I have been getting a lot of questions lately and wanted to put them all down in one place for convenience. I will try to keep adding to this as I get different relevant inquiries. Hopefully this will be a helpful resource for anyone with art, industry or career questions. :)
What was your journey to the career you have now?
I started out wanting to be a 2D animator but that wasn’t what the industry was looking for at that time. I decided to go for 3D and eventually studied at Gnomon School of VFX. From there, I was able to work for CafeFX, Hydraulx, and The Mill as a modeler/texture artist and lead. I learned so much from each of my experiences at those studios but I really had a passion to specialize in character/creature work. Midway into my career, I started to do a ton of personal study and began to make all of the things I wish I was making at work, then Blur hired me to do just that. Blur was incredible fun and I was lucky enough to be able to work on Netflix’s Love, Death & Robots and several cintematics for Tomb Raider, Destiny and more. There was only one thing that could tempt me away from such an amazing environment and that’s when I got a call from Weta Digital. I had been dreaming of working here for over a decade and I had to give it a go. It’s a great place and the work and people here are amazing. I am incredibly lucky to be here and hope to continue refining my craft wherever my journey takes me.
I'm thinking about going to Gnomon School of VFX. Is it worth it?
Yes. For me it was one of the best decisions I could have made for myself. But it all depends on you knowing yourself. Are you personally motivated enough to really focus on the material on your own? If you are a dedicated self-learner, you might be able to learn everything you need on your own. I personally needed the interaction with teachers, the built-in community and the accountability that comes with attending.
Are there go-to tools or reference resources for artists and creatives you’d recommend for someone starting out in VFX?
I would recommend learning as much as possible about the industry. There are so many ways to be a part of it and you should be fully aware of the possibilities before making a path. Also, go to industry-related events or be a part of an online community where you can connect with other artists. From there, you can make a plan and see if going to a school is the best way, or if taking online courses works best. It’s all up to you and your situation but I think that the vfx world is so new that you can make it by starting out many different ways. For specific resources for starting out, I would recommend Gnomon Workshop. It’s probably the best collection of information and tutorials about all subjects in vfx. If you want to specifically learn ZBrush, their Youtube channel has everything available for to you to learn for free.
For someone who would like to learn more about anatomy (of humans and animals) and applying that to their CG work, what would you
suggest they do?
I would highly recommend that they study humans first. Comparative anatomy is critical in learning about other species. AnatomyTools.com is a great place to go and have a great foundation in how to learn from your many anatomy books. Andrew Cawrse is an incredible teacher but you have to apply what you have learned asap. For human reference, I use https://www.bodiesinmotion.photo/ from Scott Eaton. You can teach yourself with some amazing books out there, but you have to be incredibly disciplined. It’s a never-ending process but once you start, you will get addicted to it for sure.
(Here are my favorite books if you’re interested)
- An Atlas of Animal Anatomy for Artists by W. Ellenberger
- Animal Anatomy for Artists : The Elements of Form by E. Goldfinger
- Anatomy for Sculptors: Understanding the Human Figure by Sandis Kondrats and Uldis Zarins
Do you have a traditional sculpting background?
I do sculpt in clay (not as much as I'd like) and it helps a ton. I would say that I study it alongside my digital work and it gives me a better understanding of form.
How do you find time to do personal work on top of your own responsibilities at work?
You really have to push through and get past your excuses if you really want it. I have been through a ton of mental gymnastics and it's still not easy. I just know that without it, I would lose an essential part of myself and I cannot let that slide. It's like going to the gym or flossing. Gotta keep it up and progress.
In what ways does your personal workflow vary from your professional workflow?
These two worlds are very different. You have to think so far ahead into the future when you are in a production pipeline. I plan a lot while I am in production, making sure to never waste any time that I don’t have. I also have to think of the other departments needs and must have my asset squeaky clean before I can deliver it to them. When I work on personal projects, I am always exploring, using whatever I need to create and don’t worry about topology, symmetry, naming conventions or scale. It’s very freeing and I keep it pretty loose while I sculpt and use the dynamesh function in Zbrush recklessly without worrying about if it will be riggable. This works just fine since I will ultimately be in control of the final pose.
What are you 3D Printing Settings?
I am by no means an expert at this. It takes a ton of trial and error. I am using the Anycubic Photon S printer and their proprietary slicer. I am also using their plant based resin. Here's a helpful guide for all the resin types. Resin Settings Master List