Featured 3D Artist of January 2008 – Michael Sormann

3D Valley Featured 3D Artist of January 2008 – Michael Sormann. Michael is an CG artist from Austria who after 10 years working in the games industry decided to try it as a freelance 3D artist. The last several years he worked in his spare time on “Theme Planet” a short film with Pink, Elephant and the Mad Constructor as leading characters. The short film is also featured at the Maya/ Autodesk boot at SighGraph 2007 in San Diego. Please read the interview below with Michael to get to know him and his work a bit better.

Gallery album of Michael Sormann
Website of Michael Sormann

Can you tell us a bit about yourself: Who are you and what do you do in your daily life?

Michael: My name is Michael Sormann, since I left school in Graz/ Austria, I moved to Vienna and worked there as CG Artist. I worked for about 10 years in the Games business, the last 5 years of this period I worked as Lead Artist at the Rockstar Vienna Studio. After this studio has been closed I started to work as a freelance 3D Artist, and I do that until today. Recently I worked on several TV commercials in Germany and I completed the Theme Planet Bunny Situation Short for the Siggraph Autodesk expo booth presentation.

Which software packages and/or traditional materials do you use for your artwork?

Michael: I mainly work with Maya/ Autodesk and for all concept works I simply use pen and paper and scan it in as a reference for modeling.

Where did you go to school and how did they prepare you for your career?

Michael: I attended the HTBLA Ortwein School in Graz, department of Graphic and design. During my education I learned a lot about design, layout and drawing, especially for commercials. All computer related knowledge I learned by myself using my own pc.

Mr. Weasel Pig and Elephant sitting in buggy

Can you tell us a bit of the way you work on your art?

Michael: The first step is always the design. I draw for example a character in several poses and from different angles. Then I scan it and project it in Maya on a reference plane. Based on reference, I model the character, as close as possible to the concept art. Then I adjust the UVs and texture the whole model and create the light setup. The next step is skinning and rigging, and then I start to animate the character.

Who or what would you describe as having the most influences on your work/ style?

Michael: My art style is influenced by several French and Belgium comic artists. Regarding my 3D art I’m of course quite influenced by Pixar’s works. I especially like some of their short films, they impressed me most.

Do you have a favorite piece of your own artwork and if so, why?

Michael: I like my Mad Constructor character on his big Robot. I just like the little fellow, and I think I managed to create the robot with a lot of details but the overall shape is still clear and easily to understand.

The Mad Constructor on his
body enlargement robot

What is your goal as an artist?

Michael: I will go on to develop Theme Planet. My Goal is to create any kind of product out of it, either a film or a TV series or an computer game… this is still a very distant goal I know…

How many years are you working in the CG industry?

Michael: Together with my time in the games industry… 11 years now.

What was your first break in the business?

Michael: After school I had to attend civil service in Austria for one year, and during this time I started to work at home, in my spare time, as freelancer for different Austrian and German computer game companies.

TP. Barracuda – drawing TP. Barracuda

I read on your website that you are currently working as a freelance artist. What do you feel are the advantages and disadvantages of working freelance?

Michael: In my case, after 10 years sitting in an office every day, working only for one company for years… I simply needed a change. As a freelancer you don’t get your money that regularly as an employee, but I can schedule my projects much better and I have more time to develop Theme Planet.

You recently completed a personal animation project Planet Theme, which is also featured at the Autodesk boot at SighGraph 2007. It’s a fantastic short film and I love the cartoon style you used. Can you tell us some more about it?

Michael: I work on the Theme Planet project for several years now (in my spare time). A few months ago a guy from Autodesk asked me if I could create a short film to show it at their SighGraph Expo booth. The also needed assets to present some new features of Maya. I worked on that for about 3 month, but most of the modeling was already done by me at these date. I used Maya for the whole project.

What do you feel is the most important thing to do when you start on a project like Planet Theme and what did you learned from it?

Michael: Planning is the most important step, a good storyboard and, if possible, even an animatic to get a clear picture of the whole project before you start detailed animating.

Skyline HQ

Which areas of your work do you enjoy the most?

Design and modeling, this is really fun. Animating is also great but it can be very challenging and complex.

What would be your dream assignment?

Michael: Working as an Art director on a 3D animated movie.

What’s your favorite CG character from the movies?

Michael: The little rat from the last Pixar film.

Big reactor room Mr Bunny and Mad Constructor
at work in the lab

Do you have any tips for the artists who admire your work?

Michael: Try to develop your drawing skills as well as your skills using your 3D software. The combination of these two skills is, in my opinion, very important.

If you wouldn’t be working in 3D what do you think you would be doing today?

Drawing comics and cartoons for newspapers or magazines.

Besides 3Dvalley.com, which other graphic sites do you visit regularly?

Michael: Highend3D.com, CGsociety, CGchannel.com, Autodesk AREA and some Austrian and German sites like CG-creatives.de or CGforum.

Theme Planet poster

Is their something you can’t work without?

Michael: This is easy 🙂 the answer is: coffee!

What do you do when you are not working or creating something?

Michael: I really like to watch movies. I have a large DVD collection and I like to go to the cinema and meeting friends in Bars, to drink a beer or two 🙂

Theme Planet by Michael Sormann
Click here
to download the large version (85Mb) for Windows
Click here to download the large version (120Mb) for Apple

Christa: Thanks for your time and the interview Michael!

Gallery album of Michael Sormann
Website of Michael Sormann

Interviews with other artists

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