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Community Spotlight

Community Corner: Soul Ant

Issue 017
Crop of fan art by Soul_ant19 depicting the Master Chief with Chips Dubbo smiling while holding a plasma pistol
Photo of Alex
  -  a month ago

It's that time once again for a new issue of the Community Corner!

Last month, we spoke with LaSinity about her personal journey with the Halo series and what she gets up to as a full-time content creator.

This month, we're joined by Soul Ant whose stunning, vibrant art pieces you will have no doubt seen in previous Spotlight blogs and on Twitter.

Welcome, Soul! Thank you very much for joining us for the latest issue of the Community Corner. Tell us a bit about who you are, what you do in the Halo community, and where we can find you online.

G’day! Thank you for having me here! I’m Soul, a freelance artist and indie game dev from Western Australia. I am an avid Halo fan through and through, I create illustrations fueled by my love for the series. You can find me on Twitter and Instagram under the name "Soul_ant19."

Halo fan art by Soul Ant depicting the Master Chief driving a Gauss Warthog

How did your great journey with Halo begin?

Bungie's worlds and creations have been with me since I was able to form memories! I originally fumbled around in Marathon and Myth on the Macintosh as a four-year-old… and then one day something new caught my attention.

I had pulled away from my family Mac and headed into the lounge as I heard the distinctive sound effects of rattling gunfire, shouts of joy, and the classic Jeff Steitzer announcements of “Double Kill! Flag Captured!” and what I found was my cousins and uncles crowded around an Xbox and a small TV playing splitscreen multiplayer on Blood Gulch—ever since then, I have been absolutely in love with Halo.

What are some of the areas of Halo that you enjoy most and why? Are you a campaign and story person, multiplayer, Forge and customs, expanded universe, etc?

I am a story, campaign, and design person first and foremost. Australian internet has always sucked and I was not that well off for most of my life, so I never had an internet connection to really play Halo multiplayer outside of split-screen, until Halo Infinite. Though, I did once get the chance to play a bunch of Halo: Reach multiplayer at a friend’s house for an evening and that was amazing!

For me, it’s the story of humanity pulling through despite overwhelming odds; the Master Chief being an incredible badass, despite being a man of few words; the way all the designs between different factions contrast so well, but still feel like they belong in the same world; enjoying small moments like trying to keep a Marine alive through a level because I felt bad for stealing his sniper…

These days, I do find Halo Infinite’s multiplayer quite addictive. If I log in for a few rounds of Big Team Battle, I can probably say goodbye to the rest of my evening.

Halo fan art by Soul Ant depicting Spartans fighting in multiplayer

What are some of your favorite pieces of Halo media (games, books, and so on), and why?

It’s hard to choose! Reach always hits hard, and so does Halo: CE. I am a fan of RTS games so I also love Halo Wars. From the more modern mainline games, Halo 4 was such a badass and emotional game, and Halo Infinite brought back some of that CE-flavored spice that I loved so much…

If I HAD to choose, I'd say Reach is my favorite game due to its story and vibes. It was so grounded, yet it still felt like Halo, like there was hope despite it being such a hopeless situation. I also really dug the book Halo: The Flood and Halo Legends.

Who are some of your favorite Halo characters and why?

I gotta keep it real and say that the Chief is my favorite character. The man is big, green, and mean—and while he's more of a man of action than a man of words, he certainly can deliver some memorable lines. I really dug his transition from a cyborg super-soldier to a heartbroken damaged hero.

A close second has gotta be Chips Dubbo. Australia represent!

Halo fan art by Soul Ant depicting ODSTs in a field at dusk with a Forerunner structure in the background

Do you have a favorite piece of Halo merch on your shelf?

It’s currently at my parents’ place, but I own this one-foot-tall Halo 3 Master Chief action figure and it's absolutely awesome. I gotta go and get him so that I can make my office a bit more badass. I also own a Master Chief helmet mug that I use as a pen holder.

What’s your favorite Halo game and why?

Halo: Reach! It was hard to choose but it was definitely my favorite overall. I loved the designs of the Spartans’ armor, the world-building, and the general vibes of the game. It was the most mature and grounded game of the series, yet it still felt quintessentially Halo at its core.

