Interview with Aleksandr Kirilenko

Aleksandr Kirilenko is a Lead Character Artist from Estonia with 13 years of industry experience.
He likes to work with Mudbox, Mari, Topogun, UVLayout and Photoshop.

What led you into the CGI/2D? Tell us your story.

It was 1998 and I got a few video games for my birthday. Among them were Diablo and Worms 2. The games themselves weren’t as interesting to me as the bonus content – cinematics and cutscenes. I didn’t know what they were exactly – not film nor “low” in-game graphics – but the seed had been planted in my head.
Where do you go to get inspired? What/Who inspires you?
Lately, I go to traditional art. Literature has been a source of inspiration as well. Personal experiences, travelling. The more I work on myself to bring out my individuality and shed the layers of learned concepts and points of views, the less I tend to look at the work of others. Unless it’s classics we are talking about. I went to Tretyakovsky gallery in Moscow a couple of months ago, that blew me away.

How does a typical working day look like?

I try to take care of my responsibilities as the team lead at the beginning of the day: I check the feedback from the client, check the work of the artists I manage, give them feedback, see where we are with the progress. I then move on to doing artistic work itself. After 9 pm-ish I start working on my personal projects if I still have any spark left in me. I take breaks in-between all of those tasks: gym, yoga, jogging, reading, eating, a bit of writing. Discipline is a must here otherwise the day is nothing but chaos – one of the worst feelings to take in bed with you at the end of the day.

What does your workplace look like?

Right now it’s a bit of a mess: Sennheiser headphones, a gorgeously designed piece of audio equipment that’s beginning to show their age, are hanging from the corner of my trusty laptop – a reliable friend that was with me for the last seven years; iPhone headphones, carelessly thrown on the table, left from a call with a friend earlier today; an ID card reader to help me take care of some TAX business, my wallet on top of that; an empty water glass; a half FULL bottle of water (I’m teaching myself to be that kind of a person) next to it; a wine glass with a drop of Chateau Peneau I had earlier; an old iPhone, smaller and much more elegant than my current one, waiting to be sold; some sour and tasty lemon drops from Malta; some other not so sour and not so tasty drops from Czech Republic; a black notepad which hasn’t been opened in months which makes me wonder what’s inside of it; a beautiful wooden box with some gem bracelets as a birthday gift to me from a dear friend from my recent trip to Thailand; a microphone stand with a microphone on top of it, one of the bracelets is hanging off it; Intous 4 that I bought in 2008-ish with a massive scratched area right in the middle of it. It‘s messy. I had a bit of a day off today.

How do you stay motivated in this industry?

Have a goal and an aim. My dream was to work with amazing and talented people. I reached that dream when I was hired by Ninja Theory. A goal, a dream, an aim, a sense of duty and responsibility for your own life and happiness – that motivates.

What is your passion beside CGI/2D?

Reading and learning.

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

If you are already in the industry, this shouldn’t be an issue. If not, look for the artwork that is taken directly from the industry projects. Film, games, anything like that. See what artists who made those works say about them. Dissect the work, find things you are not familiar with and figure them out. Most of the time, it’s technical aspects of production. Analyze this kind of work. Start implementing previously unknown or untouched elements and techniques into your own projects to simulate the responsibilities of the position you are trying to get before you actually get it. Break down your work in the presentation.

What Software do you use to create your artwork?

3Ds Max, ZBrush, Topogun, Marvelous Designer, Marmoset Toolbag, Substance Painter, Mari, UVLayout, Photoshop.

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

One of the renderers. I have a substantial lack of skill and knowledge in how I present my work so I would like to address that.
Which books would you recommend to the read?
Popular Music by Mikael Niemi, A Hero Of Our Time by Lermontov, The Prophet by Khalil Gibran, any book by Erich Fromm, New Testament.

What music do you listen to while working?

I usually don’t listen to music while I work. The last time it was Massive Attack.

Any advice for new Artists?

Lower your expectations. As long as this is an industry, it’s also a business. Be ready to do a job. Guard and value your time. Aim for something high. Aim for something higher than that. Dream big. Figure out how to bring meaningful joy into your life and have a laugh at least once during a day – you’ll be surprised what it can do for you personally and professionally. Don’t judge. Don’t ever lose heart.

Good luck!