CGSociety :: Artist Profile
    17 November 2009, by Daniel Wade

    Giovanni grew up in the Philippines being greatly influenced by sci-fi, horror and anime. He moved to Canada with his family in his teens and studied Computer Graphics at Seneca College where he began his interest in all things CG.

    He currently works for Industrial Light & Magic as a digital artist, creating creatures for films such as 'Pirates of the Caribbean 2', 'War of the Worlds' and 'The Spiderwick Chronicles'. His most recent work can be seen in 'Star Trek' in which he was the creature model supervisor.

    Some of my earliest memories in art were a set of Crayola crayons and binder paper while watching a popular anime called 'Voltes 5'. I was fortunate to have parents who helped cultivate my artistic side. My Mita (grandmother in Philippines) had cultivated my artistic potential during my formative years.

    I remember drawing Michelangelo's David when I was around six or seven. I tried my best to copy it from an image my Mita gave me. From that point on, I've always revered Michelangelo's works. Whenever I look back to the important events that formed me into what I am now, I always recall the moment when I copied David. That was my very first memory of trying to do something as perfect as I can; something that I aim for in my career.

    The Hag
    Oil-based clay (Roma)

    If "Terry" was an exercise in rough, sketchy sculpting, this piece was me trying something a little bit more rendered. Having admired Miles Teves' Meg Mucklebones maquette for such a long time, this one is almost a homage to Miles' masterpiece in creature creation. Thought I'd give this particular hag a malformed hand to add to the creepy factor.
    Horned Ogre
    Mudbox, ZBrush, modo

    This was one of my early attempts in trying to export out normal maps to modo for render. I had baked out a low-resolution mesh from ZBrush and applied the normal maps which were derived from the high-resolution mesh. I was fairly happy with the result and the subdued lighting.

    I was fortunate enough to know that I wanted to be an artist at a young age. I wasn't interested in anything else when I was in school. Drawing would always be on my mind. Rather than listen to my math teacher recite formulas, I doodled along the borders of my notebooks.

    There were more sketches in my notebooks than class notes. Near the end of high school, I had to think about a career. I was determined to be in the art industry, but being that I didn't have a path, I didn't know how to approach this goal. I chatted with my guidance counselor, and she suggested that I try the tech field since that's where the money is. The only fields that fit the bill were creative advertising and computer graphics. After a lot of thought, I decided to go with computer graphics. To this day, I thank my lucky stars I chose the right path.

    The Archer
    Oil-based clay (Chavant)

    This is one of my earlier pieces. It was of my favorite model, who has since passed away. I used to love every pose that he would do for us, and this particular one was no exception. As far as the sculpture goes, I was trying to experiment with the planes of the face and body in order to get good contrast and depth to the forms.

    I took a two-year course on Computer Graphics in Toronto. The course was focused more on technical aspects of the process. We only had a handful of traditional art courses. I think I would have had more focus as an artist had I taken more fine arts courses, but I can't really complain because I am where I am now because of the choices I made.

    The Giant
    Mudbox, ZBrush

    This piece was used in a Gnomon Presentation I had done some years ago. I originally wanted to create a creature that had an interesting face so this is what I came up with. I modeled him originally in Mudbox, took him into ZBrush to paint and did a lot of comp work in Photoshop to bring everything together.

    I was also the gofer, making donut runs in the morning so our hotshot director clients were well-fed each time they visited for an editing session. These tasks were obviously not art-related, but I was thankful nonetheless because it offered a first glimpse of how a post-production facility worked.

    After about five months of working there, I decided to move on to something that involved more creativity. I left The Daily Post to work for a graphic design company called Biographix. I learned how to produce graphics for websites via Photoshop and HTML.

    ZBrush, modo

    This model is based on a design by my friend Kenneth Scott. I have always been an admirer of his work so I decided to do a 3D version of an illustration he had done. Hopefully he likes this version.

    At school, I always made a point to stay after class to learn more about the software we were using. When I was laid off at Biographix after working there for several months, I had a lot of time on my hands. It was such a tough time in my career. Being laid off was a big blow for my budding career. I was determined to overcome my challenge, so I bought a copy of 3D Studio Max 1.0 and used that software as a vehicle upon which I based my future portfolios. With this tool, I participated in a lot of contests to help showcase my work. I recall joining a digital art contest for the Toronto Star. I didn't win any of the major prizes, but I was able to get an honorable mention. The action of putting my work out there forced me to excel in the software. I was not ready to put out work that I felt was sub-par.

    Unnamed creature

    I had a lot of fun creating this particular critter. I was experimenting with a lot of the forms and prominent features such as the horns, both along the jaw line and the temples.


