CARY, N.C. – 3Dsolve is bringing in a high-profile Hollywood artist as its new art director.

You may not recognize the name of Damon Conn, but if you like the Sopranos and the Fantastic 4 and like to play video games, you will most likely recognize his work.

Conn has created 3-D likenesses of unforgettable characters ranging from Tony Soprano to The Thing from Fantastic 4. In fact, his rendering of James Gandolfini (aka Tony Soprano) received an award at the 2006 Spike TV games competition. Now, he will spearhead art development at 3Dsolve, a Cary-based firm that is establishing a global reputation for its experience in 3D renderings, games, the emerging “serious games” field for education and training, and simulations.

But there is nothing entertaining in Conn’s hire, according to 3Dsolve. Conn is being brought in to help the company further improve its standards and quality for 3D art.

“With both our military and commercial ‘serious games’ customers we are seeing the same elevation of expectations for graphics that we saw in the gaming industry in the mid-nineties,” said Richard Boyd, chief executive officer of 3Dsolve. “More and more of the development budget is going to high-fidelity graphics. People like Damon will be the Michael Jordans of this industry and will be in high demand.”

Conn told WRAL Local Tech Wire that he chose to work for 3Dsolve in part because of a chance to start over.

“I felt that as I was going through the interview process with 3Dsolve, I connected with their ideals and also liked them as people,” he said. “The other companies that were interested in me had large art teams already in place and I liked the fact that 3Dsolve had a fairly small team to begin with.

“I saw it as a ‘clean slate.’ I have raised art teams before, but I was very young and now I would get to do it again, only this time I could take advantage of my experience and grow a team the ‘right’ way.”

Conn moved to the Triangle in January, saying that he preferred to raise his daughter here than in Los Angeles.

Conn has more than 10 years of experience in the art field, has been an entrepreneur, and has been deeply involved in several high-profile game projects. Since 1996, he has worked on such titles as Blade Runner, Pirates of the Caribbean: The legend of Jack Sparrow, Legion: The Legend of Excalibur, and The Sopranos: The Road to Respect.

After working for Westwood Studios, which is part of game giant Electronic Arts, Conn launched his own firm, 7 Studios, in 1999.

We’ll publish more on Conn later today, including a Q&A interview and a slide show of some of his best art work.