#002 — Ab Wienk

Designing the Darkness

Interviewed by
#002 Ab Wienk

Charlotte Simons

Published on

February 11, 2024

Concept art and environment design by concept artist Ab Wienk. The environment is desolated, dark and foggy, all plants are dead. The mood is magical, we see three figures that look like knights.

Hello Ab! Excited to have you here. Could you introduce yourself to our audience? 

Well happy to be here! My name is Ab Wienk.
I'm 29 and currently a concept artist at Vertigo Studios Amsterdam, and on the side, I’m working as a character concept artist for Blauw Films.

What made you want to get into concept art? 

Actually that's pretty funny, because when I was starting my study as a gamer artist I was more focusing on game ready 2D assets and I was not aware of what a concept artist exactly was, and during my years as a student my teachers introduced me to this expertise because they saw my potential and I was immediately sold.

Concept art and environment design by concept artist Ab Wienk. The environment is desolated, dark and foggy, all plants are dead. There is a dead whale on the right side of the image. Two characters and a dog are investigating the whale.

Your art mostly focuses on dark, gory and fantasy designs.
How did this focus come to be; what were your personal influences? 

Hmm that’s a difficult question, it started very early when I was a child.

I was already making drawings that look like game levels and everyone died in those paintings, even my teachers asked me if everything was ok or if there was something happening at home, but I was fine of course.

I think I also got really inspired by painters like Max Ernst, Salvado Dali and Jean-Micheal Basquiat who showed me a different approach in making art and expressing yourself.
And that escalated even further when I became more skilled in drawing, so I was always trying to disturb people with my work.

Later on, this became my signature and some friends even gave me the nickname ‘’Lord of darkness’’ because of that and my literally dark painting style. But I still think that it's not that dark though. I can still push it.

Concept art and environment design by concept artist Ab Wienk. The environment is an overgrown medieval caste. A fallen knight is rotting away and taken over by fungi.

As an artist, what type of projects or ideas really excite you?

I really love projects where I get creative freedom. That really excites me, just to go all out with what I’m good at.
Getting approached for art that’s fully in line with my work is always super fun and exciting.

Project or brainstorm sessions with friends also gets me really excited, so the simple things excite me, I guess.

Right now, you are collaborating with Blauw Films on the Apple Rot Concept Art.
I’m so excited to have you in the team. Could you share a bit about your process for the Apple Rot characters?

I'm also very excited to work with you guys, the work you guys make always inspires me.

Hmm yeah of course, so first I would sit down with the director.
In this case you two, and have a chat about what you have in mind and what you would like to see.

During that process my mind is already going in all sorts of directions and after that I like to do some research on my own, getting references and such, even promoting some AI things. Don’t worry it's more for the thinking process and small bits and pieces.

I'm not using it as a final. Normally I would like to do a catch-up session to see if I’m still on the right track but in this case with the first character I hit the mark instantly.
Going back to the drawing table going back and forth until we have something truly amazing!

Concept art and character design by concept artist Ab Wienk, for horror short film Apple Rot by Blauw Films. A portrait of character "Tall Sad". The character looks grimey and its clothes are falling apart.

We’re always joking that you like to photobash raw chicken in your concept art, but I’ve always thought this was so smart.
It translates so well. Any tips for concept artists on how to control their tools? 

Well if we’re taking photo-bashing as an example, then I would say that don’t look for the obvious.

With the art that I make you need a lot of references and sometimes you don’t want to look them up because there so nasty and gory, so what I would do is, for example, look up molten cheese on a pizza if I want to have nasty pustules, but also if you need dead people for a concept you could better search for drunk people who are sleeping in the street.

It's way less gruesome but you will get the same result in the pose!

Concept art and environment design by concept artist Ab Wienk. The organic environment has a fleshy look, growing mold and mushrooms. It is the inside of a mysterious cave.

You actually work full-time at Vertigo! Do you want to plug the company?
How did you get the job / how is working at Vertigo for you?

Vertigo came on my radar because of a friend of mine who was working there.
At first I tried to get in, but unfortunately there was no open position at the time.

But after a while they called me back and said that the art director was interested in my portfolio and wanted an interview with me and after that I was in haha.

Working there is super fun, the team is not too big but not too small either.

There is a lot of room to speak your mind, and they will listen to you. Besides that, it’s a super pleasant team to work with.
It can be stressful, especially during the “Blue Sky” process, it can be a lot of work, but it's still super interesting and I’m still learning a lot there.

Enough about that, you’re not allowed to talk about any of the projects anyway haha.
Is there anything personal you’re working on at the moment?
Or perhaps something you’re looking forward to?

I was actually working on a challenge that was created by a friend of mine Saverio, it was a challenge to make a painting a day with a prompt plus a mask had to be involved.
I’m really looking forward to picking that project up again when I find the time haha.

As the last question: Any good recommendations for our audience?
Life advice, places to visit, things to see, habits to pick up, artists to follow, movies to see, food to eat?  

Hmm let me think, artist to follow? Me of course haha no jk or not really?

I can highly recommend at least once in your life to visit the Biennale in Venice.
It's so cool to see all these artists who come from different countries and make amazing work (not always of course).
To me it’s truly such a big inspiration for my work and how to approach it.

Besides that, if you're more of an artist working in the game/animation/film industry I would say go to THU, it’s something special and definitely worth the money.

Oh and go play ‘’METRO Awakening’’.
The game has just been released and they paid me to say this.


Ab aka Lord of Darkness

Concept art and environment design by concept artist Ab Wienk. The science-fiction environment is tinted blue, and feels desolated.

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