Like most teenage boys living in Hamtramck, Imran Sheikh loved to draw and play video games. Little did he know that this combination of interests, often considered a waste of time by many parents, would become the focus of his life - landing him a job at one of the largest and most successful independent video game developers in the world.
"I think entertainment is a really great direction for illustrators to go in," said Sheikh. "We have ideas and the unique ability to want to tell stories. Out west, they value people with that gift."
Sheikh works as a concept artist at Pandemic Studios in Los Angeles. For the past two years, he has been working on the characters and environments for Saboteur, a WWII third-person action adventure game that takes place in Paris. Unlike other WWII-era games, the main character is not a soldier. Instead, he is an Irishman named Sean who is determined to seek revenge on the Germans who murdered his friends.
"The coolest aspect about this game is the change in tone and atmosphere throughout play," said Sheikh. "There is direct feedback. Part of the game is in black and white; once you have liberated a section of the city, color returns to the screen."
Prior to working at Pandemic, Sheikh worked as a freelancer on brand development and artwork for RLA in London; assisted with an undisclosed film project for Mattel, and served as an assistant art director at the Campell-Ewald advertising agency where he worked on two videogames as part of a viral marketing campaign for the US Navy.
Although a strong portfolio and well-rounded education helped him find a job, Sheikh had the advantage of networking opportunities at a college with connections in the industry. His instructor, Dave Chow, recommended him for the position at Campbell-Ewald. Coincidentally, his former boss, Mark Freeman, also attended CCS.
"I can't say enough great things about Dave," said Sheikh. "Like all the other teachers in illustration, I draw a lot of strength and support from him... I think the alumni connection is very important too. I can't imagine being in the business of making art without ties to the past and CCS offers a really good link that I hope I can develop further."
Sheikh's experiences in the illustration department helped develop and promote him as a professional artist. He was awarded the prestigious Alumni Scholarship, presented with the Selection Award at graduation, and his work was included in the Detroit International Wine Auction (DIWA) catalog. After graduating, he exhibited with the Society of Illustrators in New York, featuring the best collegiate work of 2004-2005, and was published in Le Book UK, a fashion illustration and design annual distributed throughout England, Northern Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. His work has also been included in online collections for The Royal Magazine and Gamasutra.
"I humbly applaud my instructors for seeing something in me when I started and not kicking me to the curb when my figures were off or my perspective was not correct," said Sheikh. "My accomplishments were made possible because of my mentors Gil, Mike, Bob, Lora, Dave, Casey, Eugene, Chuck, Nelson and too many others."
Confident in his abilities and strong work ethic, Sheikh is ready to take on the challenge of learning the ins and outs of the gaming/entertainment industry.
"The greatest part of my career is having the opportunity to work closely with other artists," he explained. "Most of my work has been collaborative, and I've found most people to be supportive of one another's ideas. And there are quite a few CCS alums out here. Working along with me as a concept artist on Saboteur is Jason Hazelroth, one of my former classmates!
"CCS prepares students to handle anything the world throws our way. I have the feeling that school was just the preface to a really great story."
- Graduation Year: 2004
- Major: Illustration
- Employer: Pandemic Studios
- Title: Concept artist
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