Interview with Hazem Ameen – Illustrator and Concept Artist

Interview with Hazem Ameen – Illustrator and Concept Artist

Introducing Hazem Ameen, a skilled Illustrator and Concept Artist, who graciously imparts his insights into the realm of concept artistry while shedding light on the profound sources of inspiration that fuel his creation of awe-inspiring artworks.

Please tell us about your journey as an artist and your first fascination with art.


I started out young as most artists do, obsessed with dinosaurs, superheroes, high fantasy and everything that visually appealed to me. Video games and movies (though I only had limited access to the former) would only add to the fascination of wanting to recreate the things I saw in books and on screens. The fact that I wanted to do it for a living somehow was evident, although the only two paths that were familiar to my family were graphic/web designers and architecture, and my family were keen on me pursuing the latter. In school, I didn’t think much of any career, and would just sketch on the back of my notebooks, annoying all my teachers who told me that there was no future in art.

When was it that you discovered your passion for concept art. Did you try your hands at other art forms in animation before becoming a concept artist?


It was 2013, a decade before the time of this interview, when I was keeping up on an anticipated game (that I couldn’t even play, but was happy to watch on Youtube) The game was God of War: Ascension, a title that wouldn’t go on to win many awards upon its release. But its lead concept artist Izzy Medrano wrote a bunch of articles on the official God of War site, each explaining in detail how he designed creatures and bosses for the same, and I was stunned to find out that this was a job. A few years earlier, I had gotten more and more into the gaming industry and knew I wanted to join it in some way. A 3D modeler was all that came to mind for me, and suddenly this Izzy person was showing me another way. One where I could continue to draw and paint, and create beings of my own that the poor 3D artist had to then try and replicate. Of course, these days many concept artists use 3D in their work (Unlike me) and will soon probably integrate AI, much to everyone’s dismay, as all industries change at the speed of light.

Anyway, I remember tracking down Izzy Medrano’s facebook page, where I sent him a message that I never expected a reply from. He replied the very next day! This aroused me to such an extent that I told all my friends that an artist who worked for Sony had messaged me, and eventually I had family members thinking that I was hired by Playstation. But even though that was not true, that one message introduced me to the world of concept art and illustration, and the many skills and avenues to learn when it comes to creating characters and environments. I then started working at my craft everyday for an hour, and eventually got hold of a cheap tablet and haven’t looked back since.

I did end up enrolling in an animation college here in Kerala, but didn’t really learn anything of use, so I dropped out after a year. After that I haven’t had anything to do with animation, but it’s still a great space to look for movement and posing even if you aren’t an animator.


Please tell us who are some of the artists that have inspired this enchanting style of yours.


When I started out, Izzy Medrano continued to be my inspiration, but I found a wealth of artists to follow and admire in the online world, and many artists such as Anthony Jones, Karl Kopinski, Even Mehl Amundsen and Craig Mullins contributed to the growth of my work. Of course, one doesn’t need to be a visual artist to inspire, authors like George RR Martin and Joe Abercrombie inspire me just the same with their incredible imaginations and sharp work ethic.

What kind of practice and mindset would you urge budding artists to harness in order to reach the dynamic composition present in your art? Please share with us your daily practice routine.


One thing to be kept in mind is that this isn’t a job, it’s more of a vocation. If you spend all your blood, sweat and tears honing your skills on a particular craft to get a job in that field, more than likely you will just start doing it everyday without thinking about it. Practice might not make perfect, but it does indeed make better. What I would counsel budding artists is patience and perseverance, especially with the world around us changing and in turmoil, think back to why you enjoyed drawing in the first place and find a reason to fuel that passion. Accepting where you are in your journey is also incredibly important, especially in the age of social media, where you are bombarded everyday with what seems like people who look, live, eat better than you ever will, and of course, people who have skills that seem to soar past anything you think you can accomplish. Ignore the noise if it affects you so much. No other generation of human beings have been given so much and made to think they could achieve so little. Best to orient yourself back to your own head instead of obsessing over what the world wants.

Fundamental skills like composition or anatomy or design, are the guidelines that we artists hone our skills within. I find that if you may find yourself lacking in one particular area, to hone in on it, and focus on just that. Set small goals and accomplish them instead of trying to be the next Criag Mullins or (insert favourite artist here) tomorrow.

What are some of the major aspects amongst the hard and soft skills to keep in mind for aspiring concept artists?


The hard skills, of course, are our entire gig. Study and practice, Art and design, the whole work. As for soft skills, here many artists seem to be lacking (and I count myself among them.)
The ability to work with a team and communicate with others is vital when working in-house, as production timelines are strict and require collaboration. I would say a much bigger skill artists lack is business skills, if one seeks freelance work or even independence. You could be the greatest artist in the world, but if you don’t show anyone your work, no one will hire you. I’ve seen many mediocre artists with great marketing skills find great success. This is a case where the Internet truly is your oyster.


Many digital artists give up when their efforts go under-appreciated. Please can you share with us one of such moments you faced and how you overcame it?


