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Etoli: Game Design Artist | mrsmiley { January 05, 2008 }

If you have been on this site at all the past few years, you know about the extremely talented Etoli. If you haven't, remember this from Christmas last year... or maybe this? Yeah, that's Etoli. She worked hard and played hard, and now she's playing and working on a upcoming game at SuperVillain Studios!

Read on for a great interview on some of what it takes to go from sketching in the kitchen to designing characters in games! (And some cool new art pieces to boot!)

Real Name: Kelli Renae Davis
Member name: Etoli
Age: 22
Location: Garden Grove, CA
Occupation: Concept Artist/Game Artist
Company: Super Villain Studios

So how did you stumble across HBN?

Wow, well it seems like such a long time ago, but I remember my brother calling me into the computer room one afternoon just recently after I had started playing Halo : Combat Evolved. He had this website/forum pulled up, and it was Halo Babies. I thought it was the coolest thing having just seen Lorraine McLees's artwork, so I guess I have my brother to thank for that one!

Thanks, brother! When did you first get into art?

I started drawing when I was four. I'd just seen The Land Before Time, and I was totally inspired. It was really funny, because at first my mom didn't believe it was my drawing when I proudly brought it to her. Of course, from that point on I just didn't stop drawing. . . I'd doodle on just about every surface I could get my grubby little fingers on.

And so you became ridiculously talented... how?

Well, when my parents noticed that I was getting better with every year, they tried enrolling me into community college art classes. I didn't respond well to direction at 8 years old, so that didn't last long. I just kept on doing my thing and drawing the way I wanted to on through high school. I didn't think I'd really do anything more with it aside from keeping my art a hobby. In fact, I didn't want it to be anything more than that, really. I was going to go to UC Davis to become a veterinary technician, would you believe that?

Considering that's like every girls dream job for some crazy reason. Yes.

Haha, well that all changed when a representative from the Art Institutes came and showed my art class the graduating demo reels from that year. I was completely floored to find out that there were artists out there who were drawing and animating for a living and loving it. I don't think I realized it at the time, but what really drew me in to the idea of it was that I could become a creative professional. Someone who could shape something new and innovative. And if I could get a job drawing, heck.

Heck, indeed.

Immediately after graduating high school, I went to junior college for a year and a summer to get my GE courses out of the way (a huge money saver). From there, I eagerly started the media arts and animation program at the Art Institute of CA-Orange County with hopes of becoming a traditional animator or a concept artist. I was instantly humbled upon finding myself in the company of so many other talented (and better) artists, but I didn't let intimidation keep me from pushing forward. Eventually, I made it through the three (grueling) years of the program and now just recently graduated with my Bachelors in Science this past September.

And this is when things get exciting. Not even a month after the graduate portfolio show, I got the call for an interview with Supervillain Studios in Santa Ana. They were a gaming developer looking for new artists and fresh talent. Two weeks later, I started my job as a concept artist... and I've been having the time of my life ever since.

That's so great! But I'm sure it wasn't all champagne and roses...

There were times when I had so much on my plate in the later quarters of art school, that I wasn't sure if I would finish or even make it to the end of the quarter. There were a few times when I thought I would break. One particularly memorable experience was when I was a co-producing on an animated short we called Scalawags. We had eleven weeks to start from concept to a fully completed film, and we had a very grand plan for the best 2d/3d hybrid animation the school had ever seen. We were told we likely wouldn't finish, and at times I believed it. It was very frustrating trying to keep a group of 20 artists together when tempers were short and schedules were demanding. But in the end we pulled it together, shared many all-nighters, and walked out with a completely fantastic animation. The strength of our friendship grew the most during that experience.

Sounds like a Disney movie in the making! ;) Speaking of which, what made you decide to pursue art as a career?

I realized that I didn't want to feel stagnant, like anyone could do what I was doing for a living. I wanted to be unique in what I could do, and I wanted to be able to imagine something new every time I put my pencil to paper. The realization that there was actually a demand for such a person was what got me believing that I could make a career out of it. I didn't decide that I wanted to be in the gaming industry, but that sort of just happened all on its own. A lot of things happen like that in life, and that's part of the fun of it all.

Well I'm officially jealous. Any advice to those out there like me who actually have some artistic talent?

A completed education with a degree in the field you want to pursue is always a big bonus. It's not always necessary, and I've heard success stories of the insanely talented who just flew right into their creative professions on pure talent, but having that education is more than just proof of your training and ability. It's part of building a network of friends, mentors, and contacts who will keep you afloat and help you get to where you want to go in your career. It's absolutely invaluable for the animation and gaming industry. You'll learn all of the core software necessary for these kinds of careers, how to build a demo reel and portfolio of your work, and how to make a name for yourself.

Be determined, stick to it, and don't give up when they tell you that you can't do it. You can always improve, no matter what skill level you're at.

Very sound advice. So any future goals?

Secretly, I always wanted to work at Bungie [ed- who doesn't?]. But to be honest, I couldn't imagine being in a better place than I am right now. I already feel like a part of the family, and with the team getting ready to grow with so many exciting plans for games on the horizon, I'm not about to starting looking anywhere else. My goal right now is to get better at what I do, and make the most awesome game that I can share with my friends and family in about a year or two. I'm not sure if or when I'll ever be ready for a leadership role in the company, but that's something to work towards as an artist on a game team, and I'm hoping to build those skills in the coming years.

So... any chance we can get a hint of what you're working on over there?

I can't say much just yet, but two words: Frickin'. Awesome. I'm very excited to be concepting on an internal SVS project, and especially so since they've gotten me working on character design. Characters are my true love when it comes to drawing, and these are going to be some very fun characters to play.
If you've got a wild imagination, a good sense of humor, and a love for kickass, you'll like what's in store.

If you've got a wild imagination, a good sense of humor, and a love for kickass [ed- once again, who doesn't?], you'll like what's in store.

13 comments so far (leave your own)

1 | 2phast says:

INSANE! I'm so stoked to see this! We all wondered what happened to Etoli, but I never expected... this! Rock on ETOLI!!!

2 | Shay says:

Lol I was wondering where you had gotten to Etoli!

This is some really awesome news, Congrats!

3 | Shad0wFlame says:

Congratulations on such an opportunity!
I hope everything continues to be great, and hopefully I'll see more of your work around. =)

4 | Quagga says:

Oh shnapple-doo. That is great. In my day we had to walk 15 feet to turn on game consoles. Yessiree, it was great fun.

Great job Etoli, I am very jealous of your obvious talent.

5 | Gojira says:

*sniff* Our little Etoli's all grown up...

6 | GenericOverusedName (aka EK) says:

Congrats, Etoli. I've been rooting for you!

7 | TheComet says:

*lulz 7th post*

Awesome Etoli! Was wondering where you had vanished off to :D

.....can I get a free copy of the game when it's out? :P

8 | RayZR says:

Rock on, Etoli! I expected great stuff, and I'm glad you didn't disappoint!

9 | NthroSptn says:


Seriously, you're my er.. well I love you. Still need to commission you, ASAP.

I aspire to be as successful as you with my art >:

10 | Moses says:

zOmfgz! Etoli i 3nvy j00!

11 | rytango says:

dude, Kelli- you rock babe.

12 | dfhfdh says:


13 | rur6856i says:

3PYdSE ,

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