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Interview with Julian_J

Look interview with Julian_J – photorealistic character modeller, which works in Maya!

Interview with Julian_J
May 12, 2003 | Stryker

Tell us about yourself Julian, when and how did you get started in the 3D industry?

Julian_J: Hello there I’m. Julian Johnson-Mortimer, I’m a 28 year old artist who lives in England. I started doing 3d just by accident really, I have a traditional art background, painting watercolours. And one day I was making some flash animations for my watercolour website, and I wanted a human figure walking in the animation, and someone mentioned I should try the program poser. I found the program interesting but limiting I used it for a short while just using it for a few flash animations for a website, it was at this time when some one saw one of my animations. And said that I should try a more high-end 3d program like Maya, it was a program I had never heard of before, once I found out what could be achieved with this program. And that it was used for the cg effects on lots of films, I thought it would be a great challenge for me to try to learn cg, I had always found the cg effects in films interesting and had always wondered how it was made, but I had never really thought I would be using the same programs one day.

How long you in CG?

Julian_J: I started learning CG in sept 2001 so it will becoming up to 2 years soon but I don’t do CG full time, I still earn my main living as a watercolour artist.

What are your primary 3D packages and why do you choose to use them?

Julian_J: Well when I decided to try and learn cg I got hold of the 30 day trial of Maya and I started learning the program following the starter lessons, I felt at home right away with Maya, but I thought before making such a big decision in getting the full version, I thought I should try all the other 3d programs out there. I gave the trials of Lightwave and 3DS max a try, but I guess because I just started with Maya, I felt most at home with it, I really liked the look of lightwave but I just could not get feel of the program like I did with Maya. I would still like to give lightwave a try one day, of course all the other high-end 3d program are great Maya 3dsmax lightwave c4d XSI are all great programs and it’s not for me to say which is better then the other.

All have their good and bad points, I recently tried the trial of XSI though, and I found it a great program, probably the most advanced and best 3d program at the moment, but its out of my price range. and I feel to at home with Maya now, the only reason I use Maya I just because it was the first program I tried I guess.

Have you had any Art Related Schooling?

Julian_J: No I’ve had no art related training art all, I left school when I was 15 I know it was quite young to leave school and I had no idea what I was going to do with my life. I left school before any examinations, I had no qualifications so I did not really have a bright future I guess on the job front.

My parents would ask me, what I wanted to do? or what I was going to do? I had no real idea, but one day my younger sister was painting and I was bored, I guess, so I borrowed some of her paints and started painting a picture myself. I can still remember the first picture I painted, I copied it from an old book. It was a rather gruesome picture, it was a picture of the Pirate Captain Kid after he had been hanged, and from that day, I started painting every day. And after a few weeks of painting, I painted 2 pictures of an old cottage that a friend of my father owned, and I was surprised when framed how good they were.

And they were the first pictures I ever sold, they were not even painted with proper watercolour paint, but from then on I started taking painting seriously, and I would paint almost all day every day. I painted from 9am in the morning to 10pm at night, almost every day. Maybe it was because I did not want my parents to think I was lazy, I guess, plus also I did really enjoy it and it was a challenge.

Well I got better and better, I studied mostly old master paintings, my favourite artists were Constable, Turner and Leonardo de Vinci, and by the time I was 17 I was making a good living from my paintings. I had a whole floor of a antique and art shop full of my work in a town called Deal (near where I live), I also had my first exhibition when I was about 18 I think.

The pictures I mostly sold were actually copies of old master paintings. I found I could copy any painting or drawing so most people would not be able to tell the difference, and these were sold as just copies of old masters. Strangely enough I have always sold more copies, then my original work, but I don’t mind, it’s nice to be able to make a living doing something that you enjoy. But I would not say that I have very much artistic talent, I think anyone can learn and become good at art, 2d or 3d, it’s just the amount of effort and time that I put into learning something.

