Below you will find in-depth interviews with many of our instructors and Workshop Live presenters. The interviews give us a chance to learn more about these talented artists including what projects they are currently working on, how they became professional artists, and advice for other artists interested in games and film visual effects, entertainment design, illustration and sculpture.
Perry Leijten applied his interest for the game industry with his innate technical skills and it flourished into a successful career. Now as a technical artist for Square Enix, Perry shares how he garnered experience in almost every aspect of the production pipeline and how that knowledge influences his day-to-day processes.
Former Weta Workshop sculptor David Meng's filmography ranges from King Kong and District 9 to The Hobbit trilogy and The Shape of Water. He discusses the value of traditional sculpting in a world dominated by digital tools, the qualities needed to succeed in practical effects, and why becoming a good creature designer means learning to think laterally.
We’ve got Blur Studio Character Modeling Lead Krystal Sae Eua here to talk about how her work on fast-paced commercials, films like The Avengers and Fast and Furious 6, Call of Duty cinematics, and her addiction to learning have helped her become a VES Award-nominated 3D artist and inspiring digital and traditional sculptor.
Lead artist and multitalented creative, Devon Fay, has a wide breath of impressive experience working on pre-rendered films as well as real-time video game environments. In this interview, Fay touches on key elements he’s garnered over the years while working with companies such as Blizzard Entertainment. Fay also divulges how he enhances his innate tendencies as a designer by using proactive and collaborative habits.
Digital sculptor, creature designer, instructor, and all around monster pro, Madeleine Scott-Spencer has produced acclaimed work in visual effects, collectible designs, and in digital maquettes for concept design. In this interview, Madeleine Scott-Spencer dives into her experience working on high-budget films, while also revealing how she garnered such extensive mastery over digital and traditional sculpting. She reveals the influence human anatomy can have on creature design and what she foresees impacting digital art in the future.
Ben Erdt is an accomplished artist, talented across a variety of capacities. To name a few, he has mastered skillsets in concept art, digital sculpting, character and creature art, and modeling. In this interview, Ben Erdt divulges his experience working on beloved games such as Horizon Zero Dawn while also showing how he brings his final renders together. He discusses what key elements he used when level designing for legacy games such as Quake and Doom and he pinpoints future changes that will impact 3D animation and visual effects.
Read the interview with Ben Erdt by Genese Davis
Hear from concept artist Luca Nemolato about how his straightforward workflow and appetite to throw himself into new and varied challenges have helped him catapult his career in designing for film, tv and more, including tips for networking and standing out as a freelance artist and a bit about his contributions to the creature design on the Oscar-winning film, The Shape of Water.
Read the interview with Luca Nemolato by Courtney Trowbridge
Former Neversoft Entertainment and Infinity Ward animator Bill Buckley, now animation director of virtual reality firm First Contact Entertainment, reveals the lessons he has learned over the course of his varied career, the secrets of creating a great in-game animation – and why VR means pressing the reset button on the role of the games artist.
Read the interview with Bill Buckley by Jim Thacker
Multi-talented CG artist and author, Eric Keller, discusses his unique experience with CG in science, natural history and biology while also elaborating on specific experiences that led him to working in movies, such as 10 Cloverfield Lane and the Cloverfield Paradox. Keller also divulges what key shifts he foresees developing in the future of CG and what key objectives artists should focus on to prepare for those up-coming changes.
Read the interview with Eric Keller by Genese Davis
Olivier Dubard, environment artist, matte painter and concept designer, talks to us about his experiences working on films from Marvel’s Black Panther and Disney’s Beauty and the Beast to Hotel Transylvania 3, and why it’s crucial for artists to develop an open, problem-solving mindset to efficiently collaborate in a production pipeline.
Read the interview with Olivier Dubard by Courtney Trowbridge
Senior 3D generalist and compositing artist Robby Branham has worked on everything from Coke commercials to cinematics for Clash of Clans. He reveals what it takes to succeed as a 3D generalist, provides his tips for surviving as a freelancer, and explains why Houdini is no longer just a tool for technical directors, but an essential part of any artist's skill set.
Read the interview with Robby Branham by Jim Thacker
Veteran concept illustrator and art director Alex Nice discusses how his work on movies like The Jungle Book, Pacific Rim and Tron: Legacy informs his training for The Gnomon Workshop, and reveals how becoming a successful concept artist means staying abreast of new technology: from 3D software to room-scale virtual reality.
