A few weeks ago, the one and only Luke “Mr Jack” Mancini traveled to Australia to help celebrate the release of StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm with the thousands of players in attendance at the Melbourne launch event. As the crowd looked on, he crafted a beautiful piece of digital art, which we converted into a desktop wallpaper for the enjoyment of players around the world. Luke was also kind enough to sit down with us to answer a few questions about the speed painting he created during the launch event. You can find the full interview at the end of this article.
Check out the wallpaper, download it in multiple resolutions, and turn your desktop into a StarCraft masterpiece!
Relive the action that took place in Melbourne’s Federation Square that night with this awesome recap video created by ACL Pro:
Luke Mancini Melbourne Speed Painting Q&A
Q: How was it to come back to Australia for the Heart of the Swarm launch in Melbourne?
A: It was a great chance to come back down here to the home town; the launch was going to be exciting no matter what, having really loved working on Heart of the Swarm, but being able to celebrate it in Melbourne in front of my family and friends, as well as the thousands of other fans who came out to see us, was a really fantastic way to do it.
Q: Let’s talk about this amazing speed painting you made during the course of the event. How did you come up with the inspiration for this piece?
A: Being the decidedly Zerg expansion this time around, the inspiration was pretty straightforward really—as might be obvious, I definitely have a soft spot for the zerg race, so I leapt at the chance to fit some of the more iconic units into the piece for the night.
Q: Roughly how long did it take to complete and how was the experience of drawing onstage?
A: I had about 3 hours up on stage to get the piece done, which was actually longer than I'd expected I'd have, so once I got started the whole experience was quite a lot of fun. It was fairly easy most of the time to almost forget I was up on stage in front of everybody—it helped that I couldn't really see the main screens, otherwise I'm sure I would have gotten a bit more distracted. I'll admit, I did pause a couple of times to watch some of the more exciting moments of the showmatches over the players' shoulders.
Q: You work with a lot of scales in this piece, how do you get correct scaling when drawing fantasy art?
A: It was definitely an interesting challenge in this piece to try make sure that everything worked, scale- and composition-wise, and there was quite a bit of nudging things around while I worked to make sure it felt right. Having worked on the zerg for so long I already have a fairly good idea of the relative sizes of, say, the Hydra to the Ultralisk to the Zergling—and there's always a little bit of artistic license to be taken along the way if things need to be adjusted on the fly.
Q: There looks to be a story behind the picture. What was your creative process before beginning this piece?
A: With this piece I had a fairly clear idea of the sort of thing I wanted to capture—Kerrigan and the zerg Swarm together—pretty early on, and after a few rough pencil sketches I was happy with a composition that I felt captured her character as she appears in Heart of the Swarm.
Q: What are the challenges in producing Speed art?
A: I would say that the biggest hurdle when working to a tight schedule like this is knowing where to focus your detail and emphasis: in this case specifically, I made sure that areas of importance like Kerrigan and the faces of the Zerg creatures were more carefully realized, while I could rely on looser, more expressive strokes and shapes for the background and less important extremities of the various units. This lets me make sure I can capture both the general atmosphere and mood that I'm aiming for as well as working in enough detail to keep the image interesting, and feel like a finished piece of work.
Q: Your art is well featured in Heart of the Swarm, what was your favorite unit to draw from the expansion?
A: It feels a little unfair to admit but even though it's an old unit, the Hydralisk is definitely still my favorite, but the new Swarm Host is up there as well.
Q: What equipment and software did you use for this piece?
A: I was working on a laptop with Photoshop CS6, painting using a Wacom Intuos tablet.
Q: You started out as a fan artist in the community before you were hired by Blizzard. Any advice for other artists looking to get noticed?
A: My biggest piece of advice would have to be to really have and show passion for what you're doing, and just keep doing it. Post on art sites like deviantArt or CGHub and talk to other artists about your work; post on r/starcraft or TeamLiquid and talk about the game and your art with other fans—or whatever community there might be around whatever you're a fan of. You need to have a huge passion for what you do and how you do it, the drive to improve and keep exploring, both in your ideas and in your methods. Also it feels trite sometimes, but there's nothing like practice, and making sure you're getting your work out there and seen is huge in this age of connected-ness.
Q: What would you say are the challenges that you face being a game artist as opposed being an artist in another field?
A: There really are a lot of similarities across most fields of art, but working in games there are always those extra technical limitations that we have to work within in order to make something that will run on people's computers—that's definitely something that not a lot of other areas have to work with. Of course, being mostly on the initial concept side I get to stay a little freer from those constraints (and these days those limits are a lot wider than they used to be!), but it's definitely something that needs to be thought about all the way along.
Q: How does the StarCraft team decide who draws what? Do you ever accidentally double up your efforts?
A: I think we've got it down to a pretty smooth pipeline; everyone knows what they're doing and (thanks to our producers) there's not a whole lot of unnecessary work done—but at the same time there's definitely a lot of collaboration, and by the time anything makes it into the game there have usually been quite a few different artists who've been able to add their personal touch to something, starting from a concept, usually from either Samwise or myself, then to being modeled and then textured, then animated and having effects added.
Q: Thank you for your time Luke. We’re looking forward to seeing more of your work in the future!
A: Thanks, it's been a pleasure to be down here!