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You’ve made some of our favorite Monster Project monsters of all time—your character designs really stand out and make the kids’ drawings totally come to life. What’s your process like when creating your Monster Project pieces?
Thanks! I'm the self-proclaimed king of procrastination, so I love that The Monster Project gives me enough time to play around with things rather than being under the tighter pressure of a paid job. I always try to have a loose idea of what I want to achieve before the kids' drawings get released [for the artists to choose from online]—that way I can try to pick a drawing [to recreate] that's going to help me achieve that. In 2016, I wanted to use the project to find my way around Octane Render, which I'd recently started using, and play around with materials which had some sort of hand-drawn aesthetic. In 2017, my aim was to learn a bit more about Z-Brush and to play with more (dare I say) 'realistic' render styles.
Process-wise, I do always scribble down a few quick ideas, but my sketch game isn't that great nowadays! I prefer to throw shapes around in 3D to get a feel for what works. I usually pad things out with primitives (spheres, cubes etc) until I'm happy with composition and proportions, before starting to build in some detail and trying to find shapes/forms that 'work'. It's pretty rare that my sketches ever really resemble the outcome!
Chris Schofield's Monster Project Contribution, 2017
How did you get into 3D art & animation and how did you go about developing those skills?
I've been into art for as long as I can remember, and I owe a lot to a few art teachers who spotted this and nurtured it.... I did my degree in Graphic Arts & Design at Leeds Met between 2003 and 2006, where my tutors guided me towards specializing in animation towards the end of my 3 years there. At that time, it was mainly stop-motion and flash stuff. Whilst working for a couple of different design agencies following graduation, I learned 3D modeling and animation in my spare time after seeing more and more amazing work online and catching the 3D bug. Luckily, I had access to a Cinema4D license through my employer, so I spent the majority of my evenings ploughing through tutorials and honing my skills! I worked my way up to being Head of Design at one agency, and I was able start to integrate more 3D workflows as I started to have more input with clients. We were working with such a nice wide range of companies that I became pretty familiar with loads of different 'genres' of 3D—character work, hard surface modeling, motion graphics, arch viz, etc....
How would you describe your style as an artist and how did you arrive there?
I struggle to answer this question! As well as the more character-based stuff which people may have seen, I do a lot of work in other 3D fields too (a lot under NDA), so I think I have a pretty fluid style. I also get bored easily and never think I could settle on producing a single style as such.... Character-wise, I do love disproportionate things—fat bodies with stumpy little legs, massive heads, or characters with elongated limbs are often my starting points. I suppose that I often consider my characters to have a certain innocence to them too—my 2017 monster is a great example. Even though he has some pretty violent looking teeth and claws, his face is still asking for a hug. I take influence from all over, and perhaps it's not evident in the outcome, but I love the artwork of Jeremy Fish, Alex Pardee, Sam Flores, and am a huge Hayao Miyazaki fan too.
After college, you worked for a digital agency and then went freelance. Can you tell us a bit about how that transition happened and what it has been like to be full-time freelance?
I took the leap into freelance at the end of 2015 after being made redundant. No need for violins though—it was a complete blessing in disguise, as I was able to continue working with most of the same companies, avoid agency politics, and start to make a name for myself! I'd say that freelance definitely isn't for everyone, but I love it. Although you do need to be disciplined to earn a living, I can work the hours that I choose, play my music as loud as I like, and also wear slippers whilst I work. I've also moved out of the city now, to the more rural place where I grew up—near Ilkley, West Yorkshire. If I'm working from my home studio, I definitely prefer it being in a somewhat peaceful location!
If you could make any monster created for The Monster Project come alive and hang out with it for a day, which one would it be and why?
I think it'd be pretty awesome to go berry picking with Riccardo Zema's 2016 monster [see Riccardo's monster below]! He looks like such a friendly dude, so I reckon he'd be down with sharing some of his spoils and making some 'Monster berry gin' with me!
Riccardo Zema's Monster Project contribution, 2016
What advice would you give or resources would you share with someone who is familiar with illustration but just starting out in 3D?
Well, I'd say for sure that there are a lot of copycats out there at the moment. Instagram especially is full of certain 3D styles that have been done to death now. Tutorials are invaluable when you're starting to learn 3D, but as soon as you've got the basic approach down for doing something, don't be afraid to step back and try to work out what makes your work any different from everybody else, and run with it. Every 3D artist has the same basic tools at their disposal, so it's about trying to find techniques that make your work unique, just the same as a painter would develop their own unique mark-making style.
Chris Schofield's Monster Project contribution, 2016
How do you see your career progressing? What kind of stuff do you hope to be making in 5 or 10 years?
I feel like I'm in a really good place right now. Ever since I was a kid in the early 90's, I've always wanted to be featured in a 'proper art book', which has happened twice this year, so I'm totally thrilled. Over the last year, I've also been working with some new groups of really talented artists, which is incredibly cool and also incredibly humbling! I'd say at the moment, I take maybe a 70/30 split of jobs which I really dig, versus ones which pay the bills, so a big focus in the next few years will be trying to build on that 70%. As long as the interest is still there, I definitely see myself freelancing for the rest of my career. As I said earlier, I get bored easily, so I love that every week is fresh and different, and I hope that continues. Honestly, I don't even know what I'll be doing in a few months, let alone a few years time, but that's part of the beauty of being a freelancer!
What’s an area of your work where you’ve seen a lot of improvement? What’s an area that you struggle with and want to continue to develop?
I have a massive, seemingly endless list of things that I want to learn. Optimizing workflow is always a thing that I'm trying to improve on. There's no point in remodeling the same asset from scratch over and over, so I've been working on creating libraries of assets which I can reuse and tweak between projects if necessary (like a library of base character limbs for example). I've become a lot more proficient with digital sculpting (Z-brush) in the last 12 months or so too, but still have miles to go.
It's on my to-do list, but right now I don't feel like lighting is my strong point at all. GPU render engines have made it a hell of a lot easier to quickly visualize what you're working with, but that's definitely at the top of my development list!
If you were a monster, would you rather be able to breathe fire or breathe underwater (in addition to being able to breathe air)? Please explain.
Without doubt, it'd be underwater breathing. I'm a pretty big science nerd and I'm in a constant state of amazement when new things are discovered both in our oceans and in space. Knowing that there are huge expanses of our oceans which have never been explored...I'd be down there immediately if my lungs allowed it!
Why do you participate in The Monster Project?
The Monster Project is such fun to take part in, and it's a genuine honor. It's super fulfilling to know that you can play a small part in inspiring all of the kid illustrators to maybe keep making art and realize their potentials. On a selfish level, I enjoy taking part in a project where you can essentially do what you want! The best part is definitely seeing the reaction videos at the end of the project, as well as seeing all of the frankly amazing work which all of my fellow artists produce!
We asked the last Monster Project artists we interviewed to come up with their own interview questions. Stuart Wade wants to know…what keeps you motivated and inspired to keep putting out your best work?
Firstly, it's for the love of the game. I don't really treat this as work, but more of a hobby which I happen to get paid for. Loving what I do definitely sweetens the deal! Secondly, and this is probably down to social media and the internet, but nowadays there's a constant stream of amazing artwork wherever you look. Seeing all of the stunning work that people put out there definitely spurs me on to want to improve and be a better artist.