Sparth review and interview
Getting a USA release in 2008, Sparth’s Structura may not be the newest art book around, but with its UK release this year the artist’s futuristic visions are still as cutting edge as anything else around.

Sparth, or Nicolas Bouvier to his mum and dad, has been a concept artist in the gaming industry since 1996. He’s worked on titles like Alone in the Dark (2001), Prince of Persia: Warrior Within (2004), Cold Fear (2005), and Assassin’s Creed (2007), all of which are represented here in his characteristically loose, atmospheric style.

Fans of the Seattle-based artist may be disappointed that there’s no new work from the Halo franchise, which Sparth started in January 2009. But with a selection of various French and English book covers, game art and personal works, it’d take a particular type of pedantic completist to find anything else to moan about with this collection.

We caught up with the artist to talk about the UK release of his book and why he went to games instead of film for work…

How long did you work putting this book together?

Sparth: “Structura is actually a bit like a portfolio book exposing panels of work done approximately over a decade. We had agreed with Scott Robertson (DSP) to make that book as soon as 2004, but as usual real life events, as well as the stress of considering the image selection, led to some delays in the final draft and print.
It was definitely a good decision though, because your own point of view on specific illustrations changes and gets more mature over the years, and at the very end I benefited from sharper eyes when it came to selecting the best images for Structura.”

What time period does the art in the book span? What projects?

“The first concepts within the book are sketches done in 1999. And some later pieces date from around 2008. Globally the book is a condensed selection of personal images combined with book covers and video game concepts I did over the years. Among other projects, you'll find concept arts for Prince of Persia - Warrior within, as well as Assassin's Creed.”

How many art books have you worked on in total?

“Well if we leave aside the minor publications, published tutorials, mags, and promotional art books for games, I have two printed contributions: Concept Design by Ballistic publishing in 2006, and Structura in 2008.”

Why did you get into creating game art, and not, say, film concept art?

“For me it all started in France back in 1997 when I was creating concept for Darkworks studio, the video game studio responsible of Alone in the Dark 4, released in 2001. I stayed in the game industry as it was where companies needed to have a lot of assets created for their projects. If you go back 13 years, you had a lot of companies that were starting in the video game world, but that weren't structured or mature enough, and in which the concept artist position was a very new Idea. In other words, we had to create that position and job from scratch. We just had few examples of how to proceed.

“As for the people working for film concept arts on live action movies and animation, they respect a totally different schedule. They often work during the pre-production period and then switch to other projects under different contracts, and a lot of them aren't hired as full time employees. If I had been younger without a large family I would have been tempted by the experience, but being into the ‘large family’ category, I have no regrets at staying in the video game world.”

What’s been your greatest achievement in art?

“Never having been searching for a job, or never being out of job, is something I’m rather proud of.”