Check out this interview with Gio Nakpil!
Gio, has been a digital model supervisor for Industrial Light and Magic, worked on principal creatures for “Star Trek” and “The Avengers,” amongst other notable Hollywood films before switching gears to designing and building video game assets for Valve Corporation, then onto Oculus and now working at Adobe.
Listen to Gio’s thoughts on education, apprenticing yourself, perfect practice, hierarchy of forms, listening to your gut and software evangelism (yes, that’s a real thing).

Learn more about Vertex School: https://www.vertexschool.com/

Learn more about Gio: https://www.artstation.com/gionakpil

Transcription of podcast:

Ryan:

All right. All right. Welcome, everybody to what’s really the first episode of our change of name to The Creative Metaverse Podcast. And I’m really excited about this particular episode, because, well, besides Gio, but this particular branding and this idea, because it opens us up and I think it really helps people see, at least the vision that I’ve had for what game arts is, which is basically becoming all arts. It’s like real time is becoming such an important part of what we do. And so today I would like to welcome Gio Nakpil and I’ve known Gio for a really long time. So, Gio, I’ve got you down here, I’m looking at the camera, but thank you so much for being here.

Gio:

No, thank you for having me.

Ryan:

Absolutely.

Gio:

Like you said, we’ve known each other for quite some time. I’ve been a big admirer of your work. So, it’s good to do this for me.

Ryan:

Thanks. Well, me too. So, why don’t we start and just tell people what you do now, then we’re going to backtrack that and go into your background a little bit and your education a little bit. And then I want to start unpacking a little bit because we’re in this interesting nexus now. And so the podcast I used to do, we used to talk about game arts and what people needed to do, but now there’s this idea of the metaverse and there’s NFTs and there’s game arts, and then your job too, which is a fascinating job. Like I had a version of it, but I feel like my job, my software job was this little tiny cafe in small town in Italy. And now you’ve got like this really big, important job at this huge company, it’s fascinating. Tell us what you do now.

Gio:

Oh, I’m a creative director at Adobe.

Ryan:

Just a creative director at Adobe. That’s it.

Gio:

But I mean I work with some of the most amazing artists, really. Our group is also obviously the Substance 3D group. So, we do a lot of the, obviously the 3D aspects of the Adobe stuff. And I’m also a, what’s called a software evangelist, which is an actual title at Adobe where I work with the Adobe Modeller team and just sort of spread awareness in the community of our particular fledging app as it matures. And I was doing the same thing for Oculus Medium back in the day. So, just I mean, it really is a dream job for me just using the 3D sculpting app and doing what I think would be cool, something to show the community, something that I would hope that they appreciate coming from the software and get people excited to think about trying this new way of working. So, yeah. I mean, that’s sort of in a capsule sort of what I do.

Ryan:

Yeah. It’s amazing. I mean when I met you, that’s what I was doing with Pixel Logic.

Gio:

Yeah. There’s a mirror there. I mean, you were the ZBrush dude back when we were at ILM. I think you trained us there early on.

Ryan:

You guys were my first job actually.

Gio:

Oh my gosh. Yeah. Yeah.

Ryan:

And Pixel Logic didn’t even hire me. They actually fired me when I got back from you guys.

Gio:

Oh really? I didn’t complain or anything.

Ryan:

Was it you? Oh my God. Yeah, that was a scary time. They just weren’t ready to hire full time. But anyways, so you came from VFX.

Gio:

Yeah. Yeah, I mean, prior to VFX, I had many different careers leading up to it, but yeah, I would say that I come from a background of visual effects if I were to kind of distill it that way. For sure.

Ryan:

So, what’s that mean? So, I know you when you were pretty much at ILM, what was it like before that? What were you doing before that?

Gio:

I mean, I’ve been in the industry for a long time, I guess. So, prior to ILM, I’ve had many different jobs leading up to it. A lot of it really not related to CG. The typical, I think all of us go through it, finding your way, proving yourself, trying. I mean, I work for this post production facility, like taping, dubbing from Avids into tape decks. Thinking that, oh, that would probably lead me to at places, but in the end they got me buying donuts for the directors every 6:00 AM sort of thing. And yeah, I had a stint in Texas for Jimmy Neutron, my first film credit, Jimmy Neutron boy genius, we were using LightWave. So, it was my crash course in really using a software package deep in production. So, that was a very invaluable experience for me. And from there just, it led me to ILM, which was my childhood dream to work for, essentially.

Ryan:

Yeah. And what about schooling?

Gio:

I went to a Seneca college in Canada.

