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Alex Jay Brady p2

Artist Alex Jay Brady talks about how she started her career in sci fi art, mentions some early favorite sci fi authors, and cites a 1972 sci fi novel which she enjoyed recently...

READERSVOICE.COM: How did you start in the concept art business and how does a project come about? Does a director or games producer ask you for ideas? How does it work?

ALEX JAY BRADY: I can’t remember what first made me enjoy drawing, maybe my mum or dad’s sketches (he’s an civil engineer, she designed hospitals before starting our family and has a knack for all kinds of creative art) but I’ve always loved drawing, preferably alone all night! I think I got into the habit in school (unfortunately for my grades), and doubled down during college, and still work that way now.
I went for 10 years with very little work, surviving doing a little architectural rendering here, a little graphic design there, to pay rent.
My friend Raphael Lubke finally took pity on me and clued me in to developer forums. Each game engine has its own dev forum where teams post ads looking for art workers. I took anything I could get, I did hundreds of swords, vehicles etc for mobile app games for rock bottom prices. It was tough work but paid the bills for years and helped build my design muscle and speed.
Visceral, the makers of Battlefield Hardline must have seen some of my work (online portfolio presence is essential) and offered me a job doing the same work; designing cars, but for far more money.
After that, I was more legit and work started to find me more and more regularly. I was lucky enough to be invited to some wonderful art workshops and made friends with a tonne of people which has the side benefit of being good for scoring work!
These days people email me, seeing if I’m free. This year I’ve had the luck to work with Neil Blomkamp and the gang at Marvel on films, which was fantastic fun; Karakter, who are a wonderful crew who do Game of Thrones and Horizon Zero Dawn; and lots of commercials. Talk about dream jobs! It’s taken about 10 years of fits and starts to get to this point, but I probably could have saved a lot of time if I wasn’t so disorganised and orrnery early on!

RV: What do you like about scifi novels the most?

AJB: I’ve been in love with sci fi since my mum read me and my sisters The Time Machine and The Chrysalids as a very young child. From then on I was hooked and consumed everything I could. Early highlights would be everything John Wyndham, John Christopher, Fred Pohl, Harry Harrison, Niven, Cordwainer Smith, Frank Herbert, Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett, Ursula LeGuin, Ballard. The mind-bending sense of wonder and horror in good scifi is an addictive buzz!!
One I only read recently is Roadside Picnic [a science fiction novel originally published in Russian by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, written in 1971]. I’ve obsessively listened to the audiobook about 10 times by now. Incredible stuff.
I like how they have multiple levels, and can educate young people about complex things like physics and power politics and encourage you to empathise with the alien, while being entertaining.

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-copyright Simon Sandall