3DValley Featured 3D Artist February 2009 – Jason Godbey. Jason grew up in Birmingham, Alabama and graduated from the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a degree in social psychology and a minor in philosophy. He started with 3D as a hobby about six years ago but it soon turned into a passion and today he is making a living of it. He currently lives California and works at a video game company as an environment artist. Please read our interview with Jason below to get to know him and his work a bit better.
Christa: Can you tell us a bit about yourself: Who you are and what you do in your daily life?
Jason: I am a self-taught artist living in Carlsbad, California working as an environment artist.
Christa: Which software packages and/or traditional materials do you use for your artwork?
Jason: Mainly when working on my personal projects at home I use 3ds Max and Vray to render. When I’m at work I use Maya. Photoshop is essential too and I use it for my personal projects and when I’m at work.
Christa: Where did you go to school and how did they prepare you for your career?
Jason: I went to the University of Alabama at Birmingham and got a degree in social psychology and I minored in philosophy. It’s funny that I’m not doing anything with my degree professionally, but psychology and philosophy are subjects I really enjoy too. I only had one art appreciation class and I didn’t study 3D there. I would have, but they didn’t have any classes on 3D. The main thing that helped me the most was being taught how to think instead of being taught what to think. Of course, I still had those courses that were based a lot on rote memorization, but the classes that taught students how to think were the ones that helped me the most in developing my skills as an artist.
Christa: You are a self taught artist, you started with Bryce and Vue and since a few years you have been working with 3ds Max. How did you get interested in 3D?
Jason: I used to play video games quiet a bit and I got into adventure games like Myst and Riven. I thought it was cool how you were drawn into this world you could interact with that looked very real, but were only places that someone imagined. I thought it would be cool to make stuff like that, but didn’t really know how it could be done. Later on I stumbled onto some websites that used Bryce to make desktop wallpaper…you know, the traditional sphere over water kind of thing. I checked out some other stuff that could be done in Bryce and saw that it was possible to make landscapes and environments like in the games I used to play. I tried Bryce out and the rest as they say is history.
Click here to read Jason’s analysis of the image “Static”
Christa: Can you tell us a bit of the way you work on your art?
Jason: I will always sketch out my ideas on paper before I get started. I write down whatever comes to mind, even if it might seem out of place for what I want to do I run with it. I never really shut out an idea because even if I don’t use it on a current project it might be used later on or it can evolve into something else. I always have a lot of ideas to pick from when going into a project, but I usually decide what to work on based on what I want to say at the moment. There’s always some kind of meaning behind each piece I do now. Once I get an idea of what I want to do I start on laying out the scene using basic shapes just to get a rough start on the composition. Then I will start modeling whatever I need. After making a good first pass on modeling I start texturing and the lighting comes after that. I always find myself going back and adding more stuff later. I always have other ideas while I’m working so
Christa: How much time do you spent on modeling on how much on touch-ups in Photoshop?
Jason: I spend less time on modeling and touch-ups and more of my time on texturing. If a project takes about a month to complete I might spend a week on modeling, and two weeks on texturing, and the last week I’ll spend lighting and doing touch-ups. That’s if everything falls together nice and easy, but as I said I always come up with other ideas while working so there’s usually two or three more passes at modeling and texturing things.
Christa: Do you have a favorite piece of your own artwork and if so why
Jason: I think my favorite piece at the moment is “Rebirth”. It’s the final image in a series I did based on the theme of sequestration in society. Ultimately the image represents the actualization of an individual’s true potential. It’s about freedom, redemption, new life, new opportunities, and the possibilities that come from that after breaking free from some sort of lifeless, mundane existence that is either forced upon an individual or taken up by the individual voluntarily. This is a theme I keep coming back to and I will continue to build on this theme with my other projects in the future.
Click here to read Jason’s analysis of the image “Rebirth”
Christa: Who or what would you describe as having the most influences on your work/ style?
Jason: Some of my earliest influences are 3D artists such as Margit Eberl, Eran Dinur, Thomas Krahn, and Patrick Merminod. I’m also a big fan of Raphael Lacoste and Juan Siquier. Traditional painters such as Rembrandt and Vermeer are favorites too. Their use of color and light were phenomenal. Beyond artists I would say that the world around me is the biggest influence. Everything I see and everything I experience has an impact on my art in some way.