The music was impeccable, the story made me feel all the emotions, and assassinations were peak!

Tell us a bit about your journey as an artist—how did you discover your love for it and what are some of your major inspirations?

My mum being an artist always encouraged me to doodle here and there as a kid, after playing Halo: CE (and every other Halo game) waaay too much, I started drawing very crude Spartans with texters and pencils.

At some point later in high school, I discovered game development and digital painting. Ever since then, I've been hooked. I studied game art and design at my local university, received my Bachelor’s in art, and started developing interactive training modules for various industries such as the resource and health sectors.

I quit that to become an art teacher and freelance artist, and now I get to paint Halo art all the time for the community and design cool things. I've never been happier.

My art inspirations are a bit of a mixed bag. Some of the first artists I remember loving were H.R. Giger, Moebeus, Syd Mead, and Ralph McQuarrie. But then as I discovered game art and digital painting more, I grew to love our beloved Halo concept artists like Isaac Hannaford and Craig Mullins among many other amazing concept artists and illustrators (Karl Kopinski etc).

Halo fan art by Soul Ant depicting a Sangheili with a machine gun

What does your process for starting a new piece look like?

Generally, when I start a new piece of artwork these days, I’ll start by gathering references from Google Images, Pinterest, ArtStation, and my fellow artists online based on the idea that I have thought up while going for a walk or while teaching.

This is a relaxing process and I like to spend fifteen minutes or so collecting images. I don’t want too many because it will spoil me for choice when it comes to designing elements of the artwork, and I also don't want anything too specific—unless it's a very specific gun or piece of equipment I’m drawing. The vagueness allows me to fill the gaps and make the artwork “mine” while also having the essence of Halo, or whatever I might be drawing at its foundation.

Prior to doing this, I will probably make sure I have a tea or coffee ready and lots of water to keep me hydrated. I actually draw better on an empty stomach, so I eat halfway through a drawing session or after.

Do you listen to music when you go into “artist mode”? What Halo tracks are on the drawing playlist?

I do! I listen to quite a random mix of music genres. My all-time favorite music artists are Daft Punk (gotta love characters that never take off their masks), and I of course frequently tune into the Halo OSTs while working—especially when it comes to drawing Halo art.

A classic banger is Covenant Dance from Halo: CE, and if I want to chill I'll put on tracks like Never Forget, Deference for Darkness, and Ghosts and Glass.

Halo fan art by Soul Ant depicting a Brute killing a Marine with its gravity hammer while an ODST takes aim and a Grunt runs with two plasma grenades in the background

Do you have a favorite medium to work with—and one you’re eager to explore working with more?

I definitely prefer digital painting as my main medium when it comes to creating artwork. It's super versatile and it is what I'm best at!

I would like to pick up some traditional sculpting to make some character busts. I also used to love creating cardboard Halo armor and weapon props as a teenager, I would love to get back into making some props now that I have some disposable income and more skills (I need a Spartan helmet on my shelf!)

What are some of the things that make art so exciting for you?

I love the fact that I can think up something cool or new, draw it up, and post it out to the world to show like-minded folks my thoughts in a tangible way. And I love the fact that I get the chance to design characters, objects, and worlds that might someday inspire someone else to do something similar.

It's just a lot of fun and I'd recommend everyone give it a crack some time.

Halo fan art by Soul Ant depicting the Master Chief finding Johnson and two Marines at a downled Bumblebee lifepod

Do you have any specific favorite pieces that you’ve made? (And why those particular pieces?)

It's hard to choose, but I think the pieces I really enjoyed making are the ones that tell a story.

Specifically, my Chips Dubbo artwork and my “Gone Out for Cigarettes” Halo: CE-inspired pieces. Both show a moment of quiet between some Marines and the Chief, and it shows that Halo isn't just pumping lead into aliens—it's also about taking in the unique alien landscapes with friends and laughing at the interesting dialogue from NPCs.

How do you think your art has evolved over time?

It has evolved quite a bit! I was by no means a “naturally talented” artist and it took me a long time to realize I had to hustle to build up my skill set to get where I wanted to be.

If you dig around on my Instagram, you can see artwork from 3-5 years ago and boy have I come a long way. My art used to be quite vague or all over the place, and my colors were super muted or desaturated. These days, I focus a lot on making sure my characters and designs read well, and that the colors I use are interesting but also fitting to the artwork.

