In Stéphane Bourez's intricately detailed pieces, demons and aliens glisten and lurk, warriors arm themselves for battle, and distant derelict spacecraft loom on the horizon. Spreading himself across styles from simple sketches to photorealistic renders, he presents visions of a rich yet unfamiliar future.
We spoke with Stéphane about his love of all things science fiction and fantasy, the value of holding onto your imaginary worlds as you grow up, and about how to find inspiration in unexpected places.
Hey Stéphane! Tell us where you’re from and a little about yourself.
Hi, I’m a french 2D / 3D artist based in London. I work in the entertainment and advertising industries across a wide range of projects, from motion graphics to video games.
What’s your favorite thing to draw?
I love all things science fiction and fantasy.
Are you traditionally trained or self-taught?
I was traditionally trained for a year, and I joined an animation school for another.
Were you interested in art from an early age? At what point did you decide this was the career you wanted to pursue?
Yes, I've had this interest for as long as I can remember. I’ve always loved drawing robots and dragons and Viking ships and all that good stuff. Later on, in terms of schooling and life orientation, my teachers convinced my parents that I was better off following a path towards the arts, which wasn’t exactly what my parents had in mind. But they supported me all the way, and I’m very grateful for that.
A few years later I went to Les Gobelins, a school of animation in Paris, where I studied animation for video games. That's where it all clicked.
Your work, whether 2D or 3D, definitely leans in an “otherworldly” direction, encompassing science fiction references and fantasy creature designs. What draws you to this subject matter?
Creating imaginary worlds is a lot of fun. As kids, we used to do it all the time, transforming the curb of the pavement into the edge of a bottomless precipice, or a bench into a precarious raft tumbling down a river filled with crocodiles! I still do it today through my drawings and paintings, using 3D, VR and all those great tools. I love science fiction and fantasy because they are fantastic playgrounds - worlds of limitless possibility and epic scale.
Did you study a lot of anatomy and references in the beginning with your creature design? Are you able to create beings from scratch now or do you still draw from reference?
Yes, I have studied quite a bit of anatomy and reference material, and I still do. It’s never enough, really. This kind of training is key. The more you do it, the more freedom it unlocks for you. So, as much as possible, I look at references, at least before I start. There’s always something new to see.
How do you find inspiration for that and for your other work, and what do you do to recharge?
To recharge, I look at the films, paintings, drawings, books and music that I love. From old classics to contemporary pieces, from exhibitions to Instagram, looking at great work is a strong source of stimulation. Paintings make me want to paint, drawings make me want to draw, and so on.
Nature is probably one of my biggest sources of inspiration, along with traditional crafts, objects from various cultures around the world, legends, lore...
Do you have any advice for artists just starting out?
I’d say, draw as much and as often as you can. Try to draw with purpose. Having a goal help you ask better questions than you do when you’re improvising. It could be a set of key frames to illustrate moments of a story, or character design sheets, or anatomy studies. Absorb as much art as possible: choreography, theatre, architecture, cooking, concerts - you name it. These art-forms will expand your field of view and help you think outside the box.
But most importantly, be playful. Have as much fun as you can and share it with other people and friends.
What’s your favorite Procreate feature, and what’s one that you wish Procreate had?
I love the speed and power of the Procreate brush engine, and my favorite feature is QuickShape. I wish QuickShape could recognize ‘S’ curves!