Samwise Didier is a multi-talented artist and illustrator with an imagination that will blow your socks off. Samwise, known to many as Sammy, is the brains behind the characters and their settings in many popular video games out there today. We checked in with him to learn a little bit more about his creative process and how he got where he is today. If you want to draw like Samwise Didier, go pick up a copy of How to Draw Mythical Monsters and Magical Creatures today!
Tell us a little about yourself and your background.
My name is Samwise Didier. I am an artist and have been creating art since I could draw on my parents' walls with permanent markers. I am self-taught and create work both traditionally and digitally and I enjoy both equally; it doesn’t matter if it is by pencil or pixel, paintbrush or polygon; they are all tools for an artist to use and create with.
How did you become an illustrator in the gaming world? Was this something you knew you wanted to do from a young age?
I answered an ad in a local paper that was looking for someone to make art for video games. I had no previous experience working on computers other than playing games on them. It was a radical change doing art on a computer. There were no Wacom tablets or Cintiques back in 1991. All the art was created pixel by pixel and with a mouse. It was incredible seeing my artwork come to life, not just animated, but I was able to control what my creations did—run, jump, attack, etc.
Photo by Mathieu Drouet
Can you briefly describe the process of video game creation? From conceptualization to the finished product – where do you come in?
I am an art director, so my job is to ensure that the game looks good and keeps to the style we are going for. I am also called upon to help convey the look and tone for the game’s art style when one has not been established yet. Sometimes that is something I can do, other times I work with artists to help bring the vision to life. At my base I am an artist, so I try to create as many concepts as I can, and as many finished works as possible.
Describe your creative process.
It really depends on the project. For How to Draw Mythical Monsters and Magical Creatures, I looked to all my favorite movies, books, and games for inspiration. I took each creature and tried to make it look unique and special for this book. What was particularly challenging was breaking down my art process into only a few simple steps, making them clear and concise not only for experienced artists but for people who are just starting out on the artistic path.
Photo by Raphaelle Monvoisin
Your characters and art are so dark and imaginative. What inspires you when you are creating?
Inspiration can come from anything and anywhere. A word or phrase, a lyric in a song, an image seen in a crack or shadow on the ground. Whatever the form, inspiration usually comes in two ways. Sometimes it is lightning and just hits you hard. But most times it is just a little spark. Lots of people miss them or let them fade. Those are usually the best ones—the ones that you have to grow into a blaze. Once it is going, it can’t be stopped.
Whether it be a mythical monster, magical creature, or something completely different, what is your absolute favorite thing to draw?
I love to draw monsters. When I played Dungeons & Dragons, I always played half-orcs or dragonborn. When I played Street Fighter, I always chose Blanka. In Star Wars, my favorite place was the Mos Eisley cantina. It is always about the monsters for me.
Are you a gamer yourself? If so, and without being biased, what is your favorite video game to play?
I have played many games on many platforms over the years. I bought an Atari 2600 when I was 11 years old with money I won playing bingo with my Grams at the church. My all-time favorite game isn’t a video game or board game though, it is Dungeons & Dragons. It is a game that is created and driven by our own creativity and imagination. It doesn’t matter what version it is, or if you have fancy miniatures or not, it is all about sitting around the table with your fellow adventurers and slinging dice.
Do you have a bucket list project? For example, a project that you have always wanted to do but haven’t had the opportunity to yet.
I’d love to do an album cover for Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Manowar. They tended to have killer artwork for their albums and were a huge artistic influence on me when I was growing up in the 80s.
You have a saying, “ABC”, or “Always Be Creating”. Tell us a bit about what that means to you.
Almost everywhere I go, I have a sketchbook in hand. If I am waiting for something, I stay away from social media and texting; I don’t want to burn that sacred time. I will work on art or story ideas, come up with poems and lyrics for a song yet sung. If I don’t have my sketchbook, I don’t check email or anything, I just think of things I want to work on next, or stories I want to write. I try not to waste any free time I have; I always want to be creating. And that is the basis for ABC.
Photo by Raphaelle Monvoisin