Graduate Henry South, Senior Artist at Industrial Light and Magic, returned to the college last month to lead a Q&A with our students.
Often working as a texture artist and sculptor for 3D modelling and character designs, Henry’s past job titles have included Technical Animator, Character Artist, Environment Artist and Senior Texture Artist, on films and television series that include Guardians of the Galaxy, Robocop, Gravity, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, Hercules, Poltergeist, Insurgent, Edge of Tomorrow, Doctor Who, Bastard Executioner, Harry Potter and the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.
After giving an inspiring talk to a packed out theatre of students and staff we sat down with Henry to chat all things VFX, the importance of drawing and his top tips for aspiring artists...
Hi Henry, how did you first join the college?
“Well, I started by doing a Foundation Diploma in Art and Design, specialising in Multimedia, before completing my qualification as a BA (Hons) top-up programme.
“This was the place where I first began to learn 3D modelling, before eventually going on to work on films like Guardians of the Galaxy. Martial Bugliolo (current Programme Leader for BA (Hons) Game Arts) was actually one of my first teachers.”
“Learning all of these digital skills is the tip of the iceberg. I still go to life drawing every week, I still take a sketchbook everywhere that I go."
A lot of our students will be wondering how you got into such a competitive industry.
“After graduation, my career began very quickly. A few months after leaving I started teaching myself how to sculpt in 3D and taking courses in human anatomy. I moved to Vancouver to start an MA in VFX with a focus on character design.
“While I was working in Vancouver I had a chance encounter with a texture artist and we went for a drink, and shortly after that I started working as a texture artist on Watchmen.”
What are the main skills you need for a role like yours?
“A long time has passed and I’m in my thirties now, but it’s still just as important for me to work, draw and paint every day. These are skills that you can lose so quickly. I’m incredibly lucky to be doing this, at this time, and I know that.
“Learning all of these digital skills is the tip of the iceberg. I still go to life drawing every week, I still take a sketchbook everywhere that I go. None of these skills mean anything without a firm base in traditional art.
“The best advice I can give to you is to start your career as a runner because they are the people that get all the jobs."
“If you want a career like mine, then employers are going to be interested in anything creative that you can do outside of a computer - if you can draw, or you can sculpt, VFX companies would be interested in that.”
What advice would you give to our students?
“The best advice I can give to you is to start your career as a runner because they are the people that get all the jobs. If we have a runner who knows what they’re doing and we think they can texture, then that’s who we’ll give the work to when it becomes available.
“You might spend your days getting people teas and coffees to begin with, but then you’re in the right place, so that when someone turns around and asks you to model a prop, you can be there to say yes!
“I’d also recommend using your time here to diversify what you know, with a good grounding in traditional mediums.
“When you get the chance to, specialise in your 3D area of choice. That might seem counterproductive because you’re studying everything all at once, but you should focus and get good at one thing.
"Don’t make a bad or mediocre exploding building, focus on a brick of that building that cracks and shows all the tiny dust particles and fissures."
"The reason to do this is that I know I’d certainly hire someone who could build a perfect representation of one single table over someone who’d attempted to create a whole building.
“Permanent positions in this industry are hard to come by, I was doing freelance work for a decade before finding a more stable position. If you’re freelancing, three months before your contract comes to an end you should start work on a good showreel to demonstrate your skills and send it to everybody before the end of your contract. Throughout your career, your showreel will always be important.
“My advice when you’re putting together a showreel is to focus on something small. Don’t make a bad or mediocre exploding building, focus on a brick of that building that cracks and shows all the tiny dust particles and fissures. Create something small, compact and perfect.”