Interview with Miguel Nogueira

I did some small freelance jobs when I got out of college in 2016, I also took a year to perfect my craft before sending out portfolios, then, I landed my first serious job at Frictional Games as an outsource artist during the year of 2017, about one year later I became a full-time member of the company and I have worked for them until this day.

Miguel Nogueira is a Concept Designer from Porto, Portugal with 3 years of industry experience.
He likes to work with Zbrush and Marvelous designer for sculpting, Photoshop for post process, drawing and painting and
Keyshot for rendering and quick prototypes.

What led you into the CGI/2D?

I experimented with a lot of different fun media in college as well as during my free time… graffiti, typography, calligraphy, photography, even made a few short-films, but it wasn’t until I saw some robot concepts on DeviantArt, back when the site was still in its prime and was the only real source to discover art, that I stopped, pointed and thought, “that’s it, that is cool. I want in the fun.“. Easier said than done, as I learned through my career that it was tougher than what it seemed like at a first glance, but I think it was all worth it in the end, I wouldn’t go back and choose another route.

Where do you go to get inspired? What/Who inspires you?

I try to get inspired by other artists and designers outside the concept art and entertainment realm, I even purposely avoid to look at what’s on Artstation front page, just because I know everyone is getting influenced by everyone there, so in turn, I like to look and follow graffiti artists, graphic designers, multimedia, installation and performance artists and some visual artists too. I think Ashley Wood, Phil Hale, Shepard Fairey (also known as Obey Giant), Vertov, Jamie Reid, Spike Jonze and Chris Cunningham to name a few out of the top of my head, would be some of my visual reverences.

How does a typical working day look like?

A typical work day in the studio I work for is sometimes very random, I may get assigned to do storyboards, character designs, level map designs, illustrations, anything that the project needs, because we’re a small prolific team, I get assigned a lot of different fun tasks to explore. I think I’m lucky on that, as I usually hear many comments and complaints about how boring and stale the professional work can get for others at AAA studios – I experience nothing of the sort, I see all tasks as great fun. Most of the times I get assigned an ‚x‘ number of tasks, I grab my coffee and think about them a bit while I have my breakfast, because I work at home, remote, (like most people at Frictional Games) I have this luxury – after digesting the briefing, I get on sketching, sculpting or any other type of rapid prototyping, by the end of the day, I try to get a polished set of concepts to deliver to my art director, at night I think briefly of what’s my day going to look like tomorrow, what tasks I’ll face, even a ten-second quick thought pays miles in the next morning, I think it’s because my brain is still waking up by then.

What does your workplace look like?

Here is my work office, I’m proud of it, if I may dare to geek about it, everything was built and chosen by myself, it’s still very white and needs some posters and stickers, but this is the foundation.

How do you stay motivated in this industry?

I have a personal project to side with my client or studio work, being good at the work that pays the bills is essential, but I don’t want to be in large measure, a commercial artist, since the personal work is my voice without layers of executives or directors to dictate what they think is cool or what they think will capture the audience attention. My personal work is who I am, and that’s why it’s important and a crucial piece of the puzzle to stay motivated, which in return is what really gets my work the most attention.

What is your passion beside CGI/2D?

Besides concept art, I love Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and skateboarding, it’s a physical activity that balances very well with all the hours of work, sitting at a desk. Our bodies weren’t really meant to sit for long hours, so it’s important to get a physical activity which you enjoy. I just got my last stripe on my white belt in Jiu Jitsu, one more and I’ll get the blue belt, so in a way it’s a side journey to distract me from the rush and urgency that I sometimes feel in pumping out new work.

How do you keep your portfolio up to date? Any tips?

Try to stay focused on doing it. It’s amazing the amount of energy you have left once you disconnect from the emergency of social media, such as, it was only until I logged out of all my social media while working, that I found myself barred at the login screen now and then, I was finding myself going to check it involuntarily almost, once you weed that out and focus all opportunities that rise during the day, to be more prolific, you’ll find plenty of time.

What Software do you use to create your artwork?

Mostly Photoshop, Zbrush and Keyshot, I do experiment with other rendering engines, like Octane and other modeling and drawing software like Corel Painter and Manga Studio, but I’m so used to do things in my set of tools, sometimes I really see no reason to learn new software or tools, I don’t think they are a magic bullet to great art, in the end, there’s a work of art inside a work of art and it’s not the software that makes it, it’s you and your voice.

What Software do you want to learn in future? And why?

I’m not very focused on learning software, mostly because I see it just a tool to an end, I’m much more interested in painting traditionally, like oils and watercolors, I’d also like to find time to go back to sculpting in clay, but to answer the perfectly valid question, I want to get better at using Octane, I have seen a lot of cool stuff done in Octane.

Which books would you recommend to the read?

This is a good one. I love books and there are so many that I would recommend, however, for personal artistic growth I’d recommend Mastery by Robert Greene, Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. For fiction, I’d recommend Neuromancer by William Gibson and any H. P. Lovecraft stories.

What music do you listen to while working?

If I’m working on robots or cyberpunk themes, I like to listen to neurofunk drum and bass, like Noisia, Spor and The Upbeats, if I work on horror designs, I usually like to listen to stoner, like Electric Wizard and Gojira, I’m fortunate that I like to listen to a wide spectrum of kinds of music and I like to think they influence the product. It sounds a cliché, I know, but try to design a horror piece while listening to Britney Spears, the vibe you’re putting down on paper from your pencil just won’t click, listening to the right tune when making art gets me into almost a creative meditation state.

Any advice for new Artists?

Having artistic references and reverences is great, but look beyond what everyone else is already looking, copying what’s hot on Artstation or Behance will only get you so far. Do you want to design a robot? Look at Boston Dynamics, Open Bionics or ASIMO, try to envision what they’ll be like in the future; need to design a dragon? Don’t look at Skyrim or Lord of the Rings, look at what those artists were looking at, like real komodo dragons or reptiles in general. Art imitates life. This is a hard job. You have lots to learn, but don’t let it get you down. Just be sure not to fall into the trap of designing commercial concepts and artwork for your portfolio just because you think it’s what the industry needs, the industry needs you as an individual, it needs to hear what you have to say, what’s your world like, not someone else’s definition of ‚good‘ art, good is a known quantity, it’s what we all agree on, as long as you stick to good, you’ll never have real growth.