Community Corner: Rythaze
Welcome back to our second Community Corner blog!
The Community Corner is a new blog series where we spotlight and interview individual members of the Halo community—we chat with them about the cool stuff they do, their personal history with the Halo franchise and universe, and so on.
Last time, we spoke with UberNick about his journey with Halo as a fan and content creator, and for this month's edition we are joined by the one and only Rythaze!
AW: Welcome Rythaze! Thank you very much for taking the time to speak with us in this Community Corner issue. Introduce yourself—what do you do and where can we find you?
R: Hello! Thank you, it’s a pleasure to be part of this Community Corner! I’m Rythaze; a self-taught concept artist/illustrator. I love drawing a variety of things like my giant animal paintings, general bizarre/funny meme paintings, and of course sci-fi stuff like Halo.
More recently I’ve been focusing on a long-term project of mine called “REPHA” which is a 90s/early 2000s inspired sci-fi universe. If you like Halo, Metal Gear Solid, Jet Set Radio Future, Half Life, and/or Panzer Dragoon, then you might appreciate REPHA.
I’m on virtually all social media, but my main place is Twitter, @rythayze.
AW: Tell us your Halo origin story. How did this all begin for you?
R: Great question. This was a very long time ago, I was very young (definitely too young) and don’t remember all the exact details.
It was roughly 2003, and I was visiting a friend's house for a playdate. I had played some games before, most notably Sonic Adventure 2: Battle, but a friend of my friend’s dad had brought his Xbox with him to their apartment. With it, they brought a game called Halo: Combat Evolved.
I remember watching the adults play, and they were like “Wanna try?” Completely changed my world.
I distinctly remember playing Assault on the Control Room in the tank, and I was just absolutely blown away. After that, I begged my parents for an Xbox with “Sonic and Halo,” and the rest is history.
AW: More to the point of what you do in the community: what’s your artist origin story? How did that kick off for you and who/what were some of your key inspirations?
R: In truth, my artist origins started the moment I could hold a pencil like most children. I used to like drawing sharks, and Batman, but eventually found Halo and Sonic. When I started taking art more seriously, I tried to learn realism through drawing wildlife.
My dad eventually got me a Wacom Intuos 4 drawing tablet, but I didn’t really get into using it until high school. That was when my real training arc began, and I drew every second of my free time from high school to graduating engineering college.
My biggest inspirations were the media I consumed. I really loved the art of Halo and Sonic, and the artists that made it a reality. That includes Yuji Uekawa, Naoto Oshima, Shiek Wang, Eddie Smith, Lorraine and Robert Mclees, Isaac Hannaford, Jaime Jones, and of course Craig Mullins. My artistic inspirations have changed a bit over the years, and if I were to give my current top three inspirations, they would be: Craig Mullins, Yoji Shinkawa, and Eddie Smith.
AW: Your Halo art draws from a lot of fascinating corners of the universe, encompassing the military-oriented sci-fi elements but also the more esoteric and mysterious aspects of the Forerunners’ own era. What is it that makes you gravitate so strongly to these things?
R: In regards to the military sci-fi stuff, it could be my nostalgia for the era. The '90s and early 2000s definitely had a thing for gun-toting military badasses, and I’m so heavily nostalgic for that era that my art sort of mirrors that aesthetic. Because Halo already has a lot of this design trope, it’s easy for me to indulge even more in that aesthetic and my own nostalgia.
My earliest experiences with Halo: CE were mostly marveling at the size, depth, and mystery of the Forerunner architecture left behind. The original Halo trilogy had this unparalleled balance of mystery and grandeur around the Forerunners, and I’ve been forever hooked on this type of aesthetic.
With the almost cosmic horror focus of Greg Bear’s Forerunner books, it gave me hundreds of ideas that I’ve been tapping into every now and then. I love military sci-fi, and advanced ancient aliens.
AW: Are there any pieces of yours you would say you’re particularly proud of?
R: I have a few, but I’ll restrict them to Halo pieces. First one is from 2020, where I really pulled out all the tricks with this one. From early composition sketching, to 3D modeling, and finally doing some overpainting. I think they came out really well, even today and it has a cool sense of scale and story.
This second one was from a few months ago, and it was a collaboration with the legendary Espen Olsen Sætervik. It was a ton of fun to work with him and I really like how the piece came out.
AW: Halo’s visual identity is such a powerful core element of the series. What are some of the artistic pillars that you particularly love?
