How These Top 3 Artists Began Their Creative Journeys - mages

How These Top 3 Artists Began Their Creative Journeys

Explore the diverse paths to artistic success as we delve into the stories of three accomplished artists: Syd Mead, Trent Kaniuga, and Karla Ortiz. Discover that the artistic journey isn’t limited to conventional education or expensive universities.

What makes artists thrive? How do they begin their journey? If you want to reach where they are, which path should you take? Game Art Course? Concept Art Course? Is the artistic path – be it for games, films or any other medium – a linear path? Does success come only to those who get super high grades and study in big, expensive universities?

Every aspiring artist is faced with these burning questions in his/her life. By bringing to you the stories of three popular and successful artists, we attempt to help you decide what path you can take.

When the great future concept artist and industrial designer Sydney Jay Mead recently passed away in his home in California, US, it made everyone nostalgic of his fantastic journey into a creative and fulfilling career.

After all, he’s credited with work on popular movie titles (mostly sci-fi) including “Blade Runner”, “Tron” (1982), “Aliens” (1986), “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” (1979), “Mission Impossible III” (2006), “Elysium” (2013) and countless others.

In this blog post, we explore the journeys of 3 such artists. And we begin by delving more into Sydney Jay Mead’s work and life.

A Glimpse into the Life Of 3 Popular Artists

Syd Mead

Born in Minnesota, Syd Mead graduated from Art Centre School in Los Angeles, (now the Art Centre College of Design, Pasadena) and went onto working at Ford’s styling studio. His work included envisioning and exploring futuristic cars.

His career spans designing books, catalogues and other things for big corporate entities like the United States Steel before he formed his very own Syd Mead Inc. Philips Electronics.

But that’s not where the buck stops.

Syd also designed interiors of private jets for rich clients, futuristic look for a fashion show and the interiors of a Manhattan eatery (notice the available range of career options for artists!).

Endorsing new technologies, he also mastered a variety of software to expand his range of work and include computer illustrations and graphics.

And yet he called himself old school.

“We still paint on cardboard with a stick with animal hairs stuck to the end,” he described his fondness for predigital methods, “Everything is still painted by hand. I’m old school.”

Trent Kaniuga

You’ve probably heard of this guy a lot.

Trent Kaniuga is known for working on popular game titles such as “World of Warcraft”, “Diablo 3”, “League of Legends”, “Overwatch”, “Terminator 3” (GBA), “CannonBallers” (Mobile), “Hearthstone”, “Final Fight”, “Twilight Monk”, and “CreeD”, Trent began his creative journey as a child fond of comics!

“From my small hometown, it was…impossible for somebody to become an artist for a living,” Trent says about the beginnings of his journey in an interview.

Always fascinated by comic books, he’d even share his drawings of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with the staff of a local comic book store in his hometown.

“As a 13-year old kid having your artwork up in the comic book shop was, like – this is cool.” he further says. By 15, he had already begun designing and self- publishing his own comics. That’s how he created the indie comic “Creed”.

Trent began creating concept art in LA after he met the owner of an indie game studio who made games for Game Boy Advance. He then went on to work on famous aforementioned game titles.

In 2013, he founded “Aquatic Moon”, an independent game studio that develops comics, novels and games based on their original properties like “Twilight Monk”, “CreeD”, and “Ikeda: The Scrap Hunter”.

A concept artist for Trent is someone who, “imagines the world of a video game or a film before anybody has any visual sense of it.” “It’s a blank page,” on which the artist has to work out the details.

Surprisingly, he also finds “fashion design” as “the closest thing in the real world to conceptual design,”! There are “hundreds of years of other cultures figuring out something that they found aesthetically pleasing,” which Trent believes can always be used as inspiration for any artwork.

But do you always need an expensive art school to be an artist? Trent feels otherwise.

Not everyone can afford design schools though. Fortunately, he points out how having relevant skills are far more important for concept artists than a degree!

Karla Ortiz

This award-winning artist from Puerto Rico is well-known for her diverse projects and surreal artwork.

