Interview with Senior Character Artist Marco Di Lucca



Senior Artist at Lucasfilm Industrial Light & Magic, Marco Di Lucca, talks about himself, his career and how he has developed his awesome talents.

Marco Di Luccas career began in Italy where he worked in small post-production companies for several years, mainly doing commercials, music videos, motion and 3D graphics for TV shows. In 2005, he eventually realized his teenage dream to work in the movie industry when he landed a job as a 3D modeler at Weta Digital in New Zealand on Peter Jackson's remake of King Kong.

His 3D career has led Marco on a long journey around the globe seeking out exciting new opportunities, which has offered him fantastic life experiences, not to mention the enviable positions working on incredible films including X-Men: The Last Stand, Avatar and Noah.

3dtotal: You have had an incredible career. What, would you say have been your proudest moments?
Marco Di Lucca: Well yes, I've been fortunate to fulfill my dream and get to work at the major VFX houses out there. It's been a long path, though if I look back I certainly had to go through difficult moments and make hard life choices. Honestly though, when I look back I have no regrets well, OK, perhaps if I could go back and change a few things, I would have left Italy much earlier.

Overall though, I am proud of the decisions I've made - no matter how tough they were. I am particularly proud of having landed my first VFX job in the movies at Weta Digital in New Zealand and all the friends that I made down there - it still has a special spot in my heart.

It's been an amazing life experience firstly, and then a huge step forward career-wise having had the opportunity to work closely and being inspired by so many talented and devoted artists. And then ending my time and experience there on certainly the best project I have worked on to today: Avatar.

Marco was inspired to make this sculpture by the amazing veiled Christ in the San Severo chapel in Naples-Italy.
©Marco Di Lucca

Marco wanted to create the appearance of real marble and spent a lot of time working on textures, shaders and lighting.
©Marco Di Lucca

3dt: Weve been amazed by your incredibly detailed photoreal self-portraits. How long do they take
to create?

MDL: My self portrait is a very casual work that I happened to work on. The project was done in my spare time so during evenings and weekends mainly, and it probably took me, between other things that I was working on in that very same spare time, about 4 months. It might sound a lot but I tend to be very critical of my own work and so I was never completely happy about this or that particular and so I kept on tweaking it until I was satisfied.

This is one of the many renders that Marco did during the development of his self portrait, which he tested under different lighting environments.
©Marco Di Lucca

3dt: You worked closely with KeyShot when creating your self-portrait. How has this software changed
your workflow?

MDL: You are correct - I did use and I do mainly use Luxion KeyShot for rendering. I came to know about it about a year ago and I was fortunate to get in touch with awesome guys at Luxion who kindly gave me a full working license for some time - and thats when I actually started working on the self portrait.

I was particularly interested in their awesome translucent shader and during that time the Luxion team was working on the new release (V4) and luckily again they accepted me in their beta team. I collaborated closely with their Chief Scientist, Henrik Wann Jensen, whom was probably more excited than myself to see the fruit of his years of research on skin shading getting used to produce photo realistic skin rendering, and therefore helped me stay motivated during those months.

This was Marcos first attempt to make a realistic female head.
©Marco Di Lucca

3dt: Your personal work reference sources from sci-fi to classical sculpture. What, would you say, are your key influences?
MDL: I would say that my work reference sources of inspiration has changed over the years, although I have certainly always been interested in sci-fi and fantasy. One thing though that is (always was actually) common across those different worlds is my inclination towards realism and the fascination about the human body.

The classical art, primarily sculpture, then drawing and painting, werent part of my life, at least not until a few years ago. I know it sounds crazy being Italian myself and having been surrounded and exposed to so much art, but the way I explain that is that I wasnt completely aware of what my artistic inclinations were when I started working with 3D. I feel that I missed out all those years when I still lived in Italy but I did my best to make up for that during the past years.

To answer your question completely, my key influences when it comes to classical arts are mainly to from the Renaissance and artists like Michelangelo (my absolute favorite), Bernini, Caravaggio, and Leonardo da Vinci, just to name a few.

