Meet the Artist: Mayan Escalante (Electronic Arts)



Mayan Escalante[/b]
Character Artist, Electronic Arts

Mayan Escalante is a Character Artist at Electronic Arts, Los Angeles. His project credits include Medal of Honor: Spearhead, Medal of Honor: Rising Sun, Medal of Honor: European Assault, as well as contributing art to titles such as Medal of Honor: Pacific Assault and Goldeneye 2.

Mayan has always been interested in art and the possibility of working in the entertainment industry. He studied architecture at Long Beach City College before attending and graduating from the Art Center College of Design with a BA in Illustration. While at Art Center he studied illustration and found that world wasn’t for him. At the end of his schooling he returned to his love for entertainment design and concentrated all his efforts into becoming a concept artist.

After graduation he went directly to work for Electronic Arts Los Angeles where he is currently a character artist. He has contributed concept art and 3D assets for numerous projects including several games in the popular Medal of Honor series. His work has also appeared in galleries and print. Mayan has taught at USC and is currently an instructor at the Gnomon School of Visual Effects where he teaches character modeling for games.

Three Gnomon Workshop game modeling DVDs by Mayan will be released May 11th.

[b]Related Links[/b]
[Mayan Escalante](

The Gnomon Workshop
Mayan Escalante – The Gnomon Workshop Profile





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What is the difference between Illustration and Industrial Design?

I’m of the mind to take industrial design at Cal State University Long Beach.

I believe it’ll teach me presentation and working with others just as Art Center would, but won’t cost $100,000.

I think industrial design would be more advantagous for game design.

Eeesh. Just got an email reply from Michael Kammermeyer, an Industrial Design Instructor from Cal State University Long Beach…my little theory seems to be flushed down the tubes.

The industrial design program at CSULB is probably not the best for you. We do not have an entertainment industry component nor a strong illustration focus. Our program is more attuned to engineering product development rather than art.

The best programs that coincide with your interests will be at professional art schools such as Art Center and Art Academy.

This currently what I’ve done.



Hie Mayan…

I just wanna tell ya MOH gives me a nice memories everytime i think of it…visually, sound and gameplay…

I just wanna say…great job.:thumbsup:


Hi there, thank you for taking the time to answer our questions. I am considering attending the Gnomon School. Have you worked with or hired many graduates from this school? Pretty solid skills from these people?

Also, how do you feel about doing work for the next-gen consoles? In the past it seems you need to choose what type of 3D artist you wanna be, Games or Film. Do you see this gap being narrowed alot due to the level of detail expected from NextGen gfx?

One last quick one, more an EA question than for you personally, do you work with alot of concept designers in-house there at EA? Or do you bring in contractors for a few weeks to do designs from you?

Thanks again!

-Jason Hall



Thanks a lot for taking the time to talk with us! I’m afraid I’ve never played any of the Medal of Honor series, but I’ve heard only good things so it’s great to have one of the designers here.

Firstly, what’s it like working at EA these days? I’ve heard it’s a pretty tight ship, and I’m just curious to hear how your experience there has been.

Secondly, the opening post here says you not only did concept art but also contributes some of the 3d elements. What kinds of elements were they? All characters, like the ones on the sample images, or other stuff also?

Finally, what’s your typical approach to modeling? Do you use the box-modeling method, or patching polys together, or what? And what passes for a good poly-count in a character these days?


Hi Mayan,

  1. Could you describe your modeling workflow game specific. From start to end?

  2. For someone who wants to jump into 3d modeling and excell. What would you suggest and advise where to start and what to model? Start modeling humans from the start? or start simple? if so what?Any tips and advice. Game specific as well.

  3. What would you recommend focusing on in terms of future modeling; where do you see the advances taking place?

  4. How much of reference do you use?

Thank you and take care.


Hi all,
I just want to thank everybody for taking the time to view this thread and I will try to get to everyones posts. I’m enjoying some time off right now so I will be posting replies every evening. This is an amazing industry to be involved in and I look forward to answering your questions.

Thanks again,


Hi Mayan, just want to say that ur work in medal of honor is incredible. I’ve played all series of that game! its the best war game ever!:thumbsup:
i have a few question though:
1.r u specialized in character creation or u also create the environment. modeling , teksturing,etc
2. my hobby is to draw and painting an illustration about war and military, do you think theres good job field for people like me? should i change to modeling /animation or i just focused on increasing my illustration quality.:shrug:
3. Im going into game industry, could you give recomendation, the best way to apply or get attention from the big company, because i think big company usually already have telented people working for them,

thank you for your time, and please keep making medal of honor or at least a game with the same quality,thanks!:applause: :bounce:


Hey Mayan! Thank you for taking the time to respond to our questions!

