Exposure For Artists Interview – May 25th 2003

X4A: We would first like to get this started by you introducing yourself.      
Neil: Hello, my name is Neil Blevins, I’m a professional artist and have been doing 3d for about 10 years now, but I also enjoy painting and drawing. I prefer fantasy and scifi themes.

X4A: Could you give the brief summary of your path, which got you in the position you are at today? Also, did you always know you wanted to be involved in CG?
Neil: Well, I’ve been drawing and painting since I was 6 years old. Originally I wanted to design toys, but then when video games took off in the late eighties I decided I wanted to make videogames for a living. I then got into 3d back in 94, and got a job at blur studio after I graduated in 1999. Blur did videogame cinematics, ride films, feature films, tv commercials, all kinds of different things. In 2002 I left and got a job as a technical director at Pixar. Cg didn’t really exist as such when I was born, so no, I didn’t know I always wanted to do this, but I always wanted to do something creative and artistic, so in that respect yes I’m doing exactly what I wanted to do.

X4A: With the market becoming increasing competitive, in your opinion what do you believe is still a must that an artist has in his arsenal of skills?
Neil:  Well, the market hasn’t become that much more competitive perse. There are certainly more people trying to get jobs, but that doesn’t mean there’s no space for talented people. For example, the division of square that produced the Final Fantasy film closed down last year, and just about everyone who left the company who wanted to continue to work in cg got jobs elsewhere. If the job situation where horrible, a lot of those people might be out of work right now. Saying that, if you have a good portfolio of work, you’ll probably do just fine. Certainly experience and knowing popular 3d software helps, but companies are still willing to retrain you if you have a strong artistic portfolio, so just keep doing your work and work on improving it, and you'll do fine.

X4A: You have Matrix listed as one of your favorite movies, are you looking forward to the next two installments?
Neil: Most definitely. I just saw the new trailer for film 2 and it looks fantastic, I can’t wait to see all the stuff in the next two films. I’m also very hopeful that the story will match the fantastic special effects, I really liked the mood, feel and story of the first film, and some killer performances, the great effects were just the icing on the cake.

X4A: Did you have a favorite cartoon growing up? Favorite now?     
Neil: I suppose it was either the Transformers or Goldorak. Goldorak was the french dubbed version of the Grenzier Japanese cartoon. Now, I suppose simpsons and southpark are my favorite cartoons, but certainly I’m interested in anything that has large robots hitting each other ?

X4A: Can you tell us a bit about the CD cover you did for the band “Elastic”?
Neil: I’ve done a number of cd covers for bands before, so like many others, the band contacted me through email and asked me to work on the cover. One big difference though was this band actually payed me for my cover, I’ve had bands before who either wanted the work for free or who promised payment and then didn’t pay me once the cover was done, it was nice to work with some professionals for a change. Basically me and the band collaborated on the cover, they provided me ideas and I tried to focus them into coherant artwork.

X4A: Do you have any upcoming personal projects you can give us a peek at?
Neil: To peek at, no, but I have continued to do personal artwork this past year, and hope to show a bunch of new stuff off this summer.

X4A: On your development of Quake 3 Maps, could you explain the process of this?
Neil: Well, my friend steve at blur one day downloaded this program called q3radiant, which was the quake map editor used by ID to make the maps for the original quake3. All the blur people were big fans of the game, so I made a few maps. It's not that different from making stuff in max or any other 3d package, although you have some different rules, and of course it's not enough for the map just to look cool, you want to make sure gameplay is ideal as well, so you spend some considerable time playing your level, and moving things around based on how easy it is to move from one area or another. Playing quake for as many hours as I did, I had a good idea of what worked and what didn't, at least for my own personal style of gameplay.

X4A: Do you have any advice for your fellow artists?
Neil: Don’t be afraid to make mistakes when you’re drawing (or whatever) – that’s how you get better, by fixing the mistakes – and draw everything, especially the things you’re really bad at drawing. I used to be awful at drawing people, and I never would, but I got sick of not being able to, so I practiced a LOT. I actually did a lot of drawings of classical Greek and Roman statues, and I’ve gotten much better. I still have a long way to go though…

X4A: And have you dived into any other new games?
Neil: No, I used to be a huge videogame fanatic when I was younger, I played so many genesis games you'd be sick, so I've avoided games in my adult life because if I started playing again I might do nothing else. Games are like crack to me, best to lay off :) Quake 3 is probably my only slip in years.

X4A: If you could have a theme song follow you around everywhere you went, and we mean everywhere? What would it be and why?     
Neil: It would probably be a devin townsend song, probably "truth" from his Infinity album. It's a short 4 minute instrumental, but if you ever hear the song, you'll understand, I swear you can feel like you could fly after hearing that song at full blast.

X4A: Have any tips for the Brazil users out there?
Neil: Well, first, buy the full version if you can, it's way more advanced than the old public test. Doing so will also get you access to a lot of ressources, including 24 hour support chat, splutterfish have setup a really top notch support network for clients, and gotten a great team together to handle answering questions and suggesting techniques. If only all 3d software could have a group as dedicated as the splutercrew is.

X4A: What do you do to pass the time, when you are not in front of the computer?
Neil: There's time when I'm not in front of the computer? Well, I do try and get away once in awhile, I like hiking, drumming and playing guitar. I also try and get out for dinners with friends and such. And at work, I take yoga once a day, it's a great diversion in the middle of the day, it helps focus me and gives my body a rest from sitting in the chair. I also like reading and watching films.