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The Academy | Meet Texturing Trainer, Jonathan Mcfall

August 14, 2022

Hi Jonathan! Can you tell us a bit about your background?

I come from a traditional artist background with a lot of experience in drawing, painting and sculpture. I had received several awards from Communication Arts and American Illustration, however I wanted to start working in 3D, so about 15 years ago I made the leap into VFX. I have since been developing my skills in many areas in VFX and gained experience in working in both 2D and 3D departments and also had a supervisor role in China. My background in Traditional Arts, good observation skills and having strong eye for detail still helps me today.

I’m not sure why I became so fascinated with learning so much about so many departments in VFX, but I did. That’s the beauty of VFX, you will never stop learning and mastering skills and when you do, doors open.

I’ve spent a lot of my career doing training in VFX and I have lectured at Escape Studios where I worked as Program Leader of VFX, plus I’ve lectured at The NFTS, The Met Film School and now I’m at Technicolor Creative Studios.

What drew you to Texturing?

I love the creation process as much as the final outcome. Texturing is something that you can be very involved in and takes you into learning about surface structure, patterns, transitions in textures, characters, Creatures, organic and hard surfaces, all of which I had been fascinated with as a fine artist.

Texturing defines the look and mood of the models, whether it’s characters and creatures, props, vehicles to sci-fi environments, plus it’s using Mari and Zbrush, 2 very powerful and awesome tools used in VFX, which I have been using for many years.

I have also spent quite a lot of time teaching how to use multiple texturing software together, to create more powerful workflows, something that I find very interesting, leveraging the power of each software.

How would you explain what Texturing is to someone who had never heard of it?

Texturing is about looking and understanding how things are build up on the surface level. To be able to look at an object and know how you can recreate it, sometimes matching the reference 100% or sometimes having more creative freedom, but still, it’s about having strong observation skills and complimenting this with technical and creative skills in various software. This keeps it fun, interesting and challenging to work in. It’s a nice balance between having a technical and artistic mindset.

Talk us through one or two of your favorite projects from Technicolor Creative Studios and explain why you’ve chosen them

I got the chance to work on Prometheus, which back then for me was working in 2D, but still, I got the chance to work on an Aliens film. A dream come true to the 7-year-old boy who is still inside me, with Aliens posters all over my room (still not sure why my parents let me have Aliens posters on my wall at 7, but I’m glad they did).

What sort of existing skills should someone have before joining the Texturing course at The Academy?

A strong interest in drawing or painting will help. A lot of texturing is still like drawing, albeit drawing and painting with a Wacom pen.

A fascination with objects and materials and how they look. Do they look new, old, weathered, damaged? and then, why are they damaged? what damaged them? Where and when does it belong? Texturing is storytelling and it plays an important part in making the overall story of the production come to life.

Photography. I’m no photographer, but I carry a camera around with me always and like to photograph objects nice and close up. I am fascinated with textures and so from every holiday I have been at in the last 15 years I have photos of bricks, rust, old paint and cool decals.

So, the curiosity to draw, paint, sculpt in clay or Zbrush, take photos digitally or traditionally and capture the world around you. These are all very valuable skills. Naturally having knowledge of Mari or Substance Painter will help also.

What’s your favorite thing about being part of The Academy?

The Academy is a great community. The instructors are all so talented and experienced also, making it a great thing to be a part of. The Academies also, when a course is running, it’s short, intensive, full of learning, inspiring and everyone goes through it together, helping each other out as they go along. That’s what the courses and community is all about, along with being taught all the department specific skills that you need to get the job.

Lastly, i’d like to share a few bits of advice.

Be passionate about it.

We love that. Have passion for your craft, as then, even if you are struggling, your passion will carry you over the obstacles. You can learn technical skills, but passion is the driving force.

Remember also that VFX is a team effort and it’s all about working with people. The industry wants strong artists, but even more than that, the industry wants strong artists who are also team players. Artists also need to be good at critiquing one’s own work, giving feedback and receiving it too, so get ready for lots of feedback from MPC’s trained and experienced professionals.

Discover more about The Academy and apply for courses here.

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