Attraction concept artists need a little thanks
Next time you are enjoying yourself at an attraction, be it a theme park, water park, surf park, zoo or aquarium, have a little think about who came up with the concept in the first place. It was the creativity of one beautiful mind, a Themed Attraction Concept Artist.
Meet Greg Holt, Creative Director at Pico Play, a veteran in this specialised industry with over 20 years’ experience in the incredible job of creating images that literally become reality for millions to enjoy. Don’t be fooled by Greg’s relaxed and easy-going demeanour, his ability and speed to capture and convey the overall attraction design of a project before anything goes into production is quite simply remarkable, and that’s what his industry peers say.
Below, Greg answers some questions about his love for art and his career in the industry thus far.
When did you realize art was your thing?
At a very young age actually, I found the love of drawing or better put – the art of recording ideas onto a visual platform when I was about 8 years old. I still remember it distinctly, entering a drawing contest that the local savings bank put on and winning. After that it was all I wanted to do in my spare time, I just loved it.
That put me on a life-long path of becoming an artist. Of course, when you are a kid you’re not thinking about career choices, you’re just having fun doing what you enjoy, I’m just very lucky I’m one of the few people in the world that continue to do that and get paid for it.
What drew you into the specialised field of themed attraction concept artist?
By accident really, I was lucky enough to have an amazing art teacher in high school who saw my artistic potential and probably more to the point potential to follow a career in the commercial art industry. Back then where we lived, that was Graphic Design. I realized quickly after 3 years of fulltime study and a Diploma in my hand that Graphic Design was not for me.
In my naivety I decided I was going to be a famous artist! Fast forward 10 years and after exhibiting oil paintings and water colours in numerous galleries around the country I had become cynical about the whole fine art scene. I decided commercial illustration was what I really wanted to do. In the process of flirting a bit in the film industry I came across an opportunity to freelance on a themed attraction project and absolutely knew then the direction my career would take.
What are the top three skills you need to make it as a concept artist?
Artistic talent is obviously at the top of the list. If you don’t have that you can never articulate your ideas on a visual platform convincingly.
Imagination on so many levels, that includes storytelling, being imaginative with real-time budgets, imagining yourself in the client’s shoes – what do they want and more importantly what do they need, which can often be two different things! Problem solving is huge. First the ability to see the real creative equation and then provide the solution, or many solutions and more often than not under extreme time presure while working on multiple projects. Nothing is more rewarding than getting it right.
Passion in spades! If you’re not passionate about what you do as a creative in this industry you will never be more than ordinary. Ordinary doesn’t work in our industry.
What is the most satisfying project you have been involved in?
There have been many over the years and its hard to nail down just one. Each project is different and comes with unique challengers. I guess working with the folk down at Currumbin Wildflife Sanctuary has been rewarding, a great bunch of people who are passionate about what they do. I love to work with passionate people, birds of a feather flock together, no pun intended.
What are the downsides of being a concept artist?
Lack of sleep, being creative all the time can be mentally draining. It pays to have other interests in your life to take your mind off your work, so you don’t burn out. Having an active lifestyle helps immensely.
How has technology enhanced your ability to create concept art?
Firstly, technology at the end of the day is just another tool albeit a very cool one. It doesn’t matter if you are holding a digital paint brush or a traditional one, its what you do with it that counts. What technology has done however is improved efficiencies for creatives in all industries, I can produce a detailed digital painting that to the eye could be mistaken for an oil painting in a matter of hours if I really have to, although I prefer to spend at least a couple of days on an important piece that could have otherwise taken up to a week using traditional mediums.
Technology also allows us to make fast changes in real time and offer many options to our clients without redoing an entire piece of art. Technology also means I can communicate quickly to our global design team on shared live platforms, so everyone is on the same page in quick time.
What is it like seeing and visiting your concepts that have come to life?
It’s a wonderful feeling to see a project develop from the initial birth of an idea to the finished built and operating form. I feel pride in not only my work but for the whole team behind it. When you work in a close-knit design team there is a real sense of comradery and commitment to each other, that’s how we get things done, and to be able to stand back as a group and assess our successes is a very rewarding feeling. Now that’s FUN!!
Instinctive creativity underpins Greg’s approach to every project. For more than two decades, he has applied his vast leisure development and architectural design experience and creative ability to large-scale projects across the Asian, Middle east and Australasian regions. Working with global brands and companies has afforded Greg a deep understanding of cultural differences and expectations, leading to greater productivity across client relations, mixed-use development design and show and guest experience integration. A talented watercolour and oil paint artist, Greg brings an eye for detail and an intrinsic sense of aesthetic to Pico Play’s global operations.