What’s the most rewarding part of your job?

Do you feel limited creatively by the gaming technology? Like having to make lo-res models, etc?

Would you say one needs to be good at every aspect of game design to crack into the industry, even if he/she only wants to do vehicle design or character design, for example?

Thanks! :thumbsup:


Hey Mayan,

how’s it like working for EA? haha, j/k. Hey, stop on by and say hi one of these days. I’m on the 2nd floor (the LOTR team), from wedsdays to fridays. Are you working with Patrick G?

I do have a question though. Since you also do 3D modeling, do you find sometimes you restrict your artwork / design because you already know ahead of time about your technology limitations (ie: the engine can only handle 1500poly characters, or it can’t do 4 legged creatures, etc). I usually try to tell my clients to not give me any technical details, so i can draw and design whatever i want. Once i get the designs out of my head, then we can start to “step down” the design to match the technology. But in your case, you are so close to the 3D side of things; how do you work around that, and do you use this to your advantage (ie: saving time by not drawing things which the engine can not handle).




those medal of honor are certainly sweet, but I’m not into that style of games!
what kind of games are you planning to do in the future, besides shooters? what sort of games do you palay at your free time? or maybe you don’t play them at all :sad: !

…FengZ here as well, a bit wierd… ha-ha…


It depends on who you talk to and what your goals are. The lines between all art forms are pretty fuzzy these days. Industrial design, Illustration, gallery art, digital art are all blended together in one way or another. The important thing is to know what your goals are and put yourself in an enviorment that promotes that. Industrial design at CSULB can mean something different than what it does at Art Center. As far as any career in entertainment design I really feel that equal importance should be givin to both industrial design and illustration. ID teaches you rapid visualization while illustration gives you a strong traditional foundation. I agree that a $100k is steep for anyone but there is definately validation for the quality of training you get. Despite the price tag, going to Art Center has beeen good to me. Also check out places like Gnomon, the Figure Art Academy, CSU Fullerton, etc. There are a lot of choices nowadays. Personal drive has a lot to do with it as well. No matter where you go you have to be willing to dedicate the time.


Gnomon is a great school with a lot of talent from both the students and instructors. It seems like most of the students go into film.

There is definately alot of crossover between games and film but they are still seperate beasts. Although next-gen consoles are coming it is still too early to see how much can be squeezed out of them. Both feilds present different challenges. What makes games fun for me is how we solve those challenges.

I don’t mean this as a vague answer but it really depends on the project and the team. So the answer to both is yes.

There are alot of positives to working for EA despite anything you may have heard. No matter where you choose to work there are always going to be issues.

Right now I am primarily a 3d character artist. There is crossover whenever another team might need assistance so I have contributed to other disciplines but my main focus is characters. I have been in the unique position to contribute both concept art and game assets on the projects I have worked on.

I use both methods for modeling depending on what I’m sculpting. Usually more complex forms like the head I will model in seperate pieces. I cover both techniques in my Gnomon videos.

Poly counts are dependent on the needs of the game and the restrictions of the hardware. They can be drastically different if there are 2 charatcers on screen or 50. 3,000-5,000 tris is a safe target to shoot for.

Short answer, it depends on what I’m modeling. Long answer, I worked really hard on the videos for the Gnomon Workshop to give you an idea of my typical workflow is.

I definately suggest modeling the human form and familarizing yourself with the muscle forms and how they work. Regardless if your character has clothing, or armor, or isn’t even human there is still a basic understanding how things work and deform that needs to be learned. Most importantly keep your topology clean and evenly spaced. Your eye should be able to flow around the model.

Mileage is key with anything. The more you do the more you learn and are able to built a mental library. With that you can adapt to whatever direction tech takes you.

I use tons of reference. Alot of my time is spent on research. Mostly from books and photos.


I am involved in the entire character pipeline including concept, modeling, texturing, etc.

I don’t recommend focusing on one theme allthough many artists have been sucessfull doing so. Diversity will make you more valueble.

It really depends on what you want to do. Once you decide that than focus on becoming the best in that area. It becomes more difficult when you split your focus between so many disciplines.

