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Interview with Damir Martin

Interview with Damir Martin from Croatia

Hi, Damir, thanks for agreeing to do this interview! Let’s start out with a bit of general background: tell us a few words about yourself.

Hi, thank you for having me.
I live in Croatia, in suburbs of Rijeka.
I’ve studied art at what is today Academy of applied arts, but I never finished it, cos the program was not much to my liking back when I’ve studied it. Theory/practice ratio was bad imho, and the theory was way to dispersed over the periods, when I wanted to specialize for one thing.
After quitting studying I turned to computer graphics completely, I wanted to spend more time creating, rather than sitting around and read about what other people had done before me.
Besides CG I love photography, so I’m often spending my time in woods and nature, which I prefer over concrete, steel and glass.
I like mountain biking and power kiting, tho’ I don’t spend that much time as I’d like to doing that. Im a movie buff, love watching sci-fi-, fantasy and horror genre or playing good videogame.

I think it will be interesting to our readers to know how it all began. How did you take your first artistic steps to reach where you are today? When did you start doing CG? What was the reason of choosing this occupation?

To begin at the beginning. I loved visual expression ever since I can remember.
As a child, I used to watch National Geographic documentaries about lions, crocodiles, all kind’s of animals and as soon as it would end, I took plasteline clay and started modeling these animals or paint them with watercolors.
Jurassic park was probably the reason number one for me to start thinking about cg.
I was in awe seeing those believable, real looking dinosaurs running around.
I remember like it was yesterday.
My mother gave me money to go and have a haircut. It was a rainy day, late summer in 1993. As I was passing the local cinema, on my way to get a haircut, I saw large Jurassic park logo on the building. I went inside the cinema and asked the ticket lady for how long will the Jurassic park movie stay on their schedule. When she said it is the last day, last projection about to start I instantly forgot about haircut and bought the ticket. This was the turning point for me. My mom was not happy about the way I spent the money she gave me for he haircut, as Croatia was in war at that time, and money was an issue.
But today, I think that was the was one of the best spent couple of “hrvatskih dinara”(Croatian currency back in a day) I made :D

The evidence of your talent is clear from looking at your portfolio.I have noticed that you are working with different techniques. Where do you get the ideas for such amazing works?

Thx! I do posses some talent, but the most important thing is working hard and being consistent.
Yes, I use different techniques cos I realized, it is not important how you get there, especially when it comes to still images, what matters is , how the image looks in the end. I use whatever I can to get the result faster and better. I don’t get to obsessed with clean technique. Tho’ some specific tasks require cleanliness.
Ideas come from all around. Mostly from nature, then from other peoples work. We evolve thx to each other. Somebody makes something great, then somebody else adds up to that and makes it even better, and that’s how it goes.

You have a number of pictures dedicated to different kinds of creatures( such as dinosaurs, monsters, etc) . What is it about this theme that captivates you so much?

I’m not sure as to why is that so. My guess is that I like strange and unknown, uncommon.
Tho’ there are people that are afraid of the unknown and strange I gotta say I’m not one of those. Not completely that is, I do have tiny fear of dark, I’m afraid of falling over something and hurting myself, causing my knee to bleed, attracting werewolves and so on :)
But seriously, we know little to nothing about how dinosaurs were actually. We have those bones, and skeletons, and load of assumptions. I like that big question mark that leaves so much place for imagination. Just like the space, and the huge potential of E.T. existence. We know nothing and would give anything to know. Whether E.T. is intelligent, friendly, monstrous or something else.
I like art, computer graphics especially, cos it allows us to speculate about these unknown things in much broader way with much more interesting outcomes then say, with numbers or words.
We are visual creatures before anything.

I think it will be interesting to our readers to learn about your work “Moment before “extinction””. Where did you get inspiration to create this artwork? What stage was the most difficult for you? How long did you work on it?

I like that piece. Mostly because of it’s sense of story and scale in it. Even without my accompanying text it is evident something is happening there to these giant animals. Inspiration came quite before the day of the creation as I was watching Stpehen Hawkings “Into the universe”. There was an episode that touched the theme of Black holes. Hearing about the research facility CERN, and all the theories around it, I started thinking of what would happen if a Black hole somehow got created on earth. Then I thought about what if some advanced race really posessed control over that phenomena, that could create some really interesting scenarios.
Difficult part of this image is the fact it is big, and as such it had loads of layers and a lot details to think about. Even when I thought it’s finished, I discovered new parts I missed, that needed to be polished. Image itself was created over period of 1 week on and off work.

What do you think is the best work you’ve ever produced? Are you a perfectionist? Does it take you long to achieve that final perfect image you are happy with?

DinoMonsters are something I invested most time and energy till now, and I’m working on them constantly, whenever I grab some time.
Because I am perfectionist I’m always changing and improving their look and the story behind them, which is good, and a curse at the same time. It’s good to be perfectionist for obvious reasons, but bad cos you need to much time to finish something. So I’m trying to level the two, perfectionism and speed.
Perfectionism looses it’s purpose at some point.

What work do you enjoy more: personal or commercial projects? What kind of work are you doing now?

I’m still in phase of my career where I enjoy in my personal projects more than commercial.
But I hope that will change soon. At the moment, I’m freelancing for couple of agencies and studios abroad, doing some interesting work for some of them, some creature and character work, which is blessing. I’m trying to push my career in a creature/character direction for film and videogame industry.

Have you any tricks and your own “know-hows” which you gained with experience during your work? Are there any skills and techniques you’d like to acquire?

Im constantly finding out new ways of doing something I already know in easier and faster way.
But im constantly discovering some new things that put me back at the beginning. I want to learn rigging. I know how to rig character beginner like. But I’d like to profound that knowledge. Im full of awe when I come across some character TD reels, where I’m always wondering of how they come up with some of that stuff. I would like to deepen my understanding in materials and rendering as well.

How do you manage to combine your personal life and work? Do you have any hobbies? Is it easy for you to find the time for your family, friends?

Im still learning how to combine personal life with work. Because I like what Im doing, it is hard for me to draw the line. Naturally, I do try to limit my time I spend in front of my computer.
But whenever I do something to relax I’m actually working. Things like bicycle ride or hike trough woods, soaking up nature and fresh air, boosting my inner peace. These nature excursions among relaxing and joy give me inspiration for my work. I take camera with me and get back with hundreds of images I use in my compositions. My work is part of who I am and it is not so simple as with other occupations such as Bus driver, salesman or demolition worker.

You are a mature, experienced artist. What can you say to inspire those newbies who are just starting to work in CG?

I dont see myself as a mature artist yet. I do have some nice experience under my belt, that is true.
But I have a long way to go before reaching some level of maturity imho.
To those who are greener then me. Dont spread yourself to wide, dont wish for to much. Concentrate on something smaller and make it awesomely big, instead of trying bit of everything making it look mediocre and meh.
Try to tell the story with your visuals. Many people today poses great skills, but most of their representative final images tend to look like soulless technical renders of almost T posed characters. You need to know the difference between character sheets/ turnarounds and 3d illustrations.
These are the things I’m still learning to apply to my work.

Thank you for the interview and wish you all the best!

Thank you for giving me the chance to express myself.
Best to you to, and all the readers of DTuts.

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