Ryan:

In Canada. Okay.

Gio:

Yeah, in Canada, it wasn’t really, I would say, something that I found useful. It was just sort of a means to get to where I wanted to be. So, it was like a pretty short course that I just wanted to kind of get out of the way to tell my parents, yeah, I kind of went to school for this. But in truth, I think I could have totally skipped school and had just bought a computer kind of just devoted a lot of time, which is what I ended up doing anyway. I would not really participate much into the lab or homework stuff that they gave us. I would just do my own modeling and 3D Studio, V1, Max version one, or 3D Studio DOS, kind of just going deep in that program and learning modeling in my own terms rather than build a scene with spheres and cones and render. [crosstalk 00:06:58] to ILM.

Ryan:

Do you still feel like that’s the same that people can skip some element of school, college?

Gio:

I don’t know. I think I would always be cautious to … when I answer such questions, I would say based on my experience, if it was me, yeah. But I think everyone’s different. But from my point of view, looking at what is out there, the resources that’s out there, schools for a tech school, but I’m talking more about maybe academy of art or these expensive universities. I personally feel that those are skippable in terms of what we do in the industry. I think there’s enough resources online and it’s all about really the time you put in. I think for me, I learned the most when it’s just me in my computer learning it. Now, I think the benefit of schooling is you have your other classmates and stuff like that. So, I’m not diminishing the value of that, but is it really worth paying the amount of money students are paying and getting in debt for? I don’t know. Only they can answer that. So, in my head, no, it’s not worth it, but that’s not up to me to say really.

Ryan:

I have a talk next week that we’re calling skip the art school circus. Little click bait there for some.

Gio:

Yeah, hit that subscribe button, smash that …

Ryan:

Yes. Yeah. I mean, I run a school it’s called school, but at the end of the day, I think people can skip school, but they can’t skip education. And I think you’re a great example of that, because I hear you say you did your own thing and you did that class, but I mean I saw you take the time, educate yourself, like that stuff you’re doing with anatomy tools, the stuff that you did with Carlos Huante. You apprenticed yourself to those tasks. And I mean, you worked at them like you were going to law school.

Gio:

Yeah. And I think that’s the part that you can’t really teach. You have to have it in you to … and I don’t know, honestly, I don’t know how I found that philosophy. I always thought myself of a slacker. I never really thought of myself as someone who would amount to anything more than McDonald’s, seriously, that was my long term plan. But yeah, exactly what you said, the apprenticeship, that mindset of Richard MacDonald, when I took his course, he labeled it as the perfect practice. You just, you practice. That’s how you do it.

Ryan:

Yeah. I remember that. Yeah. Yeah. And you worked hard. Why don’t we talk about what you found was really powerful for you? Because so I remember when I was looking at your work and I’m remembering now, I remember clearly you working with Carlos and I don’t know if you were working like in connection with them or what the relationship was there. But I remember seeing you developing these primary forms based on Carlos and really talking about workflow and really just kind of working through each one of these paces very clearly. And it kind of like, I actually used you to some extent, as an example for some students, when we talk about this idea that mastery’s not magic, it’s process. You just have to learn the process and then eventually you’re going to be the master.

Gio:

Yeah. I mean the whole concept, the hierarchy of forms. I mean, I’m sure that’s been taught in classical sculpture and art and all that stuff. But I, in the world of CG, I hadn’t really heard of it until Carlos, when we first collaborated together, which was a petrifying thing, because I saw him as a figure of like, oh my God, he’s just going to mince me up and just throw … he was this like perfectionist and I’m like, how could I measure up? And then I finally gained his trust and for me, it was like that golden nugget of knowledge someone like him imparted on someone like me, who’s just like, knew nothing at that point. And for me that was a hierarchy of forms, primary, secondary and tertiary.

Gio:

When he explained that to me, that was just like, everything just kind of opened up and it’s like, it changed the way I thought about not just sculpture, but a lot of my approach, even in daily life. Like, oh, what’s the most important, I’m going to go to a trip, what is the primary form task that I need to do? And then go to the least important. And so in ZBrush terms or digital sculpting terms, figure out what the most important readable shapes are. Secondary to that to enhance the readable shapes and tertiary to that, go in that list of importance. So, yeah, when he taught that to me, I was applying it in CG early days of Mudbox and then ZBrush when I transitioned from Mudbox to ZBrush. And yeah, that’s always been sort of my thing ever since then. And when we talk about the perfect practice, it is that, that I practice. And it’s simple. It seems simple. The three forms that I’ve been practicing throughout my time here in this industry, it’s always been that.

