Meet the Artist :: Andrew Baker

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Old 11 November 2013   #1
Meet the Artist :: Andrew Baker


This week we have another special 'Meet the Artist' guest. Andrew Baker, the Senior Designer on Peter Jackson's 'Hobbit' movies, at Weta Workshop Design Studio. Andrew joined the Weta crew in 2007, then moved into the Workshop a year later to work as a resident digital sculptor and creature and character designer. We were so pleased to have him on board the crew here as well at Ballistic in the creation of our latest book Essence: Creatures.

Andrew's history is deep and as you can imagine, it is a privilege to have his attention to this thread on CGSociety. If you have any questions, please step up and ask now. But please do make him welcome. We give you Andrew Baker. (He's not the guy below. )

For Editor and features writer, CGSociety; Global Artist Liaison, Ballistic Publishing. Freelance writer, media consultant & digital producer.

Last edited by PaulHellard : 11 November 2013 at 12:40 AM.
Old 11 November 2013   #2
Great work on The Hobbit.

Kudos to you.
Old 11 November 2013   #3
How'd you get your start?

Hi Andrew, Im a fan of your work! I was wondering if you can tell us how you got your start? Did you start in the traditional world or just digital? Also, if possible, can you give us an idea what your process is when creating a new creature design? I love the new GE-ILO creature you created for ESSENCE. Any tips you could share would be greatly appreciated!
Old 11 November 2013   #4
Hi Andrew and welcome!
Lovely work. Looking at it I wondered if you could tell us which artists have inspired you in the past and present?

The terminal velocity of individual particles is directly related to pink rabbits on a bank holiday.
Characters, Games, Toys
Old 11 November 2013   #5
Hi everyone!

Big thanks to Paul and Ballistic for having me here! It's a great privilege and happy to answer any questions that I can

Hi Kanga, I'll answer yours first... Phew, there are so many artists that I love for so many different reasons, so I'll try not waffle too much about it! My father is the reason I do anything artistic in the first place, being an amazing oil painter, and seeing one of his portraits for the first time hurt my little brain and got me wanting to draw paint etc. myself. Before getting into the concept/commercial art world, I was a big Ray Harris-Ching fan, and still am! No one quite captures wildlife like he does. He also has an amazing design sensibility when it comes to composition so I'm still hugely influenced by his approach. Wayne Barlowe and Iain McCaig I would have to say are also huge influences and to me, few reach as far as Barlowe does with creative design, and Iain certainly captures a character like no other! Same goes for John How and Alan Lee! Down here in NZ I've been introduced to some amazing artists who have influenced and taught me a lot about what I do including Jamie Beswarick, Aaron Beck, Christian Pearce, Greg Broadmore, David Meng and Greg Tozer to name a few. So there's just a few that I'd say have influenced and inspired me to do what I do

Hi JJP3D1 I actually started drawing and painting before I got into digital. The idea of doing digital illustration was very foreign to me at the start, but the reality of working as an artist commercially without it seemed impossible. While at Uni I saw some guys using lightwave and it really caught my attention, however after playing for a while I found the tools quite technical in nature and my creativity was being drained by learning software all the time, which is when I discovered ZBrush, I think it was ZBrush 2 that had just come out, and I fell in love! I had never done traditional sculpting but I loved the idea of 3D and slowly got the hang of it. So just before Uni ended I was able to get some freelance work with some game companies mainly, sent my reel (which was mainly focused on modelling at the time) to Weta and being a creature designer was still a bit of a foreign concept to me as I felt so green in the industry starting out (still do!). But I really loved doing it, so I sent some of my personal work to a friend working at Weta in the design department and Richard took a gamble and brought me on. Very lucky to have been with Weta 6 years now and still love working here dearly, it's like a family.

Thank you very much about GE-ILO. I had a lot of fun doing the painting, which was my main focus of that piece. The design was very much based on the Elite (from Halo) which a lot of the guys here did some amazing work on, but I wasn't here for that, so this is kinda my version on that similar brief, although geilo is an engineered organism, not an alien. As this character was based mainly on a humanoid bipedal figure, I tried to put most of the creative focus on his skin treatment, the panelling and ribbing. I also wanted something very blunt for the mouth parts instead of doing yet another insect mouth variation.
As far as any tips, I always say if you're using Zbrush to start off on a design, try not start off on any base unless absolutely necessary. Starting a design fresh allows you to discover forms along the way you might not bother trying on a pre determined base.

Thanks for the awesome questions guys, hope those answers were ok... feel free to ask me to clear up anything I may have missed
Old 11 November 2013   #6
Thanks for the answer Andrew. I was not familiar with all the names but google brought forth some very inspiring work indeed!
The terminal velocity of individual particles is directly related to pink rabbits on a bank holiday.
Characters, Games, Toys
Old 11 November 2013   #7
New Concepts

Hi Andrew,

Thanks for taking the time to answer all our questions. I truly appreciate it. I was wondering how you motivate yourself to come up with new projects (and actually finish them). I find the hardest part of creating anything is actually sitting down and deciding to embark on something new and also after I've nearly finished it ... actually getting a final render or a final image that I think is complete.

Thanks again!
Old 11 November 2013   #8
Hello Andrew!, I'm Abraham Ibáñez from Mexico City. I'll be going to New Zealand to study at Media Design School, so as you might guess my goal after finishing the bachelor is to get a job in NZ and I'm definitely applying at Weta among others. Is there any advice you could gave generally to all foreign students looking forward to get a job in a top studio in NZ??