One of the problems with social media pitting an individual against the world is the problem of comparison, as I’ve touched on before. This could be overwhelming for many. I’m experiencing this now, as I’m learning how to write, something that looks so easy as if anyone could do it, but the seasoned professional is immediately recognizable from the beginner. To these people I say, don’t do the art for extrinsic motivations, do it for yourself. You’re not out to impress anyone, this isn’t a party trick. This is your relationship with a skill that takes some their whole lives to master.
Personally, I’ve never had the thought of quitting art. I got the idea of becoming a concept artist/illustrator in high school, at a difficult phase in my life, and it was always ride or die from there. Though I’ve definitely spent more time being miserable with my art than content. But maybe if I stayed more humble, and didn’t expect myself to change the world and astound the audience with my skills the next day, I’d have had a more pleasant time.

We have observed certain Asian and Indian-inspired artworks surrounding magic realism – be it the kathakali dancers, priests or archers. Will we see a compiled art book of the purely Indian art in the near future?


You might see something like that, although I don’t like compiling my old work into anything. I’d rather make something new. That might be my own arrogance, but it’s a type of hubris that has served me so far.

What are some of the major influences for the colour palette you use, and what is the secret behind using grounded colours to still produce vibrant images?


In my first year of digital painting, the criticism that I received most from artists that I would annoy on the internet so that I could get some feedback on my work, was that my colors seemed especially lacking. (There was a great deal more lacking, I assure you) but colors stood out as a subject that I knew very little about. That was until I joined Schoolism’s subscription service and took Nathan Fowkes’s Color and Light class. Mr. Fowkes worked as a mood painter and concept artist for Dreamworks animation, and his class largely consisted of copying and studying from animated movie stills (Live action works too) But the colorful aurora of animated movies definitely had a long lasting imprint on my art, and I generally prefer to make things I do a saturated mess. Although pursuing other ideas of color design might do me some good.

Please tell us about your personal project – The Shrines of Araartu; its concept, origin and what direction you aim to take it in the future.


Creating a book/project has always been a dream of mine, and when I saw Even Mehl Amundsen, whom I considered my indirect art mentor, create a book out of sketches he did over a year, I knew I wanted to create something similar. (The man actually managed to create content for 3 books in just one year.) But this wasn’t just a book to dump random sketches, there was a loose narrative, there were characters, and it was clear he was building a fantasy world he wanted to build upon. The books are all called ‘TEGN’ and were highly successful on kickstarter.

It started with my need to create something based on a fantasy world that I’d want to see. Having grown up in the Middle East, the history of that part of the world has always been an obsession of mine. I’ve seen many fantasy worlds based on Western Europe of course, but I’ve also seen tons of fantasy based on far eastern cultures, especially Japan but also China. But what about my corner of the world? I asked. And so after some brainstorming, I came up with this idea for a fantasy world based on the Nabateans, an ancient pre-islamic Arab trading kingdom that I had been reading about at the time, and it rolled on from there. Creating a book taught me a lot of things to take into future projects, and I’m sure I have much more to learn on that front.

How was your experience working on The Field Guide to Witches? What were some of your insights from collaborating and working with other renowned artists on the book?


Working for 3dtotal is always a blast. Making art for clients is one thing, but knowing my work is going to be standing on the shoulders of passionate giants and (hopefully) going to inspire other artists is something else. I didn’t actually collaborate with any other artist, and I doubt the others did either. I was given a character and brief, much like a regular job, but instead of creating a finished product I had to play the teacher. Which is a great exercise for anyone who wants to study any craft. You never understand something fully unless you have to explain it to someone.

Please tell us – do you think concept artists will be completely replaced by AI or is there still hope for those striving to be concept artists?


I sense rain clouds above this particular question and I fear I don’t have an answer, but here are some thoughts. The technology is brand new and the world is still reeling from its arrival, but I think it’s important that artists let governments and lawmakers know if they feel their work is being stolen to expedite their own doom. It’s hard to know how this will affect the art industry in the long run, I can see artists adopting it into their process, I could also see artists go back to traditional art to ‘touch grass’ as they say, and get more humanity into their products. It’s also very important to get out of the bubble we artists tend to reside in and note that AI could affect every white collar job and creative industry, and there’s no reason something like this would stay a concern of just artists on the internet. Regardless of which way the wind blows of course, I will continue to make art for the rest of my life and I hope everyone reading will too. We started drawing to capture and imitate the world around us, and we shouldn’t stop just because software is trying to imitate us. The industry still exists,and still requires artists. People require a human connection and that’s one thing AI doesn’t have. A faceless wall of infinite art is always less appealing than a person with their own story to tell.
Worst case scenario and AI really is the boogeyman that some say it will be, I wouldn’t bother looking for another job, as I expect in this reality AI would’ve taken over most jobs you could think of. Which is oddly comforting because this is something we must all get through and figure out. The world isn’t in our control or anyones at the end of the day, and while it’s always good to keep an eye on what’s happening around us, I would only worry about the things we can control. So hunker down, and get back to working on those skills.

You can purchase his Book at the following link:


You can connect with Hazem at the following links:





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