Ric Holland's Blog

Steve Stamatiadis interview

Ric          Welcome Steve to The Art of Making Marks.  Just to open the interview could you introduce yourself and tell me a little bit about who you are and what you do?

Steve      I’m Steve Stamatiadis, I’m the Creative Director at Krome Studios.  My job involves pushing projects along from the creative point of view as in making sure they’re fun and look good and I also work, on day to day basis, on making games. The last one I did was Star Wars. I’m a Creditor’s Director which means I do a bit of art direction, game direction and game design, characters and all that sort of stuff.  I do a bit of everything.

Ric          Great.  So how long have you been using tablets in your work and for fun?

Steve      Well the first time was for work and that was I think 94.  It was a large A4 size one at the time which was the big beefy one but not the biggest one, it was pre intuos I think, the UD series of Wacom tablets and I’ve been using them ever since then.  I’ve gone from different sizes, a little 4×5, then I was running the 6×8, previously I had a 6×11 and then the large 21 UX. The large display tablet which is one of the best things ever.

Ric          Fantastic. At this point in time, is it your primary tablet or secondary tablet.

Steve      I have the one tablet and I work with two displays but the big Cintiq is pretty much the primary tablet for everything.  It’s my favourite by a long shot.  I don’t think I could go back to anything smaller.

Ric          Do you see the Cintiq giving you an advantage or creating a more innovative way for you to approach your working process and creativity.

Steve      I think what happens with the Cintiq… well just with the tablet in general it gives you the whole thing of undo, lets you experiment more.  But I’m finding with the Cintiq I’m actually drawing differently because of its size. I’m actually using my arm the way I’m supposed to be drawing. I know when I used to draw, I used to do very small sketches, working small with little wrist movements and now it’s sort of elbow movements and proper drawing style stuff. It’s intriguing because I never used to draw that way but it’s the way you should really open up your arms to do actual big sweeping movements.  So it’s changed the look of my artwork a little bit – in a good way.

Ric          A bit like getting the butcher’s paper out and being able to do sweeping movements.

Steve      It’s exactly like that.  Before it was more of an angular style and you do a lot more work to try and get the lines and the brush but with the Cintiq21 it’s very much that you do the mark and if the mark doesn’t come out quite right you might rotate the Cintiq and then undo and try a couple more times. Before I’d be doing a dozen more goes on a normal tablet, just trying to do it lots and lots of times, trying to get it right. With a normal tablet you’re trying to do that hand eye coordination thing, matching it up with the screen.  But being able to see it actually there where your hand has been, it’s just a whole different feel.  I love it.

Ric          Fantastic.  So Steve tell us more about your work?

Steve      Most of my stuff is more comic book cartoony based stuff which I enjoy most. I do some painted work as well but I really do like playing with the line width of just comic style artwork, where the outlining is really the integral part of the image.  So a lot of what I do is character design but costume design is a better word for it really.

Ric          So you’re designing the look and feel of the characters.

Steve      It’s like trying to bring the actual character or personality to life by what they’re wearing clothing-wise.  Because a lot of what you see in the game is the visual of the short hand coming across – ‘hey this is so and so character and they might be wearing these clothes’ and you can tell immediately that this is what they’re doing on a day to day basis and then you can add the personality to the clothes as well.  So that’s why I call it costume design as well as character design because really it’s both elements that have to go together.

Ric          What applications do you use mainly in your workflow?

Steve      I’m pretty much just using Photoshop CS3 at the moment, extended version actually, because it gives me everything I need. Like it’s a workhorse set of programmes, ones that aren’t trying to be too pretty.         When I got into the industry I was using Deluxe Paint on the Omega, which is one of the best paint packages ever because it was like ‘hit these functions’ and ‘these functions work with other functions’ and the way they work together is very intuitive.  I think Photoshop has become very much like that, the way it’s set up.  So you can set your brushes up a certain way and it’s got a good workflow now with the layers and stuff.

Ric          Do you combine Illustrator and Flash in that process?  Are you using Vector or are you just doing everything within Photoshop?

Steve      I pretty much do everything within Photoshop. Photoshop’s become even my pencilling tool where originally I’d pencil stuff on paper and scan it and then maybe ink in Photoshop or colour it in Photoshop. Now with the Cintiq it’s gone from doing my layouts in Photoshop on the Cintiq, then I’ll pencil it properly on the Cintiq. it’s just like the whole process has just gone from paper to digital in the space of about less than a year, which is pretty amazing.  It was just so easy to do. I don’t need paper anymore because I can do it on this amazing thing.  Yeah so working in Photoshop just makes it really easy to do that stuff.

Ric          So that process could work into the workflow of your entire operation, everyone being digital and slotting in on that pipeline at some point or other depending on what they do?

Steve      Yeah … because we’re not tied to paper and if we need to make changes or move things around the guys are in the habit of working with layers so that we can have a nice quick interaction process on artwork.  Sometimes we need to change things quite radically for publishes if we’re getting approval.  When we were doing concept art for Star Wars we’d go through maybe 8 to 10 versions or something and then they would go off and we’d have to get some feedback from Lucas Film of how they wanted stuff to fit in with the universe.  Sometimes that was only a couple of changes and we had the ability to do that digitally, because the guys at Lucas Film would be painting digitally as well.

Ric          Cool. I guess one of my favourite questions to ask is about the future. If you had a crystal ball or wanted something from Wacom that solved some problems for you, what might that future innovation be?

Steve      I was thinking outlines before, but I think the one that would be the best would be, you know how Sony’s got that paper display that looks like paper.  Once we get that, where tablets can feel like you’re drawing on a pad of paper and still undo, I think that would be the most awesome stuff.  But that’s requiring displays and stuff down the track to get much, much better.  But that kind of digital paper look and feel.

               The new surface on the Cintiq is great, they feel more like paper when you use the optional grey nib in the pen. It feels like you’re actually working on a piece of paper.  If the screen had that sort of the brightness of paper as well would be great. 

Ric          Okay I’ll get straight onto that one for you and let you know when it’s ready!

Steve      Digital paper would be a really big one I think.  That way you wouldn’t feel like you’re drawing on a screen it would feel like you’re just drawing on an A3 sketch pad, with texture, that would be good.

Ric          Would you like the Cintiq to be larger or a different screen ratio format.

Steve      Oh yeah definitely have like a wide screen, 23 inch wide screen display I think would be great.  And the technology that the new Cintiq12 has where it’s really thin.  We need more buttons on the side as well.

Ric          How about with touch capabilities too… programmable touch surfaces or something?

Steve      Yeah.  The Express Keys were a great addition to the system.  But even more of them would be good and programmable ones, would be really cool with visual displays so you know what they are.  That sort of stuff would be great.

Ric          Has the Express keys been significant for your productivity?

Steve      Well I’m using that really thin Microsoft keyboard at the moment which compliments the tablet really well.  Photoshop only uses pretty much just the one side of the keyboard, even a keyboard on the tablet would be kind of cool come to think of it.

Ric          There is so much more you could do when you bring touch into play with the tablet it’s open to just program and arrange what you want. Visually you could put a keyboard right there on the screen.

Steve      Or actually turn the whole tablet into a computer.

Ric          Well of course we’ve got tablet PCs for that, our technology is in most Tablet PCs already but it is a question that’s asked ‘are we going to produce one ourselves?’.  I think the answer at the moment is ‘we’re just concentrating on the interface technologies and let other people who build computers utilise that technology in different ways’.

Steve      I think it’s good to work with your strengths.  It hasn’t hurt Wacom so far.

Ric          So thanks Steve that’s fantastic.  Good luck with everything and great work.