Artist Interview with AJ Jefferies


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Tell us a bit about your career as an artist and animator so far. Has everything gone as planned or are you in a different place now than you thought you'd be?

I am one half of a two-man CGI studio called MDI Digital ( based in Norwich in the UK. I studied traditional illustration at art college in Bournemouth, Dorset but I was also really into digital art, especially 3D computer graphics, so I did the best I could to work digitally where ever I could. I was extremely fortunate that one of the guest lecturers was actually an ex-student who ran a small but really impressive CGI studio called Digital Progression. When I graduated I was luckier still to get hired by them! I worked there for 7 years, creating artwork and animations for all manner of industries from video games to chocolate bars. My colleague Matt had left the studio a few years earlier to strike out on his own and in 2008 I teamed up with him and we've been working together ever since.

As far as planning, I don't think you can ever really plan for a creative career, the best you can do is point yourself in the right direction and be prepared to be blown wildly off course! I'm constantly amazed at the twists, turns and amazing places this job has taken me but I wouldn't change any of it for the world.

AJ Jefferies, Monster Project Submission 2016

AJ Jefferies, Monster Project Submission 2016

When did you start working in 3D and what initially interested you in it?

I was always fascinated with animation and as a kid, I was convinced I'd end up working in (traditional) feature film animation. This eventually blended with my love of computers, leading to me spending days making my own (dreadful) cartoons in Deluxe Paint III on my Amiga 500. Eventually, I started playing around with some really basic (by today's standards) 3D software when I was around 11-12. Then when I was 14 I bought a magazine that had a free copy of a program called 'Imagine' for the PC, and that was it, I was hooked. I think my attraction to CGI was just how new and exciting it all was. I could sit at my parent's computer and create actual animations. They were terrible, of course, but still that initial excitement still hasn't left me.


There's such a great sense of humor in your work. Is that something that has always been important for you to incorporate into your art?

I've always got a big kick out of trying to make people laugh, so I guess it was inevitable that this would creep into my work. I also feel it's important to create things that you want to see, or that you would enjoy had they been created by someone else and I always gravitate to images/animations that make me laugh.


Can you give us some insight into how you go about creating a character? Perhaps using the example of one of your previous Monster Project contributions?

I usually start with a traditional sketch, because you can quickly test out 10-20 ideas and also it stops me thinking about things in purely 3D terms. I actually quite like it when an idea works on paper but is difficult to translate into a 3D model, it lets me know I probably wouldn't have come up with that design if I'd chosen the purely 3D route! That said, I will occasionally just start (digitally) sculpting a character with just a loose idea of what I want it to look like. It usually ends up in the bin but every now and then it works out!

What would the kid version of you think about the adult version of you?

I like to think that he'd be really happy that I'm doing a creative job that I enjoy, but I think realistically he'd be most excited that he'll be able to grow a beard.


In a battle between a Kraken and Godzilla, who would win?

Godzilla! Now, the REAL question is who is better, Godzilla or Gamera....

What is the most fun project you've worked on this year?

I'm not exaggerating when I say that the Monster Project has become a highlight of my year now. I really look forward to setting some time aside and working on it! Other than that, all of my favourite projects this year have been collaborating with friends. I just finished doing some visual effects for a friend's sci-fi short film and that was great. Not only to scratch an itch I didn't know I had, but also to see an audience react to what you've created, that's not something that gets to happen very often in illustration!

What question would you like us to ask the next Monster Project artist we interview?

If you could instantly become a master of ONE skill, what would it be?