Jeff Simpson is a concept artist and illustrator living in Montreal Canada, currently working for Ubisoft Montreal. His previous clients include Eidos Montreal (Deus Ex Next Gen), Ubisoft Montreal (Assassins Creed: Revelations, Assassins Creed: 3, Assassins Creed: Unity), Universal Pictures (Snow White and the Huntsman), Lionsgate (The Last Witch Hunter), MovingPictureCompany (various films to be announced), The Mill (VFX concept for several advertisements), Wizards of the Coast (Magic The Gathering).
Welcome back! You were Nightmare’s very first cover artist, all those years ago. Okay, so we’re a young magazine and it was only 2012, but lots of things can change in a couple of years. How do you feel you’ve grown as an artist since we last saw you?
It’s cliché to say but I think I have matured, looking back at my older stuff. It’s scary to see the mistakes in old work . . . but what’s even scarier is perhaps seeing something I really like and completely forgetting I did it! Working in the videogame and film industry has made me a bit jaded about genre work, so my personal stuff has started to become more experimental and personal.
You’ve done a few illustrations for Magic: the Gathering, and your first card (Bloodcrazed Hoplite) was released in May. Are you a Magic fan? How did this job compare to others you’ve had? Were there any unexpected hurdles or pleasant surprises?
I collected Magic cards as a kid/early teen . . . loved them. Eventually video games kinda took over, but all these years later even the smell opening a booster pack releases some pretty heavy nostalgia-packed dopamine. It’s a pretty fun job to do on the side. They seem a lot more specific now about what they want. Looking back on those old cards from the ’90s they seemed kinda all over the place in terms of styles. I guess it’s gotten so big that they had to rein in some consistency/world building or whatever. I kinda miss seeing those wacky-looking cards that totally didn’t fit in with the rest though; they were fun.
What typically separates your personal work from your professional work? What are some differences in your style or process? Do you take different mental and emotional approaches?
It depends on the project. I’ve been lucky enough to work on some games/films where the director lets me kinda roam free and explore, like in my personal work. Others have been extremely specific and not in line with my style at all, but I will always try to push expectations a little bit even on a bland project. For now though, I’m doing well enough to choose projects that sound like they will allow me to be a little more personal with the work. My personal work has an extremely inefficient process, so it’s not always well suited to professional work where time/pressure is always a huge factor.
What inspired “Bellona,” the image appearing as this month’s cover?
I did this after my first trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. I think I came across a painting of a Hellenistic goddess (sadly I can’t remember which it was!) and was inspired to do my take on a warrior-goddess. I wanted her to actually look intimidating, powerful, and less angelic and sexual as is so often done.
Is there a location you find particularly inspiring—perhaps a place you visit often, or a far off destination you hope to visit one day?
That would definitely be the west coast of Canada, where I was born. I love cold, rocky beaches, misty mountains and dark forests. It’s usually terrifying, rainy, and brutal but I love it.
What scares you the most?
People, of course!
What do you imagine scares the figure in “Bellona” the most?
In your 2012 interview you said that you would love to one day have a personal art book or a gallery show. Are these still goals you’re working toward?
For sure, though I’ve been doing too much commercial work recently to put anything substantial together. Still working on it!
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