Interview with Gleb Alexandrov

I’ve been creating CG since I was 14, got my first freelance job at 19

Digital Artist, Founder of Creative Shrimp, currently base in Brest, Belarus. with 10 years of industry
experience. My main working tools are Blender, Krita, Reality Capture, Unreal Engine and Zbrush.

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

When I was a kid, I used to play computer games a lot. That scared the hell out of my parents, but for me it was incredibly fun time. I remember playing Doom for the first time when I was 6. It blew my childish mind. I realized that I want, I WANT to grow up and create 3d worlds, games and all of this. It became my ultimate object of desire.

Later on, among other things that led me into the CGI/3D I was thunderstruck by Half-Life, Myst, Cyberia (it’s a very old game about which you’ve probably never heard before). The breathtaking Blizzard cinematics. It went on and on. And then someone gave me a pirate copy of 3ds Max 5 and I was hooked.

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

You know, there are so many things that turn me on that it’s getting hard to pick one or two. I am deeply and constantly inspired by:

  • Game development
  • Movies
  • Heavy metal
  • Medieval stuff
  • Arthouse stuff
  • Large Hadron Collider experiments
  • My future death
  • TED talks
  • Books
  • Public intellectuals
  • Scientific debates
  • Advancements in technology
  •  The bastards who do everything better than me
  • Probably the bastards are keeping me inspired most.

How does a typical working day look like?

I have developed this routine over the years. For the first half of the day I do nothing related to work. Instead I go for a long walk, visit 2-3 coffee shops or do family stuff. Then about 2 pm I get back, caffeinated, and turn on the PC.

The rest of my day is a hardcore hustle. I just sit and do things with occasional breaks (the Pomodoro technique, anyone?). All creative things happen here, as well as all business things and work things and social media things. I can work for 8-12 hours if I’m focused enough.
Though sometimes I’m hit by procrastination and all hell breaks loose. A bright side of procrastination is that sometimes your brain starts to generate amazing ideas when you try to avoid work. And you think, where did this come from?

What does your workplace look like?

My workplace looks like a mess. That doesn’t matter when I’m in the zone, because the outer world just fades away. But when I press the pause button to look around, it’s terrifying. Right now I’m surrounded by the empty coffee cups, books, gadgets of all sorts, pillows (to dampen the echo during recording sessions), wires, M&Ms, spreadsheets with scribbles, paper towels, a vfx award statue and a cinema clapper.

My workplace is a hidden object game! I don’t care much about my workplace.

How do you stay motivated in this tough industry?

I don’t think this industry is that tough. In fact, I think that today is the best time to become a 3d artist. We have all neccessary technology at our fingertips and most of it is free. Blender, Krita, Gimp, whatever. The opportunities for spreading the word about your art are endless, with the abundance of social media, peer to peer interaction, smart crowds, digital communities and god knows what else.
Training materials are absolutely everywhere and cover the broad range of topics, just search Blender Tutorials on Youtube.

No it’s not that tough to get in. At least if you’re motivated and willing to spend 10000 hours to learn your craft.

And regarding motivation, that’s mostly about personal traits rather than the industry. As Vitaly Bulgarov said in one of his talks, getting yourself motivated is the same thing as maintaining hygien. You wake and brush your teeth. You wake up and you motivate yourself by surfing Artstation, etc.

What is your passion beside CGI/3D?

Music, especially the rock and folk music. I’ve been playing a guitar since I was 3. Occasionally I write songs and rarely show it to anybody. In an alternate universe I’m a rockstar. I suppose that a big chunk of my visual work is a sublimation of my unfulfilled musical desires.

I also love photography. The older I get the more I get interested in cameras, lenses and other gadgets. That must be another copy of me from a parallel universe, calling.

Oh, and of course game development! Hell, how am I interested in game development, you have no clue. I made like a million attempts to create a game since I was 14. Tons of fun and frustration, you know.

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

I have never managed my portfolio just for the sake of keeping it up to date. I think, my portfolio just reflects the state of affairs, it reflects what I’m doing at the moment. If you look at my Artstation page, you’ll see a salad of things. Renders, screengrabs from animations, projects that I did for myself, projects that I did for other people and so on, smashed together.

The one thing that I think is crucial is to keep the shit out of your portfolio. Don’t show the works that suck.

What Software do you use to create your artwork?

No surprises here, I mostly use Blender. I’m a Blender evangelist in some sense.
Here are the other software that I use, in no particular order:
Gimp and Krita for 2d image editing.
Zbrush for sculpting and remeshing.
Agisoft Photoscan and Reality Capture for photogrammetry, in which I’m highly interested.
World Machine for generating landscapes.
Unreal Engine and Unity for realtime stuff.
Open OBS for screen capture.

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

I look forward to trying Godot. I’m impressed by the direction it took over the last year, it’s just OMG. This game engine is the next big thing in the world of gamedev, in my opinion.

I’m also intrigued to get my hands on Substance Designer and Painter for designing PBR maps.

And of course I want to keep learning Unreal Engine. Blueprints make me excited, because it fulfills my wet dream of being able to make a game without coding. I suck really bad at coding, that’s my weak spot.

Which books would you recommend to the read?

The books on productivity and business.

  1. Rework by Jason Fried
  2. The One Thing by Gary Keller
  3. Algorithms to Live By: The Computer Science of Human Decisions by Brian Christian and Tom Griffiths
  4. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson

Also please read House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. It’s a postmodern horror story which makes Stephen King seem like no big deal (and I love Stephen King by the way!).

What music do you listen to while working?

The music that helps me to get into the zone is usually the music from games. The Diablo 2 soundtrack by Matt Uelmen gives me goosebumps instantly and immerses me somehow. The Journey OST is also high on my list.

My theory is that when you play games you tend to get into what is called the Flow, a super focused state of mind which is great for problem solving. After a while, the soundtrack of the game gets associated with this state of mind (the neural connections are being formed?). I’m certain that the Diablo OST triggers this brain response for me.

The movie soundtracks are different, but some of them work for me as well. Maybe it’s about memories and dopamine, I have no idea what I’m talking about but here we are.

My Top-3 picks:

  1. Diablo 2 OST
  2. The Journey OST
  3. The Social Network OST

Any advice for new Artists?

Define you goal, write it down. Then break it into steps, as small as possible. Don’t try to create a portfolio all at once. Instead, try to render a simple thing like a chair. When you succeed in doing this, reward yourself with something. It will help to form a positive feedback. Repeat 10000 times.

If other people try to convince you that you should do something else, don’t give a damn.

Everything will be fine, just go ahead and start doing shit! 🙂