How do you turn your passion for Blender into a flourishing career? Where do you start and how do you find clients? Pierrick Picaut, a long-term member of CG Cookie, has the answers.
Pierrick, how did you come to have a career in Blender?
I started in 3D the hard way, using Rhinoceros 3D, a 100% NURBS software. While working for a company, I set out to create a mobile game concept with friends, using vectorial style and they pushed me to try 3D. I decided to learn Blender and started working with it for hours and hours, late into the night and on weekends. Blender became a complete addiction, eventually I quit my job and started my freelancing career. I mostly learned Blender from Blender Foundation's DVDs and from CG Cookie; I even became a Blender Foundation Certified Trainer with the objective to make tutorials for CG Cookie!
"The best advice I can give: publish your work!"
Now, 99% of my working time is spent on 3D projects and it does more than just pay my bills; it allows me to have a really good lifestyle, which is just awesome.
What advice would you give yourself if you were starting out again?
My biggest regret is that I got into 3D so late. I always though it was something for the elite CG artist and too complicated for me. But as all things in life, you just need to spend the time on it and you can learn anything. The best advice I can give: publish your work! Don't be afraid to be criticized. You need to gain visibility in this industry, so stop being shy.
"Don't be intimidated by top-quality artwork you see out there."
. Don't be intimidated by seeing AAA art on a lot of forums. I used to think: "Damn, I'll never be able to do this in my life". Now I know that the true CG rockstars are maybe 0.00001% of what is done with CG in the world. You don't need to work for BLIZZARD or ILM to find a good job or great CG projects. . 3D and VR are everywhere, there is a lot of thing to be done with Blender, the only thing you need is work on your skills. Practice everyday, publish your work, get criticized, progress, and start all over again.
How do you get client work?
In my first year I was searching for customers on specialized forum. Some of my first jobs came in through Blenderartist.org and other French freelancing websites.
"Being active online helped me find new clients."
The fact that I've published several personal project, got featured and was active on a lot of forums made me Google-friendly and helped me a lot with finding new clients. Now, I don't search for customer anymore, I often have to refuse projects because I'm to booked - which is a great problem to have!
Do you think Blender is a good choice for people starting in 3D today?
I make my living with Blender, so the answer is yes! If you master Blender, you won't have any trouble learning other software. The core thing in CG is not the software but the way you use it. Plus, Blender has a very big community and a lot of valuable free resources. And it continues to prove to be reliable even for professionals.
"If you master Blender, you can transition to other software easily."
How much time do you spend concepting on paper before diving into modeling in Blender?
It really depends on the kind of project I'm working on, but I generally spend as little time as possible drawing and sketching. I prefer 3D blocking to output concept and proof for my clients. When it comes to character creation, I generally know what I want and I look for as much references as I can online, I then use dyntopo or simple 3D blocking to sketch my character.
I proceed the same way with hardsurface or environments and use 3D to block out space and search for references to explain the concept to my customer.
You sometimes rough out sculpts in Blender and then polish them up in ZBrush. Why?
If you look around at various workflows, you'll see that Zbrush is so often used in the industry combined with Maya or 3DSmax - and, in my case, with Blender. I do feel more comfortable with Blender's dynamic topology as I believe it is more flexible. I feel way more comfortable with 3D navigation in Blender. Once I've sketched my character I will make the retopology and UVs in Blender and go to Zbrush.
The benefit of Zbrush is its power and ability to deal with very high level of subdivison, allowing you to get in very fine details like skin pores. It has a solid layer system that allows you to scupt details. Zbrush is for me just another tool to go a little further than simply using Blender, though you can achieve very nice stuff using Blender on its own.
You do both realistic and stylized work. Do you use the same workflow and techniques for both?
The overall process is exactly the same. You block stuff, try to make it as good as possible, then dive into detailing. Style is a matter of stroke and proportions, and you can emphasize it using stylized shading and lighting.
Are you a gamer as well? Do you ever create game assets?
I used to play a lot video games and was so inspired by BLIZZARD background and style. I've stopped playing video games a long time ago because it was too time-consuming and I easily get carried away! Recently, I played Overwatch and I bought Total War: WARHAMMER. I've also been hired to work on a new game called NOARA that should be available on Steam before the end of the year. I'll be in charge of rigging and animating all characters. I will also be modeling props and environment assets, which should be fun.
Did you see anything great that inspired you lately?
Every day! I keep finding new inspiring things that I want to learn about. I'd really like to dive into the animation node add-on as the outputs are awesome: I love motion design! I was also amazed by the ADAM demo in Unity, I believe realtime is the thing I'll have to master to stay competitive on the market. As for inspiring artists, I love the work that Cesar Salcedo is doing, he's really pushing Blender to the top.