3DTotal: Hello Kev Chu; thanks for taking this time to chat with us! Can you start us off with a little background info about yourself? Can you briefly explain your journey, so far? Kev: Hiya! Well, my journey has indeed been one that I would characterise as atypical. Growing up wanting to be a comic book artist in a conservative middle-class Chinese household was definitely not the easiest thing to do. As such, I went to University, got my degree and worked in the IT business field for a year, like a good boy. It wasn’t until a classmate of mine introduced me to some brilliant 3D he had done for a class on his home PC that, from that simple encounter, I realised that pursuing a career in art was very realistic. The only problem was that I still had no idea how to accomplish that. At that point I was a decent illustrator but nothing refined enough to be employable, and I knew it. It was at that point I enrolled in the one-year 3D animation program at the Alberta College of Art. Upon graduation I got into a great little animation studio and got my foothold in the industry. The rest to date is still a work-in-progress...
3DTotal: How did you get your foot firmly in the industry’s door? Any tips? I am also quite intrigued as you say you wished to pursue a career in 3D, but your current portfolio work seems to be primarily 2D… What brought about this change in direction for you? Kev: To paraphrase a director friend of mine, luck is only half of the equation; you also have to be ready to capitalize on the opportunity when it arises. So in order for you to stand out amongst all the other graduates and industry hopefuls (and believe me, there are many and they are talented), make sure that you practice every day. Make yourself as employable as possible. On-line art forums are a great measuring stick for artists. You can generally get a feel for what the industry standard level of quality is. It doesn’t take long to discover the hot artists these days. Do a reality check. Ask yourself the tough questions: How does my art compare to theirs? What can they do that I can’t? What can I work on to make myself more like a professional artist? Also STUDY! Never stop learning. Get art books, look at fashion mags, read up on insects, sea creatures, etc. It is actually more fun than it sounds. I should clarify that I never intended to do 3D really... At the time, I just saw it as the most tangible way to become a professional artist. That being said, because I had been drawing all my life I naturally gravitated towards the 2D jobs and largely ignored the 3D ones. In the end, it was through the good graces of my friend and former boss Nicholas Acs of Aurenya Entertainment who gave me a job based on the potential of my then 2D skills. That was the proverbial foot in the door for me.
3DTotal: I have been checking out your portfolio on www.bananachu.com and am blown away by your artwork! All of your work possesses a very human-like quality – even the extreme cartoon characters and inanimate objects! Life seems to be brought into your characters through the highlights and painterly quality of their skins – in particular on their noses. How did you discover this method of bringing life to your work? Can you share any secrets/tips? Kev: Hah, absolutely. It is nothing revolutionary – it is my juvenile attempts at infusing some classical painting techniques into commercial production art. My journeys took me to the UK where I learned to paint; I was surrounded by extremely talented artists both in and out of the industry. I had never been appreciative of classical artwork in the past, but once immersed in the European art culture I couldn’t help but to be blown away by their mastery of light, colour, rendering, composition - the list goes on. So that is the long answer. The short answer is I throw some green in to balance out the reds. It adds a remarkable amount of depth with so little ease.
3DTotal:Could you briefly take us through the typical creation of one of your artworks, from conception through to the finished piece? Kev: Typically it starts with analysing the brief that outlines the concept to be done. It can be very vague or extremely detailed. I usually then proceed to gather references. Successful concepting involves an understanding of what has come before. When all the reference is all collected I like to spend a little time analysing the images to pick out things that I like and that are indicative to their designs. After that I put pen to paper and begin sketching some thumbnails. I don’t use the reference at this point but instead rely on memory. Naturally, there will be gaps in what I can recall from looking at the images earlier, but this is what I want. The gaps allow the imagination to fill in the missing blanks. The result is usually something that has a strong tie in the real world from the bits you remember and has other potentially esoteric elements from the bits you had to fill in with your mind. Do as many as you can, focusing on the exploration of the concept. This is the time when you can be the craziest. Get everything out of your system and exhaust all avenues that pertain to that particular design. Once done, I usually toss out the first 10 sketches as they are usually the most clichéd as they are the first ones that pop into everyone’s minds. From there I look at the remaining thumbnails and pick out the strongest ones and further the exploration into those designs. Once I have a design I am happy with, I go straight into paints where you can make it all pretty and such. This can be done with characters, vehicles, and environments.
3DTotal: I would say that your work certainly shows masterful techniques of achieving light and shade qualities to capture the mood of each piece just perfectly. What reference material do you use to get these effects just right? Do you draw from life a lot to help your digital studies? Kev: Oh cheers for that. It may be from my affinity to the graphic elements of comic books, or from my love of films, but I have always loved a moody, dark, brooding feel to things - adds a bit of mystery and boldness, hopefully without too much pretence, hahaha. I do life drawing but I can always do more. But again, my resultant style is merely my modest attempts at emulating the masters.