Interview with Damon Iannuzzelli

My first job was a few months after graduating from college in Sept. 2000. I started as an art intern at Turbine Games (Since renamed to Warner Brothers Games Boston).

Damon Iannuzzelli is a Art Director at Proletariat Inc. from Boston, United States of America with 19 years of industry experience.
He likes to work with Photoshop, Unreal and Maya.

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

My first job was a few months after graduating from college in Sept. 2000. I started as an art intern at Turbine Games (Since renamed to Warner Brothers Games Boston).

Just like a legion of other kids in the 80s/90s, I grew up playing and loving video games. The primitive pixels of the era often stoked my imagination and provided muse for much of the ‘artwork’ that I created outside of formal training. Much later on in art school, I didn’t get the best grades, mainly because I played a lot more videogames than I should have, haha! But, this led me to think pretty analytically about how they were made, and I studied a lot of the little tricks that were being used in real-time graphics. There was no computer graphics program in fine arts school at the time, but over the course of my senior year in college I felt like my passion for illustration and videogames could be blended together into a career.
After graduating, I applied to a few companies and was rejected at all of them. When I applied to Turbine (PC MMO developer) to fill an entry level position, someone there thought I had potential and I started as an intern painting 128×128 pixel textures for 3D models in Lightwave. I left Turbine about 4 years later to join Insomniac Games where I worked as Lead Character Artist on Resistance 1&2. I then spent a few years working at a webgames startup working mostly in Flash. The studio was bought by Zynga and I became the Zynga Boston Studio Art Director on a few web/mobile social games including Indiana Jones, Adventure World. After Zynga, I co-founded Boston based game studio, Proletariat Inc. where I’m currently the Art Director on our current multiplayer game, Spellbreak.

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

Traveling somewhere new is always the most inspiring thing. It helps me see the world in new ways and build new creative threads to the projects I’m working on. I went to Hawaii a couple months back and took hundreds of pictures of clouds because they were just so different in shape and color from the clouds I’m used to seeing everyday.
Obviously, artstation is a also an awesome place to get a pulse of what’s being created everyday. It’s inspiring and humbling to see many talented exceptional artists sharing work in one spot like that.

How does a typical working day look like?

Always coffee first. Then I look at the teams work from the previous day so I can give them good feedback to iterate on when they arrive. Mid morning we do our team stand-ups to talk about any dependencies or blockers for the work we’re doing. Barring other meetings, I typically spend the remainder of the day working on our game projects directly by providing feedback for art/assets, generating lookboards/concepts/and other directional visual materials, R&D on new visual features, communication with external art resources, and production asset creation. At the end of the week we get together as a team and look at all the visual progress we’ve made and talk about things that went well, not so well, and how we can improve.

What does your workplace look like?

It’s an open office with a modern/tech office vibe. We share office space with a much larger game company (Harmonix) so it often feels like we’re a small team inside a much larger studio. The Art team all sits close to one another so we can easily see what everyone else is working on.

How do you stay motivated in this tough industry?

I get excited by how often things change. There’s always something new to learn, new hardware to build for, and new audience expectations. The possibilities for videogame visuals in particular have only just been scratched – the future holds so much more than just photorealism.

What is your passion beside CGI/3D?

Travelling. I don’t get to do as much of it as I’d like.

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

I usually update things at the end of a project. It’s often hard to look at your own work and discern what’s good, bad, or just average. Try to only show the great work by limiting the amount of work you show and by getting feedback from peers on the quality of what’s in your portfolio and how you present it.

What Software do you use to create your artwork?

Mostly Photoshop, but I also use Maya quite a bit and do all my real time work in Unreal.

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

Houdini. Seems like it can do a lot of really weird/cool stuff and now has applications in real time graphics.

Which books would you recommend to the read?

Anything by Murakami, but specifically, A Wild Sheep Chase

What music do you listen to while working?

It cycles so much, but mostly a lot of indie pop/electroclash in my Spotify Discover Weekly. Favorites are Washed Out, Todd Terje, Digitalism, any Burning Peacocks. At home with my family we listen to a lot of 60s/70s Funk/Soul.

Any advice for new Artists?

Don’t be static or get too comfortable doing one thing. Be a lifelong student, ie. you should always be learning, seeking criticism, and getting better. Visual art fundamentals like composition, form, and color and an ever changing armada of software require constant upkeep and personal development if you want to stay relevant as a professional artist.