Interview with Mauro Cerati

I started in 2014, working for a Indie game company called Kobojo, in the UK Scottish based department. After one year I moved in Malaysia to work for Streamline Studios where I’m currently working here.

Photoshop is by far my favorite software since I’m using it form nearly 20 years, but lately I’m also using 3D softwares like 3DCoat, Blender and Octane.

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

Well, as far as I remember I’ve always drawn from when I was a kid. During my high school years, because was an Art/Architecture school I studied the fundamentals of perspective and draw through and that helped me after when I was studiyng Concept Art. Even if I went to University I always kept drawing since was my inner passion (I have a bachelor in Chinese and Japanese language and literature), maybe was for that reason that I wasn’t very good at those languages, after all I spent a lot of time drawing and using photoshop for the first times to make photo manipulation. It’s only when I started to work as a graphic designer that I discovered Concept Art witch was for me a fusion of the artistic drawings plus the photo bash/manipulation with a fresh and dynamic approach.
When I decided to study in Feng Zhu school, FZD, in Singapore in 2013 I streinghten my fundamentals witch at that point were still pretty weak since most of my artistic skills were self taught.

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

Well, from one side I get inspired through real world cultures and architectures, and since I have a huge passion for ancient temples and civilizations part of it is through travels and discover the world.
Another source of inspiration is reading books and see documentaries, those can give you insight of a lot of different things or in case of books can trigger your imagination. Sometime for me music too, and I found very fascinating how much just even a line in a song can inspire me to do art. For example my latest personal project (Lagoon of Old Bones..) is inspired by the song Flying Wales by Gojira.

How does a typical working day look like?

I wake up at 9:00 and since I like to sleep until last minute I rush to the company, at 9:30 I have a croissant and tea, see what’s going on with the projects I’m working and if there are feedbacks, then start to work. Lunch at 12:00 that is just buy some sandwich and eat in front of my pc so I can spend the remaining 30 min sketching or try new workflows, than keep working until 6:30pm when I go home, have dinner and keep working after until 9:00-9:30pm on my own projects, after that is just chill.
rinse and repeat smiling_face

What does your workplace look like?

My personal workplace at home is quite dry since it’s just my laptop and Wacom tablet in my living room, in the past was at Starbucks smiley but my workplace at work is composed by the company’s Pc, multiple screens, Wacom tablet, keyboard, mouse, some of my books for references, some papers to take notes or sketchbook, some tea (I’m Italian but for no apparent reason it s been a while that I’ve changed from having coffee to having tea), and a couple of Plushes :D.

How do you stay motivated in this industry?

This is tricky, for me is a matter of consistency and habit, I try to work after work on my own projects in order to give me constant grow as an artist, if I don’t feel to do it I take my sketchbook and draw a bit, doesn’t need to be a good drawing but I try to do it to let’s say to “calm my inner demon that always keep asking me to draw and if I miss he will feed me with guilty”. Say that, I try to have a full day of relax usually on Saturdays. Following some tutorials that I buy from the artists that I admire also have huge beneficial since it allows me to try new workflows or let me rethink and improve my own.

What is your passion beside CGI/2D?

Haha well…I cook! And based by my flatmates and friends reaction it seems that I’m decent at it smiley but I’m able to cook just Italian recipes, from fresh hand made tagliatelle with Ragu’ alla Bolognese, pesto, Lasagne, Focaccia bread, ravioli etc etc smiley I probably took it from my father since he’s an architect and a cook so in a way I absorbed from him.

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

That is actually very difficult since it is never easy for me to put up my new portfolio pieces, I impose to myself very high standards and for that reason I sometime throw away paintings that I started and don’t match my expectations. One advice that a great art director gave to me and my classmates (Daniel Dociu) when he visited us during my year in FZD was to swap a old piece with a new one only if the new one is better. If you keep swapping means that you keep improving. Another trick that I use is to experiment with new workflows and just try to get better every day, this motivate me to keep evolving as an artist and put my new works on line is a “calling it done” to the artwork and move on to another personal project otherwise I would be stuck in a endless pit of changing/revising/redoing the same pieces over and over.

What Software do you use to create your artwork?

When I need 3D I like using Blender or 3DCoat, put the meshes in Octane, create the materials and lights in it, render and paintover in Photoshop. Sometime straight into Photoshop and keep painting… it’s a very straightforward workflow smiley

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

I’m currently looking into World Creator, the result seems very interesting for landscapes, I think I’ll dive deep again with Marvelous Designer, I like the idea of the cloths simulation even if I’ve been defeated by that software once smiley I’m keen to try Gravity Sketch but i have to admit that I’m not a huge fan of the VG gear set very much because I found it a bit uncomfortable to wear especially since I’m wearing glasses too. Gravity sketch seems on the other hand so powerful and interesting!

Which books would you recommend to the read?

To students “How to Draw” and “How to Render” are a must, to feed your visual library ….uf, a lot, but I would say anything that is related to your passion, I found very interesting Graham Hancock books witch I’ve read most of them. While there are some classics that should be read like Dune, Neuromancer etc etc I really would say anything that can inspire you, for example if you’re more into fantasy read Lord of the Ring or maybe the Song of Fire and Ice by Martin…find your own type of books.

What music do you listen to while working?

It actually depends, I can spend months without it and listen to just documentaries and podcast (usually Joe Rogan) and rarely any music at all or like in the past month that I just listen to my evergreen type that is Heavy Metal. Yup always been a big fan of it smiley typically Death Metal, sometime Doom sometime Power Metal for more a revival thingy, but I almost always gravitate in the Metal zone. I would like to listen to audiobooks but I found that aren’t much for me, I’m not able to listen to an English audiobook while working because I would have to pay a bit too much attention to it since I’m not an English native speaker, while sometime Italian audiobook can work because I can lower my attention and focus on the work but still be able to catch the sense of the narrator. Sadly there aren’t very much on line in Italian compared to the ones in English.

Any advice for new Artists?

Be always passionate, every day, drop your ego, seek advices and feedbacks by professionals since everyone of us have been a student in a point of our life, don’t be poisonous, always try to find a solution rather than accept “this cannot be done”: there is always a way, and pursue your passion, even if it will take your entire life, that can enrich your inner soul!