Concept Artist Spotlight: Taylor Krahenbuhl

by David Campbell on October 19, 2012

One of the newest additions to the ArenaNet concept art team, Taylor Krahenbuhl is a multi-faceted, multi-talented artist who understands the synergy between art and storytelling.

Q: Tell us a little bit about your background before you came to ArenaNet.

Taylor: I think I started drawing in the womb. For the longest time, all I can remember is drawing and designing everything that I could get my hands on. Comic books, animation, illustration… anything that seemed interesting to me at the time.

I started working professionally in 2006, mostly for smaller freelance-type companies doing storyboarding and character design. I got my feet wet doing value studies for particular sequences on the feature film Where the Wild Things Are with my mentor and college professor Ryan Woodward. It was a storyboarding assistant gig with a very short time frame, but it gave me an opportunity to see the story process from the point of view of a professional who had been working in the industry for many years.

I studied at Brigham Young University, where I received my BFA in animation. While attending the university, I had a lot of fantastic studio experience that really shaped my desires and goals as an artist. I worked for Avalanche Software in Salt Lake as a concept artist working on titles such as Pixar’s Toy Story 3 and Disney’s Bolt. In 2008, I worked for a production team on a stop-motion animated film titled The Legend of Santa Claus.

After graduating from BYU, I was picked up by Walt Disney Animation Studios in Burbank to do storyboarding for a talent development program. It ended up being a writing, character-designing, and story-pitching tornado that was a great learning experience. I learned a lot about storytelling and striving for appealing character personalities in my designs.

After interning at Disney, I worked with different clients as a freelance artist, doing mostly character designs and story sketches. A few worth mentioning were a TV-series pitch for a traditionally animated cartoon “Cheese Toastie Brain Monster” and an app set to come out in a few months titled, “My Beastly ABCs.” I’m thrilled to come on board at ArenaNet as a concept artist.

Q: I love the watercolor effect in a lot of your work – can you talk a little bit about your creative process and how you decide on an approach to a piece?

Taylor: My design process almost always begins with thinking of a silhouette/composition that seems unique and appealing to look at. I will sketch out on paper or digitally paint a few different ideas that give me a feeling of what the entire design will look like in just the silhouette form. The gesture, line of action, and personality of a character/creature should be solid at this stage. At this point I have to decide if I want to use color and render everything out or keep it grayscale.

Most of the time the amount of rendering on a piece directly correlates to the nature and time frame of the assignments. In the end, for me, it really comes down to a feeling. I always try to ask myself if I have created an interesting story in the end.

The technique of having a more watercolor feel in my work came from experimenting with new brushes. I know that there are numberless ways of working. That is what I love about being an artist: you’re always learning.

Q: Do you find yourself returning to certain concepts, motifs, or themes in your work, or do your assignments really dictate the kinds of things you explore?

Taylor: What I love about concept art is that themes, motifs, and concepts all seem to change depending on the current mood of the story in a game or film. Right now, the concept department is focusing on particular events specifically for Guild Wars 2 which I’d love to talk more about in due time.

As an artist, I find it refreshing to explore a lot of avenues before settling into a particular design. Regardless of whether the assignment is for an environment or a character, I find that referencing what other artists have done before, photography, or even paying close attention to what I am looking at as I drive to work can all be great assets when exploring concepts and themes.

Q: What are you looking forward to about working at ArenaNet?

Taylor: I wake up every morning wanting to tell stories; it’s what drives me as an artist. I love the creative process behind designing a character, a world, a particular moment in a story, so I’m thrilled to bring my experience as a character designer and story artist to the ArenaNet team.

I’m also excited about working on concepts of characters, creatures, and environments, whether it’s for the Guild Wars world or other projects. Working in a collaborative environment with some of the most talented artists in the industry allows you to explore designs and ways of working that you never would have had the opportunity to do before.