Ryan:

Yeah. There’s great book called the one thing. And I didn’t didn’t realize until you just said it, that you carried that off into your life too. Because I do the same thing. It’s like, I wake up and start the day and I’m writing down and it’s always, that’s my one thing. And in the business too, because there’s like a million things and I got payroll and I got all this other stuff coming at me and I’m like, just what’s my one thing today that’s going to change, make a difference?

Gio:

Yeah. And it makes it simple and approachable. It gets rid of the clutter.

Ryan:

Yeah. So, tell me about the transition. Because I remember you from working on Carlos, working on that and then I got into my own stuff and it was just crazy after that trying and understand business for me, but how’s that road look from ILM to where you are now, creative director at Adobe?

Gio:

I mean, it wasn’t really an immediate switch. I was at ILM and then I jumped over to Valve when I … ILM was my, obviously my dream job, but just as with any dream, I’ve been there for like 12 years at that point, excuse me, so you dream other dreams. You can’t just get stuck on one dream. And trying to project where I wanted to be and it wasn’t in film anymore. I think I felt like I wasn’t growing as much because I was getting all the hero characters and all that stuff, but it kind of felt like just another job in that for me was a sign of time for me to move on. And so I was kind of planning what is that next step for me?

Gio:

And my next dream was to just be in a space where I can be impactful in the most cutting edge evolution of whatever the industry’s going to turn into. And so I kind of just followed my gut and then Valve was a place I’ve always wanted to work for. So, I went there, because I felt like real time was where I was going to be at. Kind of just listening to the trends back then of where the industry was headed. So, what do I need to do? Learn real Time. Well, Valve for me was the best place for that. And sure enough I got the best sort of crash course in game making. We were using [Source One 00:15:45] writing on, for me, it was like notepad, [VTS 00:15:49] to update texture.

Gio:

It was like being taught in the engine, not just being taught how to drive, but rather being taught how the car worked from the inside, which was what I appreciated when it came to me not knowing anything about games coming from ILM to like, oh this is how you do it. It offered me a deep understanding of how to create and publish games. And not just that, but also the more businessy aspect of things where what I appreciate, I really appreciate about Valve was they really made their artists think about why do you do this? It’s not just because it looks cool, but why? What’s the value? They always would say, what is the value of doing something like this?

Gio:

So, you really have to think about the why rather than like, oh, I want to do this because it’s cool. Which is, as artists, that’s sort of how we’re wired or at least that’s how I was wired at ILM. Never really thinking much about things outside of the art while there’s just so much more that adds back to the art, especially if you’re working in this industry. You can’t just be an artist with blinders on. So, I learned all that from Valve. And then I heard about this Kickstarter for a VR company called Oculus. That’s interesting. And Valve at that point was also in the VR space, but for me, VR was never really sort of on the forefront. Blindly I’m like, my dream is to work for the most cutting edge thing in the industry.

Gio:

VR’s waving its hand in front of me and I’m not even paying attention. And then Facebook acquired Oculus and I’m like, my gut was suddenly kind of waken up. It’s like, wow, pay attention to this, Gio. And I was lucky enough to be brought in at Oculus and that’s where I met the Medium team actually when I was there. And from there I developed a really close relationship with medium and started using the program and really trying to see what its potential was, because I was kind of resistant about it at first. And I was just like, man, this is, I still like tablets and ZBrush and I’m comfortable in that space, but again, listening to the gut. Something was telling me that, nah, I think, Gio, you really should look into this and devote more time into it to learn it. Back in my college days, learn it, learn 3D Max until you’re so tired you just don’t want to … you can’t even open your eyes anymore.

Gio:

So, that’s what I did with VR until I really got the hang of it and became sort of a sort of front facing person of the Medium team to evangelize the app in a way that I wanted to evangelize it in a way that’s like, okay, look, there’s a lot of these cool stuff being done that is more on the stylized cartoony side, which is awesome. But I want to, on my end, prove that it’s a viable tool for us production artists and people who work in film VFX. So, that’s what I tried to do to entice a lot more of that type of group of people in the industry. And so that was a success and Medium eventually went to Adobe and it made all the sense in the world for me to transition over with a team to join them.

Ryan:

Is that a choice you were given or I don’t know how that stuff even works on that corporate level? Were you worried? How’d that come across to you?

Gio:

Oh, I mean, I was excited through and through. When they went over to Adobe, I was just like, oh my gosh. Even if I don’t end up joining them, it’s just such a good thing for the industry, for us artists to have such a big company to back up a cutting edge way of working with VR sculpting.

