Art Director at Framestore
Who is Jonathan Opgenhaffen?
“Jonathan Opgenhaffen, Art Director at Framestore’s Art Department. I work in the film industry, from early preproduction art, to vfx art direction, and anything inbetween.
I’m very much a multitasking generalist and find myself jumping around between keyframe illustration, character design, fx concepting, environments, and more. There’s always something new to learn, I love my job!”
“What art project are you most proud of?”
“I feel like I hit on something with my vampire piece called “Sunrise”, as I was really after achieving that old painting feel, not just in brush texture, but in general composition, lighting, and capturing an emotive feel through the character. This was despite having used 3D to help me achieve these results.”
“Throughout your life, what kind of support did you have from the people around you when it comes to your artistic developments?”
“First of all, I’m eternally grateful to my parents for believing me that if they got me a computer and a wacom tablet, at the age of 13, I’d use it to learn photoshop and start creating digital art, rather than playing games and surfing the Internet.
Second, to all the professional artists I came across in my younger years in the industry who not only gave me priceless advice and guidance, but also taught me to pass on any experience and knowledge I pick up on the way.
This taught me to always continue learning and improving myself and not to be a “one trick pony” who has a secret bag of tricks that would no doubt make me stagnant and outdated very quickly.”
“Is there something you wish you had done differently leading up to where you are now?”
“I had a whole career in vfx becoming an upper senior artist/supervisor before fully transitioning into concept art and subsequently art direction… Before I even got into the industry, I remember that I really wanted to be a concept artist but didn’t have faith in myself as a creative artist, so I defaulted to vfx.
I would have probably just gone straight for the jugular and do nothing but concept art. Having said that, I’ve learnt a huge amount whilst being a vfx artist, such as becoming strong at 3D/matte painting, and learning about photographic and filmic techniques.”
“If your friends or co-workers were here, what would they tell me about you?”
“I love helping others and passing on knowledge… In the office, if I hear someone struggling with something, I make it my personal mission to help solve the problem, or learn/research until I do. I feel this makes me a strong problem solver, and dissolves any fear about having to learn new things.
This goes for creative problems as well as technical. I get a lot of stick for not having created any tutorials yet as I’m constantly doing this type of thing at work.”
“What’s one specific memory you never want to forget?”
“Finishing my student short “Halo Boy”. It was a 3.5 minute short which I made in a 10 week intensive period, and I learnt so much from finishing a full short film. I learnt to be a finisher, about character design, lighting, rendering, rigging, animating, compositing, storyboarding, etc…
Also it was a real lesson in hard work paying off, and the feeling of owning what you do (as in, I did it for myself, not for a client!)”
“What chapter in your life, did you enjoy most?”
“I think when fully transitioned away from being a vfx artist and became an art director. It was overcoming a stupid complex I had about myself not being a “creative person”, and realising that I got my current job and position by being just that. I’m still in this chapter…”
“What does the process of coming up with new ideas look like for you?”
“Find inspiration, lots of Pinterest, jotting down lists of ideas/brainstorms, bouncing ideas around with other artists. Sometimes, just going for a walk to clear your head or listening to music really helps this along. Working in a vacuum doesn’t really work for me… getting inspired by nature and people is a great way to kickstart this.”
“What kind of advice would you give someone who struggles to come up with ideas?”
“Get out of your head and usual routine. You need to engage your right brain, and make creative connections. Look at art, read stories, listen to the radio, anything to become a receptor of things you can use as an idea.
Also, learn about storytelling… coming up with an idea is great, but what is it for? We create images and ideas to express ideas and tell us a form of expression.
Knowing what your trying to say is as important as what you actually end up saying. Also, try and up your emotional intelligence… we are emotional animals and react to things with emotion. learn to communicate through emotive reactions rather than making something cool for the sake of making something cool.”
“Before you start a project, what feelings or thoughts are going through your head?”
“Often a mix of excitement and nervousness, with a mix of “how am going to do this?” And “what am I trying to say/what problem am I trying to solve?”. These contrasted feelings are what make me love my job.
It feels like I’m getting to begin a new journey or adventure with every new project. I weirdly learn something about myself every time I go through a new project. I’m very much a “self reflection” kind of guy.”
“Do you have any advice on breaking out of your artistic comfort zone?”
“Don’t be afraid to try something and fail… you’ll still learn something from the experience and you can take that with you moving forward. Also, if you keep on attacking your weaknesses, it makes you less afraid to take on new challenges. This way you focus on the positive creativity, not negative mind complexes.”
Remembering an artist’s name shows that you care. It’s not all about the artwork, but also who created it! If you could ask Jonathan Opgenhaffen any question, which one would it be? Post it in the comments down below!