My best advice on getting noticed it to make sure your work speaks for itself. Even if you have connections this is true.

Being apart of the art community. Modeling, painting, sketching, teaching, talking to people on forums. Like I said in my first post this is an amazing industry to be involverd in.

I don’t feel limited creatively at all by technology. Problem solving is one of the funnest parts of the job. Some amazing things can be done with low res models, it just means that you have to step up your skills. You can have the highest poly counts you want but if they don’t look good they don’t look good. Game play has a lot to do with it as well. I heard a quote once about fog. You can have the most amazing fog in a game but if the gameplay sucks, what’s the point? Art and design should compliment each other.

It’s good to have a basic knowledge of other disciplines but I do recommend focusing on what you enjoy the most. Most companies look to fill specific roles.

I hope I was able to answer some of your questions.

I’m tired now.


hi mayan,

i have just one complex question:
what is your experience with working on characters from scratch to the final texture (excluded rigging and animation)?
-are the steps often divided trough different specialists - concept-, 3d- and texture artist
-how often rests the power of a character in only one hand (one artists for the whole character)?
-is it wise to let one guy design the characters and others to make his ideas in 3d?
-are there differences in the approach by creating main/ important characters and just normal figures?

what is the commonly used procedure and what do you think is the best way to create fresh and believable characters?
which of these procedures are better for quick results and which of them for higher quality work?

thank you for your answer


Hi there mayan,

First of all great work, I used to work for EA in the QA dept, and you guys always corrected the graphical glitches we got, a quick question:

For the past 2 years I have been training in 3D, but I seem to remember you guys used only Max for your 3D artists, Is this still the same, as i’ve been mainly concentrating on Maya recently.

Also, how do you think it would hold up in an interview at EA, having worked for them previously in a different department, as I would love to come back, but obviously in the Art dept. Would it be in my advantage?

Again great work, and keep it up.

Dan Mist.


Hi, Mayan! Thanks for taking the time to Q&A with us!
One trivial question: What is for you the best game character ever (model/animation/acting), and do you draw inspiration from it?
Another one: There seems to be a shift of industry jobs from 3ds max to Maya. “Adapt or die” or “Stick with what you’re good at”?


What project that you have worked on have you found most intresting, and why?
Whats the ups and downs for you by working for EA?

  • Øystein Sollesnes

  1. what game project would you like the most to work on in the future ?

  2. How about a non game project ?

  3. Do you have personal projects outside work or do you just relax
    and do non- art related stuff on your free time ?


Hi, Mayan! This is way cool! Thanks for taking the time to answer questions, greatly appreciated. :slight_smile: :slight_smile: :slight_smile: Timing is excellent! :slight_smile: In my midst of learning Maya, your DVD’s are coming out next week!! SWEEET!!!. :slight_smile:

I’ve been using a book by Antony Ward “Game Character Development with Maya” So far so good. Looking forward to seeing your videos which would be a great add on to my learning. :slight_smile:

Okay, my questions:

1:You studied illustration at Art Center, yet you know Maya. How did you go about learning to use Maya. Part-time courses, or going on forums and reading books?

2: When is your site gonna be online??? :slight_smile:

3: DVD subjects??? 3 Dvd’s what are they going to be on? I’m at the Gnomon site and I see Head modeling, what else are the dvd’s going to cover. I’m guessing Modeling the Figure, and texturing???

4: How long are the dvd’s going to be?

Ismail Matovu Wamala


Hi Mayan

gotta say your work are phenomenon, way cool, I got few questions

[li]EA is one of the best Game companies in the world, so how difficult is it to get in?[/li][li]I wanna go for a degree called “Computer Game Art”, do you have any suggestions about degrees also do you think if its worth it[/li][li]How long does it take you to create a 2D character either in 2D or 3D[/li][li]How does it feel to be working in a big team[/li][li]Do you know any Backstage clips that I can watch, doesn’t have to be in EA[/li][li]finally, whats your favourite 3D Package and if ou know, whats EA’s favourite 3D Software[/li][/ul]Thanks :thumbsup:


Mayan, thanks for giving us this opportunity to pick your talented brain!

There’s an EA studio just near where I live and I was thinking of sending them a concept art portfolio. What are some things YOU would like to see if you were hiring?

Do you think 2D artists can thrive in the gaming industry without knowing 3D apps?

What activities or excercises do you recommend to keep your ideas fresh and original?

When will you have content up on your site? Dude, I wanna see da goods!

Thanks for your time…