A spaceship lands on an abandoned planet and its lone occupant, an adventurous prospector, emerges to explore the remnants left behind by the ancient civilization that once inhabited this newly rediscovered world.
That’s the premise behind a special portfolio project Online Video Game Animation student Laurent-Auguste Tougas recently completed and has since shared with Toronto Film School via a time lapse that condensed his 10.5-hour creation into an eight-minute video.
“I started with a landscape painted I’d done the week before. Then, I thought what if I had a character who was a prospector, someone who was trying to scope out this landscape and figure out what had gone on there,” explained the 19-year-old Montrealer.
“I wanted to make it somewhat believable, so I brought in references from the real world – researched what real-life prospectors and their equipment look like…and mixed that with some sci-fi elements, and then brought it into the world that I created with the landscape painting.”
An aspiring concept artist, Tougas grew up hiking the forests of Maine and Gaspé, developing a deep appreciation for nature that later translated into his affinity for painting landscapes.
Tougas and his two sisters were homeschooled by their mother, which afforded them a less traditional learning experience than most – one that allowed them to take a more self-directed approach to their education than their peers.
“I think it was because of that that I found drawing when I was young and just kept doing it – and I never really stopped,” he said.
“By the time I was about 13 or 14, I realized that’s what I wanted to do with my life, and I got more serious about it and put more work into it.”
Unsure how his passion for art would translate into a “concrete” career path, Tougas began researching what options were open to him.
“I knew I wanted to be doing drawing and painting and that kind of stuff professionally, but I didn’t know how to do that at first, so I looked around…and found out that concept art for games and movies is where that’s happening mostly,” he explained.
“I get really excited when I look at that type of stuff – it really inspires me.”
It also gave Tougas the opportunity to merge his love of art with his love of video games.
A bit of a late bloomer when compared to some of his gaming peers, Tougas didn’t get hooked until he got his first PS4 at age 15. To this day, he said, one of the main draws of playing some of his favourite games remains the art direction.
“The game I play most right now is Overwatch – it’s a 2016 first-person, team-based shooter game. I really like the art direction: their characters are pretty incredible and their design and their silhouettes are really inspiring,” he said.
“The stuff that really gets me going is the God of War games –God of War 4’s art direction is so incredible that it almost carries the game. I wouldn’t need story, I could just play the game and look at everything.”
Now in his second term of the Video Game Animation program at Toronto Film School Online, Tougas said he’s more hopeful than ever that all the skills he’s learning during his studies will help him to one day create the kinds of worlds he most enjoys exploring when he plays such games.
“I think it would be pretty incredible to be an artistic director for some big project like this,” he said, holding up the Overwatch art book he keeps on hand as inspiration.
“Concept art is where I want to go – that’s my goal.”