Dan Lish has worked as a concept artist for a range of video game companies, including Sony, Lucas Arts, and Rockstar, where he worked on Max Payne and Grand Theft Auto 3. He explains that the job title can confuse people however, and that in practice it’s similar to most forms of illustration. “It’s just like other kinds of publishing and editorial. You’re following a brief from an art director and you create an illustration. It just so happens that the artwork that I’m doing is 90% digital. It’s illustration, but following a tight brief to be used in video games. It’s a weird title.”
Dan is currently lead concept artist at American games company Mythical, working on an upcoming title, Blankos Block Party. “It’s based on the sub-culture of collecting vinyl toys. The player can customise their character and explore the universe, which is brilliant because 99.9% of the stuff I create goes in the game.”
This month’s cover depicts characters from both classic video games and board games: “there’s a lot going on. I felt it was punchy going for classic games: you’ve got Space Invaders, Donkey Kong, Bowser, chess pieces on the Pavilion.” The dragon in the middle – adorned with our issue number – is inspired by Dungeons and Dragons, while the ghosts chasing the pruned patient from Operation are from Pac-Man.
Dan’s inking technique, which he describes as having “zillions of little ink strokes”, was initially inspired by comic illustrators Robert Crumb and Moebius. “I feel that it’s gone its own way now though. Mature enough to hold my own.”
Since 2014, Dan has developed a large following for his Egostrip project, where he creates illustrations based on hip hop artists. “I’ll pick an artist like Rakim, a very endowed lyricist, and I’ll take inspiration from a lyric that was quite poignant to me.” Dan’s work sometimes delves into the nature of inspiration, and the creative process itself. In his Rakim illustration, the rapper stares into the distance, “looking into nowhere. The borderlands, as Philip Pullman puts it. You’re dipping into something bigger. That whole creative journey.”
Dan has over 17,000 followers on Instagram, and aims to contact all fans that comment on his work. “I make sure I answer everyone’s questions, which can be quite time consuming. Just as a mark of respect that they’ve reached out to me and liked what I’ve done, or have said something really endearing. It leads to a nice community based around the artwork.”
Dan is launching a Kickstarter project to publish a collection of his Egostrip hip hop illustrations. Follow him on Instagram for updates. danlish.com