Poe Gour, Renaissance man

Poe Gour is a concept artist and mover-and-shaker behind Collabo Café in the Glebe.
Photo: Malisa Thoudsanikone

By Malisa Thoudsanikone

Across movie screens, audiences are awestruck by Thor wielding his mighty hammer, stunned as flying cars dart at lightning speed through the skies. But before Thor’s hammer and flying cars appeared on the big screen, they were merely concepts visualized and illustrated by the creative masterminds of entertainment – concept artists.

Glebe resident Poe Gour, creative spirit behind Collabo Café, on Third Ave., is one of these masterminds.

A freelance concept artist based in Ottawa, Gour is a talented illustrator who has created designs ranging from dystopian cars to intricate buildings.

In its entirety, concept art is the visualization of an idea before taking flesh and bone to become a finished thing. It is the peculiar point where industrial design and entertainment collide. But it’s more complex than one could think. Take Iron Man’s suit. The armour gearing and shifting into place is convincing enough that it’s as if the hands of an engineer had constructed it.

In the realm of practical effects, constraints are so gruelling in concept art that it’s not about crafting pretty pictures. It revolves around solving a problem with a visual solution.

The dumpster truck (see photo) is an example of concept art done in TV and film. “Concept art is so cool because as an engineer, I can’t build this,” Gour says, as he points to a sketch of a dystopian car. “We don’t have functional electromagnets. In concept art, I don’t care. You exercise your imagination, but you code it with this believability.”

With his abilities, Gour scored an opportunity to work as a concept artist on a top-down strategy game in Japan. The unique and collaborative setting propelled him into an atmosphere where he could work with interesting people and hone his craft.

An illustration from concept artist Poe Gour’s upcoming Formula X project   Photo: Poe Gour
The dumpster truck, impossible to engineer in real life, can be created through concept art.   Photo: Poe Gour

But Gour’s mastery of concept art didn’t come from studying at prestigious art schools. He dedicated hours to drawing and practising the fundamentals of concept art. Working from the very first page to the last, Gour mastered his artistry through practising every example from the book How to Draw by Scott Robertson.

Ultimately, it was Gour’s affinity for industrial design and sci-fi books that drew him towards the path of concept art in the first place.

“[There’s] this interplay of fantasy and reality and that’s what I always found interesting,” he says. “It’s like making a believable world that doesn’t exist.”

Gour shares his expertise every Saturday through a workshop for industrial design students at Collabo Café. From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., the café becomes a hub for creative souls interested in dabbling in the industry of concept art and animation. For three hours, people have the opportunity to become a concept artist for a day. Themes are picked every week, spanning modern day worlds to the ancient and the dystopian. Their goal is to create a design that is situated within these worlds.

Gour’s biggest advice for aspiring concept artists actually emerged from his own struggles.

“The key is to find what makes the world inherently interesting all on its own,” he says. “In so doing, concept artists can learn how to present the ordinary world in a more captivating lens.”

From working at Collabo Café to avidly illustrating concept art, you wonder how Gour balances it all. But the most peculiar thing is, there is no balance.

“I don’t balance it,” he admits, laughing sheepishly. “I just try to be efficient.”

His best method is taking time at the beginning before working faster at the end. After spending time thumbing through reference images, planning down to the last detail and knowing everything that the project calls for, Gour is adept at bringing the concept to life much quicker after scouring through everything there is to think about.

But despite this method, concept art still demands many hours of the day that he is hunched over his worktable from 2 p.m. onwards.

“You need to take your time because you have to make it convincing.”

Gour brings this purpose into his upcoming project in 2020: the Formula X project. It is his first foray into building worlds that are grander and more convincing.

You can find Gour’s artwork on his website at Poeconceptdesign.artstation.com

There is no question that Gour’s innovative mindset and compelling designs truly reflect a talented and ambitious concept artist who is dedicated to his work.

“I want to make sure that whatever goes out to the public from me is something that I’m really proud of.”

Malisa Thoudsanikone is a first-year journalism student at Carleton University. She was a journalist for Game On in Winnipeg and is now delighted to report in Ottawa for the Glebe Report.

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