Continuing on with visual arts up through high school, he enrolled at a university as a Graphic Design/Studio Arts major, with a focus on Trompe l'oeil painting. “Trompe l'oeil is a style of painting in which the artist renders faux surfaces onto a canvas to the extent that it fools the eye of the viewer into thinking it's real. I began to see the similarities between this painting style and how game art was made at the time,” Rush says. “Very low poly, with all texture data represented in the color map, painted out to give the illusion of complex forms.”
Jonathan was obsessed with the creation of this game art. “I had to find out how game art was made! I became an avid poster on many 3D forums, and tried to soak up everything I could.” He came onto the CGSociety forms with the username of ‘Ancient-Pig’ and posted almost all his work into WIP threads, to take advantage of the feedback. “At the time, my university didn't offer much in regards to a computer graphics course, so all of my learning came from online resources, self exploration, and lots of elbow grease,” he said. After a very thick year of becoming steeped in the practices used within the industry, he began to compare his personal work to that of work coming out of professional studios, and discovered he was doing OK. “I could hang with the pros!”
“I had to land a job in the industry. I began sending out e-mails to every company that had an address. Getting your foot in the door is always the hardest step to take, especially when you know nobody in the business. All I needed was for someone to say 'yes.'”
"After sending out a couple hundred e-mails, I finally got a bite, and landed my first job as a character artist at Kush Games. We were working on some sports titles for Sega Sports, and I thought it was the greatest thing in the world."
“Now, I knew that Bioware was working on an MMO, and when I found out it was for Star Wars, I was completely sold on the notion of working at this studio. Not just an MMO, but an MMO based on the biggest IP in the world, and being developed by the world's leader in interactive story telling. I was hooked. Even at that early stage of The Old Republic game, I could see that they were creating something truly unique. I was very much drawn to the art style as it stylistically stood apart from other games. The bold forms, and painted textures looked like a good fit for my skill set.
Rush really enjoys being part of a team of character artists, helping to push towards a common goal. “It's a great feeling to walk through a games retailer and overhear people saying great things about the game you have worked on for the past number of years, and see them pull it off the shelf and buy it,” he says with a smile.
“As character artists, it's our job to translate this into a 3D asset,“ says Rush. In taking an idea from the 2D realm into 3D, some concessions need to be made. Concept artists, and character artists all get a say in the constructive feedback. “It's a very organic process with a lot of back and forth discussions between departments.“
“ZBrush is a terrific package, and I get the most mileage out of the Dynamesh, and Shadowbox tools,” adds Rush. “Both let me get ideas down quickly, and are easy to iterate and build upon. Forms that would take quite a while to create in a traditional 3D package are made very easily using these two tools. I also love the wide array of brushes offered in ZBrush, and the high level of customization I can impose.”
The character team developed outfits, creatures, NPC's, humanoids, droids, weapons. Anything that bends. The job would be much more difficult without the tools and scripts which support the core development packages. The general workflow pipeline during Bioware’s production of the Star Wars: The Old Republic’ game functioned quite well. “There have been wrinkles to iron out here and there, but that's all part of the development process,” adds Rush. “Considering the titanic amount of assets we worked with and managed, and I'm only speaking in regards to one small group within the entire company. I've never worked on a project where the pipeline was perfect from the get-go. Pipelines are based on need, developed through discussion, and collaboration, and are constantly changing to better suit.”
Perhaps the tech artists would like some feedback while testing some new features they've added to the tools? Or it might be that the concept artists need input on some of their ideas about whether they'll work within some pre-set technical limitations. Maybe the marketing department has some special requests for upcoming promo material. “There's a very high level of collaboration between the different departments in the studio, and that's what makes it great,“ Rush concludes. “Every department serves a vital function, and the sum of these is what has fuelled the creation of this monumental game.“