That is a rather adventurous story behind your success! Do you have any tips for aspiring 3D artists?
Hmm, tips, let me see. The best thing any aspiring 3D artist can do is get to know the basics before you even touch any programs. Life drawing and plenty of reference is always a good thing! No tool or 3D package can teach you good form and silhouette. All too often I see kids jumping the gun here. You can't expect to be a good 3D artist without a strong foundation. Foundation is everything! In fact I try to go back to the basics as much as possible. I wish I had more time for it to be honest! I work a lot so my time is limited, but I try to do life drawing and painting when I can fit it in.
You went to both The Art Institute of Las Vegas and Vancouver Film School not too long ago – how did they help you get to where you are now?
Well, I think they were both pivotal to my career for different reasons. When I first decided to attend AI of Las Vegas, I was very green in terms of 3D. Besides what I saw my father doing years ago, I didn't know much at all. I've always been a gamer so initially that's what sparked my interest. I figured I could go to school and end up in a game studio somewhere making games I'm passionate about. Initially I wasn't too impressed with the program but I stuck it out and eventually got into it. Once I had my first 3D course it was off to the races, I was hooked on modeling. I sought out anyone who could show me more than what I already knew. Eventually I had made friends with everyone at the school who was passionate about the work and we sort of bounced ideas and workflows off each other. Sadly, the school was very general and there wasn't much emphasis on modeling so I dug up information anywhere and everywhere I could.
The head of the 3D program, Lee Laneir was great and very supportive. He always seemed to keep an eye out for the guys who really wanted it and were pushing the bar. Thanks Lee, you were excellent and I always appreciated it! I had a good time at AI but again, at the end, I felt I just didn't know enough and needed to seek further education.
Around this time VFS was blowing up the internet with amazing modeling reels and you couldn't help but take notice. VFS had a hefty price tag though and I was a little apprehensive about it. However, I just kept seeing stuff coming out of there that was far better than anything I was doing so I bit the bullet and decided to enrol.
I moved up there in the spring of ‘06 and started classes in the beginning of May. VFS was tough love, let me tell you. It was a huge workload and a bit overwhelming, but it was well worth it. It was a different environment. Everyone was pushing each other. It was very moving to be a part of that atmosphere. My class was great. I learned so much from everyone around me, made some very good friends, and the majority of our class is all working in the industry.
In terms of the actual curriculum you get six months of a basic introductory style course and then you moved into your specific stream of choice: animation, modeling or visual effects. You then move into the "ant farm” where you spend six
months working on your reels. This is where most of us got the majority of our education and had many sleepless nights. It was a great time and if it wasn't for VFS I wouldn't have landed at Blur right out of school.
In your time at Blur Studio you seem to have worked on some really interesting and high-profile game titles. Can you name a few and which one is your favorite?
It's hard to say to be honest. I've been fortunate enough to work on several iconic characters and each was such an awesome experience. It's a toss-up between Alpha Series, Big Daddy from Bioshock 2, The Joker from Arkham City, and Darth Vader from The Force Unleashed 2. In the end I would have to say Darth Vader wins. I grew up on Star Wars and I'm pretty sure any modeler would jump at the chance to model Darth Vader. It was pretty awesome I have to say!
I've also worked on a few other less-iconic characters that were really fun to do. Chompy from the Jabberwocky cinematic comes to mind, as well as Grunt from Mass Effect. Creatures are a blast to do. They can be very interpretive and loose. I still love humanoids as well though as they are always challenging. If you can make a realistic face you can do a creature. Realism is the biggest challenge.
Do you have any sources of inspiration or people you look up to?
Many! So many it's not even funny! I find inspiration from all sorts of stuff. It's not restricted to the 3D genre. Walking into Blur I had the opportunity to work with some amazing character artists like Laurent Pierlot and Alessandro Baldasseroni. Both have been big inspirations to me and very helpful – they are very grounded, modest, and good passionate people. I find inspiration outside of Blur as well, of course.
There are countless modelers, sculptors, and painters out there that drive me. I'm a big fan of the creations of Jordu Schell, Rick Baker, and Stan Winston – their contributions to cinema have been nothing short of incredible. I am also a huge fan of fantasy artist Richard Corben, I love his color pallet and paintings. Of course, along with him goes the wonderful Frank Frazetta. Zdzislaw Beksinski has always been a great source of inspiration too – you can get lost in his paintings! Some of these guys I feel are mentioned often, but it's for a good reason. They are amazing at what they do!
I'm a fan of low-brow art as well. There is some brilliant stuff going on there, from Robert Williams to Robert Crumb and everything in between. And some tattooers have made some awesome contributions to that scene too. There is some cool stuff going on there and not just on skin. A few names that come to mind are Timothy Hoyer, Aaron Coleman, Tim Lehi and Watson Atkinson. Also, switching gears back to 3D, it only takes a few minutes at any of the front-runner digital websites like ZBrush Central, 3DTotal, CGHub, and CGTalk to get a good dose of inspiration. I see stuff the younger kids are doing these days and it's incredible. Kinda scary to be honest, but it keeps you on your toes! So much awesome stuff out there, I can go on for days!