Read the Interview with Alex Nice by Jim Thacker
Naughty Dog Environment Artist Brian Recktenwald reveals how his experiences working on titles like Uncharted 4: A Thief's End have helped to shape his own personal work, how photogrammetry and new procedural workflows are shaking up game development, and what young artists can do to help secure their first jobs in a changing industry.
Read the Interview with Brian Recktenwald by Jim Thacker
One of the rare CityEngine specialists, Matthias Buehler, discusses translating concept art into 3D environments, his role at Scanline VFX in Vancouver and some of the challenges he faced creating VFX on Independence Day: Resurgence, and why CityEngine was his weapon of choice for creating alien-inflicted mass destruction on 3D cityscapes.
Read the interview with Matthias Buehler by Lynette Clee
Senior Matte-Painter and Concept Designer for the film and video game industries shares his experiences creating digital mattes for Uncharted 4, offers his top tips for brushing up on traditional skills, and discusses the use of matte painting in VR projects. Read on for Igor Staritsin’s pro advice.
Read the interview Igor Staritsin by Lynette Clee
Naughty Dog Texture Artist, Rogelio Olguin, shares how his first experiences creating level designs and art for games in the modding community led him to make the right connections and enter contests that would change his career forever. Read on to discover Rogelio’s top advice for aspiring texture artists.
Read the interview Rogelio Olguin by Lynette Clee
Freelance Illustrator and Gnomon Instructor, April Connors, shares her thoughts on the best methods for improving your drawing skills, and why every artist should learn how to navigate a digital software, like Photoshop. Plus, discover her professional tips for breaking through the fear of a blank canvas and gaining confidence with your drawings, whatever the medium.
Read the interview April Connors by Lynette Clee
When Jacques Broquard, Art Director at WWE, first saw Hosein Diba’s Wolverine sculpt, he invited the sculptor to recreate many of the world’s most famous wrestlers in the same high-quality. We talk to Hosein to learn more about his work, his background in the industry, and his top pieces of advice for aspiring character artists.
Read the interview with Hossein Diba by Lynette Clee
I am a Co-Owner/Creative Director of Section Studios and Bluecanvas Inc which I joined last week after 11 years of employment with Sony Santa Monica Studio. I was Visual Development Lead at Sony Santa Monica Studio who brought the God of War franchise and many other hit titles to the gaming world. I also teach at Otis College of Art and Design and Art Center College of Design in the entertainment design program and have taught at Gnomon School of Visual Effects.
Read the interview with Cecil Kim by Travis Bourbeau
Similar to many artists, I was a very imaginative kid much like Calvin from Calvin & Hobbes- which I am a huge fan of. I was attracted to anything that didn't look "real." Stuff like spaceships, robots, comic books and cartoons like Transformers, Robotech, Voltron, and Thundercats- Cheetara was so hot! Of course there were all the toys that went along with those shows, but they were a huge part of me growing up. I'd like to say Star Wars, but I was really young when it came out and actually had to leave the theatre for Empire Strikes Back. I think I was about 6 or 7 at the time, it sort of just freaked me out, I got scared. Hah! So it was only later that I could appreciate it for what it was, but loved it. Needless to say, these things influenced my drawings and art.......
Read the interview with Dave Pasciuto by Travis Bourbeau
Hi-tech design is a design based on using the most advanced technologies currently available. That means something that was considered hi-tech in the 80′s would be obsolete today. My goal is at some point to be able to create art which would look advanced but timeless and not really be attached to cutting-edge technologies of our generation, but something that you look at and can't say whether it was built 2,000 years ago or it will be built 2,000 years from now…
Read the interview with Vitaly Bulgarov by Travis Bourbeau
Art is not something that is learned and then forever perfect in our way of practice. Unless we do constantly practice, I can honestly say from experience and from observation that all the skills go to crap pretty quickly. That is, we forget things fast. These are muscles we are developing and just like working out, they atrophy if not exercised enough.......
Read the interview with Ron Lemen by Travis Bourbeau
I received my Masters degree from Digital Media Arts College specializing in Visual effects and computer animation. Trained as a generalist, I always had a passion for Visual Effects and the dynamic aspects of 3D. So I decided to specialize in Fluid and Dynamic simulations. I was fortunate enough to sign my first contract with The Moving Picture Company (MPC), and I have been working in LA as an FX artist ever since......