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  • For the first part of my career, I was busy learning a lot of 3D modeling techniques. Back in the days, spline-modeling in 3D Studio Max was a big thing. I remember using a plug-in called Surface Tools to create patches for my 3D characters. It was quite a cumbersome process, but I was able to design some very organic-looking models which back then was such a hard thing to achieve.

    I was learning the process by myself, using the Internet to discover how certain things were done in Max. It was not until I landed at job at ILM that I started to explore more traditional aspects of the art. At that point I rediscovered my love for drawing and found a new passion in sculpting. I was also fortunate enough to learn from people like Andrew Cawrse of Anatomy Tools and Carlos Huante, whom I consider to be two of my greatest mentors.

    Oil-based clay (Roma)

    My interest in sculpture gravitates more towards the looser impressionistic style. This piece was an attempt to not produce something polished, smooth and finished. I was trying to minimize my strokes in order to keep the surface of the sculpt alive with energy. As with 'The Archer', I was also trying to control the depth and planes of this piece to achieve good contrast under any lighting situations.

    As a child, I always wanted to work for ILM. The movies that shaped my imagination have always been the films that ILM have worked on. Back then, the thought of working for such a company was not even within the realms of possibility. The thought was so daunting that for me, it was akin to climbing Mount Everest. For the longest time I kept ILM in the background, fantasizing about my dream whenever I had a chance to think about how it must be like to be among the folks who made 'ET', 'Star Wars', and 'Indiana Jones'. The FX of 'Terminator 2' shook me to my very core. I couldn't believe the magic that was happening before my eyes each time the T-1000 morphed into its liquid state. All of a sudden things were a huge mystery again. It was possible for film imagery to evoke awe and wonder. If 'Terminator 2' was the eye-opener for me to take notice of the film industry, 'Jurassic Park' was the one that really made me decide to pursue this career.

    Oil-based clay (Roma)

    I remember falling in love with this model's anatomy (in a sculptural way of course). She had poses that reminded me a lot of Egon Schile's works, but unfortunately it would have been too hard for her to hold them for hours on end in a sculpting pose. Even when in contrapposto, she still had a very character-filled stance.

    The childhood fantasies of working at ILM became something I wanted so bad, so I plotted my path from there. I have been very fortunate in that my biggest childhood dream of working for ILM actually came true. Knowing that it is a rare thing to fulfill one's dream, I have not taken anything for granted in the nine or so years I have been working there. For me, it has been the best university/school to cultivate my interest and passion in art.

    It was at ILM where I discovered my love for sculpture, which in turn made me into a much better digital artist. What other position in the world would allow me to come to work and talk about monsters with my fellow collaborators while getting paid for it? There, we work on some of the most high-profile and challenging projects the industry has to offer.

    I was hired to first work on 'Star Wars Episode 2: Attack of the Clones' as a hard-surface modeler. Wanting to take a crack at creature modeling, I worked extra hard to prove myself that I also had the chops to model creatures. Andrew Cawrse gave me the one chance I needed. Without him, I would not have had the opportunities that have come my way at ILM.

    The Pugilist
    Oil-based clay (Chavant)

    This piece was a result of not sculpting for nearly a year. One day at work I just decided to pick up a block of clay and started to sculpt the first thing that came to mind. In this case, a boxer who had just lost a fight. I wanted to portray the brutality of a fight that he just lost via his pummeled face and the way he stood.

    Michelangelo has always been one of my favorite artists for as long as I can remember. I also used to read a lot of Mad Magazine. I remember loving Don Martin, All Jaffee, Sergio Aragones and Mort Drucker. They were all really fantastic artists whose style I tried to emulate on paper. I was also a huge fan of comic books and graphic novels. Some of the artists I followed were Alan Silvestri, Jim Lee, Travis Chaerest, Mike Mingola (back when he did Dracula for Topps), John Bolton and Frank Miller. Also, fantasy and sci-fi artists like Mobius, Syd Mead, Ron Cobb, Joe Johnston and Ralph McQuarrie influenced my imagination. In terms of artists who impress me now, there are too many to name. People whose works I constantly look to are: Carlos Huante, Andrew Cawrse, Kenneth Scott, Jordu Schell and a whole slew of traditional artists who dabble in the medium of clay.

    I think the future points more and more towards users being able to output their 3D models into something more tangible. We see it now with rapid prototyping. I think the technology will get to a point where materials will be cheap enough so that 3D printing machines will be commonplace in any studio, or perhaps any 3D modeler's home set-up. As we progress through the next incarnation of CG modeling, ZBrush seems to be forging new roads to ensure that the process brings us closer to traditional methods of character creation. I think the new ZSpheres 2 is just a taste of how modelers will create characters in the future. As someone who sculpts, I am also really excited to see what the CG world will offer us in terms of technology that resembles real-life clay sculpting.

    Gio Nakpil

    d'artiste: Character Modeling 3

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