Interview with Asad Manzoor

Generalist at PIXOMONDO from Mississauga, Canada with 4 years of industry experience.
My main working tools are ZBrush, Maya, Substance Painter and Arnold.

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

When I was 7, I’d find myself messing around in Photoshop 6.0 using the family computer — ever since then, I was hooked. Throughout highschool, I took any tech/media course I could squeeze into my schedule. The whole ‘starving artist’ idea always floated around, so I focused mainly on studying Math and Science. In my senior year, I finally decided that I wanted to be some sort of digital artist, and began devoting all of my free time to learning art fundamentals and 3D principles through various tutorials and books.
As of today, I’ve just wrapped up my first week officially working in the CG industry at PIXOMONDO.

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

Gah! So many people!
Number one would be my sister — she has an insane mental fortitude and grit that I can only hope to achieve.
Andrew Kramer and his tutorials were another huge inspiration and learning resource for me growing up. It’s been amazing watching him reach his level of mastery in realtime.
More recently, Ash Thorp’s been a very important influence for me. He’s an amazing designer/artist/director/creative personality. Ash runs the Collective Podcast which I listen to whenever I can. It’s super inspirational listening to him talk to all these big names in the industry and to hear their stories.
I also really admire Maciej Kuciara, Anthony Jones, Zdzisław Beksiński, Guillermo Del Toro, Phil Hale, Gregory Crewdson, and everything that Naughty Dog or Blur Studio produces.

How does a typical working day look like?

When I’m home, I’ll typically wake up between 5:00 and 5:30 in the morning, meditate, and jump straight into whichever project I’ve been working on. Around 9, I’ll have breakfast, and from there, it’s between 6 and 10 hours of work throughout the day.
If I’ve got to go to the studio, It’s pretty much the same, except with a much longer commute haha. In the studio, there’ll also be a lot of communicating with the team, and (so far) a fair bit of time learning about the pipeline. There are so many people whose brains I can pick and collaborate with over there, which makes it quite different from working at home.
In both places, there’s a lot of Googling involved.

What does your workplace look like?

How do you stay motivated in this industry?

I think you have to surround yourself with stuff that inspires you. Make Artstation or CGSociety your homepage, listen to some art podcasts on your commute, watch some Gnomon or GDC panels. Anything that pushes that end goal back to the front of your mind.

What is your passion beside CGI/3D?

I love horror movies. Not sure why, but I love getting creeped out. My favourite would probably be the 1974 Texas Chain Saw Massacre movie. Also It Follows, because of its amazing soundtrack and aesthetic.
Also, those teen movies from the early 2000s. Freaky Friday, She’s the Man, A Walk to Remember, She’s All That, Halloweentown.

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

Set some time aside every day for your personal work. Even if you’re super busy and you only work on it as little as 5 minutes, just to brainstorm, do that — as long as it’s not 0 minutes. And keep exploring! There’s so much stuff to research online, so much stuff to draw inspiration from in real life or in media, and so many new tools to mess around with.

What Software do you use to create your artwork?

ZBrush, Maya, Arnold, Blender/Cycles, After Effects, Mari, Substance Painter, Unreal Engine, and a bit of Marvelous Designer.

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

Houdini and Substance Designer. The stuff I’ve seen people produce in those is amazing. And it’s all procedural! With everything becoming more and more procedurally generated, I really want to dig deeper into that. Also, they just look really fun.

Which books would you recommend to the read?

On a technical level, I’d recommend Color and Light by James Gurney, anything by Andrew Loomis and George Bridgman. Michael Hampton’s also great for anatomy.
On the more general side, The War of Art by Steven Pressfield’s a great book for staying disciplined. Manage Your Day-to-Day by Jocelyn K. Glei is also great for time management — super important if you’re juggling personal work, professional work, or school, family, etc. all while trying to build a portfolio.

What music do you listen to while working?

It’s all over the place for me. Everywhere from Meshuggah to Lykke Li. Lately I’ve gotten way into Slowdive, Death Grips, Run the Jewels, and Chelsea Wolfe. Also a lot of Nine Inch Nails.

Any advice for new Artists?

Consistency, consistency, consistency! In my experience, consistency’s been the most useful thing. Whether you work for 5 minutes or 12 hours in a particular day, it’s all good — as long as there’s no day where you do exactly nothing. Big leaps or baby steps are both great, as long as you’re always moving. Once you’ve got that consistency down (even if it’s slow at first), it’ll be much easier to speed up.