Read the interview with Wayne Hollingsworth by Travis Bourbeau
Suits vs. Shirts, or Business vs. Creative types. It was 118 degrees with no air conditioning. There were a bunch of artists from games, film, and fine-art soaking wet in the middle of the desert with nothing to drink but Red Bull when I first met Alex Alvarez. I was a studio partner holding a workshop in Austin, Texas and fully expected to meet an entrepreneur or "CEO" type in a business suit. You know the type that tries to "fit in with the artist". Instead, I found a 32 year old artist in cargo shorts and a black t-shirt, as excited as we were about the event. Alex was checking out every demonstration he could, with his only frustration being that he couldn't see all of them. In short, he wasn't the "Suit" I was expecting to find, but a passionate artist ecstatic to be hanging out with like-minded individuals. With the release of his Master Class, an advanced 3D Creature Development course based on his Gnomon School class for certificate students, I wanted to sit down and gather some thoughts on Alex's experiences over the past thirteen years building companies by artists, for artists.....
Read the interview with Alex Alvarez by Travis Bourbeau
Marshall Vandruff’s brand new “Introduction to Animal Anatomy” title was released this week at the Gnomon Workshop. While he was here recording I had a chance to inquire about his background and how he found himself working as an illustrator and teaching anatomy....
Read the interview with Marshall Vandruff by Travis Bourbeau
I recently had a chance to meet with character designer and self-proclaimed "idea boy" Cameron Davis at his mansion home in Studio City, CA. It played like this: I arrive at 3pm. A genuine French Maid invites me into his backyard where I interrupt him hot tubbing with (apparently) the performers of a Cirque du Soleil show. After toweling off and handing me a "breakfast mimosa," we sit in lounge chairs in the shade of a massive avocado tree....
Read the interview with Cameron Davis by Travis Bourbeau
My name is Josh Herman and I recently graduated from Gnomon in December. As a kid, I drew a lot and liked to create my own games, typically board games. I would steal the printer paper with those perforated edges from my dad’s printer and lay it out on the ground and make a life size board. Even though I probably ruined tons of paper and made a mess of the rooms, my family was always very supportive and would usually play with me...
Scott Patton started his career as a make-up effects artist in the 1990s, developing his sculpting, painting and design skills under the tight production deadlines of the movie industry. Patton's work as a make-up effects artist can be seen in a diverse range of films from Sin City and Kill Bill to Amistad and The Green Mile. While working on the Academy Award winning The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Patton discovered ZBrush and quickly realized that this tool could speed up the often frustrating character design process...
Waylon Brinck has been designing and creating video games since he was a young child. He began his professional career in 1998 when he co-founded Guild Software, an indie game development house, in his hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In the intervening years he’s racked up game dev experience in multiple disciplines including art, design and engineering. He is currently a CG Supervisor at EA Los Angeles on the Medal of Honor franchise, and he teaches game development classes at the Gnomon School of Visual Effects. Most recently Waylon shipped “Medal of Honor: Airborne,” one of the first titles released on the Unreal® Engine 3.
As an art director we work on everything all of the time. Lately I have been trying to work a little more 3d into my design process since film design seems to get tighter and more photorealistic as the years go on.
The Gnomon Workshop had the pleasure of producing a tutorial with Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen artist Josh Nizzi. We thought it would be great to find out a bit more about him and share his story with you.
Alex recently moved from Brazil to Irvine, California, where he works as a senior character modeler for Blizzard Entertainment. He's also freelanced for National Geographic, Discovery Channel and Gentle Giant Studios. We look forward to checking out what he has planned for us.
Kevin Hudson has worked at Sony Pictures Imageworks for 10 years, contributing to such films as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Stuart Little, Stuart Little 2, Contact, Anaconda, James and the Giant Peach, The Polar Express, and the Academy Award winning animated short film, The ChubbChubbs. Before the Digital Age, Kevin created traditional effects for over eight years, working on many films including Star Trek 6, Predator 2, Edward Scissorhands, Addams Family, Darkman, Batman Returns and Congo.
