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Nick Shepperd: junior character artist interview

Nick Shepperd

Junior Character Artist

Junior character artist Nick Shepperd discusses breaking into the industry and the industry standards he learned while at Think Tank Training Centre…

Nick's profile

Adam

Tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you, what do you do, and where are you located?

Nick

I am a Junior Character Artist who has experience and education in the games' industry, having attended Think Tank Training Centre and worked as a mobile artist at Scientific Games. I have a background in both traditional- and digital-based sculpture. To be frank, I'm just a guy who loves nerd culture and wants to be a part of the industry that has made me who I am.

Adam

What was the workflow behind your latest gallery image? Where did the idea come from?

Nick

The workflow behind the piece was the basic workflow I was taught at Think Tank Training Centre. It involves doing a quality block out where all of the individual assets are present to give an accurate sense of silhouette and character proportion. After completing the block out and having the foundation of the character sculpt in place, I then go into a cut-out stage where I separate all of the individual assets and apply subdivisions to them through the Dynamic SubDiv tool within ZBrush. Then after the cut-out stage is complete I move forward with the fitting and detail stage.

Once I complete the sculpt in ZBrush I then move forward with the traditional character pipeline for games which involves creating the low-poly model in Maya by quad drawing over the decimated mid rez. After completing the low-poly with the quad draw tool I create UVs in Maya and separate the assets based on material, so I can have universal texel density across my assets.

I then move to Substance painter where I bake all of my maps and create the textures using the amazing tools available within the software. Finally, after I finish up the texturing I export out the maps from Substance Painter and do my final renders within Marmoset Toolbag. The concept itself came from the talented artist Eddie Mendoza.

Putting too much stress on yourself can ruin the creation process

Adam

What challenges did the image present? Did you learn something new?

Nick

There were many challenges that arrived throughout the creation of the character. For me the single most difficult aspect was dealing with the self-induced stress that came with creating a character that was industry quality, and then dealing with the fact that the character didn't meet those standards in the end. Although, after completing the character and seeing my hard work it allowed me to see that it is only a matter of time before I reach the quality bar necessary for entering the industry, and that putting so much stress on yourself can ruin the creation process. After finishing this character I have been able to just love sculpting again.

Adam

Do you use any other software, either for work or personal projects?

Nick

The primary software that I use for high poly character creation is ZBrush because I am most comfortable sculpting within its massive library of tools. When it comes to working in a traditional 3D modeling package though I am comfortable in both Maya and Blender, but currently use Maya because it is industry standard.

As for texturing I have used both Substance Painter and Mari but prefer Substance Painter because of its ability to quickly create great looking textures. I also use Marmoset for rendering and presentation because it is more easily accessible than Unreal Engine, but I have learned how to use Unreal Engine as well. I just would not describe myself as being comfortable within the engine.

shoe, boots, zbrush,

This is the high-poly breakdown of the multiple views of the shoe in ZBrush

sword, zbrush, 4

This is the high-poly breakdown of the multiple views of the sword in ZBrush

character, views, zbrush, man

This is the high-poly breakdown of the multiple views of the character within ZBrush

Adam

How do you keep your portfolio up-to-date? Any tips

Nick

As someone who is still a student and looking to break into the industry myself, I often think about this. I have been told from multiple teachers, mentors, and podcasts that it is a matter of quality not quantity. Portraying a highly finished piece that meets the industry standard shows more than having many pieces that do not hit the standard.

I also think that showing that you are constantly working on new pieces and wanting to improve as an artist is important. Showing that you are dedicated to your craft and are hungry for better sculpts and better pieces will never be seen as a poor choice.

Adam

Are you a member of any social media groups? Any favorite hashtags you check on a daily basis?

Nick

Honestly, I am more of a frequent wanderer on Artstation. I spend 20 minutes every day scrolling through current pieces, old favorites, or random searches. I am a member of some social media groups on Facebook, but I am not active in looking through the community because I am not a prominent Facebook user. I do, however, enjoy following active users on Instagram. Artists like Rafael Grassetti and Igor Catto are an inspiration.

Adam

How important is the recognition of your peers?

Nick

I think that for me personally it is less about the recognition of my peers and more about the ability to look at my piece and enjoy it. I am my own worst critic and often leave a piece thinking that I have failed. So, I dream of one day making a piece that meets the standards in my head. However, the reason that I want to get into games is because I want to be part of a team and create stories and games that are emotionally driven and really stick with the gamer. So, in that respect, I eventually want to be recognized as an asset and team member and be a small part of a great studio.

Adam

What are your artistic ambitions?

Nick

As someone who is attempting to break into the industry, my current ambitions are to simply get my foot in the door and join a team that loves the projects they are working on. As I level up as an artist and am able to better understand who I am as a creative, I would love to be a part of an IP creation team or a member of the group that moves forward to set the tone and style of games within a studio.

This is the head view showing the texture and material

This is breakdown of the multiple views of the character within Marmoset Toolbag

This is the beauty shot of the character

Portraying a highly finished piece that meets the industry standard shows more than having many pieces that do not hit the standard

Adam

Who are your favorite artists, traditional or digital, and can you explain why?

Nick

I think that for me personally the character artist that has inspired me the most is Frank Tzeng because of his work on the Uncharted 4 character Nadine Ross. I also think that listening to him talk about his career and education and how he became the artist he is today allows me to keep pushing, and know that eventually I will hit the quality bar and be part of a team that is creating something truly special. I also want to give a shout out to Masashi Kishimoto, the author of Naruto, because he shaped my childhood and made me want to pursue a life in art and narrative.

Adam

What can we expect to see from you next?

Nick

I am currently working on my mentorship piece at Think Tank Training Centre on a female character using all that I have learned from creating the cyberpunk Samurai. You can see my sporadic updates on my blog on Artstation. Hopefully, you will also be able to see my name in the credits of a game soon too!

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