Talent and Wisdom: Concept Artist, Mr. Neil Agnes In Focus
Rare are men like Mr. Neil Agnes.
He is one of principle making him a man who knows no compromise. But he is not proud for when change becomes irrefutable and necessary, Mr. Agnes is mature enough to recognize the need to assent. His story is the story of a genuine artist who is defined by his love and dedication for his craft.
Xeno Creatives was fortunate enough to be given the chance to talk to Mr. Neil Agnes about his views and aspirations as a Concept Artist. Needless to say, our session had given us not only an inside look into the business, but had also permitted us greater knowledge on how true artists think.
Mr. Agnes has been in the Animation Industry and Concept Art Business for 16 years. Fresh off of college with a degree in Education, he entered the business when he was just 21 years of age. At that time, he was looking for an outlet for his art, taking cues from his childhood exposure to his father who is a painter. Mr. Agnes admits that he wants to do painting among other artistic endeavors. Regarding being involved in the animation industry, he recounts,
“Nagkataon lang na isa sa mga family friend namin, nasa 3D animation studio noon – Philcartoons.”
Their family friend referred him to the company where he went to take an exam. And since he was a practicing painter, he tried rendering backgrounds. Unfortunately, he did not pass and never bothered to ask why.
“Baka hindi yan para sa ‘yo” He recalls being told. Upon the second try, six months later, Mr. Agnes finally passed the test.
According to him, during that time, once you pass an exam to work in a 2D animation studio, you have to be trained first as an assistant animator before you can be called an actual animator.
“Dati, bago ka maging qualified, para mag-exam pa lang bilang animator, kailangan 6 to 9 months na, 1 year nga yata e ang experience mo. Sinuwerte yung batch namin kasi, nag-offer sila. . .nag-eksperimento sa fresh talent, yung hindi galing sa training. Noon nga parang 3 months pa lang kami nang bigyan kami ng opportunity na mag-test. At yun, awa ng Diyos, pumasa naman. Tuwang-tuwa kami.”
In the long run, Mr. Agnes realized that animation was growing on him. And there came a time that he became confident in saying that he actually liked it. But initially, he resisted animation.
“Pintor ako e!” he said to himself.
During those days he wasn’t really familiar with what a Concept Artist is. However, he was fond of American Artist, Frank Frazetta who did variant covers for books and comic books.
“Kilala ko si Frazetta – sino bang di nakakikilala kay Frazetta di ba? – pero hindi ko alam kung anong klaseng trabaho meron siya. . .hindi ko nga alam na hindi siya level ng fine artist ng mga fine artist. At eto ang gusto ko e. hindi talaga animation. Bilang artist, na-challenge ako sa kanya nung una.”
As inevitable with artists who never tire of growing, Mr. Agnes decided to leave animation behind and go to something that comes close to what he really wanted to do. That something was creating Concept Art.
“Sabi ko, palagay ko panahon na para iwanan ko ‘to. Aware na ‘ko nung time na yun na merong gaming at nandun yung mga Concept Artist. Hindi nga ako nag-apply e. nagpo-post lang ako sa Facebook. Nangyari lang na may nakakita sa friends ko tapos sinabi na, bakit di ka mag-try dito?”
He went on to apply and was inevitably hired in a gaming studio. Mr. Agnes noticed that the ones who are primarily in the business are really young. He actually found them to be highly-skilled and really talented. They were well-versed with techniques and short-cuts. But what he really appreciated was the fact that the youths were not as proud or arrogant as some are made to believe.
But what Mr. Agnes was not readily comfortable with was their penchant to resorting to references which they have expansive digtal libraries of.
He, again, resisted, as he says,
“Hindi. Artist ako e. Yung library ko nasa utak ko.”
Mr. Agnes likened his experience to Frazetta who had gone to numerous exposures and had been questioned for not having any references despite the seemingly flawless execution of his art. But then, he realized that no matter how hard one tries to exhaust his mind for concepts, those who are not shy from referring to inspiration have the upper hand. Mr. Agnes recognized that this is yet another culture that he has to embrace.
“Eto na ang labanan e.” He ultimately accepted and lived with the culture. So when asked as to how he prepares for a design, he says,
He also had this to add,
“Para sa kin, ang art nasa matinding preparation e. For me, ang painting yun na yung echo nung planning.”
Mr. Agnes points out that upon the production of art, regardless if its figure drawing or abstract, much preparation goes into it; it is not something that artists, even the likes of Jackson Pollack goes about blindly. Mr. Agnes still searches for the depth in his works.
In the long run, he realized that his efforts had bore fruit as the field allowed greater recognition to artists who really made the effort to hone the craft. Mr. Agnes believes that if you hold on to what you really want to do, if you don’t let the drive to pursue your passion die out, nature finds a way to recognize what you’re doing.
“Kaya ayun, nandun na ako sa punto na mas masaya na ako sa trabaho ko”
To his surprise, Mr. Agnes had come to the realization that those who have talent, more often than not, are the ones who are humble with their achievements and are more than willing to share their knowledge.
Being humble as he is, Mr. Agnes admits at having favorite pieces but doesn’t go into detail.
“Meron siguro, pero definitely hindi yan yung mga fan art. Yung original pieces ko or yung personal. May mga ginagawa akong bagay at the back of my mind na kahalintulad ng kay Frazetta o ibang mga artist. Pero minsan wala akong ginagawang ganun tapos yung friends ko magsasabi na, ‘uy ikaw na ikaw yan a!’”
So he asks them for what makes it truly his own and works to further improve and strengthen it.
“As you get older, parang wala ka nang pakialam kung kelan mo ma-reach yung gusto mong ma-reach. . .mag-mature man ako sa art, makagawa ako ng original ko sa matandang edad na, okey lang sa akin yun e. Masaya ako na tumanda akong may sariling akin.”
But to be better at what you do, he stresses that one should be able to take criticisms objectively as this would permit growth to the artist.
“Usapan nga namin ng mga kaibigan ko, kapag tingin mo ang galing-galing mo na, ibig sabihin nakasayad sa roof. Hindi ka na uusbong.”
Right now, he recognizes that his embrace of mainstream art takes the forefront but he would definitely go back to his craft for the long term.
Xeno Creatives touched on Mr. Agnes’ view on the gaming industry, focusing on how it can be lucrative and how it could espouse greater creativity to a Concept Artist such as him. He had this to say:
“Sa pagiging lucrative, oo! Pero as of the moment, sa sitwasyon natin sa Pilipinas, parang hindi rito. Syempre gusto ko dumating yung time na dito na.”
As with other artists here in the country, Mr. Agnes wishes that artists here would not only be compensated well, but also be recognized for their talent.
Drawing from his wisdom of 16 years in the industry, Mr. Agnes tells young and aspiring artists who would want to enter the industry that passion is not enough without action.
“Sa sipag pa rin talaga. Nandun pa rin yung work ethics. . . Isa pa yung pagtanggap mo sa criticism. Yung parang maging sponge ka lang. Higupin nang higupin mo lang lahat. Dun ka gagaling e. Laging macha-challenge yung sarili mo.”
He recommends that the youth within the industry combat disillusionment and never give up regardless of what he or she may encounter along the way.
“Wag silang madi-discourage. Kung ano man ang lumabas sa art work mo kung talagang passion mo na yan, ikaw ang lalabas dyan.”
Being in a conversation with Mr. Agnes allowed not only a perspective but also a resolve, that if you have something that you really want to do, you should assert it, own it, and definitely you won’t go wrong.
Indeed, rare are men like Mr. Neil Agnes. We need more people like him in the industry.