Interview with Nikie Monteleone

Nikie Monteleone is a Senior Surfacing Artist at HouseSpecial from JNew York with 10 years of industry experience.
She likes to work with Maya, Substance Painter, ZBrush, Arnold and Mari

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

Rex’s skin from Toy Story! I’ve always been drawn to surfaces and did a lot of design with prints and patterns before I switched careers to this industry. Seeing all angles of his skin made me really curious. „How I can make my prints and patterns in a virtual world?“ I started playing with 3D in college but was quickly told I was cheating by my fine art teachers so I backed away a little. I ended up going back to school a few years after graduation (to a different school) and picked up Maya there instead. I was fortunate to find a small studio shortly after that would teach me the rest but deciding to switch careers was the best thing I could do for myself! I now make cartoons, how cool is that?

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

I’m always looking for inspiration on ArtStation and other places like Instagram but most of the time it comes when I’m not looking for it. I recently watched an episode of Planet Earth that featured a chameleon eating a beetle and knew right away I HAD to create something around that story! Inspiration is everywhere if you just remember to look 😉

What does a typical working day look like?

I’m usually at work by about 8:45am and leave around 6pm. I try to limit my personal work to only working Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays in my off hours to give myself a break but most of the time, I break those rules!

What does your workplace look like?

HouseSpecial is located in portland Oregon, in an old factory building.

How do you stay motivated in this tough industry?

I try to find a goal. One goal and stick to it until I complete it. I admit that I do wander a bit but I really try to stay focused on one project at a time. Having one really great piece vs a bunch of subpar pieces is always better. It helps that my husband is also in a creative field. We share the same passion to create and also give each other feedback. He gives it to me straight and I will be forever thankful for that!

What is your passion beside CGI/3D?

I live in the Pacific Northwest of the United States and is really beautiful here year around. It rains for 8-9 months straight during the winter but it leaves everything very green with breathable air so I try to get outside and go hiking as much as possible. We have trails & waterfalls in every direction!

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

I only work on projects in my off time that I can learn from and that are FUN. The more colorful and the more challenging keeps me intrigued. I tend to not give up until I figure out a problem. It’s incredibly satisfying!

From the upcoming animated short film “SUBSTANCE” directed by Jamaal Bradley, Nikie is currently Shading Supervisor,

What Software do you use to create your artwork?

Maya, Substance Painter, ZBrush, Arnold & Mari

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

All I hear is “Redshift, Modo & Houdini” – They are next on the list!

Do you have any online podcasts or inspirational talks that you listen to?

2 come to mind:

  1. Mike Monteiro – Freelancing, money and contracts for creatives, a MUST listen:
  2. „50 point plan to wreck your career“:

What music do you listen to while working?

It’s either an animated movie soundtrack sort of day or a hard core hip hop sort of day. There’s rarely anything in between 😉

Any advice for new Artists?

Collaborate! I’ve learned so much from working with strangers all over the world. I’ve worked on two short films through Artella and can’t recommend signing up fast enough. Unfortunately the age old saying of “It’s who you know and not what you know” is is very true!

From animated short film “Being Good” directed Jenny Harder, was Shading Supervisor