Welcome back to Milk Mondays…
Where we get to show off our lovely lot and share a little bit of their wisdom, what makes them tick and what they get up to when they’re not making VFX 🙂
We’re chatting to Kevin San today, one of our fantastic Texture Artists. Keep reading for more on what it’s like to work as an artist at Milk, career progression, book recommendations, Lindy Hop dancing and bands of the 90s…
How long have you been working at Milk?
I’ve been at Milk for around one year and a couple months now. My sense of time has been off lately but time flies when you’re having fun right!? 🙂
What do you like about working here?
It’s the fantastic people here that give you a spring in your step even on bad days. I love being in an environment where there’s so much peer support both professionally and personally – that’s so unique to Milk and I very much enjoy being part of it.
Did you always want to be a Texture Artist?
I wanted to be an animator and follow in the footsteps of the Pixar legends. I grew up on a healthy dose of animation in a time where 2D animation was transitioning to 3D. This new way of cinema really captivated my interest in CG and then eventually I really loved the idea of photo-realism, bringing imagined worlds to life.
So fast forward to the start of my VFX career at DNEG London. I was a matchmover for my first ever film, John Carter of Mars. During my time there I was fortunate to do a range of other things, including FX, layout, lighting, pre-vis.
Being exposed to so many other categories within this industry opened my eyes and it gave me a good base of understanding VFX. Eventually I really took to texturing as I love the fact that you can see your results as you paint and it’s all up to you to make things look pretty.
How did you get into being a Texture artist?
It’s all about establishing your place in the industry and then expressing interest to whoever is around to help you – make the most of your resources!
I studied a visual effects course at Escape studios and went on to do some generalist work before becoming a matchmover at DNEG. Then, when I expressed my interest in texturing to my manager I was taken under the wing of a senior texture artist and progressed from there, right through to my current role at Milk as senior texture artist.
This industry can be daunting with choice of career paths and it’s a privilege to have the support and the opportunities to forge your own path. I think VFX is pretty unique in this way.
Do you have a favourite kind of Texture work? (why?) and what’s the best bit of your job?
This is a hard question because I love both organic and hard surface work equally. For hard surface, it’s limited to real, physical materials and not so open to interpretation. I like this constraint and I get really invested in scrutinising reference photos and spending hours on painting surface imperfections. There’s a satisfaction I get when I can tweak my maps to replicate convincing details.
With organic objects I enjoy the freedom and the subjective creativity which opens up your options. Splash a little bit of colour here and there and bob’s your uncle!
The best bit of the job for me is working on a heavy hero asset. I could find all the joy in the world sprinkling a bit of texture magic on a small simple prop, even something as simple as a bucket!
Your favourite project at Milk and why?
One that we’re currently working on (a comedy film!) that I can’t reveal any details on yet…I especially like the subjectivity and the challenging, laborious task of making eyes look great! But really, it’s hats off to the crew. It has been a pleasure and I am looking forward to the next show together! It always comes down to having a bunch of good folk and that’s why it takes the favourite spot.
What does your typical day look like?
I love to get my coffee on in the morning, chomp down on my breakfast and log in to start the day.
I’m mostly hands on with work right from dawn until dusk but I’m always available and very much enjoy chatting and/or helping colleagues out throughout the day.
For the last few weeks, some of my colleagues and I have been taking part in a mentoring program for school kids who weren’t sure what their next step was going to be post age 16. During that time, I was also helping them to research various career avenues, and chatting to my lovely mentee who is a future carpenter!
Then the unwind of the evening is usually a mixed bag of doing some activity to burn some calories. Although I like being a couch potato reading or catching up with a TV series or a movie. Lately I’ve been watching Ozarks and cannot wait for the concluding part of the series! I usually read fiction but this year made an effort to read more non fiction. I recently finished reading a short and fascinating book about Robotics and the quandaries of how they will integrate with our day to day lives. It’s called ‘The New Breed’ by Kate Darling – go check it out!
Your top 3 key ingredients for creating amazing work?
- Welcome all feedback from your peers. There are many tasks where you can get tunnel vision so taking a step back and getting a fresh set of eyes to critique is vital. It can mean the difference of something looking okay to something looking amazing.
What do you love about working in vfx?
Sometimes I still have to pinch myself when I’m working on an amazing project and realise that I’m part of its creation. I never would have imagined I’d be here looking back all those years ago and I’m grateful for the experiences it’s given me so far. Here’s to many more years of making it look kool (milk ;)) hehe!
Advice to your younger self (when starting out in the industry)
Make the most of the people around you and their expertise! Don’t be afraid to ask more questions and actively ask others for some advice or further training.
What’s the secret of your success?
Making lots of hot beverages and consuming many a snack. (Seriously though, more on this below!)
Your top tip for those stepping up into HOD roles? What’s the secret to being a good team leader?
Part one: Yourself
Take time to understand other departments’ needs because in the long run it’ll help you make informed plans. Whatever department you’re in, you’ll always be in the middle of some process so I encourage you to research what comes before and after.
It’s absolutely no problem to contact your department leaders to iron out any issues and without a doubt I’m sure both of you will learn more about each other’s craft.
Part two: For others
As for being a model artist, be patient with other artists if you are training or working with them. Trust in their ability to complete tasks and allow them space to relax. No matter the amount of work I have to do myself, I always make sure that I’m there to help and always provide helpful critiques. Be constructive, provide suggestions or solutions so that your artists can concentrate on delivering their amazing creative work to help tell our clients’ stories – that’s what we’re here for after all!
What do you like doing when you’re not texturing?
I like to dance! I do a style called the Lindy-Hop (1920s-1940s). I love meeting new people and dancing with strangers alike. It brings me so much joy and I just have the biggest silly smile on my face when doing it. The style lends itself to be athletic, goofy and stylish. A stylish goof is how I like to do it!
And just for fun..
What’s the one thing you always keep on your desk?
Emergency chocolate but I keep eating it – emergency or not!
None but I really want a kitty cat! I’d love a Ragdoll cat because they are so sweet.
Last present you bought yourself?
A sofa, I love melting into it and just having a nap.
What would be your superpower?
Echo sense locator for my house keys. Yes, it just works for that purpose only.
What are you learning at the moment?
Tea or coffee ? one sugar or two?
Coffee! No sugar because I’m sweet enough…
Add anything else you’d like to tell us?!
I was one of the skater emo kids growing up. I sported the whole look! Today though I thankfully haven’t kept the look but the music scene back then was pretty awesome and cheesy in the 90’s. I loved listening to a range of rock and indie from Nine Inch Nails, Iron Maiden, Blur, Red Hot Chillis…but then you’ll get them ear worm gems like Spice Girls’ Wannabe, Ricky Martin’s Livin La Vida Loca, Mambo no.5. I loved boppin’ to them on the CD player in the car! Ah good times!
Thank you Kevin ?