Student Spotlight – Josh Watt

For our first student spotlight interview we caught up with recent Computer Arts graduate Josh Watt. We had a chat about the process of designing his unique creatures, scary (yet inspiring) movies he watched as a kid and where he hopes to see his career go in the next few years!

Question 1

Firstly, how would you describe your artwork to people that are not familiar with it?

I’m trying to imagine how I would explain it to my grandmother… I try to make creatures and characters from my head as best as I can using surrealist techniques. This year especially I was quite fascinated by Salvador Dali, and a lot of other surrealists, that use techniques to draw without thinking. I’ll just do doodles like that for ages, then if I see something I really like I’ll decide to try and make that in 3D, then from there I’ll try to follow some sort of movie or game design pipeline so that I can eventually texture it and somehow make it look more real. That’s my favourite thing to do, make things that shouldn’t be real, look real!

Question 2

Were you always interested in Digital/computer art or did you explore other art forms first?

I was never interested in digital art in high school, art didn’t actually seem like a choice at all. I did really enjoy more traditional stuff, like portraiture, using ink and also just making a mess. It was only when a guy in the year above me who went to a different uni to do digital art was telling me all about it and it just sounded really good. It sounded better than whatever else it was that I wanted to do at the time. The only other digital art that I had tried was graphic communication where it’s a lot more technical and structured… a lot of measuring. So coming here and really getting to do everything I was doing in high school - except on the computer - was really fun.

Question 3

You create some amazingly strange and imaginative creatures, some of them remind me of monsters I’d conjure up in my head as a child. Where does the inspiration for these creatures come from? Are there any games/movies/books that influence the creation of these characters?

Well, as a kid I watched a lot of tv and a lot of movies… probably movies that I shouldn’t have watched as a young child. I can remember having Blade 1 and 2 on DVD when I was definitely not 18. Movies like The Grinch, The Thing, Jurassic Park, have stayed with me for far too long probably as they were really terrifying then. I was always really captivated by these weird worlds then when I became a teenager and got an xbox I started playing games like Gears of War, which is what got me looking more at games as well. I was so amazed at games in general because I wasn’t really that much of a gamer until about half way through high school and then suddenly there was this awesome new world!

Question 4

Could you describe your working process? Do you have a clear idea of how each work will look from the beginning or do your ideas change as you start working?

It definitely morphs and changes as it goes along which is something I’m always ok with because whenever I start I always figure it will be better once I keep going. When I do all my sketches and drawings I really try to not care about them so that then I can get them done a lot quicker because I’ll happily rather spend more of my time making them in 3D in Zbrush. I’m a lot better at refining detail in there than I am at actually drawing. My lecturer Ryan, got me doing coffee stain drawings, they’re really fun. That probably worked the best just because I could get much larger shapes in and imagine the image as a whole rather than just the head. Whenever you make the head you then imagine how the body would follow. I feel it’s a lot more difficult to create a body, then imagine a head.

Question 5

What was the most important thing you learned during your time studying Computer Arts at Abertay?

Reference is everything. That’s pretty much the main thing I learned, which is quite simple, but it is! Constantly looking back and making sure that what you’re doing is what you are meant to be making. I suppose that also comes down to anatomy. The life drawing classes were very important. I didn’t realise it in 1st year because I had just come from high school, so when I got in there I was like ‘concept art, concept art, concept art!’ Life drawing is such a big thing, it helps with reference as well because you build up a better mental projection.

Question 6

Lastly, what have you been up to since Abertay Digital Graduate show and what are your goals for the next few years?

I’ve been doing some work for the university, helping out with some advertising stuff for a video for them. It’s been really fun getting to see the whole process of creating a model for video; setting up lighting, rendering out the image, stuff like that. There are technical parts that I hadn’t really come across before. It’s good to learn something else new after 4 years of being here.

As far as the future goes, I’m looking to expand my portfolio, start making more creature bodies and anatomical studies - definitely more of those. I’d really like to get into character design although I’ve been told several times that it’s very difficult to get in to. I’m interested in any kind of 3D work at the moment because I quite enjoy working in a team and the whole game environment is really fun. It’s an enjoyable work place, obviously it will get stressful, but I’m excited for it. I think it’ll be good fun, so hopefully I’ll be a 3D artist and not back home working in my mum’s house!