Interview with Daniel Hahn
Published on 10/15/2018
What led you into the CGI/3D? Tell us your story.
When I came to the US five years ago to work for a German car brand I started pushing for one of my other dreams, which is to create characters for the game and movie industry. I have a background in car design, where I achieved a lot and I was looking for a new challenge to be inspired by. After two years of randomly creating robot-concepts that I shared and posted on different online channels, I got the first requests from entertainment companies. First from smaller short movie projects, which got cancelled eventually but a bit later from clients like Epic Games, which invited me to work on Robo-Recall for example.
So on the one hand I have only 3 years of experience in the CG industry, but with my extensive car design background it’s a combined experience of 15 years. (oh and also there was an intense graffiti time… I started obsessive sketching when I was around 15 years old, doing graffiti in my hometown in Germany, where I later studied Product Design.)
What Software do you use to create your artwork?
My favorite pieces of software are Zbrush and Photoshop, sometimes Substance Painter, plus whatever Renderer feels good at a certain time. Of course I know a few more programs but these ones I use the most. Over time I noticed that I am not the most patient guy when it comes to creating my stuff. That doesn’t mean that I can’t sit for days on one piece of character but I like to see where I am heading pretty early in the process to keep myself motivated. That is one reason I like Zbrush: it is intuitive, sketchy and gives me fast results that don’t always need to be so accurate. For rendering I use Keyshot at the moment for the same reasons…quick and dirty results 🙂
Where do you go to get inspired? What/Who inspires you?
Syd Mead is one of my all-time favorites.
Also music is a very big inspiration for me – I like Plaid, Aphex Twin, Squarepusher, Noisia or Former.
How does a typical working day look like?
I usually work in the evening and night hours.
What does your workplace look like?
I am lucky enough to live in LA or better the Santa Monica mountains which are close to the ocean. It is a great place to be. There is a lot of nature surrounding me. What I noticed is, that I usually put my desk up against a window front where I can look out once in a while. This particular desk setup (image) I Iiked a lot. It was in a house in a canyon where I lived for a while. The desk was located in a little shed on the other side of a creek which was running on the property…Trent Resnor (Nine Inch Nails) also used to live in that house at some point…pretty much Ex-Machina-Style Perfect if you like the more quite setting without to many distractions. On the desk I have a panoramic 21:9 screen and a fairly old Wacom. I like the desk clean when I start with a project but it gets very messy towards the end. I also usually have some Threea figures and some other Art toys around for inspiration.
How do you stay motivated in this industry?
I am fairly new in the entertainment industry and I am crazy motivated. It is a dream coming true for me. I always try to challenge myself with every piece of concept art I create and I usually don’t try to take the save approach to a problem. Also learning new tools once in a while keeps the process very interesting.
What is your passion beside CGI/3D?
That’s funny because there is not much more at the moment which I would call passion. CGI is my big passion and creative outlet at the moment. I could see myself also producing some experimental music in the future, because I have a lot of passion and some experience in this field too. But for now I am full steam on creating concept art.
How do you keep your portfolio up to date? Any tips?
Just keep creating awesome stuff next to the projects you do for work. There is this certain purity, rawness and bad-ass-ness about stuff that you create without anybody telling you what to do. So I think if you keep creating personal work on the side, that helps stay fresh and unique.
What Software do you want to learn in future? And why?
I am currently looking into Marvelous Designer for Clothing and I am interested in the Octane Render. Maybe a little Maya refresh wouldn’t hurt as well 😀 But actually I try to use as few things as possible to not get overwhelmed with the choices in each program. That’s why I also try to stay in Zbrush from sketch to finish.
Which books would you recommend to the read?
I am not a big reader, I think I would rather play a game, to be honest. I am a very visual guy and I need to see images. Huge text blocks scare me It is not that a cannot imagine things that are written down in a book. But, I think, if I want to imagine things, I rather start of a blank canvas and imagine stuff from scratch…my own creations. This is way more fun and original.
But there are few books I would recommend:
Syd Meads “Sentinel” from 1979: This one is full of amazing concepts of the future (now) which actually came true or we still are behind his imagination. But careful, those kinds of books are inspiring but also a bit depressing at the same time.
Black Ink by Toast: Very cool book of one of my favorite graffiti guys…still. This dude always inspired me from a graphical standpoint or from a character perspective.
Ashley Wood: “Extreme Finale”: Boom! Sit down! That guy is so crazy, too. Very artistic, straight forward and raw. A big art book to get inspired.
What music do you listen to while working?
Music is a big inspiration for me so I listen to music a lot. When I am in the car ( in L.A. that is usually a long time) I have the tendency to listen to extreme, hard, experimental stuff, like: Noisia, Oneotrix Point Never, Former, DJ Hidden, Venetian Snares, Aphex Twin, Squarepusher or Drum N Bass and Hip Hop (Love! EL-P and Jon Wayne). That Former, Noisia and I actually started talking about a little video project is crazy, because I listen to their music as an inspiration and after that they like my stuff as well. This is like a inspiration spiral…very interesting.
When I am working that changes a lot into very chilled IDM or even minimal House music. Plaid! Are my all-time favorite IDM bands.
Any advice for new Artists?
Keep pushing, practicing and putting it out there, it will work eventually! Don’t listen to everybody
Practice is a big part in this business and the more quantity you create the more quality you will get in the end…eventually even an own style (that is by far the hardest thing to achieve). At some point you need to look at the stuff that you created and ask yourself what is the unique thing about it. Even if it is small things. If you find that thing…make it stronger next time.