MITNG was really happy to get the chance to speak to illustrator Keith Thompson about art, inspiration and his part on the film Pacific Rim, the ladder being a well kept secret, that is until the film releases. But what he was able to share with us was highly informative and well thought out.
Keith Thompson is a busy man. He’s done illustrations for Steampunk novels like Leviathan and designed robots for the game Warframe. These are just some of projects on Keith’s very long list of “accomplishments” and or” to do’s”, but rest assured the end result is always supernatrual. As these things go, Keith was very hush regarding anything Pacific Rim related or any other project he’s been brought on by Guillemo Del Toro to do, but he assures me that we can do a followup after the films release and we will…DUM…DUM…DUUUMMMMM!
MITNG: The subjects of your work have been everything from robots and monsters to boring ass humans, but no matter how hideous or beautiful, there seems to always be a level of romance in your art. Where does that come from, and do you listen to any music to help you get there?
Keith: I really think humanity can see beauty in everything and instill a greatness in all it takes interest in. It allows us to look at the bleakest and most mysterious things in an indirect fashion. I obviously am constantly drawn to monsters and robots and always have been. The more I’ve been absorbed by my work the more I’ve found all subjects artistically engaging.
I think anything without a touch of romanticism is very dreary and empty, and if I have to deal with something like that I always work very hard to inject it with threads and senses of something bigger than the immediate subject.
MITNG: You exhibit a love for textures. The robots, ships and machines you draw all look so genuinely rugged and worn, but remain works of art…true Renaissance, in fact. Did school play into your understanding about light manipulation/texturing, or was it more memory and life experiences?
Keith: That’s almost a personal touch that seems to recur in my work. Even when I make slick futuristic designs it tends to end up with some salt stains and dust on it. It seems like something that comes from my outlook on things. When something has layers like that, it speaks of its story. The mud that tells of how it traveled to where it is now. The fading of the fabric tells of how long they’ve been wearing their outfit.
MITNG: When you are hired on to bring someone’s vision to life, do you have a process you use that helps you find that bitch we call a muse?
Keith: As long as I get butterflies in my stomach while I’m working I know I’m tapping into a muse. If I can keep that up while also making the right match for the project at hand that’s the optimal situation. If the butterflies go I know I’ve gone off track and will often start over fresh if possible.
MITNG: Has working with clients on a project ever been a struggle creatively?
Keith: It’s a collaboration. I love complexity and the added details of syncing my vision with that of a project’s, and it’s always a welcome challenge. If things don’t work out in a way I’m artistically happy with then I try to just move to the next thing seamlessly. There are so many different things I want to explore and depict that I can always push through to the next hopeful opportunity.
MITNG: I know you’ve just wrapped up work on Pacific Rim with Guillermo Del Toro, but before that, you were involved in conceptualizing another Del Toro project, H.P. Lovecraft’s sci-fi horror, “At the Mountains of Madness.” We know that this film has been placed on hold for now, but can you tell us a little about that project and if we can expect you and Guillermo to return to it?
Keith: I certainly hope so. There’s such a complex morass of factors involved in things like this that predictability is not really a luxury at any time. I sadly can’t say much more than what’s been publicly said at this time.
MITNG: And now the big question: how was it coming up with the robots for Pacific Rim, and were there any real hurdles you and Guillermo had to overcome in the process? Was the work you did on that film limited to just the robots, or did you do any environments as well?
Keith: I’m afraid I should stay mum about that until the film is released.
MITNG: We know that in the world of Pacific Rim, nations must unite to create these machines to battle the monsters. What sort of research went into designing the robots in this post-apocalyptic Olympics of sorts?
Keith: I was lucky enough to be involved for a long time and I always love researching even tangential details on what I design every step of the way.
MITNG: Did you handle/oversee any of the 3D modeling in Pacific Rim, and how was that?
Keith: I was familiar with some of its progress.
MITNG: How does it feel seeing things you’ve helped to create staring you back in the face on the big screen, or have you not been given the chance yet?
Keith: It’s always strange; like seeing your child trek out into the world and then returning years later changed. It can be glorious or rather horrifying depending on what’s happened to them. Sometimes their time away has taken a toll on them, sometimes they return exactly as how I remember them, and sometimes they come back with new things to teach me.
MITNG: For those aspiring artists out there, can you toss any pearls their way that might help them along the path less traveled?
Keith: I find it’s often like wandering the outskirts of civilization. The things you see won’t quite be like anything else anyone has seen before. But learn everything you can from civilization and you’ll find the knowledge helps you search out those new visions on the periphery.
MITNG: Just one other question I wanted to add to the list. Are there any female robots and what were the factors in the finale choices?
Keith: Unfortunately I can’t really give any details until the film is released.
Try as I may, this cat was air tight. Oh well, can’t blame me for trying. You can find out about Keith as well as his other exploits after the jump.