Hello Jason, can you tell us a bit about your background and what you are doing now?
Well, let me see, how far back do I go? (Laughs). I grew up in Manchester, Maryland, a small town just north of Baltimore, USA. My family and I lived in a tiny but quaint house out in the woods. My upbringing was awesome and I miss that town every day. I was fortunate enough to be born into a family of artists. My mother was an illustrator, my father was a traditional animator, and my two younger brothers are both very talented people. One could say I grew up with access to many creative outlets. From an early age I was drawing all the time. I had a minor obsession with the B-17 Flying Fortress and I drew pictures of that bomber constantly.
Both my parents worked at Maryland Public Television and had an animation business on the side called Peregrine Inc. Early on the home freelancing business was doing rather well so my father built an addition to the house centered around an Oxberry animation camera. Have you ever seen one of those? Search for a picture on the internet so you can get an idea of how big they are. Our dining room was basically sitting on a loft over-looking the thing. It was huge, easily around 10-12 feet tall, maybe even taller. I remember many nights sitting up in my bed hearing my father and business partners working late on stuff. Sometimes I would sneak down there to hang out for a little bit only to be chased back to bed soon after. The weekends would be interesting as well. The cameras weren't really easily accessible so my father would let art students come in from time to time to use them.
I have many fond memories of those early days and maybe that's what set the bug in me down the road. My father's work ethic is impeccable and it definitely rubbed off on me. My mother is also extremely talented. I still look at her work and am blown away. She was an amazing illustrator and cell painter. Her water colors were incredible, I wish I could paint like that!
Eventually my parents dropped the home business as it was proving to be more work than it was worth. Around this time traditional animation started giving way to computer animation and my father naturally made the move as well. I'm not sure what version he started with, but he was using 3D Studio in one of its early DOS releases. I was a teenager at the time and had developed interests other than art. Not sure why, but I'm guessing since I was surrounded by this stuff it was only natural that I rebelled against it. All I cared about was skateboarding. School and computers (that didn't involve video games) were the furthest thing from my mind. I had started
attending the local community college and nothing was really speaking to me. I had no direction and was sort of floating along and enjoying my youth.
My father, concerned about my future, tried to get me involved in 3D. You know, tried to get me interested in something I could make a living doing. I can still remember the conversation like it was yesterday. My dad came home, sat me down and showed me 3D Studio and said, "Jason, if you sit down and apply yourself and learn this software you can get a job right now with little to no college.” He was right too; at the time not many people knew 3D and those who did were becoming a hot commodity. So I sat down and I remember starting a tutorial on building a table and chair. I got about an hour into it and was like, "Screw this, I'm gonna go skate with my friends.”
My father didn't let up on it. He woke me up one morning on a Saturday and dragged me down to a silicon graphics demo of the Indigo. I think at the time it was running some software from Softimage, I can't be sure on that, but I can tell you all I cared about during the whole thing were the pastries sitting on the back table. I had zero interest. Man, to this day my father jokes with me about all of this. Imagine how much farther I would be in my career if I got started back then. I had so many opportunities and so much access to things others could only dream about and I didn't take advantage of any of it! Things happen for a reason though. I would come around soon enough.
Eventually I got tired of having no direction and I really wanted to get out of Maryland. I was young and wanted to see what the world was like. I was working a construction job near Andrews Air Force base in Washington DC and would often see jets coming and going overhead. I started to think about it and soon after went to talk to an Air Force recruiter. Six months later I was in basic training in San Antonio, Texas. I became a Weapons Armament Systems mechanic – that's a fancy way to say I loaded bombs and missiles on F-15s and F-16s. It was good for me. It gave me discipline and money for college. It was a fun four years and I got to see and do a lot of things. I started to get tattooed a lot during this time and it kind of revitalized the artistic interests I had as a child. I started to draw again and was seriously considering picking up tattooing as a viable career option after the military. In fact, I had a few options for apprenticeships lined up when I was to get out in December of 2001.
September 11th put a stop to that. In fact, September 11th had a huge impact on the direction of my career. The military enacted stop loss and I was unable to get out in December and was placed on hold. Eventually they got to me and said you have two weeks to decide if you are getting out or re-enlisting. My options for an apprenticeship had fallen through at this point, I had nothing lined up, and I wasn't about to go back home and have nothing going on. The military dangled a huge re-enlistment bonus in my face and was giving me my pick of duty stations. I thought, well, if I move to a base near a bigger city I'd have more of an opportunity to either start tattooing or go to school. Vegas was my first choice and within a week they had it lined up for me. So I re-enlisted for four more years and off to Las Vegas I went.
Upon arrival I thought long and hard about tattooing but eventually decided that it wasn't for me and that getting back into school was more of a priority. I didn't waste any time either. I knew I had to take advantage of my tuition benefits and all the opportunities a big city had to offer. I had always been an avid gamer and 3D started to spark my interest so I decided to enroll at the Art Institute of Las Vegas in the Media Arts and Animation program.
Now in the beginning I was a total noobie concerning 3D, I had no idea what route I wanted to go and at first figured I would become an animator. But animation didn't speak to me and, to be very honest, after my first quarter I wasn't too excited about this stuff, but I wasn't about to give up. Up to this point I had just entry level basic animation courses, as in traditional animation, no 3D work yet. Soon I was re-introduced to 3D modeling, this time with better results. It was 3ds Max 6 and it was the first time I had really been excited about 3D. Things sort of fell in line soon after and I knew modeling was for me. I gave animation a fair shake too, but it wasn't my bag. I was better suited to modeling and asset building. It combined craftsmanship and sculpting, kind of a match made in heaven for me.
I graduated in 2006, but I felt my education was very general and I thought Vancouver Film School was a good choice to further my modeling interests. Turns out I was right, VFS was a great experience. It wasn't cheap but, all in all, I worked really hard and was happy with the results.
Upon graduating VFS I was excited to move back home and it was my intention to look for some work locally in Maryland so I could be close to the family. I had been away at this point for almost 10 years. I was very interested in working for Bethesda Softworks at the time and I was hoping to get in there as it seemed like the logical choice. However, I had always been a huge fan of Blur's cinematics and I though, "What the hell, I'll send my reel there” thinking it's a one in a million shot they will call back. I had also just posted my student reel everywhere I could at the time. It went front page on CGTalk and I can't tell you how helpful that was. In the matter of a few days, I had studios talking to me. It was an amazing experience and I was extremely blessed to have such opportunities presenting themselves.
Bethesda was one of these studios showing interest. They decided to send over an art test and I was really excited about it. Things were going well. On a Friday night a little while later, I was over at a friend's house having some beers. My phone buzzed with an email so I checked the header and I saw it was from Tim Miller of Blur Studio. For those who don't know, Tim is the co-owner and creative director of Blur. I was familiar with the name since I was a huge fan of the studio and I got pretty excited. Anyhow, I opened it and it was basically Tim saying: "We like your stuff and we could use you for about six months of freelance work. Can you be out here in two weeks?” To wrap up this small novel, in two weeks I was driving out to LA and the rest is history. I busted my ass for Blur and at the end of my freelance period they hired me as staff and I've been here ever since!