The Life and Creativity of A Great Bethesda Artist

I couldn’t stop smiling one day in late 2005 as I was led through the darkened basement of Bethesda Softworks toward the little corner unit that was to be my cube. My geek barometer was pinging off the charts. I could scarcely believe that I was there.

The place looked like a laser-tag facility; the ceilings were high and black, the walls gray with accents of Zenimax Red. We strode past the programmers, the fishbowl meeting rooms, the designers and world artists, until we reached the final row: Character Art. There, in the far reaches of the office, was a cubicle bearing the name “Jonah Lobe.” I sat down, giddy and a bit stunned, and began day one of what would become a seven-year career at Bethesda.

But this story isn’t about that career. It’s about the man in the cube behind me, a man named Adam Adamowicz.

Although he worked in the farthest, darkest corner of Bethesda Softworks, Adam’s influence stretched across the length and breadth of the studio. What Adam taught me and so many others at Bethesda - about creativity and work ethic - has stayed with us ever since.

I’ve wanted to share my memories of Adam with you, the developers and players in the gaming world alike, for many years. With Fallout 4 around the corner, I think now is the time.

Adam Adamowicz was a concept artist. When I first started, he was the only concept artist at Bethesda, a company that builds landscapes and nations alike. His cube was small, and it felt even smaller because of the relatively large man who worked within it. The walls were tacked with ever-growing layers of sketches and illustrations.

In this temple to computer art, I couldn’t believe that Adam worked in traditional media. He used pencils, pens, markers, colored pencils and paint. What impressed me more than anything was the abundance of creativity on those walls.

Adam’s ideas, wrought fast and bold, practically burst off the paper. He was a living treasure trove of inspiration. He conjured people, beasts, landscapes, outfits and weapons. His creations were often complemented by fascinating and funny margin notes, like “apocalypse sandals,” or “vomits entrails for external digestion” or “’It’s just a space helmet, Jimmy!’”

Adam Adamowicz was a strange and colorful man. Physically, he was unexceptional—tall and strong-looking, handsome, with broad shoulders, pale blue eyes and a receding blond hairline. He stuck to faded T-shirts and jeans, eschewing branding or fashion statements of any kind. And yet, despite this mild appearance, he was crazy. Not really crazy, of course, but his eyes sparkled with demented humor, and the things that came out of his mouth were an unpredictable, mad-lib mix-up of the colorful and morbid. “That Mole-Rat wants to hollow out your body and use it for a toboggan,” he’d say, or “He’s like a voodoo mix of Boris Karloff and disco crabmonculus.” How do you respond to that?

In 2006, while the rest of us were finishing up with the 2007 Oblivion expansion Shivering Isles, Adam began work on Fallout 3, and what followed was one of the most expansive and incredible brain-dumps of concept art I’ve ever seen. I was a character artist. My job was to extrapolate 2D drawings into 3D video game characters. I specialized in monsters. For any given monster, Adam supplied me with between three and 30 drawings, ranging from gestural pen work to detailed, full-color illustrations. From this wealth of material, I created monsters like the Deathclaws, Feral Ghouls, Radscorpions, and Mirelurks that were more novel and inspired than I could have possibly conceived on my own.

As I worked to translate Adam’s concepts into three-dim