Interview with Pablo Munoz Gomez

Pablo Munoz Gomez is a Visual development and character artist from Colombia with 8 years of industry experience. He likes to work with ZBrush, Keyshot, Photoshop, Marmoset Toolbag, and Substance Painter.

What led you into the CGI/3D? Tell us your story.

I think the way that I got into the industry was the result of a very organic process. My grandmother is a fantastic watercolour artist, my mother is also a great artist that works with a variety of materials and techniques, so I grew up surrounded by art and in an environment that encouraged me to find my passion. I started with with sketches using pen and paper but then moved to pastel and soon after I got into oil painting. I got bored of oil painting because I had to spend a lot of time cleaning up after the painting sessions. I then discovered clay and plasticine and started creating sculptures and characters out it. When I was around 16 years old, I found out about 3D software through a tech magazine and realised that learning visual effects and 3D was an attainable goal.

I went to study 3D animation where I had my very first contact with Maya and ZBrush 2. Back then, things were different, I remember I got really excited when I first bought a 128mb USB to keep files (that was a lot of space). Also there was an entire lesson, at university, dedicated to the creation of Ambient Occlusion pass.

I got to experiment and try different software and that helped to figure out how to transfer my knowledge of traditional painting/sculpting into the digital realm. So, I began to use corel painter for illustration and Photoshop for speed paintings, as well as ZBrush for sculpting. From that point onwards I have gone with the flow and the evolution of the industry trying to adapt any new technologies, software or techniques to my own workflow.

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

I get inspired by a whole bunch of different things and by a bunch of different reasons. For instance, I might be watching a movie and get inspired just by the composition and framing of a particular shot, or a simple train ride could inspire me to create a character based on someone I saw or a conversation I overheard. I think ‘contrast’ is a big source of inspiration as well. Anything with a contrast can suggest a entire concept for a piece of
artwork, it could be as simple as a smooth vs rough surface, a bright colour vs a dull one or a hairless cat wrapped around a fur coat.

If I had to choose somewhere to draw inspiration from I’d say looking at insects and photos deep sea creatures are a good starting point, specially for creatures and non-human characters.

How does a typical working day look like?

The routine changes from time to time and I have days that I do different things. I generally wake up, go straight to the shower and then go to the computer to set up something so that I can leave it “working” all day (a render, or a backup, or a heavy script running, etc). I head to the coffee shop, get a coffee and take the train where I usually do some sketching, read a book or catch up with the news. In the afternoons I spent time working on various bits and piece for the ZBrushGuides or a portfolio piece.

I also have some days that I do purely research, testing or learning a new tool. Other days I concentrate on more administrative tasks and the business side of things.

What does your workplace look like?

I got a standing desk with two monitors, the PC tower sits next to the desk on top of a filing cabinet and I have hydraulic arm holding a Wacom Studio Pro that I can use as a tablet, a second PC or as an extra monitor. At the bottom I have a simple printer a few reference books and a couple of network drives for backups and to access my files online.

How do you stay motivated in this industry?

I’m fortunate to have people around me that inspire me and encourage me to keep doing what I enjoy doing. One of the things that keeps me motivated is the interaction with other artists and people that follow my work.

I think nowadays is actually easy to get motivated because you have a lot of choices and a lot of different things that can appeal to you. Ultimately is a very personal choice. You can, for instance, scroll through ArtStation, look at the plethora of amazing artworks and get depressed because of how good they are. Or, you can see that as a motivation and encourage yourself to get to that level.

What is your passion beside CGI/3D?

Teaching is another one of my passions. When I find a simple solution to a problem or figure out a new process, I get excited about sharing it and to see what other people can do with it.

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

I don’t create portfolio pieces just to stay up to date. I sometimes allow a new workflow or technique to be the focus of a new artwork, but I don’t let it dictate the outcome of what I’m doing. However, if you want your portfolio to reflect the latest trends in the industry, I think the best way to stay up to date is to take something that interests you from a new trend, a new software or a new technique and explore how it can be incorporated into your workflow.

A good exercise, is to take on a full project to explore a very specific tool or or technique while creating something that you’d like to make. At the end you could end up with a new portfolio piece and also knowing how to use a new tool.
What Software do you use to create your artwork? I use different software for different tasks, but as a general rule I use ZBrush and Photoshop as my primary tools. I really enjoyed sketching with pen and paper but nowadays I’m more efficient sketching a new concept in 3D directly with ZBrush. I love Substance Painter to texture my models and keyshot for rendering. Marmoset toolbag 3 is another great tool I use early in the process to develop the mood and the lighting of a new concept.

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

I think I’d like to polish my skills with Marvelous designer because you can create amazing and complex things in a fraction of the time and it seems to be the ‘go-to’ software for creating cloth and simulating fabrics.

Which books would you recommend to the read?

Here is a short list of some books I finished recently that made an impact on me, in one way or another (they might not be for everyone):

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig Estetica Artificial (spanish version) by Franklin Hernandez-Castro Practical Thinking by Edward De Bono

What music do you listen to while working?

I have a few playlists I listen to when I’m working. I prefer something instrumental like bajofondo (an argentinian band that mixes electronic music with tango), but when I get into a good rhythm I tent to ‘zone out’ and don’t even notice when the music stops.

Any advice for new Artists?

Interact with people, ask questions and be polite. social interaction is key. Show your work, ask for feedback, listen to critiques with an open mind and be humble. If someone gives you their time, be appreciative of it, it is the most valuable asset there is.

A more practical advice would be to document your process, write things down, make lists and give yourself deadlines to complete projects. Use references, copy or reproduce things from nature. Give credit where credit is due and whenever you get stuck on something, do something else completely different.

Finally, find the time to rest and sleep and don’t neglect other parts of your life.