Add new comment

5 Questions for Atomhawk

Few days ago, a reader told me about Atomhawk's new artbook that's coming out on Kickstarter (campaign ends 25 Jun 2015).

I wrote about their new book and also sent them some interview questions to find out more about them.

Here's the interview.

QN: Can you tell us a bit about the history of Atomhawk?

Atomhawk was founded in 2009 by Director, Ron Ashtiani, concept artists Corlen Kruger and Pete Thompson and graphic designer, Steve Pick. The decision to start a digital art and design studio to service the games, film and digital media industries came as the Midway games studio in Gateshead, UK where they had all been working was closed. All four had extensive experience working in art teams in games development studios and all had experienced the ups and downs of working at the heart of that industry so were ready for a new challenge.

Our first projects focused predominantly on the AAA games space and we’ve continued to build strong relationships in this space with clients like Microsoft, Warner Brothers and Sony through projects such as Project Spark, Mortal Kombat and Killzone: Mercenary.

Another early project was J.K. Rowling’s online experience, Pottermore, which we began doing illustration and animation work on in our second year of business and we’re still continuing to work on 5 years later.

The Order 1886

While concept art for big name games, like the recently released Mortal Kombat X, continue to be a big part of our work, we are also now working across the full breadth of the gaming space, with online and mobile titles including Spirit Lords, The Order 1886 and Kings Road.

A major breakthrough for us in recent years has also been our work on three blockbuster movies. We were beside ourselves with excitement when Marvel first contacted us about working on Thor: The Dark World and it just got bigger as better as we then moved on to producing concept art Guardians of the Galaxy and the latest Marvel release, Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Our User Interface and User Experience Design team have also worked on some great projects in and outside of games, including an online VR experiences for The Sage Gateshead music venue, an interactive storybook for the BBC and the UI for Costa Coffee’s interactive touchscreen coffee machine.

QN: There are many art studios out there. How do you differentiate yourself against competition?

We hope we differentiate ourselves by always delivering world-class work and providing the best possible service. Where we can, we like to work with our clients from the very start of the project to help shape the brief and the creative style even before any concept art or design work begins.

Port Vell Environment

Having our team of artists based in-house also differentiates us from some other studios where artists are working more like a team of freelancers than a cohesive studio. We have 9 artists and 2 User Interface and User Experience designers all working together under one roof, sharing ideas, skills and supporting each other’s development which reflects in their work and in our ability to be flexible and responsive to our client’s needs.

Working in house means the artists are also able to work closely with our production and client services team which helps us to achieve our objectives of delivering on time and on budget while maintaining our high quality standards too.

Having the two UI/UX designers in-house also gives us a breadth of offering that has proved really beneficial. We have done some really exciting UI/UX projects working with new technology such as Virtual Reality, and we’ve also had some great projects like the illustration and animation we’re still doing for J.K. Rowling’s Pottermore where the concept art and design teams cross over and work together.

Red Son DLC characters

QN: I see that you have quite a large team of artists in the studio. Can you share what or how it's like to be working with a group of creatives?

It can be a challenge asking a team of creative people to come in to the studio and bring their A game in all day, every day. It can be even harder when it’s inevitable that in a commercial environment, every project isn’t going to be one that particularly inspires or interests you.

We try to keep ourselves aware of this and, where the work load and schedule allow it, give everyone a chance to work on a variety of projects to keep stretching and improving their skill. I think the team of artists that we have right now are all aware of the constraints and opportunities of working in a commercial studio and there’s a real enthusiasm for sharing skills working collaboratively and supporting each other to deliver great work at work and in their own personal art as well.

Guardians of the Galaxy

QN: Can you walk us through a typical day at work?

The focus in the art and design teams is always really sitting down and doing great work. We try to keep meetings to a minimum but for the art and design teams there are always regular catch ups to be had with clients, either to take a brief or getting feedback on the latest milestone. Most of these are done over Skype as our client base is pretty international, although there are regular face to face meetings with some of our UK based clients which might mean travel to London for example.

For the management and production team the day is more likely to be a flurry of keeping up with clients and artists/designers to keep track of projects and ensuring everything is running smoothly, managing the studio’s busy schedule, handling new business opportunities and planning for the future.

Every Friday we have a studio meeting where everyone gets an opportunity to update the team on new and on-going projects and the winners of the weekly Wall of Awesome competition are announced. For the Wall of Awesome, a selection of the best completed art or design work that week is nominated and sent round the team and each team member gets to vote for their 2 favourite pieces. Those that receive the most votes are then announced in the company meeting and printed off and stuck to one of our walls (we now have multiple Walls of Awesome as we were running out of space!)

We also have a monthly Over the Top award where everyone can anonymously vote for the person they think has made the biggest contribution that month as well as regular Learning Lunches where the art and design team share a particular skill or technique with their colleagues. These sessions are all recorded and added to our reference library, some of which are being shared through are current Kickstarter campaign for every backer who selects a Deluxe Edition of the book.

Kabam Spirit Lords

QN: You guys have worked on many projects. Can you talk about one project that's either the most challenging or satisfying to work on?

Working on the Guardians of the Galaxy movie was both a great challenge and immensely satisfying as we got to see so much of our work made real in the film studio and on the big screen.

The challenges came mainly from the fact that we had a very open brief when working on concept art for key locations, key actions shots and space craft design. It was great to have that level of creative freedom on such an exciting project but it also meant we had to go through many iterations very swiftly before we were able to hit on the right idea and develop that idea further, plus complete it in time to fit in to the busy and inflexible production schedule. So much so that we developed a new process for rapidly conceptualizing space craft which became invaluable in bringing designs for the Milano and Dark Aster to fruition.

It was all worth it for the end results we were able to achieve and to see our names roll up in the credits at the end!


You can check out more of their work at, deviantart, Twitter and Facebook.