Along The Way - Artzray

Along the Way with Concept Artist Eliott Lilly

Marshall Ayers Artist Profiles, Books, Career Advice, Visual Arts


Eliott Lilly gets personal.

1. What was your first job?

Selfie_01I’ve had a lot of first jobs over the years. When I was 13 years old I started a cleaning service in my neighborhood. That job grew into a much larger business and by the time I stopped working on it (4 years later to focus on school and my studies), I had expanded to 3 employees working with 60 clients and we did everything from house cleaning to landscaping. The next first “real” job (where I was on salary and related to art) came years later in college, when my teacher saw my work and referred my services to a media agency who used me on a regular basis. I did all kinds of pitch work, mock ups, and storyboards for their TV series. But to be honest, It wasn’t until I graduated from graduate school that I found my first “career” job as a concept artist. In 2006 I was hired as an in-house concept artist doing a bit of everything from characters, environment’s to weapons.

2. What is the job you wish you had for just one week?

I’m living my dream job, but I guess if I could wish for another, it would be to work as a mechanic on military planes, helicopters and ground vehicles. I’ve always liked working with my hands and I share a fascination with mechanical things. If this whole “art thing” doesn’t work out, then that’s what I’d do. I keep my wishes realistic!


3. What is the most important thing you learned in school?

I learned that having talent alone was not enough and that it would take focus and intense commitment to make something out of myself. These weren’t things that were necessarily taught as a class, rather over time. Going from year to year, and class to class, I was able to look around the room and determine that the students who put in the most effort to their work, usually had the best looking art work. I knew that if I wanted to be as good or better than them, then I would need to commit the same effort and energy as well.

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4. What do you wish that you had learned in school?

Art colleges are great at teaching students to be artists, but are usually terrible when it comes to educating them on the business side of things. I wish I had learned more about, how to know my worth, freelance, contract negotiations, etc.


5. Favorite Style of Pizza?

I like my NY pizza straight up with just cheese. If I’m feeling fancy, then I just might splurge on some sausage. Best pizza I ever ate was with sausage, bacon, olives, onions, peppers and ranch dressing. yum!

6. Best advice you ever received?

“In art, if it looks right, then its right. If it looks wrong, then its wrong!”

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7. What is the best advice you ever gave?

The best piece of advice I ever gave, was the one where the person receiving the advice, actually followed the advice and saw an improvement in their work or work ethic.

8. When did the arts enter your life in a significant way?

I was born into art. My dad was a freelance artist and I grew up watching him paint. We spent more time in his studio, than outside. So much so, that he set up a little art table in the corner for me to work on while he was working. (I realize now, of course, that he was just keeping me busy and out of the way while he tried to meet deadlines, but regardless, it worked!) I have been surrounded by art for as long as I can remember.


10. What do you do when you fail?

Think about why I failed, then I try it again, this time taking a different approach.

11. Tell us about yourself.

Hmmm. A few power words I use to describe myself would be: hard working, extremely focused, and goal oriented. I take my art very seriously since it’s all that I have been trained to do, but when i’m not arting, then I take myself far less serious. I enjoy spending time with my wife, Kim, and my three legged dog, Tripod. Together we might socialize with friends, binge watch our favorite shows, or go out to eat at a local restaurant.


12. What is it like to work in the video games industry as a concept artist?

Well, to be honest, it’s a roller coaster of emotions. There’s always that extreme feeling of excitement as the project begins development and my role as the concept artist becomes crucial in the design of the game space. This is my favorite part of game development since the decisions I make can directly influence the game and is where I feel I contribute the most. As time goes on and the realities of the project begin to set in causing features, levels and concepts to get “cut” from production, heartache always creeps in. Soon, development becomes all stress and tight deadlines and those fun, exciting days fade away. But, just before it all turns to doom and gloom, you see the fruits of your efforts in-game, animated on screen; and your heart jumps for joy a bit. I am reminded why I love this job so much and its all worth it.


13. What is the secret weapon or tool that aids your art the most?

My brain (as cheesy as it sounds), and it’s imagination are the most powerful tools in my arsenal. Because they are always at my disposal I have grown to rely on them the most to create and problem solve. As such I make sure to keep my mind fed with rich stimulus form every and anything. I often read books, visit museums, travel, and even draw from life to keep inspired and motivated so that when the time comes, I can implement what I have learned into my own art.

14. Tell us a secret.

This is preposterous! If I told you a secret, then it would cease to be a secret. Duh!

Eliott Lilly is a highly sought after concept artist with nearly a decade of experience in the video game industry. He has worked for such prominent game companies as id Software, Treyarch, and Activision, and he has contributed to several popular franchises including Rage, Doom, and Call of Duty. Also an educator, Eliott teaches introductory concept art classes to college students.

Eliott Lilly’s books are available for sale at Design Studio Press. Artzray readers receive a 20% discount if they use our promo code: ARTZRAY

PLUS – Design Studio Press will donate a portion of all sales back to benefit Artzray!

Thanks to Design Studio Press for your support!


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Marshall Ayers
Arts education specialist with 25+ years experience in non-profit organizations and public educational settings. Marshall founded Artzray to create a community of young, multidisciplinary artists who are seeking professional, practical and personal career resources. Marshall lives and works in LA with her family, but hails from the east coast. When she's not working on Artzray, she would rather be sailing, reading or listening to her son play cello.
Marshall Ayers