Christa: What do you wish you had known when you first started out?
Jason: That’s a tough question. I wish I knew how to draw better. Even today my drawing abilities are kind of limited. It would help in seeing my ideas on better before I start on a project, but as long as I can see the ideas in my head I’m good to go. It would be cool if I could do more traditional 2D stuff because you get instant results. With 2D someone could paint for an hour and have a picture completely finished. With 3D, it might take a month or even two months to see one of my ideas come to life. I have a lot of ideas, but there’s no way for me to get them out fast enough.
Christa: You are currently working as an environment artist for a game company, can you tell us what how a day at the office is for you?
Jason: I get in the office around 8AM. Most people get in around 9 or 10AM. We’re a laid back company so there’s no strict set time we have to be in. We just have to make sure we get our work done and be there for the meetings we need to attend. At noon everyone goes to lunch and I’ll usually go get lunch with some of the other artists. There are various meetings throughout the week so depending on what day it is I might have other meetings before or after lunch. Besides work there are all kinds of shenanigans going on at the office. We’re all about having fun so we take time to joke around and visit each other throughout the day. A few of us might go for a coffee run late in the day or get a quick bite to eat if we have to work late. On a normal day I usually head home between 5 and 6PM. It’s a lot of fun and that’s one of the most important things to have when it comes to working an environment that is driven by creativity. Levity helps drive creativity and productivity.
Christa: Which projects have you been working on and is there any project in particular that you especially enjoyed working on?
Jason: I can’t say too much about the current project I’m working on. I’ve pretty much enjoyed all the projects I’ve worked on. As long as I’m doing art then it’s all good.
Christa: How important is the lighting in a scene and do you have any tips?
Jason: I think lighting a scene is one of the most important parts. It can make or break a scene really. I like the way Rembrandt used vast contrasts between light and dark in his work. I think that makes the scene more dramatic and it adds more impact to what is being said or expressed.
Christa: I enjoyed reading the essays on your blog Philosophy & Art. By using symbols and giving meaning to certain props you tell the story behind your image. What do you think is the link between philosophy and art?
Jason: When incorporating philosophy into art a bridge is built between concepts and percepts. What I mean is that philosophy deals with concepts, which are intangible things, just ideas and mental pictures based on specific concepts. Taking concepts and turning them into something that is tangible, a percept or perception, like a work of art is to take that concept to a higher level where it can actually be seen and speak to others and be understood by others in a way that goes beyond just words. To me, taking an idea and turning that into something tangible, making it a reality, is the highest level of expression a person can achieve.
Christa: Do you create your own textures and what do you use as references for your textures?
Jason: For the most part I take a lot textures found on sites like CGtextures and then modify them to my liking by either painting over them in Photoshop or use some kind of blending method in 3ds Max. When gathering references I usually use Google or Flickr to search for whatever I need or if I can find good reference around the house or office I’ll use that.
Christa: What would be your dream assignment?
Jason: That’s a good question. It would be cool to work on a Pixar film. Even just being able to work on my personal projects all day long would be great since I have so many ideas and there’s a lot I want to say through my art.
Click here to read Jason’s analysis of the image “Invisible”
Christa: Do you have any tips for beginning artists?
Jason: Patience, practice, and persistence. It can be overwhelming when first getting into 3D since there’s so much to learn, but if you’re patient in getting over the learning curve, constantly practice your craft, and are persistent in going after what you want you’ll eventually end up in a really good place.
Christa: What’s your favorite CG character from the movies?
Jason: I really enjoyed Wall-E. I like how Pixar gives so much life and personality to their characters. I like Wall-E because he was rather bold, daring, and even reckless in making things happen. That’s what it takes and I feel I can relate to that.
Christa: Besides 3Dvalley.com, which other graphic sites do you visit regularly?
Christa: Is their something you can’t work without?
Jason: I go through moments where I have to have my coffee or tea and moments where I have to have my music or just silence. It depends on the task and whether or not I’m in a groove.
Christa: What do you do when you are not working or creating something?
Jason: I play guitar and I’m currently in a band with some of my fellow artists at the company I work for. I also read books on psychology, sociology, and philosophy. My hobbies definitely inspire me too. I find a lot of the things I write about in the essays that go with my images are greatly influenced by the things I read.
Christa: Thanks for your time and the interview Jason!