Chris McCabe: concept artist interview

UK concept artist Chris McCabe discusses his career so far, and creating his Jump Ship Mech concept for 3D printing...

UK concept artist Chris McCabe discusses his career so far, and creating his Jump Ship Mech concept for 3D printing...

3dtotal: Tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you, what do you do, and where are you located?
Chris McCabe: Hi folks, I am Chris Tulloch McCabe and I am a Concept Artist and Designer based in London, United Kingdom. I have a background in animation and studied moving images at art school. I work more and more in 3D and am playing with VR and interactive concepts a lot recently.

3dt: What was the workflow behind your latest gallery image? Where did the idea come from?
CM: With the Jump Ship Mech I was trying take a 3D silhouette sketch to a fully polished final model and paint over, keep it simple and put my energy into trying to make it work as an appealing design and machine. I spent a bit of time early on thinking about weight distribution and how the ship might walk and take off. The ship was 3D printed as well, so thinking of volume and weight paid off and it worked well physically. I used 3D-Coat for the sketch, model/polish and PBR texturing, and painted it in Photoshop.

3dt: What challenges did the image present? Did you learn something new?
CM: I have a tendency to geek out on details and really had to stay on track and force myself to not waste time making cool screws and latches. 3D-Coat makes doing this stuff really easy and what starts as a 20-minute Oh lets just try this turns into 3 hours of Maybe some of that here, here and under there. So yeah, know when to say, That's enough.

3dt: Do you use any other software, either for work or personal projects?
CM: Software is big for me; I pick up new workflows and tools quite quickly so I use a lot (dependent on the brief). I use the most obvious software like Photoshop, but Cinema 4D is my core big 3D software that I use for composing final 3D shots pre paintover. I am using 3D-Coat and ZBrush more and more. Unreal 4 is also the new kid on the block for me and its a game changer! I think I see myself using it in conjunction with fast, artist-focused software like 3D-Coat going forward. You can be light on your toes. Not to mention VR.

3dt: How do you keep your portfolio up-to-date? Any tips?
CM: I think keeping it simple can really help keep it up-to-date and being prolific. I, like many, have a tendency to bite off more than I can chew when all the shackles are off, and am self directing. So set yourself a brief and most importantly a time limit. Of course, when trying to learn something new this wouldn't work but when trying to get work done, being realistic with your ambitions is important, and I find this helps me actually get a result as opposed to 30 half-done paintings.

3dt: Are you a member of any social media groups? Any favorite hashtags you check on a daily basis?
CM: To be honest I am normally not a huge user of social media and have had to start over the past 3 years to open myself up to this and get more involved. Its a constant learning process but I do follow many people and groups on Facebook/Pinterest, but Scott Schneiders Pinterest is outrageous, SUPER good reference collection, definitely can recommend that!

3dt: How important is the recognition of your peers?
CM: Extremely. Unlike many other jobs, working as a Concept Artist you will be hired more often than not, and work with people who have and/or still are artists themselves. So yeah, its important. Also, its quite a small community, so everyone helps each other out with workflows and advice, so when a peer says something is working it's awesome.

3dt: What are your artistic ambitions?
CM: Well I have always had ideas growing up, like a lot of artists and designers. I lived somewhat in my own world. But ideas are nothing without a set of tools to express them. They have no worth and you have no way of communicating them. So with that in mind my ambitions consist largely of expressing an idea clearly, and both inspiring and informing both team-mates and an audience. I love it when a concept sparks conversation and excitement. Equally, if you manage to help solve a visual design or mechanical problem, this is great too. I'd like to do more and more of that.

3dt: Who are your favorite artists, traditional or digital, and can you explain why?
CM: Ah man, where to start? At the moment I am really getting back into Manga and graphic novels, a rich source of ideas and visual stimulation. As a kid born in the 80s, Katsuhiro Otomo defined the aesthetics for me that I find hard to shake. Also, Jean Girauds worlds are rich and wild, super abstract! A must read! I also love the painter Caspar Friedrich: really atmospheric and almost cinematic, like almost 200-year-old concept art. The non-stop flow of total awesomeness from peers online, the levels of quality as a result has gone through the roof. There's a lot of talent around and finally... cheesy Christmas cards, sorry total sucker for them. If its got a moonlit cobbled wet street with warm Merry Christmas light spilling out of an olde tavern doorway Im sold.

3dt: What can we expect to see from you next?
CM: Animated concepts I am working on some more mechanical works. I really want to push the functional aspect of them and how they might work with supporting animations. Further down the line I'm planning VR concepts that a viewer can going inside, change light/textures/colors and pull apart, watch, move and so on. Exiting stuff!

Related links

Check out Chriss website
Jump Ship Mech in the gallery
Grab a copy of Beginners Guide to Digital Painting in Photoshop: Characters

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