Glimpse Inside a Video Game Artist’s Sketchbook

Michelle Davies with sister Christina at Kutztown Univeristy
Michelle Davies with sister Christina, president of the Sketchbook Club at Kutztown University.

Michelle Davies graduated from Edinboro University. Edinboro, like Kutztown is part of PASSHE, PA’s State System. State university facilities can’t compare to privates specializing in game design, but Michelle proves a dedicated student can launch a career from anywhere. She said her foundation art classes, life drawing and 2-D design, prove valuable everyday in her job as a concept artist on Camelot Unchained.

Sketchbook life drawings © Michelle Davies

Students may think a game concept artist does impeccably finished work. In truth, Michelle draws fast and furious against tight deadlines at City State Entertainment. She got a call from City State when she was teaching English and researching K-pop culture in Korea. They flew her back to their Fairfax, VA, headquarters. Her first task was to design a logo for the game.

6 variations for Camelot Unchained logo © 2105 City State entertainment
6 variations for Camelot Unchained logo © 2105 City State Entertainment

Michelle visited Kutztown thanks to KU’s AIGA chapter. Her sister Christine, also a stellar illustrator, is heading into her senior year here. Michelle spoke to the AIGA crowd in the Academic Forum. The next day she visited the Sketchbook Club to share her sketchbook with students.

Sketchbook Detail © 2105 Michelle Davies
Sketchbook Detail: Character and Perspective Studies © 2105 Michelle Davies

Illustration is a big field, and many of our students say they want to be video game concept artists. I admit I know little about it. Michelle used unfamiliar phrases. Who knew a MMORPG is a Massively Multiplayer Role Player Online Game? When I asked what the phrase “Low Poly” meant, Michelle asked me if I was familiar with “Assassin’s Creed.”  Students laughed when I said I wasn’t.

Michelle shared her sketchbook at Sketchbook Club © Michelle Davies
Michelle shared her sketchbook at Sketchbook Club © Michelle Davies

Low poly means a simplified shape, – a low number of polygons. “Like an inflatable doll compared to a real person.” is the metaphor she used. Actually, her metaphor was saltier.

Concept art from © City State Entertainment
Concept art from © 2015 City State Entertainment

Michelle showed a slide of her coworkers at City State sitting around a conference table. They were mostly male. I asked if there is a glass ceiling in the gaming field. She said not in her experience, half of the staff artists are female. She said female programmers are “golden unicorns.” Her boss, Mark Jacobs, has tried hard to recruit female programmers, only to have them snatched away by Google.

From promo art ©City State Entertainment
From  Promo art © 2015 City State Entertainment

There is much more impressive art to see at  There is a free Fan Kit available to download. I grabbed some of the above art from there. I must admit some of the game lingo on the site is greek to me, but I did notice that City State Entertainment is hiring. Golden Unicorns please apply.

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