R: I’m sure not many would even consider this a true artistic pillar, but I personally love the '90s anime inspiration for a lot of the designs in Halo. Whether it be the Spartans, Marines, Covenant, there always seems to be a visible anime inspiration from that era.
Another artistic pillar I appreciate is that sort of cassette futurism aesthetic. I guess you could say that plays into the '90s anime aesthetic, but I really just love that even though it’s 500 years in the future, humanity still roughly looks the same technologically.
Walk us through some of your process when it comes to creating a new piece—how do you get started? What music is playing as your head gets into artist mode?
R: Typically, before I start a new piece, I will have an idea I really want to do. The rest of the steps usually vary based on the idea, but if I’m doing an illustration of a pre-existing character/place, I will compile some reference images to help me get the feel of it. Then I do little grayscale thumbnail sketches to get a better idea of how I want the composition, posing, and lighting to be. Whenever I’m satisfied, I’ll start painting on the thumbnail with the colors I want to use.
Music is very important. I don’t really have music playing in my head because I need to match the song to the idea I have. If I’m painting something ambient like a Forerunner beam emitter by a beautiful lake, then I might listen to an ambient song that helps fit the vibe. If the idea is something high octane like a Spartan and Elite engaging in CQC, I probably listen to something to fit that badass vibe.
AW: Do you have a favorite medium—be it for your own work or other artists?
R: Personally, I’d like to work in all kinds of mediums. Right now, I’m quite used to digital painting, but I love the look of traditional painting, ink concepts, etc. If I had to pick one, I’d say traditional ink.
AW: You've been creating art for quite a while now, so how do you feel your art has changed over time?
R: It’s definitely gotten better. Several years ago, I used to be heavily focused on cartoony styles, but in the last few years I’ve become more of a painter and draw in a more realistic style.
AW: Looking briefly beyond Halo, I am such a fan of your “large animal” pieces—some have noted it’s almost becoming your own universe. There’s something so strangely evocative about it and I’d love to hear more about your thought process around that series.
R: The thought process was simple: “What if the frog was giant?”
It’s a very relaxing topic to paint. Animals are lots of fun to draw, and it gives me an opportunity to play with immense scale and beautiful landscapes.
Adding medieval knights just made total sense to me, they make for good scalers and give some hilarious context. It’s becoming my own universe, and maybe in some bizarre way I’ll connect it to my other universes.
AW: Do you have any words of wisdom to impart to artists who might be finding their feet?
R: To any artist, whether you’re a veteran or just starting out, make it a point to enjoy what you do.
Don’t overwork yourself, don’t always force yourself to draw stuff you’re not interested in, don’t worry too much about improvement. First and foremost, find ways to love the act of creating art!
The rest will follow after, at least in my experience.
AW: What’s your favorite Halo game and why? And then, separately, what’s your favorite piece of official Halo art?
R: My favorite Halo game often depends on the day, but it’s always split between either Halo: CE or Halo 2.
They both echo similar feelings that I adore, so it’s very difficult to just pick one. Both have incredible art direction, soundtracks, and gameplay. To me, it comes down to the unparalleled atmosphere of the original Halo, and the fantastic story of the Arbiter in Halo 2. Today, I think I’ll say Halo: CE, but come back to me tomorrow and I might say Halo 2.
Now my favorite Halo art piece is trickier, it really comes down to either Craig Mullins and Eddie Smith. I think today I’ll pick “The Chief Awakens” by Eddie Smith. Featuring incredible scale, and the most perfect Mark V armor we will ever see.
AW: Tell us an interesting fact about yourself.
R: By night I’m a goofy artist on Twitter, but during the day I’m actually an engineer! By that, I mean careerwise, and not those floating pink squid Huragoks (although that would’ve been a far more interesting fact)…
Despite my career, I’ve always wanted to work on something Halo in an official capacity. Like a book cover, or some promotional art. Might not be at that level yet, but I just want to make at least one contribution to the franchise that got me where I am today, in both my career and in art.
AW: I greatly look forward to the day that hopefully happens! Thanks so much again for giving us your time for this today, Rythaze—it's been great to have you on the Community Corner! Got any parting words to share?
R: Thanks for having me! I’m honored to even be considered for this spot on the Community Corner! Also thank you to my followers for being epic. Thank you to Bungie for starting it all, 343i for carrying the legacy, and finally, a special thank you to my girlfriend and our cat, Bhumi.