Passion and Calling: The Art of Colleen Peck Larsen

by Joshua Diokno   

Hearing artists say that they have always been enamored with their craft is heartening; it gives hope to today’s world that is ruled by capital and profit. Even more amazing is the artist who sees it not just as a passion, but a calling. One such artist is Colleen Peck Larson.

Colleen has been a professional 2D artist for 26 years, with the landscape constantly-changing in  a matter of a year or two, we can assume that Colleen had seen it all. And one look at her pieces online, it is easy to see that she had given heart and effort in all her works.

It is to Xeno Creatives’ honor to be given the chance to interview such an artist of Colleen’s caliber. Come and sit with us and discover how artists like her are built.

Xeno Creatives (XC): We understand that with just about any craft, passion takes precedence. In your case, how did it start becoming a passion? Would we be right in assuming that you consider it a “calling” as a lot of your contemporaries do?

Colleen Peck Larson (CPL): I definitely consider art to be my calling. There was never a time in my life that I wasn’t drawing and I don’t think I ever considered any other field even as a kid. Though I’ve known since childhood that I wanted to be an artist professionally, the path has taken me to unexpected places. My passion for art has always existed, but I can thank my parents for cultivating that creativity and always supporting me in that pursuit.

XC: Was there ever an art piece (digital or otherwise) or artist who served as a catalyst for your involvement in the craft? When did you get involved fully in the 3D industry?

CPL: For 26 years of my life I moved toward being a professional 2D artist, only discovering 3D in my senior year of college. Throughout my life, I had been interested in entering different fields, including comics, feature film animation, and games. So the influences on me throughout the years can be drawn from all those fields. Where 3D is concerned, I would say that Matt Thorup, Adam Skutt and Omar Sancristobal share equal responsibility in inspiring me to pursue 3D Character Art. I find equal interest in both stylized and realistic character art, and these three influences illustrate this fact perfectly. I can thank Matt’s gumroad tutorials for teaching me the fundamentals of both ZBrush and appealing 3D character design back when I was first learning. Shortly after graduating college, I took Adam’s course on AAA 3D Character Art through Game Art Institute and that class gave me the tools to understand the character pipeline from beginning to end. I still use principles I learned from that course on a daily basis, and have actually worked with several fellow students from that class. Omar was my 3D Character Art lead at Linden Lab, where I was a Character Artist intern right after graduating college. Omar’s patience, encouragement and guidance as a mentor, as well as his passion for sculpting, art and movies really helped inspire me and solidify everything that I was learning as a new 3D artist. I believe I learned a great deal simply sitting next to him and being exposed to his skill and approach to sculpting.

XC: Now that you’re an active part of the industry, would you say you have pegged a solid place in it?

CPL: The entertainment industry is fickle, but I believe I am beginning to carve out my place there. Hunger for knowledge, a drive to improve, passion for the industry and being great to work with are crucial aspects of creating a career with longevity.

XC: How does your day look like in production?

CPL: I work with an amazing team of artists at PlayStation. I work directly with my awesome lead, Darcy Korch, and other great artists to create real time assets for first party titles. Most of the time I am creating wardrobe assets, but this also requires regular integration into the game engine to check shaders, textures and overall quality. Every so often I get the chance to create a head or hair for a character which is a real blast.

XC: What are the common challenges that a 3D artist like you encounters day-in, day-out in a project?

CPL: I think beyond simply improving skill, the absolute hardest aspect of 3D art is that finishing a character takes a huge amount of grit. 3D is incredibly time consuming, even more so than 2D, because everything must be resolved and look good from any angle. There are also many, many steps to the pipeline. I believe that it takes serious commitment to see a personal project through to the end and bring your vision to life.

XC: It’s such a delight to see your works online. Your concepts are endearing. But among your works, do you have favorite pieces? If so, what would these be and why? Also, what would you consider your biggest or most exciting project to date?

CPL: Thank you! I find that my experience as a 2D artist really helps my 3D work. As for favorite pieces, my best is yet to come. However, I am partial to my Jak and Daxter fanart character because I am a lifelong Naughty Dog fan and had a lot of fun bringing Jak to life in PBR. I also have a soft spot for my character Private Pete whom I designed myself. I have a lot of original characters who have been put on the backburner that I still cherish. As for exciting projects, I have two irons in the fire at the moment. One is my own take on Frollo from Hunchback of Notre Dame, and the other is my adaptation of Harry Dresden from “The Dresden Files” book series. I’m currently working hard on both of these pieces and you can find work in progress images on my ArtStation.

XC: If you were to market yourself what would you highlight as your edge?

CPL: I believe my edge would be my sense of character and appeal. I feel as though I always strive to bring life and personality to my work, whether it be stylized or realistic. The most important thing for me when creating a character is for them to feel alive.

XC: If you weren’t a 3D artist today, what would you be working as?

CPL: I would hope to be a 2D artist! I still love 2D art and it inspires me every single day.

XC: What is your message to other artists especially in these trying times?

CPL: Above all, do what you love to do. If you’re feeling pressured to do a type of art you don’t really feel passionate about simply to get your foot in the door, I believe your time is better spent on whichever niche appeals to you most. People will notice. Put in the time and effort and don’t give up. Art is hard and finishing projects is harder, but it’s worth it. And right now, focusing on what we enjoy is incredibly important. Now is a perfect time to take those lemons and make some awesome art!

Want to see more of Ms. Colleen Peck Larsen’s awesome works? Click here!

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