Ethan Becker grew up in a small town in southeast Texas running barefoot through dense forest, climbing trees, digging holes and making stuff. During his last year of high school, he moved in with his grandparents. One day, he caught them watching Princess Mononoke. That was his introduction to Studio Ghibli. From there, he was hooked and started to draw stills from their films.
He immersed himself in Bungie’s Halo universe. He read the books and listened to the soundtracks. The fact that someone had created this fully realised world fascinated Becker, all while being completely unaware that it was a job that he could be a part of.
Becker entered the art program at his high school and won a full scholarship to a local community college. He befriended Feng Zhu who regaled him with stories of ‘concept artist’ and ‘concept art jobs.’ Becker had never heard of such wonders and searched for nearby concept art schools. The closest turned out to be, Concept Design Academy, over 500 miles away in Pasadena. He quit college, packed up his things and drove to Los Angeles. His time at CDA is both amusing and interesting, you can read about it in this Character Design References interview. After completing the course, in 2014 Dreamworks TV hired Becker.
There are two elements that stand out the most of Becker’s work; lighting and posing. The colours of outdoor scenes are vibrant and clear, illuminated by the warmth of the sun. While the tones of the indoor scenes are murky and muted, unifying the space, making them feel confined. The atmosphere is clearly established, giving the environments life, even before the characters are put in. Becker often draws his characters mid-flow, as if they are on the cusp of saying something or about to throw a punch. He perfectly captures the character’s pose and expression in these moments. Without a single written word, you know if what is about to be said next will be enlightening or cheeky and you know if the punch is reactionary or aggressive. It is this attention to detail and nuance that makes Becker’s work so exhilarating.