HBO launched the final season of The Sopranos on Sunday night, but the popular series about organized crime, sex, lies, murder and mayhem will live on in the world of video games. And a Cary artist has a role in keeping Tony Soprano alive in that virtual world.

Damon Conn, the new art director for 3Dsolve in Cary, created a host of characters for the Sopranos video game. And it’s something Conn, a native of New Jersey, found to be especially enjoyable.

Inn a Q&A with WRAL Local Tech Wire, Conn talked about making James Gandolfini and other stars such as the Fantastic 4 come alive as virtual characters as well as his new mission at 3Dsolve and his love of art.

What is your mission at 3Dsolve?

3Dsolve is committed to excellence, and I was brought in to help complement their already amazingly talented group of developers. The simulation industry is getting more and more competitive, and my job is to raise the bar when it comes to visuals. I will also help grow the internal art team by hiring new talent as we continue to grow.

Why did you become an artist?

I love creating art. I started out as an animator and eventually learned almost every skill in game-art development. I am just amazed by it all, and game development is as challenging as it is rewarding.

Were you a Fantastic 4 and Sopranos fan? If so, did that help in doing the art work?

I am a huge fan of both. I find that when you are personally attached to a project, you definitely "raise your game." When I was little, I dreamed about drawing comic books and the Fantastic 4 was one of my favorites. A big moment was when (Marvel Comics co-creator) Stan Lee came in to see the game. They wanted me to play the game for him (because I was the resident Marvel lunatic) and show him all of the cool stuff. After a couple of minutes, I handed the controller to him and he was having a blast! He turned to me and said that he had seen movies of his characters, but with our game, he WAS the character and he loved it.

Now with The Sopranos, I grew up in New Jersey, so there was a lot of pressure to do it right. I was saturated in Mob imagery for two years and loved every minute of it. One of the best moments on that project was when Paulie Walnuts (Tony Sirico) was getting his picture taken for textures and he popped 2 middle fingers right when camera flashed. Luckily, his fingers didn’t get in the way of his face, which was the main reason why we were shooting him that day. It’s all in good fun … I think.

Where do you seek inspiration as an artist?

Honestly, I love trees. So, when I drive to work and I see the trees, my artist blocks usually go away.

What do you like best about 3D renderings of digital art? What don’t you like?

I love the fact that with new programs like Zbrush, 3D renderings are so much more detailed and realistic now. I think that we are getting to a point where our control over the medium is quite solid. I would like to see more artists step outside their comfort zones and come up with something a little bit more abstract, yet retain the level of detail that the newer programs provide. I’ve seen photorealistic; now show me a feeling.

Do you work in traditional media – oils? If so, please explain. Like the old way or new way best?

I don’t really work in traditional media anymore. I used to do a lot of acrylic paintings and charcoal drawings, but it got expensive and it degrades over time. I am a digital native now. Photoshop and Painter are my favorite painting and drawing programs. Occasionally, I will sketch some ideas out on a napkin and when I slip up, I have to take a moment and remember that there is no "undo" button.

What’s biggest challenge in transforming a traditional media creation into a digital 3d image that comes to life?

I think that traditional media plays with your senses differently. It’s far more tactile and possibly more primal. When you take a traditional work of art and make it digital, you run a risk of loosing the “magic” of the original medium. Once you move a traditional piece of art into the digital realm, the challenge is always going to be in taking the original and providing that there is even more to it than what was previously explored. Otherwise, leave it alone.

What is your ultimate goal as an artist?

I’m going to get a little philosophical here. The journey of creating art is the goal, and it can only be reached for, never held. In short, I’m in it for the challenge and the continued refinement of my skills.

Who is your favorite artist, and why?

I love so many painters and illustrators, it’s hard to pick one. If I had too, it would have to be [fantasy artist] Frank Frazetta. He’s the best.