Ryan:

Yeah, and I want to unpack a little bit of the VR, because I still haven’t got my head, I have to admit, in VR. What is it? I’ve got a 24 inch Cintiq, which is like in and of itself six, five years old. Well, why don’t we talk about that? So, in terms of VR sculpting, do you still see this as the thing people need to learn? Is it transitioning now that we’re starting to talk about XR as well as VR?

Gio:

Yeah. I mean, I think VR has always been sort of just one of … I mean there’s many Rs. There’s AR, XR, MR, VR.

Ryan:

I know, right.

Gio:

And it’s just really, I look at it as VR is just sort of ahead of the game technology wise compared to AR, because AR is probably harder to pull off as a technology. But for me it’s like, it could be anything. VR, AR, XR, whatever R or even, hell, desktop. I think it’s just, the tools … what’s exciting about all this is that the tools are evolving in a way that we’re able to visualize things. And I think that whatever R you want to pick from, that very aspect of it is, I think, what will remain constant and that’s how I think everything’s going to evolve from monitor based way of working, like what we’re doing now into maybe we’re these spectacles of mine have a little thing AR that I’m just kind of here at my desk like twirling things as if it’s actually clay.

Gio:

There’s this piece by a Jon Payne who gave it to me at Monsterpalooza. It’s awesome. But you’re here and you’re able to see the sculpture as if it’s in front of you and are able to visualize the form and the round. And I think if there’s any progress to be made in all that, I think that alone for me is an exciting one to arrive. I mean, with VR it’s already there.

Ryan:

Why do you like-

Gio:

[crosstalk 00:23:13]-

Ryan:

Why do you like sculpting in VR?

Gio:

Many things. I get asked that a lot. A lot of people are like, oh, what’s the difference? Well, many things. For me, the sense of scale really is huge. Say I’m sculpting Godzilla. I always bring up this example, like, okay, Godzilla, say it’s for a film and legacy effects needs to fabricate. Okay, maybe Godzilla’s a bit too big. Maybe let’s say a Na’vi, let’s keep it a bit more-

Ryan:

Yeah. Nine foot, 12 foot.

Gio:

Yeah. Nine foot instead of like the CM tower size. So, like a 12 foot character monster. So, if we’re sculpting it in ZBrush or the Monitor, it’s hard to gauge sort of the proportions you send it off to print, maybe it’s looking a little bit distorted.

Gio:

Well, in the context of reality and VR, I could be there with the director and let’s say we’re looking at it from the context of the real lens, our eyes, and then, oh, you need the head to be bigger, scale it up. So, it’s like working on a physical object that you can see directly in front of you and on the purpose of sculpting, that’s huge, because it’s the difference of someone sculpting with clay, real clay, and someone sculpting on a flat monitor. There’s a big difference there in terms of how you visualize the form and the round.

Gio:

It’s hard for me to [inaudible 00:25:05]. It’s almost like when you’re driving, you’re not looking at the road, but you’re looking at the horizon to anticipate what’s coming. And that’s how I view form in VR is that when I’m turning it around, assessing the accuracy of form, I’m not looking at the form itself, but how it turns and because it’s so dimensional, you can’t do this in a monitor. I’m using my head, my hands, all these ways of rotating the model that it just proves to be a much more accurate way of sculpting. That to me is true sculpting, because you’re working in all of the dimensions and primary, secondary, tertiary forms just bode so well in that sort of a space for me.

Ryan:

Primary, secondary, tertiary. Yes. The workflow.

Gio:

Yeah. The workflow. Because for me, I’m very anal when it comes to form cleanliness. Because it’s, you’re looking at it as if it’s there dimensionally. There’s a difference. It really is hard to explain until you try it, I think. It’s one of my troubles describing about VR. It’s like, unless you put it in your head and work in it, that’s the really only way to describe it. Because a lot of the stuff I post online of videos in VR it’s like, there’s still a difference until you put the headset on.

Ryan:

Until you get it in.

Gio:

Yeah, yeah.

Ryan:

Yeah. So, you’re ahead of the curve on me there. And when you’re looking at this now, gosh, I mean, is it 10 plus years I knew … Yeah, because I started this company, God, I think I started at 10 years ago. So, I would’ve known you about 10, 12 years ago and this industry was so small and now you’re a creative director at Adobe. Where do you see 3D going? Do you see this as the new 2D? What’s in store for 3D?