Do you feel that an artist looking into a CG based career requires Art Education?

Julian_J: Well it can certainly be helpful being able to draw and sketch ideas be forehand for example, but no its not necessary I’m sure their are hundreds of great 3d artist out there that had no art education or background. it just comes down to effort in the end. I believe anyone can achieve a pretty high level in almost any field just on effort alone.

How do you achieve this photo-realistic look in your characters?

Julian_J: To achieve a good photo-realistic character , takes a lot of work, I must say it does seem to be getter easier with renderers like the brazil render for 3dsmax about now, I hope they make it for Maya one day , its still quite hard to achieve in Maya. The metal ray plug-in for Maya has certainly helped, because Maya users can now achieve real hdri lighting which can really help create a realistic image but its still not perfect. Most of my Maya shaders do not work with metal ray, so though trial and error I’ve just developed my way of achieving really good renders using the default Maya render as the base layer of the image, and combining some layers rendered with the metal ray renderer.

How many renders does it take for you to achieve that final perfect image you are happy with?

Julian_J: It can take quite a while to get it looking perfect, I usually render out in lots of layers then composite them in Photoshop so it can take some time.

What methods did you use to render?

Julian_J: I mostly use the Maya default render, and use metal ray for hdri based lighting, I hope in the future to be able to do all my work in metal ray, but at the moment I still have to use the default Maya renderer to achieve a really good image.

Whether you create animation for characters?

Julian_J: Animation is not really my strong point, I would say I’m best at modelling and texturing, I’ve not really produced any animations that I’ve been happy with so far, and I will be trying toimprove animation skills in the near future. also the way I work the render times can be quite long and takes forever to renders images for a short animation, but recently I’ve manage to reduced my render times per frame, and still achieve a pretty good image, so I should be making more animations in the future.

Why you prefer only to characters?

Julian_J: I don’t always just make characters, I also have made scenes in the past, it’s just I enjoy making characters most, and trying to improve on my modelling and texturing with everyone I make. and that’s all I’m focusing on at the moment. I had a idea making of short film a while back featuring one of my characters Fred, but I’m still working on the story I want it to be interesting so that will probably be the next time I come to making some full scenes.

How many people help you out with your work?

Julian_J: Hmm no one really helps me with my work, I like to do everything myself, I’ve only ever once asked another artist for help when I was first learning nurbs modelling and trying to attach two nurbs objects together and it was driving me crazy:-). other then that I like to be independent and solve my own problems when I have them.

How long did you work on one character?

Julian_J: Hmm the longest I think I’ve spent on a character was probably about six weeks, it’s was a female character based on the actress Natalie Portman I ended up remodelling the head a few times because I was not happy with it, but it was the textures that took forever, the first textures I made were all hand painted but they just looked wrong, so I spent a while painting new ones and still was the happy with it. So in the end for the 3rd set of textures I used some high detail photos as a base but it still involved quite a bit of painting in Photoshop so in the end it took ages the finish the head, but I learnt a lot about texturing.

Do you have a favourite character?

Julian_J: Yes it’s probably a character called Fred I did quite a while a go now, but I have remodelled him since them and made some really good textures for him and plan to use him for a short film some time.

What site do you advise for training, except 3DM? :-)

Julian_J: Well there’s quite a few good sites for learning, I can just mention a few, for beginners www.3dbuzz.com for Maya users http://www.simplymaya.com is a good site, my favourite is probably http://www.highend3d.com and the Maya forum on http://www.cgtalk.com always had lots of links to useful lessons.

Any plans for the near or far future? well at the moment I’m currently making my first modelling tutorial, talking though how I model to UVmapping. I’ve got lots of ides of what things to make but its finding the time to do them, your have to wait and see I guess ;-)

Your wishes to beginners!

Julian_J: Hmm above all try to enjoy it I guess, cg can become tedious and frustrating at times but stick with it if it’s what you really want to do.

Thanks for nice conversation, Julian!

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