This one was inspired by one of Marcos favorite marble sculpture called /Le Genie Du Mal/ (Lucifer) which is in Liege cathedral in Belgium.
©Marco Di Lucca

Unlike Dead Christ, here Marco aimed to try and replicate the actual sculpture as close as he could, starting from a very simple mesh. You can see here the various stages it went through.
©Marco Di Lucca

3dt: With your increasing interests in the fine arts, are there any different styles, techniques or mediums that youd like to try out?
MDL: I would say that the more I got into fine arts the more I got interested into the human forms as a way to express emotion. It's an ongoing thing and I am sure it will keep evolving and changing throughout the years to come.

As a digital artist I felt somewhat limited by the fact that all traditional mediums were unknown to me until just few years ago and so I felt the need of at least try out some of them, from simple pencil drawing to oil painting or sculpting in clay. Now, not that I mastered either since I dont get to spend a lot of time on all of those different disciplines and we all know that to get good at something we really need to dedicate a lot of time to it, but it has definitely become a nice refreshing break for those times where I dont feel like using my first and still main medium: digital.

On top of all of that I should add that if in the future I will have the opportunity of taking a long break from digital and go back to Italy I would love to give marble-carving a go.

This is part of a series of sculpts from a cube mostly done for practice. ©Marco Di Lucca

This is part of a series of sculpts from a cube mostly done for practice. ©Marco Di Lucca

3dt: Having established such an awesome career do you having any aspirations youre still hoping
to realize?

MDL: I am not sure how to reply to that question actually. I pretty much satisfied my aspirations and that without wanting to sound cocky or anything. I never really wanted to pursue supervising role or anything else more than what I have already accomplished. I dont see myself much as a manager, attending meetings all day etc. I rather do the work and I am happy with that. What I might see for the future it can be perhaps a shift in the way I will use my skills, maybe pursuing more of a 'solo' career as an artist or even put myself to something completely different like have my own
pizza business!

This is one of the many busts Marco made starting with a simple cube. Although hadnt planned to do so, Marco decided to do a quick render of this exercise.
©Marco Di Lucca

3dt: What advice would you offer for up and coming 3D artists? Would you say doing a self-portrait is a good addition for portfolios?
MDL: Well honestly, I dont really see the connection between making a self portrait and becoming a good artist. Sure most artists (and traditional artists as well) at some stage of their lives they made at least one self portrait but I dont think it is all that necessary. But as a general advice I would say that, and this is true I guess for any other thing in life, in order to achieve a goal, first you have to have one very clear in your mind and focus on it. It needs to be on top of everything else that is inside your head, and then you need to act towards that, meaning that you need to spend time learning and practicing - because there are no shortcuts to success.

At that stage I guess the first step is to put together a kick-ass portfolio that shows firstly all of your strengths and that will then let the works talk for you when you show up to your first (and second and third) interview.

Marco took a break from humans here and worked more in the land of creatures for once.
©Marco Di Lucca

3dt: If you hadnt been an artist, what do you think you would be doing?
MDL: Ha! Good question! Well I was initially set by my parents (mainly my father) to be either a Civil Engineer or an Architect since he was an house builder and he wanted one of us ( I have one brother but I was the choice in that case) to stay in that environment. Not sure if I would have been a happy person if I continued down that path - Happy to have followed my own instincts instead.

This one is part of a self portrait project, but was meant to be used for the Evilmaul variant, which Marco hopes to finish
when he has time!
©Marco Di Lucca

3dt: Finally (and probably most importantly!), if you could choose one superpower, what would it be?
MDL: Hmm, questions are becoming more interesting towards the end, ha?! Well I answer with the first thing that came up to my mind after reading the question once. I would like to be able to travel in time - perhaps not as much in the future but rather in the past and specific periods of time. I would definitely visit the Renaissance and do whatever I can to be a pupil of Michelangelo!

Marco created the original On Ugliness (the first version) a few years ago and went onto develop that here. He changed the pose to mimic Leonardos Lady with an Ermine.
©Marco Di Lucca

Thank you very much for taking time out of your busy schedule to take part in our interview!

Related links:

Check out more of Marco Di Luccas work on his facebook site
Take a look at our KeyShot tutorials
Try our ebooks too, for more advice on character sculpting

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