Gio:

I mean, honestly I think it’s just going to be the same as it is now in terms of between 2D and 3D, it’s just going to evolve into something new, like with AR, VR. But I think the amount of things people are outfitting, either 2D, 3D or whatever is, my hope is that still there’s a good gradient of things. It’s not just going to be VR. It’s not just going to be AR or 2D, but also 2D. And the stuff that’s being worked on, it’s not just going to be VR. There’s also going to be desktop as well. It’s not just going to be a VR only app. Now, I’ll definitely refrain to talking much about Adobe and Modeller. But I would say that Modeller is not a VR only application. You have the option to work on desktop with Modeller.

Gio:

So, I think it, because of that, I think it’s just going to be the same, but new things will start to emerge because of these different workflows. And it really is going to be up to that one or two or three or many hopefully geniuses that sort of steer the artistic community into directions that are new. Like, oh my gosh, so and so did this in whatever software. Doesn’t even have to be anything specific, but then people follow. And so I think that’s always been the case and I don’t think anything really is going to change despite the technology evolving, I think. That’s my ideal. My ideal scenario is that the technology doesn’t drive the artistic vision, but rather the artistic drive the technology.

Ryan:

I totally understand. I mean, and that was actually core when I was at pixel logic. That was core, I mean, [inaudible 00:29:34] stubborn. So, I mean, he was kind of doing his own thing. I know people at ILM were like, give me an outliner.

Gio:

I think I was one of the one who asked for that. Give me an outliner.

Ryan:

But still nonetheless, that’s great. That’s amazing. And it’s one of the things that’s really crazy, because the whole landscape’s changing, like Epic bought RealityCapture, they bought Megascans. Unity just bought all of Weta software. Adobe now you guys have Allegorithmic. You’ve got all this stuff that you’re building now. The landscape is absolutely shifted in the last two years, if not just the last year itself, which is crazy, but that done in said, when’s your NFT project?

Gio:

Oh man.

Ryan:

You got something coming, something cooking?

Gio:

I don’t know. I honestly haven’t even thought about it. I know that was a big discussion in the community. There were a lot of … I just kept out of it. I was like, man, I’m just going to focus on work, making sure that I don’t get fired from my creative director gig. And just kind of stepped away from … Well, what I did notice from that whole thing was the split it caused the community. And all these sort of this ugliness that happened on those whatever two camps, the pro and [inaudible 00:31:19]. And so I was just like, no, I’m going to step away from this. I’m not even going to think about it. But I do admire a lot of the stuff that’s coming out in terms of what the artists are doing, because like it or not, it’s creating a new language of art in the community.

Gio:

People are exploring things more that have been different from the typical stuff you see on art stations. There’s more kind of storytelling and more of a fine arts flare to a lot of the pieces that I’ve been seeing. Which I really appreciate. And I’m like, man, and then there’s the idea of motion like typically from what I’m seeing NFTs have this sort of thing, it’s not a flat image anymore. It’s just, there’s something kind of added to it. That’s like, ah, that’s really intriguing. But to answer your question, I’ve not really thought much of it yet. Not that I’m against or whatever, it’s just for me to get into something I need to be really … For Medium I was not even paying attention, even though like, yo, this is a new thing, Gio, this is going to do you good.

Gio:

For me, it has to be when my mind is ready for it. That’s when I’m like, I’m all in. And right now I’m like, there’s just so many more things I want to do with my time and all that stuff, things I want to explore in terms of my practice. Because when I get into something like teaching, like I did a mould 3D class. I kill myself just making sure that it’s good. I put too much pressure on myself. And so I think it’s one of the reasons why I’ve kind of been putting anything off that’s new, because it’ll take so much focus away from me with what I’m doing right now.

Ryan:

It’s not because you’re getting older.

Gio:

I think that it’s that too. My ability to do something, I can’t work that long anymore. Gio 20 years ago would’ve been doing many, many things. Now it’s just like, I just want to binge on Netflix. I’m just too lazy.

Ryan:

Yeah. So, what do you do for inspiration now? Because this is, I mean, I don’t know if it happens to you, but inspiration became a real problem for me at a certain point, because it was just, I became successful and it was just like, what do I do now? And I became successful on sort of the business level and in the career level. But I wasn’t necessarily creating artwork that really inspired me. And I had to go through a lot of internal work to find out, to start to tackle this question, but how do you inspiration now? Or do you, is this something you struggle with too?

