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Interview with Andrew Baker

By Simon Morse

Web: http://andbakerdesigns.blogspot.com/ (will open in new window)
Email: [email protected]

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Date Added: 30th April 2013
Hi Andrew, we have chatted a few times in the past about different projects and the kind of work that you do, but for the benefit of the readers can you tell us a little about how you became interested in art and how you ended up working for the really amazing Weta?

Well, I'd have to say it all began when I was a child and used to watch my father painting. I was fascinated by how he used paints to create these life-like images. Growing up in South Africa, with so much wildlife around me, led me to have a fascination with creatures as well. I collected spiders and scorpions when I was young and just love natural history.

It was definitely The Lord of the Rings films that whet my appetite and made me want to become a commercial artist, doing some sort of digital illustration or design. The life-like nature of all the creatures you see in that trilogy, such as Shelob, Gollum and the Balrog, got me so excited as I'd never seen anything so life-like on screen before. I knew then that I wanted to create creatures of that level, and it seemed CG and 3D software were up-and-coming areas and ones worth learning more about.

I put myself through Design College and went on to get my honors degree at Wanganui School of Design, here in New Zealand. During that time I taught myself ZBrush, LightWave and then Maya, and began learning about how to model, texture, light and shade characters and creatures. Once I'd graduated I worked as a freelancer for a while and, as most people in this industry do, I applied to Weta Digital. After a year or so of freelancing, I got a job as a pre-visualization artist for The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, which I did for about six months.

I was then lucky enough to have a sample of my work shown to Sir Richard Taylor, who was very keen to get me going at the workshop as a creature and character designer, trying to push this medium into the concept art world and also fine art. As luck would have it, The Hobbit was my first test!

"As luck would have it, The Hobbit was my first test" - wow, I bet you never thought you'd hear yourself say those words! If you could choose a favorite character or creature from The Lord of the Rings, which one would it be? Mine would be the Balrog. That scene leaves me with my jaw on the floor every time I see it!

The Balrog was definitely one of them! The scale of that creature and the elemental feel was unlike anything I'd seen in a movie. The realism achieved in Gollum was also hugely inspiring for me.

It sounds like you have traveled a long way and experienced a lot of different things during your creative career. Does traveling affect your art at all? Do you find you are influenced by the things you see around you in the different places you visit?

Absolutely! Different cultures and countries fascinate me and I always try to fuse my characters and creatures with a sense of where they might have come from and what they do.

The world is a hugely inspiring place for an artist to wander through and capture with his/her camera, so always make sure you have that camera to hand!

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