Passion of the Concept Artist with Dawn Carlos

by Brandon Pham
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“Well it’s hard, I mean every situation is different. Burnout with work, you can’t really help that because it’s your job and you have to do it. But I think you know, a little bit of soul-searching and self checking and analyzing things and thinking where you’re at and where you want to end up at helps out a lot.”

— Dawn Carlos (Concept Artist)


San Francisco native concept artist Dawn Carlos took the time to break down her career steps and passion for anything drawing and painting which lead to her illustrious career in the entertainment industry. Before getting into the details of her professional career we took a moment to talk about going to the Safehouse Atelier and maintaining a full time internship simultaneously.


“I went to a school called the Safehouse Atelier, which was run by Carl Dobsky and Massive Black. I pretty much did that while being an intern at Kabam, and my whole internship they were like “We can’t hire you till you finish school” so I did both at the same time. One of my old art directors at Kabam, Jim Pearson, actually came up to me after my first year interning there said to me “Hey we’re giving you this offer, even if we know you’re going to deny it, because we know you’re not gonna leave school” so it was really awesome having full time work while i was in school because it made graduating easier because I don’t have to worry about work and it was also awesome because it paid for school so yea. It’s not a degree school, there’s no student loan so I was paying out of pocket which is significantly cheaper in the long run and that worked out.

It was quite obvious that Dawn was a big fan of her professional colleagues in concept art as she kept naming specific people or teams that were doing amazing work in the industry. Admiring this about her we asked her about her deep appreciation and ability to identify the artwork and models of some of her favorite artists.

“I’m like just a huge nerd when it comes to this stuff. If like I’m into something, then it’s hard not to delve into it especially now that there’s the internet. I remember one Dishonored game came out and I remember seeing the characters, like the portraits for it, and I think at the time Cedric Peyravernay hadn’t really post on the internet, I remember looking for the highest resoultion I could find and zooming in on the signature and saying ‘WHO IS THIS GUY?”

When asked about what tips or advice she had for increasing your drawing stamina.

“I feel like there’s definitely been times when I’m working especially on a longer illustration I’m just like “Uhhhhh” (venting). But I think taking breaks helps out and also, if you think about a piece of art more as like a problem to solve, then say something you have to sludge through and render out all the way then it gets more fun. I feel like when my mind’s engaged I lose track of time. There are times when I really don’t feel like drawing and I just have to get through it, especially if it’s for work I just kind of push through it. But in personal work, I think it’s about finding the fun in what you’re doing again. I do a lot of personal work, I try to draw in my sketchbook everyday or every other day, I’m not super strict about it. You know I try to just make sure I have fun with it.”


And as you can imagine being a full time artist by day, then coming home to do some more art for her own personal interests or self guided training, you will inevitably deal with fatigue or burnout. What pitfalls she tries to stay away from.

“Well it’s hard, I mean every situation is different. Burnout with work, you can’t really help that because it’s your job and you have to do it. But I think you know, a little bit of soul-searching and self checking and analyzing things and thinking where you’re at and where you want to end up at helps out a lot. When I finished school, I didn’t really draw anything outside of work for ages, I was binging on all the video games that I missed out on playing, I was not really doing anything. I’d go do some drink and draws and do a little bit of drawing here and there, but I wasn’t really excited about anything, I didn’t really have enough fire under my ass and that really wore down on me. I think in the last year I’ve had a resurgence of the importance of personal work and I’m finally starting to realize more how important that is and how I as a person could not survive without doing it in terms mental health. Like, if I don’t do personal work in a week or two, I am so cranky! I just started to do a little bit here and there, like 5-10 minutes just a little doodle, a little sketch, just whatever I found fun to draw again. Next thing you know I had sketchbook pages that were FILLED!”

And somewhat related to burnout, we asked Dawn about passion specifically and it’s presence in what we do.


“Especially for something in a field where it does require a certain amount of passion it does require a certain amount of putting yourself in the work to really do it. I think it’s important to keep excited. It also helps that I just came from a studio gathering of the masters and one morning like you know, watching James Gurney paint so that helps too, and I’m riding this workshop high. When something’s been drawn and designed in so many different ways, you kinda just have to do what speaks to you when you get excited about it and also getting influences from going out in the world and seeing stuff. If you’re just looking at what’s happening in concept art now you’ll just end up regurgitating what you see, instead of finding different sources and all that.”

Finally we talked about all the areas and industries where her art could useful like in animated films, illustration etc, we wanted to know why / how did she end up in the game industry was it a choice or perhaps the result of an opportunity?

“I think it was kind of like osmosis, I mean you know San Francisco at the time was mostly mobile games and it was what was available. I’d like to work on a movie one day, I’d like to work on other stuff but you know, that’s just the way my career path went. I got a job from people from school and I had made contacts and they were all game companies and that’s how I got in at every job I’ve had it’s been like, somebody I worked with or a mutual friend. You start with one thing and you kind of keep going with it. It was what was available, what my friends were working on and all my contacts were working on and you know it just kind of fell into place that way. If it was movies that got me in, I would have gone to movies in a heartbeat.”


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