My name is Derrick Thompson, I am a story artist here at Pixar. I have worked for over 14 years in videogames, comic books, feature films and illustration. While I am currently at Pixar, I have worked for a number of other studios and clients including Dark Horse Comics, Rhythm and Hues, Electronic Arts, Giant Killer Robots and a number of smaller boutique type studios. I have freelanced for a number of years but I also have been a fulltime employee. For the last 3 years I have been working on one film here at Pixar and that is Wall.E which is coming out this summer...
Ben Neall received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Chico State University, with a major in Painting and Drawing. With a background in traditional art, Ben started his career in texturing at Luma Pictures, and has been Lead Texture Artist at Luma since 2005. In this position he has worked on many projects, including City of Ember, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, No Country for Old Men, and Underworld: Evolution.
John works as a character and creature designer/sculptor for film and television. Credits include Planet of the Apes, The Cell, Alien Resurrection, Species 2, George of the Jungle, Jumanji, X-Files, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Outer Limits, Bats, Mars Attacks, Bless The Child, Monkey Bone, Spy Kids and Scary Movie 2.
Richard Keyes graduated from Art Center College of Design with a graphic design degree in 1987. After working in Palo Alto, California, designing corporate I.D. and annual reports, he returned to Southern California to work in a variety of studios before choosing a freelance career. As an independent designer Richard has worked for clients as diverse as Warner Brothers Records, Guess Jeans, the Los Angeles Housing Department and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. As a color consultant, his clients include Empire Berol, BIC and Avery Dennison. His teaching career started in 1988, with graphic design classes at Cal State L.A. Since then Richard has also taught at Valley Community College, UCLA Extension and has been teaching at Art Center College of Design since 1990, specializing in color theory, graphic design and narrative structure. Richard also teaches a workshop at Disney Studios.
Chris Kirshbaum is an alumnus of CalArts Character Animation, and has a BA in fine arts (drawing) from Arizona State University. He is currently a Character Animator at Dreamworks. Chris's film credits as a character animator include Shark Tale, Flushed Away, Over the Hedge, Kung Fu Panda and Monsters vs. Aliens. In addition to teaching in the Dreamworks internal artistic development and training programs, he currently teaches character animation at the Gnomon School of Visual Effects.
I always had an aptitude for drawing and loved doing it, so I knew early on that I wanted to be a professional artist. I took a lot of art classes in high school, and then I went to Northern Illinois University and got a degree in illustration. I was lucky enough to study under an amazing fantasy and comic book illustrator, Mark Nelson, and he gave me lots of advice on how to solicit my work to companies. At the time, he was also doing some work for Dungeons and Dragons and opened some doors there on my behalf, but aside from that, I was sending my portfolio out to a lot of game and comic companies looking for work. I got some
I’ve always been fascinated by the natural world around me, and about its myriads of inhabitants the huge amount of fauna around us, and the striking variations of form from the legless to the winged and flying beings, the wonder and beauty of it all and to think we are privileged as human beings to share this planet with them. That is what inspires me and my artwork.
At times I have been personally blamed for all the image problems women face in today’s society. I can’t help but believe that isn’t the case. I try to look at it this way – when I go to the store and I want to purchase a make up or hair product.. I would be far less likely to purchase something advertised from an un-retouched image where the model looks like she has a hang over and a bad out-break of acne. That is just life – as consumers, we flock to purchase goods that we think will enhance our life. It may be all one big lie, but hey, it keeps the economy going. Also- I try whenever possible to educate people about retouching...
I’m an illustrator and Concept Artist. I was born in France and moved to Canada when I was 11 years old. After high school, I attended architecture school at Lawrence Institute of Technology in Southfield Michigan for a year before enrolling at the Center for Creative Studies – College of Art and Design (CCS) in Detroit where I received my BFA in illustration in 1990. While there I also took various fine art and industrial design courses. I started out doing advertising work for local agencies with clients ranging from Little Caesar’s pizza to big automotive clients such as Ford, Chrysler, GM and Toyota – doing a lot of marker storyboards, comps and finished gouache paintings for brochures and posters. I liked the fast pace of the ad industry which helped me to develop speed and confidence in my work. The first movie I worked on was Spawn in 1996. It was then that I knew I wanted to explore concept design for other movies. I have been very fortunate to work on some of Hollywood’s biggest projects including the Star Wars prequels and the Matrix trilogy.