Gio:

No, I mean, it’s rare that I find inspiration, but it’s not, I still do find inspiration. But that is how to be inspired. It’s like, if you’re inspired by anything and everything, oh my God, this, I’m inspired. Then it’s not really a special kind of inspiration. It doesn’t ignite anything in you. So, I think I’m still in the point where I still get inspired because when I see something or get an idea, it just when that spark is in me, okay, it’s like I’m in my 20s again. I would just like really put my time in something. And I find a lot of that honestly, like, let’s see, online, like on my Instagram, my Twitter accounts. I’ve managed to purge out a lot of the politics and was able to really curate my timeline based on artists that I like, the type of art that I like.

Gio:

And that’s just scrolling through Twitter, like someone doing something in Unreal or Houdini not even ZBrush or Modeller, whatever. It’s just something totally different particles. And I’m like, oh my gosh, I want to start doing imagery that’s more that way, more graphic design or more motion design. And I’ve recently kind of started to think about how can I to evolve my style into more of a sort of motion design style instead of like, oh, screen grab from the 3D app and then post or creature in T-pose then post. How do I present it into this style that I’m really into that I’m seeing an experiment that way. And of course nature, I’m always taking walks. When I see a tree form, I’m like, take a picture of it.

Gio:

I’m always like, oh, that looks like a face or that looks like an arm. It’s like those things. Pareidolia, facial pareidolia. When you think you see a face up in the clouds. I’m always like, oh, I see that little tiny face on the tree branch there. But I always look for that, because those really give me ideas for weird creature designs. So, it’s kind of morphed from like a fun little, ah, that looks like a goofy face into like that’s a goofy face that’s really gnarly if I do that in 3D. I could creep someone out.

Gio:

And a lot of the more creepier pieces that I’ve done were kind of based off of just looking at nature and kind of twisting and bending anatomy in ways that may be off putting, but it still kind of draws you in. And that for me, is really coming from being inspired by nature. Just always, constantly looking. Like looking at trees, looking at rocks, admiring, just stuff I see during my walks. I mean, I’m sure there’s a lot of other things that inspire me, but I think those are the two main outlets that get me kind of going artistically.

Ryan:

Yeah. If you were starting over today, what do you think you would do? I think about this a lot. Because the landscape’s different than when you and I started. And I mean, it was number one, it was kind of easier in the sense of there wasn’t a lot of people, so it was easy to stand out. I like to remind people, they might look at me and be like, oh Ryan, I know you from this career and all this stuff, but it’s like, I was just super lucky, because I sculpted. Nobody else around me in 3D sculpting. So, it was just like over saw it and he was like, hey, come work for us. That wouldn’t happen today. You couldn’t get a job like that in software.

Gio:

Oh yeah.

Ryan:

What would you do now if you were starting over and you wanted … Because you’ve hit all these high points, like ILM, that’s a huge high point for a lot of people. Now you went over and you started evangelizing in VR and on top of that. Now you’re not evangelizing in VR now, now you’re actually helping develop the ecosystem for 3D asset creation at Adobe.

Gio:

I mean, I don’t know if I want to label it that way. Again, I would probably reel in on more of the Adobe talk. But yeah, the high points have been like, yeah, ILM, Valve, Oculus. I want to say Facebook, but Oculus is … but Oculus and Adobe. And yeah, no, I’ve been very, very lucky on that front for sure.

Ryan:

So, what would you recommend to people starting out now?

Gio:

I think, well, I mean, I wouldn’t even know what to do if it was me. But transposing myself in a version where I’m just starting out and based on what I’ve seen, I think what is definitely consistent is social media. I mean, back in our days we had GeoCities and really that’s how I came about my success was through social media, V1. What is that? Raf.com. Remember that?

Ryan:

Raf?

Gio:

[crosstalk 00:40:31].com.

Ryan:

Oh my God. I do. Does that still exist?

Gio:

I don’t know. Well, be careful. Maybe it’s like a virus site now, but I would Google that first.

Ryan:

I do remember that.

Gio:

Yeah, raf.com. IRT channels. We had GeoCities, which was my main sort of hub. I had my own website that I would update. And that’s how I got all these opportunities. And so more so now we have Instagram, you have Twitter and those have been sort of my vehicles to develop my identity outside of work, because that is still very much important to me. And it plays well with what I do with my work. I work with a community with artists and I need to be involved and engaged in social media. So, using social media, I think if I were to start would be key. Developing a strong presence. It’s almost like social media talk. You hire someone to tell you all these statistics that you could do, but it really is, you really do need to be sort of like a, you have to have some form of business acumen.