Halo fan art by Soul Ant depicting a Spartan

I absolutely love that your art really captures the color and vibrancy of the Halo universe. What is it about the characters, environments, and scenarios of Halo that captivates your imagination?

Thank you! Vibrant colors are my thing. Even when I'm painting a gray Spartan, I'm going to try to sneak in some flecks of color somehow.

To me, Halo has always been a space opera—a unique show of vibrant colors, mysterious abandoned structures, and various other elements that all interact with each other in interesting ways. To me, those elements are what makes Halo such a fun universe to create in.

When I look at Halo characters, I can immediately tell what their role is, who they are, what environment they might be fighting in, or who they might be fighting for.

When I look at Halo’s environments, they often draw me in to wonder what happened there and make me want to explore them further. They inspire awe with their expansive skyboxes and the worlds always feel lived-in.

It is inspirational to me that the factions in Halo are so distinctively different, yet they all feel like they belong in the same world together. I am also just a massive sucker for super-soldiers in power armor strapped with cold, hard military tech. Gotta love how green and mean the UNSC is!

Halo fan art by Soul Ant depicting three ODSTs with the same armor but different color combinations

What advice do you have to share with other artists out there who might be getting started?

For the longest time, my art was really lacking, but after about a year of consistent practice and a little thoughtfulness when it came to studying artistic fundamentals, I improved quite a bit. With a bit of hard work, anyone can become a solid artist! And we are always happy to help fellow artists out with tips n’ tricks if you ask nicely.

It can be super fulfilling to build a skillset with hard work from the ground up. I highly recommend giving it a go—one sketch at a time.

Just start creating and have fun. Don’t worry about your work looking better or worse than anyone else’s, just create, and after some time you’ll be surprised at how much better your art can be. There will always be people out there who see the hard work you put into your skills and will support you, so keep it up!

Halo fan art by Soul Ant depicting four different ODSTs

What are some of your biggest artistic inspirations?

When it comes to creating art, I have a bunch of inspirations—not only video games, but movies, TV shows, photography, food, and even real-life events. The film The Thing might inspire me to make a horrific Flood form, a tasty bowl of instant noodles might make me feel like drawing a Marine enjoying a MRE out on the field, or a particularly sad song could make me feel like drawing a somber artwork about a Spartan’s last stand.

There are so many things I draw inspiration from when it comes to creating my art and I feel like that is what makes every artist different!

What does being an artist—and being an artist in the Halo community—mean to you personally?

To me, it means I get to create new images that may have never existed until now. It means I have the opportunity to make someone's day a little better by providing a new screensaver or inspiration for the creation of another new artwork.

Most importantly, it means I get to contribute my ideas to such an awesome community that I've silently been a part of since I was five years old and connect with so many like-minded people. It makes me very happy that people enjoy my work and I look forward to creating many more pieces for the foreseeable future.

Halo fan art by Soul Ant depicting a Spartan

What are some of your favorite pieces of Halo artwork?

There are so many! The original Halo: CE box cover has always slapped, anything Craig Mullins or Isaac Hannaford provided has always been great.

I love Mullins’s Halo 2 piece of the Chief sliding down a ramp while shooting a battle rifle, and Hannaford’s iconic Halo 3 multiplayer piece. I am also partial to the original covers for the first few Halo novels.

Tell us an interesting fact about yourself!

I am trying to make a video game! I don't have anything to share or say about it now, but stay tuned if you want to see a game filled with my art, designs, and characters.

Also, I love cooking and can play the keyboard.

Halo fan art by Soul Ant depicting the Master Chief escorting two Marines carrying a third on a stretcher while accompanied by a Monitor

Thank you again for joining us, Soul! Do you have any parting words to share?

Thank you so much for having me, Alex! It has been a personal dream of mine to take part in one of these blog posts, so it's been so cool to chat with you! I would like to thank you and everyone else for their amazing support, it keeps me going and I can't wait to make more art for the community!

I’m sure I speak for everyone when I say I can't wait to see what is coming next for Halo. Good luck to you and the team working on the next project!

Be sure to follow Soul Ant on Twitter and Instagram!