I’ve been professionally active in both art and Science Fiction for the last 31 years, having started out very early. I received my first commission in Cooper Union and proceeded to execute hundreds of illustrations in publishing for every major book and magazine publisher in NYC. As I worked on commissioned paintings I also endeavored to create an identity as someone who conceived and created his own book packages. BARLOWE’S GUIDE TO ET’S, developed when I was around 20, was the first of many books that I generated. EXPEDITION, BARLOWE’S INFERNO and others followed, all projects that were designed to create interesting worlds and accessible IP.
I have always been interested in dolls. Both of my parents were artists, my father was a sculptor and my mother was, and still is, a painter and collage artist. They were also both teachers so we had art all over the house all of the time and access to all sorts of materials. They always encouraged me to make things, but my mother also read to me a lot as a child. Every night we read fairytales, we read the Narnia books and as I got older she read the Tolkien books.
Well, to sum it up, I have been an artist since I was five. I lived abroad for many years as a kid, went back to France at the end of the eighties until 2003 when we decided to leave for Canada. In 2005, we had to solve a dilemma: leave Montréal where people are great, but where the weather was so hard to endure. We finally settled down in Dallas and I have been living here since.
At Disney I was introduced to the theme park aspect of entertainment design, which is really cool. Working on designs for Epcot Center and all that, it was awesome. As for the ILM offer, they did end up calling back and they said that they had a digital feature which they were going to be making and Steven Spielberg was going to be directing. I thought, oh this is going to be cool, so I dropped everything in Southern California, moved up to Northern California and got on this movie with ILM.
since about the age of five I have been drawing. Illustrating books, making my own books, copying dinosaur books, spaceship books and stuff like that. My dad was an artist so he put a pencil in my hand early on. He taught me the basics of perspective and stuff really early. I’ve been drawing as early as I can remember. I always knew I wanted to go to school to be an artist, but I wanted to do other things too so it wasn’t until later on that I made the decision and said this is where I want to take my life.
I always loved drawing and painting, mainly influenced by my dad who is an architect. I grew up always wanting to draw. I was always tracing stuff and when I was five I realized, wow, I don’t need to trace anymore. It was at that point that I just started drawing by hand. I was always interested in art classes in school. I would get some comic books and sort of look at the hero and draw them. Eventually I started making my own stuff up and that is where the creativity started.
Humm! How to start? A Frenchman eats a lot of cheese on a fresh baguette and drinks the best wines; he travels a lot as well… I went to an Art School in France (Photography and fine-arts) and I decided to leave this country few years later. I first started as a 3D Artist (animation, rendering, lighting, modeling… I even did some rigging) using all the software available like Lightwave, 3Dsmax, Xsi, Maya, Modo and ZBrush. I ended up logically doing some compositing with Digital Fusion.
Bonjour Barontieri, as you mentioned, we definitely have known each other for a long time! I remember with emotions those years studying in industrial design, so much has happened since. I am a visual director in Austin, managing concept art teams in order to create the most beautiful games possible. Nowadays, as you very well know, the industry has changed so much, that any large size project needs to be pre-digested before production can take over...
When one looks at Neville Page’s background and family, it really is no surprise that he would be involved in some form of creativity. His parents met in the theatre in Great Britain, his mother a dancer and father a musician. They eventually joined the circus, where his father played in the band and mother found herself atop an elephant waving at the crowd in a feathery outfit. You could say that when Neville was an infant he was not without colorful exposure...
Bonjour David, you know it’s good to hear such a question coming from you, we have known each other for 15 years already and we followed a very similar path. Today we’re closer than ever to the goals we chose then. Steambot Studios is just the beginning. I’m a concept designer who loves to draw, paint and create original stories; I currently work for Eidos in Montreal as a senior concept artist for the game Deus Ex III. I have been working on this industry for almost 13 years (sic!); it’s full of fun, frustration and constant discoveries!...
My mother was very supportive, but for the most part, everyone else had to really see that it could actually be a viable job before they were convinced. It’s understandable because everyone equates artist with starving, but there are actually a lot of jobs where artwork can lead to a fulfilling career with a good income...
I went to school for graphic Design, worked doing websites, business cards and some flash animation stuff, but mostly did a lot HTML and Action Script coding… I hated it. Making websites for scrap booking and flower shops, though a fine business to be in was not for me. In school I was mostly interested in sculpture, comic books and film…anything character driven (all of my notebooks and text books were lined with sketches of batman and monsters from beyond!)...