Gil Rodrigo: A Day in the Life of a Professional Concept Artist
By Leila Mankowski
Professional Concept Artist Gil Rodrigo talks Videogames, Monster Design, the Mexican Art Scene, and more!
Art by Gil Rodrigo
Gil Rodrigo is a Mexican artist working as a freelance graphic designer, concept artist, and illustrator in a multitude of indie videogames, boardgames and publications. Gil is currently the head artist at Lodus Games where he illustrated and designed Weapon Wars the Card Game..
1. First off, the question I ask everyone: How did you become a professional artist? What inspired you to become one?
I’ve been drawing all of my life and have wanted to become an artist ever since I was a small child. I've had a lot of influences, but I believe that it was mostly video games, films, music and history. I’m a very obsessive person and I just couldn’t get these things out of my head, my only
outlet when I was in school was drawing them. I got in a lot of trouble for it, teachers never liked
my drawing all the time, haha!
I came to the conclusion that I had to become an independent artist when I was in middle school,
I had a lot of trouble following authority and this way I would be able to do things on my own terms. At first I worked at an ad agency while I was studying in university, but I started freelancing the moment I graduated and never looked back.
2. You’re a freelance illustrator/concept artist- what kind of projects do you work on? What are you currently working on now?
At the moment most of my work is comic book related. I’m usually involved in concept art and illustration for the gaming industry, but this year I’ve been getting more and more opportunities to get into comics.
3. You’re currently the lead artist at BOSS and Lodus Games! How did you get these awesome jobs? What does being the lead artist entail?
Both of them are small independent gaming projects. BOSS was a small dev collective which
sadly came to an end, and Lodus Games is a small table top company.I became involved in these projects as a way for me to get more financial independence and diversify my sources of income, one of which did pay out in the long term and the other one really didn't.
Being the lead artist meant that I had to do pretty much everything art and graphic design related.
I designed all of the branding, illustration, advertising as well as all of the concept art and UI. It was a big deal for me because at that time I had little experience on the field, but it was a great way for me to get acquainted with the process of developing and promoting a game. At the moment I am not doing any work related to both of these companies, but it is very likely that I’ll keep collaborating with Lodus Games in the future.
4. I see a lot of monsters and robots in your work, are these your favourite types of characters to design? What about them interests you so much?
I have always been a big fan of horror and science fiction themes. A lot of it has to do with the stories that they tell, I’m very attracted to the darker side of things and both take a deep dive into who we really are at our worst. I really want to get that across with my work in the future.
5. When coming up with new character designs, where do you draw your inspiration from?
Most of my inspiration comes from all of the media and themes that I'm interested in and
consume, but If it’s client work then the brief that they provide me is my guideline and I gather my
references based on that.
It is very important to use reference. It's almost like an investment. I like to see every design I do
as a small study that expands my visual library. It allows you to make more convincing and lively
designs but it also informs other designs that you will do in the future. I feel like the proper use of
reference can be the small factor that takes your work to the next level.
Art by Gil Rodrigo
6. What, in your opinion, makes a good character design?
It’s all about the appropriate and deliberate use of shapes, colors and values to tell a story. When
you see a good character design you can really get a feel of who they are and what they do. This
can be said about any other design as well, be it a vehicle or a landscape, the shapes need to
inform the function, story and atmosphere of the subject matter.
7. Similarly, what makes a good monster design?
Monsters really need to have a deep lore to be good. You can’t go in between with them. Zombies are a great example of this. Some zombie movies really push this idea of what a person used to be and exaggerate it to a disgusting degree, while in others they represent a lot of our deepest fears and turn them into predators. If a monster isn't well thought out, it'll just end up boring and nobody wants that.
Art by Gil Rodrigo
8. Are there any types of characters you would like to try designing more of in the future?
I really want to make more female characters of all kinds, I’ve been relying too much on my
comfort zone and designing females have always been something that I struggle with.
9. Correct me if I’m wrong, but you initially went to school to be a graphic designer- is this different from being a concept artist? How did you make the transition from one type of art to the other?
When I was a small child I wanted to work in video games and be involved in the process of
making them, but It wasn't until I was in University that I learned about concept art as a career
choice through the internet, specifically through Feng Zhu's youtube channel. Prior to this I chose
graphic design as my bachelors (In Mexico there are no majors or minors) because it was the
closest thing I had to anything art related. In the long term that choice came as very useful to me, as a lot of the fundamentals of design overlap and gave me a very solid foundation. I had to
do the rest of the work from there and become a proficient artist by myself though.
Graphic design is a very beautiful line of work but it is immensely different from concept art.
While I was working on my drawing skills I went to work and attended school, all at the same
time. I graduated and immediately started looking for opportunities to do concept art
professionally and with time I created a stable source of income.