Gio:

You can’t just be an amazing artist and post something and expect people to come. You really need to think about engagement, a way to engage with your followers. I always look at a lot of the really savvy people out there who do this kind of thing. And I’m like, man, that’s brilliant. And they gained so much followers, a lot of engagements. And I think a lot of the more artsy fartsy ones look at that and go, well, they’re not really being artists. Well, then you do not get as much opportunities. That has been a really important of being an artist now. And I think people coming into this new need to embrace that and really study those who are doing it well and pattern themselves after that, I think.

Ryan:

How do you, because it might be my personality, but, I don’t know, it’s not FOMO, but it’s more like, oh my God, he did that. What the hell have I been doing with my life? How do you manage that slight level of toxicity that can come in? And I don’t mean to make a whole big thing about toxicity of social media, but just as an artist that criticalness that can come in.

Gio:

Oh yeah. I mean, I think it goes hand in hand, but we are all human and we do all experience that. So, to deny that would be to lie. I mean like artists have egos and so I think I’ve learned to kind of divorce myself from that feeling. It’s just like, focus on my own thing, like what I want to do and try to be happy with other. Like, oh man, so and so is doing amazing. That is good for the industry. So and so is doing amazing for this NFT thing that they’re doing, opening up the doors in the future are for other artists to get into that space that is now NFT is being … digital art is now accepted in the fine arts community, because of the NFT front.

Gio:

I know there’s a lot of controversy about that. And for me to eliminate any FOMO, using that as an example, I just think of it as like they’re opening doors. If I ever want to go into that space, they’ve already paved the way. Or if student A, B, C, or whatever wants to go into that space, that space has already been paved because of that person, regardless of what I think about what their work is or how they’re handling the work. There’s always these layers of judgmental things that we can apply, but I’m like, no, just look at it for what it is. People doing their thing to one, survive in this world and two, do art on top of that. And three, if they’re successful that isn’t that good for us. So, that’s sort of my way of thinking about things and it keeps me just chill about it. And I’m just doing my own thing on top of that.

Ryan:

I’m just going to play that on loop in my ear over and over throughout the day. I’ll clip that, that sense of gratitude, which I think is easy to forget.

Gio:

It all boils down to that. And I know, easy for me to say. I’ve had a really personally good career for myself, but I’ve always really tried to think of it that way even when I was starting out. Easier said than done. It took practice on a lot of inner work to kind of get to that state. I mean, I still fall into, oh man, what am I doing wrong? I’ve been lacking in my followers, what can I do? So, we all kind of fall back into things, but I think it’s good to just be grateful and also just have fun and do your own thing.

Gio:

I’ve always, I think in my career, oh, not career, but personal work just have done my own thing. And it kind of led me to a space where it’s like less followers, but I’m happy. I’m not doing the, not that I’m against any of like the more kind of portraits that are hyper real, which gain a lot of followers I’m noticing, I want to do all that stuff, but I’m too lazy. So, I’m just going to do my own thing. Less followers, but I’m really fulfilled. That’s a lot of freaking work.

Ryan:

It’s so much work to do those likenesses. I tried to do it like two years ago and it was just like, I can’t do this.

Gio:

The pores and then the eyes [crosstalk 00:46:57]-

Ryan:

I know. And all I want to do is just like move some clay around. So, let’s talk sculptor to sculptor, because you’re one of the best sculptors that we have. What do you think people are really not doing in sculpture to really get themselves around form? What are some of the things that people just, they maybe need to level up on, study more?

Gio:

Real talk here now.

Ryan:

Real talk like, come on, what’s wrong with those ankles? Why would you do ankles like that, please?

Gio:

Well, I’m not the one to critique anatomy. Because it’s been a while since I’ve taken Andrew’s classes and I’m like, what is that muscle again? The arm mastery thing. But real talk when it comes to form and I can’t help, but of course I’m going through my feet. I’m like, oh, that’s awesome if only. And a lot of it is primary and secondary forms. I think a lot of people just go directly into the tertiary. And when I say tertiary, I think a lot of people think tertiary is the surface detail. Like the more porous kind of finer displacement stuff, when tertiary are still forms like say these … when you look at my hand, my really gnarled hand right here, and you do the squint test you what? You still see shadows.

Gio:

You see the shadow right here. That right there is tertiary forms. Tertiary forms, secondary, probably primary, secondary right here, tertiary. So, a lot of people go from maybe say primary to tertiary disregarding the structural stuff. And I see a lot of great designs marred by that jump from primary to tertiary. So, you have this really awesome designed creature, but it’s like tertiary, tertiary, tertiary. You need those secondary forms to really pop out the landmarks, like say the cheek bone, the maw, to really get the skull to read. And I think a lot of people do not practice that enough, like from primary to secondary. And then stay in that space. Don’t even worry about tertiary, make sure that you’re in that … that’s the space where design is involved. You’re designing. That’s what you should relish and that’s where the perfect practice should be, in my opinion.

