. I’m still trying to figure out when I can start potty training or when I can start trying to feed them peanut butter with hopes that they don’t get an allergic reaction. But one thing that I can do is draw from my experience growing up and ask myself, did this work or didn’t it. So for now, it’s not really about one piece of advice I feel I can give. All my wife and I can do as parents is cultivate an environment where they know they are loved unconditionally and build a lasting trust as we all grow together. Then as they grow and get curious about things, allow them explore them, while trying to introduce as many different possibilities to them as we can. When the time comes, hopefully the steps taken will let them know that we trust them to make good decisions, and they can have all the confidence in themselves and the support of their family in pursuing their dreams to the fullest.