Knowing how important is the need to be inspired, we just came up with a new series of blog posts about talented 3D artists. So not wasting the time, today we are giving you an opportunity to meet a proffesional 3D artist Chris Nichols from Vancouver, who has a background at the Graphic Design and Multimedia and works at the movies industry.
Tell us a bit about yourself, what is your background and how you got into 3D?
Im from Perth, Western Australia and went to school for Graphic Design and Illustration back in 2001 but decided I wanted to work in Vfx after seeing Lord of the rings when it first came out. I spent a few years teaching myself how to model and texture and did a few freelance projects for local studios around town before deciding to make the move to Vancouver back in 2007 where I’ve been ever since.
What kind of stuff you are usually working on and what is your current position?
I work as a Senior Texture Painter at Digital Domain on film projects. I love to do creature and character texture work the most but my job also involves painting environments, props and vehicles. We have an amazing talented crew of modelers and textures and we work closely with lookdev to put out the best looking assets we can.
What software do you like the most? Why?
I mostly work in Mari, a texturing app from the Foundry. Its extremely powerful how much it can display in realtime on fairly heavy meshes. I can be working with over 100 uv shells on a single object and its just flys. Overall i just love being able to visualize my texturing on the model while Im painting and make changes on the fly. It has replaced any of my old workflows for texturing entirely. I never use photoshop anymore for textures, start and end a job in Mari. I also use zbrush and maya if I have to do modeling work which occasionaly comes up but mostly I stick to Mari.
What is your greatest work that you have done? The most challenging project you have worked on?
Well Thor was a pretty epic effort. It was a small show that got very large quickly at Digital Domain. Towards the end of the show I was asked to texture the giant Frost Beast that chases Thors crew across the Jotunheim wastelands and that was a task beyond belief. I put everything I had into it and pretty much lived at the studio for 4 weeks. Jack the giant killer isnt out yet so I cant really talk about it but I had the opputunity to do some designing and texturing for creatures of that film also.
What things do you think are the most important, when working as character artist?
Well you need to remember your just working for someone else and trying to realize their vision. Thats not to say you cant put your personal touch into it but It has to work for the purpose of the film or other project. Besides that I think just making sure you put the detail where its needed and getting it to look good from every angle are fairly important considerations.
How much efforts one needs to get to the position of senior character artist? Was there any obstacles that you could advice other artists how to avoid them?
In film you have to really earn that reputation generally by doing a lot of personal projects that show off your skills in that area. Producers and supervisors/leads are hesitant to give that sort of work to artists unless they have already demonstrated they are competent in that area. Also there isn’t always a lot of creature work to go round mostly digital doubles from project to project and a few hero creatures/characters. I think its typical to expect to do mostly props and environments in the first couple years of working in vfx but make sure your always working on personal projects and showing them to the right people so they keep you in mind for those character jobs.
What do you find most challenging in working as 3D artist? Things that tend to annoy you.
Team chemistry is something I dont see many people writing about but its so important to get along with your co-workers. Having harmony within the team just makes things go so much smoother and pleasantly. I think its great to get to know all the modelers and lookdev guys as your probably going to need to work with them on an asset together at some point.
What do you like the most being 3D artist? What inspires and gives you the energy to work hard in this field?
I really just love a good challenge. Trying to sell the realism and personality of a character with nuances in the work I do. Im very inspired by nature and try build as large a reference library as possible that i incorporate in my work. I also love to try new approaches to work I do that give me results I haven’t had before. Its a thrilling job for sure.
We hope that you have enjoyed Chris Nichols’ wisdom and his works. You are welcome to check other works at his personal website. We promise to write about other 3D artists and their works so stay tunned.