Art by Gil Rodrigo
10. Before your work in video games, you also seem to have done graphic design for more commercial companies, such as clothing catalogues and logos for beer- do you prefer the more fantastical work you’re doing now?
I much prefer what I do now. Working in advertising can be a pain in the ass to be honest.
Clients are way less art oriented, they don't really care about the integrity of the process and the
people who are in charge are usually unqualified to give you solid feedback. There's a lot of
issues in the gaming industry as well, but it's no way near as bad as it is with advertising.
11. What is the art scene like in Mexico? Is being a concept artist/videogame artist a popular career choice there?
Mexico has a huge art scene but it's mostly related to other fields, game development is a very new thing here and as I mentioned before, I wasn’t even aware that concept art was a job I could do until I was in university.
The options for education in the field of concept are very limited as far as I'm aware,
and If you want to be a concept artist in Mexico, you really need to put on the work yourself and speak english to get access to clients abroad.
12. What videogames/pop culture series are popular in Mexico? Is there anything we’re missing out on in North America?
I think that the trends are very similar in Mexico, League of Legends is very popular because of
how accessible it is, Gears of War is a mexican darling, Super Smash Bros is a very strong competitive scene and most people watch your usual MCU and the like. Anime is also very popular here since a long time ago, censorship on those shows was way less frequent than it was in America, so the anime series that you may have watched as a child are slightly different versions from the ones we experienced. Also, the dubbing in Latin America is extremely well made- probably some of the best dubs for any series are in Latin American Spanish.
13. What are your own favourite videogames/pop culture series?
One of my favorite games was Fallout 3. I just loved everything about it, from the character designs to the humor and gameplay. It's one of the games that I've played the most. I remember that I got the lunchbox special edition as a birthday present and got the chance to enjoy the concept art book that came in the box. The designs really inspired me. Nowadays I dont play a lot of video games but if I get a chance I'm usually playing Street Fighter or Dragon Ball Fighterz.
I'm not much of a series guy but if I had to say a film, it would have to be Akira or Ghost in the Shell. At this point it's a little cliché but those movies really did something different when they came out and inspired generations of artists, similar to what happened with Blade Runner and Alien. That's why they are so important to me.
14. Are there any series in Mexico you would like to see become more popular/mainstream in North America?
As I said before, I don’t watch a lot of series, but I think that Mexican filmmakers in general are
making a lot of strides in the industry right now. It's really nice to see the Mexican perspective being so successful, even when the themes are not necessarily related to Mexico at all.
Art by Gil Rodrigo
15. What are some of your favourite projects to have worked on so far?
I'm not really sure, every project I've worked on has had a lot of me put into it, even when the final
product is never materialized. But if I had to choose something, it might be the card game that I
did with Lodus Games, Weapon Wars. Not only did I enjoy the process of making the illustrations,
but I also feel really proud about being able to create a game from scratch, get a kickstarter funded, and then have the final product delivered.
16. What are the best and hardest parts of being a freelance artist in Mexico?
The hardest part is being good enough to get work and knowing where to get it, after you go through a certain threshold things get easier though. It is also quite difficult to learn how to be your own manager, you really need to be disciplined and follow a schedule.
The best part I would say, is the freedom that it provides you, you really have control over your own time, and that is something very valuable.
17. Where would you like to take your art career next?
I'm interested in creating my own narratives and stories. I really want to focus on making personal
work and I believe that with a good strategy I will be able to do so.
18. Can people commission your work? Where can they buy your merch?
At the moment I’m not available for commissions, but if I am I'll be announcing it on my
instagram. The same goes for my merch store which is currently in the works, and should be ready to go next year.
19. Any final advice for aspiring concept artists/artists of any kind?
There's two things I would suggest:
1. Focus on your skills not on social media - I think that new artists should focus more on developing their skill set and making a competent portfolio before delving into social media. A lot of people today measure the quality of their work by the number of likes they get, or more by the lack of likes they are getting. I feel that this is a discouragement that they could save themselves from at the beginning of their careers. Social media will not make you a competent artist and that audience won't be able to give you meaningful feedback. I would instead encourage them to get feedback from professional artists and other aspiring artists.
Art by Gil Rodrigo
You can do so by entering groups on discord and other communities that are completely dedicated to this purpose. It also helps that you are already getting to know other artists who in the future might become your colleagues.
2. Be mindful of the art content you consume - It is very important that artists learn how to discern which content is actually helping them develop their skills and what is just entertainment. Nowadays the lines between those are becoming very blurry because you can find them both on youtube and other platforms. Try to get into more in depth subjects and follow the creators that encourage you to study and practice.
Visit Gil's profile on: https://www.artstation.com/gilrodrigo/albums/8508
Follow Gil on instagram at: https://www.instagram.com/gil.rodrigo/?hl=en