Ever tried drawing Mickey Mouse? I can never get it right. The talented Jordan Lamarre-Wan from Disney Interactive-Junction Point Studios sure can. Check out his story.
If you ever find a guy painting outside in Austin, it’s probably Jordan Lamarre-Wan. I actually met Lamarre-Wan during one of his painting sessions at the Littlefield Fountain, located on the UT-Austin campus. The photos, at the top and to the right, show Lamarre-Wan during the early stages of an art piece. It was exciting to see the final painting! I pass the fountain all the time; it’s so interesting to see paintings of familiar locations, buildings and other structures.
Lamarre-Wan embraces various forms of art in both his professional and personal work. He finds his inspiration from fine art, concept art, photography, movies, literature and real life. You can see that in his artwork, which he posts on a blog, www.gofortea.blogspot.com. He has also made an animated film, Kaboom!, and two published comic books.
Studies and career path
Lamarre-Wan, originally from the Montreal area, studied graphic design at Cégep du Vieux Montréal and graduated in 2003.
“I quickly realized that I wanted to do work that involved storytelling like films and games so I switched fields and went into Animation at Sheridan College in Ontario,” he said. “There, the talent pool was so strong that it motivated students and compelled them to push themselves in every aspect of drawing, painting, storytelling and animation. After graduating, I came to Austin and have lived here since.”
A career in concept art provides the creative stimulation Lamarre-Wan seeks.
“I was drawn to concept art for several reasons,” he said. “Firstly, concept art is an extremely creative job. Secondly, concept provides the artist with the opportunity to create appealing images that convey storytelling. And thirdly, concept is one of the few careers that push a visual artist to become better at their craft.”
A fateful interview
After completing his studies, Lamarre-Wan was ready for the job hunt. Some initiative paid off.
“We had an industry day at the end of our Animation Program at Sheridan College in Canada,” he said. “I originally didn’t get an interview with Disney Interactive, so I decided I would go into the interview room and hand in my portfolio in person. When I did, it turned out the recruiter had wanted to interview me but didn’t find my booth. So we spoke for a couple of minutes before he left for his flight back to Austin. A few days later, I [got] a call from them saying they would appreciate the opportunity to bring me in for a formal interview. I was really excited at the thought of possibly working for a company with such a rich heritage and in a different country from my own.”
Working at Disney
Lamarre-Wan is a concept artist currently working on Epic Mickey, a video game for the Wii.
“My job consists of conceptualizing the look and feel of our video game,” he said. “This includes coming up with the visuals for the environments, the lighting and the character designs. The concept artist’s job is to take an idea and communicate it visually. Most times, this communication will be done with a digital painting.”
There has been lots of hype among video gamers about Epic Mickey, with rumors reported as early as 2008. It’s an action-adventure game starring Mickey Mouse in the dark, twisted world of the Cartoon Wasteland. Equipped with paint and paint thinner (great use of the wiimote), players can lead Mickey on to free the retired and forgotten cartoon characters from the evil villain’s universe.
Epic Mickey definitely stands apart from other games because of its visual style. According to gamespy.com, the game is set to be released fall 2010. More details are available at Gameinformer.com and Gamespy.com.
Lamarre-Wan discusses his experience on the job.
“The part I enjoy the most [about my job] is when I get to invent or interpret new worlds,” he said. “I also love seeing my paintings become 3D environments [that] the player can run though; that stage is truly special. As for the most challenging aspect of my field, I would have to say it is when concept is required to ‘decorate’ an abstract gameplay space in order to convey sense. I really enjoy the challenge of finding solutions to visual problems; so these challenges end up being rewarding.”
During his free time, Lamarre-Wan works on traditional art skills.
“I do oil portraits of my friends,” he said. “I [also] started a Plein Air painting group, a group that paints outdoors from observation.”
Lamarre-Wan created the group as a way for artists to share their work and get feedback from each other. Anyone interested in painting can join the group. Members decide on a meet-up location and stay a few hours to paint. To join or learn more about the group, visit www.pleinairpaintinggroup.blogspot.com.
Big plans ahead
Lamarre-Wan talks about what he hopes to do later in his career.
“In the far future, I want to make a story in the form of a graphic novel,” he said. “This will be my chance to create a universe where characters and places will come to life.”
**SMAG wants to know: Have you ever heard of plein air painting? What piece of Jordan’s work do you like best? What kind of art form do you enjoy most? Are you excited about Epic Mickey?