Apart from that, I have a couple of specific questions regarding working with Zbrush. I just don't know what is the best way sculpt in zbrush: using perspective?, or not using perspective view? what's your opinion on that?

How much would you say does a modeler have to worry about doing a nice and clean topology? I mean, do you worry about that and do a basemesh in Maya first, or go straight ahead into Zbrush and not worry at all about the topology/maya.

Thank you very much , I have to say your work is very inspiring for me and I would appreciate if you could give me some feedback/comments/suggestion on my portfolio

Old 11 November 2013   #9
Hey Andrew!

Thanks for taking time to answer questions here.
I think over the last few years, there's been more and more talk about "anatomy know-how" and the importance of it. Ofcause it's important to know why muscles bend as they do and in rough sense know what they look like. But how much hardcore anatomy knowledge do you "spend" on designing the creatures and characters you do, versus getting a nice overall shape?

Hope you understood my question.

Ps. Really like your work and i hope that enough people buy the Essence creature book, for you guys to make a second one.. heheh
I hope to purchase my copy soon.

Old 11 November 2013   #10
Nice job on the textures!!

Old 11 November 2013   #11
Hey all, thanks again for the great questions! Here goes:

pnogu003, no worries man!
It's always tricky finding motivation and or inspiration for a new project, continuously again and again. That's why I think as an artist study is so important, it keeps you fresh and will always increase your catalogue of reference to draw from. For my main focus in art, nature always has something new to inspire me, when you think of the variety life has to offer. To be doing this for a living, I think you have to be true to yourself and play to your passions, or grow those passions whatever they are and let them fuel what you create. I find if I draw from that, I'm rarely out of an idea to sit down and create something.
I think completing artwork for your personal time (for me anyway) is always going to be challenging because you're technically setting that deadline. Commercially you're always working to a deadline so you develop enough techniques to get you there with a somewhat satisfied feeling, but I feel every good artist I've worked with will always tell you, "ahh, wish i had more time here and there" and I think that's largely because most good artists feel they're always learning and growing piece by piece. Hope that helps

Hi Abraham.
And welcome to New Zealand.. soon!
I wish you all the luck with MDS and creating your reel. Just work hard at it, and be persistent
So about the perspective. I'd say depending on what the end result is of the Zbrush, but it's always good to look at a sculpt in perspective. For film work especially, to match the camera lens it'll be shot in is extremely important to the design accounting for any distortion that may occur.
Regarding topology, to be honest, I don't ever re topologize my sculpts for concept work. With Z-remesher now and Dynamesh, for concept maquetting, it's just not necessary I think. But for models that have to sit in a production environment, it's essential!
All the best man!

Hi rasmusW,
This is a biggie! I think anatomical understanding is extremely important, especially visually! Function plays a big role in design, and I'll get to that in a bit. I think the problem with the way a lot of artists are looking at anatomy these days is too much on the muscle structure and not enough on the skin sides of things which is what we see every day. So most things end up looking extremely tight and ripped, which is ok in some senses. But I find the exercise of life drawing, painting or sculpting extremely valuable in that you start to break down the shapes of real people, and how anatomy varies and forms character. Not everyone looks like those anatomy figures (although they are great!). For designing however, especially creature design, often you have to learn the function of that anatomy and go deep. I find this extremely exciting and important in creating a solid design. For me that shape language is as important and if an iconic shape is realised first, I think its about grounding it in a believable, functioning body, and that always (for me) is found through some existing anatomical structure. Once you build up enough familiarity with these structures,shapes, forms you start to use them naturally in your shape design anyway. Hope I got the question and didn't waffle

Thank you gandoza.

Thanks again everyone
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Old 11 November 2013   #12
sorry the answers are coming up late...I have a long response to you guy's above but my posts are being moderated over 24 hours as i'm still a new member here.
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Old 11 November 2013   #13
hey andrew!

thanks for your thorough reply.

your view of it, is sorta where i am myself.

one more little question: -when doing personal projects, do you plan out your work with sketches/thumbnails or do you make it up as you go? i ask because a lot of your models looks very strong silhouette wise.

Old 11 November 2013   #14
hey rasmusW,
no problem at all
It really depends on the subject, if I'm really unfamiliar with the territory I'm going into, planning is essential, and that can be through graphite studies, B/W photoshop studies, Alchemy etc. Often if it's a subject I'm confident, or I have a clear idea of the concept in I'll just go straight to Zbrush. I find the problem with a lot of design these days is it's a little over-thought due to way too much designing and things can turn messy or over complicated quick. I sit in the "less is more" camp of design... but also because I'm lazy
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Old 11 November 2013   #15
Hi Andrew,

first of all welcome and congrats for all the great work you have done at Weta!

My question is that I am very interested in sculpting things mostly characters, I do have art background but have no degree in this field. when I see you guys doing some imaginative and futuristic characters which we haven't seen before I always come up with question about there anatomy and proportion and development. is it you who have to do basic drawings or do you get sketches of character from all directions? how much imagination involved in your work, I know you have to add all the details but how do you prepare the base and then what is your process of adding details etc. I know its pretty hard to produce something which we haven't seen before and which looks believable when someone looks at it. also what do you suggest for people like me who are in middle of the scene I know the tools but what practice or homework I have to do to produce relatively proportional and believable characters.

also it will be great to see more of your work!

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