Born into a family of artists, it was quite natural for Karla to show great interest and an inclination towards art. Karla mentions in an interview that she’d always be “drawing”. That her mother used to say she learnt drawing before she could talk!

But everything wasn’t always a pretty picture. She did face moments in her life where she questioned being an artist. “How can something that I love so much be so difficult?” she says as she talks about her journey in an interview.

At one point in college, the work of other successful artists was so intimidating that she quit. It was her father (a musician) who encouraged her, telling her, “you’re not an artist unless you want to quit once!”

She began working as a professional artist after graduating from the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, US (It wasn’t easy as college is tough and expensive. She jokes how she’s still paying!).

Her atmospheric and photorealistic art can be seen in “A Song of Ice and Fire” and “Magic: The Gathering”. She’s also worked in popular movie titles such as “Doctor Strange”, “Black Panther”, “Jurassic World”, “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” and “Thor: Ragnarok”.

She’s worked as a concept artist for Ubisoft, Kabam, Paragon Studios/NCsoft, Marvel Film Studios, Universal Studios and HBO. Her commercial success hasn’t stopped her from expanding her career and passion as a fine artist and illustrator.

As a professional illustrator, she’s worked for clients including Wizards of the Coast, Ace Books, Tor Books, Orbit Books and a variety of other independent authors and even toymakers.

Notable galleries including Nucleus Gallery and Thinkspace in LA, Spoke Art and Hashimoto Contemporary in San Francisco and Galerie Arludik in Paris have all showcased her figurative, surreal and mysterious artwork.

For the renowned, humble artist, “Art” is a constant, never-ending process. “That there’s humility in knowing it’s sometimes difficult to capture what you see or imagine,” she goes on to say in an interview. But if it’s your passion, you’d always go on.

In Conclusion: Decoding the Great Question

Creature Design artwork
Creature Design artwork

The great question for most artists and creative individuals today is this:

Is a conventional path to making it big the only path? Do big and uberly-expensive universities reserve rights to producing great artists?

The answer is no.

By no means does conventional education guarantee the achievement of your goals. Whether it’s landing a job at a dream studio, making your own games or art or a thriving freelance career.

On the other hand, is studying in any institution too unfeasible an idea today?

The 21st century has rendered conventional education almost redundant. The deluge of online courses and their claims of 100% success is taking precedence over spending a fortune on conventional education.

But it hasn’t led to a complete demise of educational institutions for studying creative subjects like games, art or films.

Instead, there has been a rise in the number of small and specialised institutions that promise, above all, affordability along with skills.

Aspiring artists have a lot of options now. And they don’t range from big, flashy and expensive universities to cheap and easy online courses alone. There’s a third, middle option here that solves problems of both affordability and quality.

And this is exactly what specialised institutions do.

They promise you relevant skills (that account for quality) for a price that doesn’t burn big holes in your pockets.

They customise programs according to your needs and goals. In doing so, they align their goals with yours – which is what any good educational institution will and should do.

Because eventually, what matters is whether or not you’re able to achieve your goals – whatever they might be. A Dream Job? A thriving freelance career? Corporate design?

And to achieve most of these goals, having relevant skills matters the most.

So, if an education institution offers you specialised programs that help you strengthen and build industry-relevant skills at an affordable price, why would you not take it?

Specialised institutions give you room for your differences in skills and abilities and guide you to make the best of them.

This is what makes them desirable and popular, especially when it comes to creative fields like games, art or films.

MAGES Institute specialises in bringing such programs to you.

It offers a variety of reputable programs, an experienced faculty, industry-relevant practices and hands-on learning, networking opportunities and portfolio-building exercises.

The focus is simple and clear – To help students make a living doing what they love. To provide them with a clear route to the Games, Art, and Film Industries through skill-based and affordable education focused on employability.

It’s time to put your foot down. It’s time to begin your creative journey sensibly, intelligently and without much worries. Find out more here!


Need guidance or course recommendations? Let us help!

    Mages Whatsup