Jason Martin shared some advice for character artists, who want to build some amazing 3d sculptures!
I am the Lead Character artist at Id Software working on next gen AAA titles for multiple platforms, most recently Doom 2016. I got my start with a few tiny freelance jobs here and there before landing at Blur Studio. Blur has always been a major staple in the animation/cinematic industry. It had been my goal since the start to do all that I could to be a part of that team. As fortune has it, hard work paid off and I got a 6 month onsite freelance gig. While there I was a sponge and absorbed everything I could from the talent around me. I knuckled down and put in the work to hone my craft as much as possible.
These days, Zbrush is my main piece of software. Character artists use many applications to get the job done but the majority of my modeling, if not almost all of it is done in Zbrush. I have been especially excited to dig more and more into Zbrush’s Zmodeler tools. What I initially thought would be just a quick way to block out shapes and forms quickly became my go to for hard surface modeling. Great set of features once you get the hang of it. It’s made me fall in love with polymodeling all over again. Texturing is all Substance Painter with some minor Photoshop. Still use XSi and some 3dsMax for any of the precise traditional modeling tasks. Rendering I tend to stick mostly with Keyshot and Marmoset.
I went to art college and got a degree in Media Arts and Entertainment but my schooling was typical of that era. It was extremely generalized and broad. The program itself was lacking in specifications and never really got deep enough in the right areas. I made the most of it and learned as much as I could. After graduation, I attended Vancouver Film Schools 3d modeling program. It was there that I got a much better in-depth understanding and grasp of 3d modeling overall. In the end, though, it’s all what you get out of it. It’s up to the individual to put the time in and push oneself. I took the educational path but I have also worked with others who were self-taught. Honestly, school is only half the battle. There is the instruction side and there is what you put in with your peers around you. At least half of what I learned was from the other students around me and all of us growing together.
Are you a social artist or do you prefer to work alone? How has that impacted your art job or journey to becoming a professional?
Social 100%. I’ve done both but prefer the studio environment over the other. Working with others hands on is where I have learned the most. Being social and managing your soft skills is key to being a quality professional. How you get along with the team is extremely important. On that note having a good online presence is always helpful. Posting work and networking has expanded my horizons and forged friendships along the way.
As a professional artist, what are you doing now to make sure you stay relevant to the talent coming behind you?
You can’t rest for a second. You have to constantly stay active, learn new things, stay open-minded and realize knowledge can come from anywhere, in all shapes and sizes. I am forever a student and the day I stop learning its over.
What is the biggest problem you’ve faced on a creative team and how did you handle it?
Managing personalities. The best way to work with others is to get to know them. Learn their strengths and weaknesses and help build them up. Putting others before you and actually listening before reacting often fixes problems. We are all unique creatures and having a better understanding of your team makes it that much stronger.
What is a piece that really pushed you to learn more any horror stories?
Impossible to answer really. I have been very fortunate to work on a lot of IP’s. Being a part of Doom has been a real honor and an extremely rewarding experience. Getting to work with iconic characters of that universe was and is just awesome. I can still vividly recall playing Doom for the very first time on my friends Dad’s office computer. We had to hide to play it in fear of his parents catching us. To ever imagine twenty plus years later I would be working at Id Software on Doom, would have blown my little mind.
When do you know that your work is finished? When do you walk away or abandon a piece? Is there ever a time where you notice you go too far?
You don’t. It’s just do. To me, no model is ever finished, it’s just do. Everything can always be better but in a production environment, you need to know when enough is enough. That said, I approach every character with schedule in mind and what role the character plays. You pick out what really matters, what features stand out. What kind of personality does this thing have, how is he seen? What is the end goal you are trying to achieve with this specific character? You take this information and apply it to the character with a focus on what counts, all within the time table you have to work with. You can point to any character I have ever done and I can tell you what can be better on it. I try to approach my characters in passes, never staying too long in any one spot. It keeps a fresh eye and you don’t get too hung up in any one area. I like to always pull out and view my character at a distance to get a feel for how it looks zoomed out, the squint test. All these are good ways to approach things and a good set of filters to apply to know when enough is enough.
You’re teaching a class with CMGA this semester, can you tell me about who your class is for and what it’s about?
This class is covering next-gen creature creation for games. Anyone who wants to make monsters in crazy attire need apply here. I think this class is for all ranges of talent, but you have to have a decent understanding of the process and applications used. I do my very best to cater to a wide audience here. I like to cover all aspects of the pipeline, but not get bogged down in the technical process and frustrate more advanced students. The end goal is to give the class bite-size bits of knowledge that stick. Sculpting live and talking process is a great way to get these things to sink in. It’s all about adding new tools to the artists’ toolbox. Coming at ideas from different angles and trying to think outside the box. Watching the students progress is what really matters!
What advice do you have for artists that want to move up?
Work hard, stay humble. Always be working on your craft and know what you are weak at. Knuckle down, put the time in and dedicate yourself to be a better artist.