Join Rob Garrott for an in-depth discussion in this video Part 1: From fine art to 3D animation, part of Artists and Their Work: Conversations about Mograph VFX and Digital Art.
- I always had the philosophy that you just have to keep making stuff, like whatever it is. And you may not make money at it first, but you'll hopefully at least get better. And doing work for somebody helped me, because they would ask me to do something that I wouldn't have done-- - Outside your comfort zone. - Yeah, exactly, exactly. - So, Scott tell me a little bit about yourself and your background, how did you started in to art? - Well, so I have a Fine Art background. I went to school for like traditional art, like painting, I actually studied painting, sculpture, photography, and printmaking.
So, all the dead arts, I learned. (Interviewer laughs) - Did you study Latin, too? -Yeah, exactly, yeah. (laughs) So, yeah, I had a very, extremely traditional sort of background in art, yeah. And then when I graduated school, I started doing illustration work. And I kind of just thought that's where, I didn't have any sort of 3D background or anything like that, no CG. And I was working in illustration and advertising and I sort of got into comic books a bit, doing covers and some interior stuff.
And then it was like a really weird... I was always interested in like visual facts and like CG and things like that, but it seemed like it was like a million miles away, you know, it's like you have to learn all this complicated software and it just seemed impossible. I didn't know how to go about learning it, 'cuz where I'm from, where I was living at the time in Newfoundland, there are no schools for like production or CG, or anything like that, really. So, I just looked for internships, online.
It's like there has to be somewhere, where they'll let me go (laughs) and work for free. And then Side Effects had an internship and I was like, "Oh, this is perfect." - Right. - And then when I got there, they were like, "Well, we've never had an artist apply, ever." - Oh, wow! (laughs) - So, I was like, "Oh, okay." And then I had been working there like four months as an intern, they were like, "Well, let's just hire you, "we're just going to hire you because "we have these amazing technical programmers, "but we have nobody with an art background, at all, "so when we demonstrate this, "it's like a cube, you know a cube falls over." You know, that's kind of boring, you know.
And when I got there, I didn't know any of the technical stuff, so the very first thing I started to do was just like make stuff look pretty because that's what I knew how to do, you know? - That's, which is the whole point of the software. - Yeah, exactly, exactly. So now I have this weird balance where I've learned actually, you know I can program a little bit, you know I've learned a lot of technical stuff, but, in just like literally about four years or something. - Wow. - Yeah. So, it's hard to describe. When people ask me even what I do, I'm like, "It's really hard to describe "because I don't think this position exists anywhere." (laughter) - That's awesome. - Yeah.
- So you're working, an artist, a fine artist, at a software company, making things look pretty. How was that transition, you know, in terms of mentally, I mean you had been working, had you been painting art, digitally already? - So in the beginning, I think the very first job I ever had that I was paid for, was doing illustrations for a collectible card game. - Oh, okay. - So, it was these tiny like one inch, like 1 x 1.5" drawings. And it's funny, actually, it was for a Game of Thrones-- - Oh, wow! - collectible card game.
- But this was like, I don't think anybody had ever heard of Game of Thrones at this point. - Yeah, it was just for the books at that point. - It was just for the books, yeah. And I'd never heard of it either. And then pretty quickly, I met a couple of guys who were into comic books. And I've always been into comic books, but, and they were like, "Do you think you can draw like an issue of comic?" And I didn't know. (laughs) I'd never really did it, but so I gave it a shot and it was fun, you know, and it was cool work, so and then I did all kinds of weird... (laughter) - from there, but yeah, that's where it started out.
- Well, maybe we should take a look at some of your work here, on your website. - Oh sure, yeah. So, part of what I do was I would always try to keep myself busy because I don't know, I don't want to just sleep all day or something like that, which can happen when you're a freelancer. (laughter) So, I always sort of gave myself these mini, sort of, projects just to say, "Okay, for the next two weeks, "I'm going to do this." So, and some of them sometimes turned into real things, so like one of the ones that I did that I was really happy with is this comic book that I started that was...
Well, sort of, it's extremely dark, now that I think about it, maybe it's a bad example, but, it's about a guy named Albert Fish. Back in like, turn of the century, basically. - Okay. - And he's really messed up. (laughs) But, he's sort of a really fascinating story, so I started doing this comic, I don't know what it says about me, but almost all the work that I got as an illustrator was like, "Oh, we need these zombies, "or these dead bodies, or we need..." It was always like, and I'm not even sure where that came from because they weren't the samples I was sending out.
(laughter) But, I don't know if the people who make that kind of work are just more desperate or something, but. - What kinds of clients were they? - So in the beginning, it was like, it was a lot of like independent comic book stuff, where they would pay me $5 a page or something like that, like something ridiculous. But for me, at the beginning, it was like, well, I always had the philosophy that you just have to keep making stuff, like whatever it is. And you may not make money at it first, but you'll hopefully at least get better, you know.
And doing work for somebody helped me, because they would ask me to do something that I wouldn't have done-- - Outside your comfort zone. - Yeah, exactly, exactly. So, it did, ended up, you know, a lot of independent comic books are like weird and dark and sort of twisted sometimes. - So, like we're going to jump back and forward in time a little bit, you know. So now you're, we're back at the software company, which is Side Effects, the people that make Houdini. You're making things look pretty, but now you're a print guy working with an animation software.
(Scott laughs) Like, how does that transition work out? - Well, in the beginning the transition for me was basically like modeling, texturing, you know the typical stuff where I was essentially making a rendered image that didn't have any animation, I was just like trying to make something, basically something I would draw, let's see if I can make it in 3D. - Nice. - So then, getting into that side of things with Houdini was actually more through the technical side because a big part of Houdini is they have all these simulation tools. And so, I would start out thinking, well, it would be cool, in this still image, if I could have like a dust cloud or something, you know.
And then I would try and model it. And then, like this doesn't make any sense, I go, "What am I doing?" And then, you know, just by working with the people I work with, they're like, "No, you can run a fluid scene on that-- - Stop it on a given frame? - Yeah, and then pick the prettiest frame and then you can move it around even, it could be non-physical, but. So, that's where I started getting into animation was to create stills. (laughter) Which is sort of completely backward. And then from there, as soon as, it's the classic thing, it's like as soon as I started seeing simulation stuff and how it moves and all the interesting things that a simulation did, then I was like, "Okay, I have to show "this moving, I have to." So then it was like, well I'm still not an animator though, I can't do that.
I mean if I really had to, I probably could do something, but it wouldn't be great. So instead, I had to sort of figure out well, how can I make something that's, the animation comes from a procedural sort of nature or a simulation nature-- - So you don't have to work with key frames? - Exactly, but still have it visually interesting. So, for me I almost try to approach it in the beginning almost like a documentary filmmaker or something, you know, where it's like there was an event happening and now I'm just trying to capture it somehow in an interesting way.
So that's most of what I've tried to do with that is not get in there too much and massage it, frame by frame, or anything like that and more trying to set up an interesting scenario, see how it goes, and then you know tweak it, art direct it a little bit, you know, but try and keep it as natural as possible and then just film that essentially.
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