Meet the team - Dervla


Who are you and what is your job?

Hiya! My name’s Dervla Hillan and I’m an Artist for Undra.

Can you tell us a bit about your background?

Absolutely, I studied 3D Animation in university after having a lifelong interest in games, technology and digital art. I went into 3D Animation with the intention of moving into the contemporary art industry, and was highly motivated by the rapidly changing technology and the prospect of a dynamic creative environment. While I was studying 3D Animation, I practised my 2D drawing skills daily, but never took it seriously as a career prospect due to the emphasis placed on 3D art over 2D.

After graduating I worked in a music video production company and while there I was able to try my hand professionally at all kinds of things, from 3D animated graphics for use in music videos, to graphic design and video production. While I was working in the music video production company, it began to dawn on me that while I was enjoying learning lots of new skills, I wanted my career to move in a direction that was ultimately more creatively-focused. Weighing up the risks versus reward, I decided that I would be happier spending my days as a 2D concept artist. I quit my job after saving a lot of money to retrain and prepare my portfolio for concept art. It turns out that I didn’t really need my savings after all as I was picked up quickly by a local games studio where I learned the ropes. Switching career direction can be scary as a creative without a portfolio prepared in advance, but it is a decision I thank myself on the daily for making.

How did you end up in Web3?

It all took place rather recently, I became aware of the prevalence of blockchain technology in early 2021 and subsequently took an interest in the capabilities of what it could do. Later that year I worked on a freelance basis with Undra to prepare some assets for the ‘Undraverse’ launch. (You may recognise a certain iconic ‘Missing Person’ poster of mine!) I’m drawn to dynamic and innovative work environments, especially regarding digital art, so when Studio Decent approached me with the offer of full time employment as an Artist I couldn’t turn it down. The potential for what we can do creatively in this space is what’s special about working in this industry, especially at this point in time.

Where do you get your inspiration?

Everything is inspiring. I see art as a ‘universal language’ - it’s our most ancient form of communication, and it’s instant, it’s human culture, memory, expression. I take my inspiration from nature, from places around me, from architecture, from the work of great artists, from artists online, from my own work from years ago. Everything is information that is being passed through me and being interpreted based on my experiences, my preferences, what I decide I want to express. There’s something profoundly collective about art. I feel like an algorithm in the cycle of art history, expressing ideas that have come before me and that are now passing through me, in my own way, and that’s really cool.

Where can we see those influences in Undra?

Working on artwork for Undra I’ve had the pleasure to look back in time to artwork set in a time period somewhere between the 19th and 20th century. I’m aiming to take full advantage of the unique design flairs that you’d see from that period in my work for Undra, really dive deep into the aesthetic and set us apart visually from other web3 games. I’ve only been here full time for a short while but I’m really keen to expand upon the unique aesthetic we’ve got going here.

Can you tell us about your creative process?

It’s surprisingly uneventful, I spend a lot of time researching and learning the ins and outs of how things work in the world, this gives me a closer idea of the function of whatever it is I’m designing, how they work, how it’s presented etc. Then I choose to work from outside-in, as in from silhouette (basic forms, composition, shape language) in towards the detail. If the small details aren’t working on a big picture, it’s a minor issue, if the big picture isn’t working, you have to start again - so it’s important for me in my process to lay down a strong foundation and then work from there. I love sketching and drawing, but lately during the ideation process I have been foregoing that for loose gestural paintings instead. I find it keeps the process more focused on the shape language and the expressiveness, technical drawing can be brought in at a later stage in production. My process is always changing though, it’s good to be able to adapt how you work to the project on hand!

What advice have you got for aspiring (game) artists?

Firstly, don’t listen to those who tell you that you can’t do something, or those who brush off artistic aspirations as a glorified hobby. The games industry is the most rapidly growing industry worldwide, and they need artists. If you’re financially able to make a big decision to pursue an education in game art / animation, I’d say do it. It’s a competitive market but that’s part of the joy in it, everybody’s working hard to get better at what they do, which is making art. Be prepared to take risks, and trust your gut instincts, if it’s for you, it’s for you.

Quickfire questions:

Favourite artist

Hard question! At the moment, probably Ernst Haeckel. My favourite concept artist would be Yoshitaka Amano.

Favourite movie

Love Charlie Kaufman - Being John Malkovich & I’m Thinking Of Ending Things are great

Favourite game

For the last few years it’s been Civilization VI! But the most iconic game of my childhood and the one that’s influenced me the most artistically is Final Fantasy X.

Favourite book

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss is a really clever take on the fantasy genre, I would definitely recommend it!

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