Gio:

Primary to secondary is in design. You’re designing the silhouettes, how the big forms intersect together, how they catch the light from afar when you squint. When I squint and look at you, I know it’s you because of your primary and secondary shapes. That’s the design of your face. And then from there, once you start putting the tertiary in the surface details, everything just locks into place. And knowing how do not noise up your model when you start putting the tertiary shapes. Respecting the bigger forms. So, I see a lot of models that lack that thinking. And I think, and I don’t know, just maybe studying more classical sculpture. I don’t know the answer to it really. I mean, what are your thoughts on that one? I’m curious.

Ryan:

Well, it’s interesting, because I’ve been talking to students and it’s about a month ago. I started talking about structure a little bit and like you mentioned. So, I always ask what’s structure, and I try to get them to give a definition. Like what’s structure? What’s structure? And if you look up structure, structure’s a relationship between parts. And so people tend to think of about, and the way I like to think of it is that there’s the primary in the tertiary, and what people do is they tend to look at object. And within that object they look at here’s the general shape of that object. And here’s a bunch of cool little details on that object. And they miss how that object is then relating to the second object that’s next to it. So, like the example you gave of the hand. This area right in here is now actually how all of these forms are connecting. You’re actually talking about the structure of stuff.

Gio:

Yeah. That’s a good way. Yeah, structure. I’ve never thought of it, that word, that is key. Yeah.

Ryan:

And if you miss that, because I can imagine with the primary and secondary, that’s where you’re really finding how things fit together and spending time there to design that.

Gio:

Yeah. That, I think, is where a lot of 3D artists should focus on and I’m sure clay artists as well. I don’t mean to say just 3D artists, but that’s the world I’m familiar with. So, 3D artists. And those who are really amazing in 3D sculpture, a digital sculpture, really have that intuition of how to interlock those forms into a way that feels structured. That feels like all those forms can support the character as a scaffolding. And it’s not just a series of lumps. There’s a scaffolding that holds that character up. And again, that’s the discipline that comes into that. That’s been my practice for all this time and still am practicing that. It’s like a lifelong practice. So, start now. It’s never too late. And it’s going to up your quality, people who don’t do it, it’s going to up their quality in a way that’s measurable, I feel.

Ryan:

Well, I have to ask you this, two more questions I want to ask you. You’re pretty much at the leading tip. So, what’s in store for the future of sculpture? Tell me more Modeller secrets.

Gio:

[crosstalk 00:53:25]. Smell in VR.

Ryan:

Okay. All right. Great.

Gio:

I need to smell the digital play. I mean, I’m sure it’s just going to be better tools and feel like you have more control. I’m always going to push for more control and nuance for form. That is my thing. And who knows after that? It’s going to keep evolving. You like that [inaudible 00:53:57] but who knows? It’s going to keep evolving.

Ryan:

Great. Thanks for that. What about for you? What’s next for you? Where do things go from where you are now?

Gio:

Oh, I’m, like I said, I’ve achieved my dream at ILM, I dreamt something bigger. I achieved that with VR at Oculus. Now I’m at a point here where I am, again, I’m like baffled that I’ve been dreaming these dreams and have been able to achieve it. And so I’m at the point right now where I’m not dreaming what the next dream is yet, because I’m so relishing this particular dream that I’ve achieved being here. And it really is like, I’m in heaven working here and doing the things that I’ve done.

Gio:

So, I can’t even really think about what I want to do after this, because I’m just so into it right now. Maybe if you ask me like five or six years from now, who knows, maybe I’m like, oh think it’ll be time for me to dream this other new thing or something for my career. But I’m so happy right now, I’m living the dream that I’m like, I just want to be a better artist. I think if one thing’s consistent, I’m just going to keep practicing and with however way the tools develop and evolve and be more cutting edge. I hope to, my plan is to always do work that showcases that into whatever form.

Ryan:

Wow, congrats, man. It’s been, I mean, it really honestly, it’s been amazing watching your career and you’ve been a real inspiration to me to see you kind of do this spearhead VR, because when you joined and you started spearhead VR, I was like you before you started doing it, I was like, where’s this going? Why is Gio focused on this? VR. But now I can see some of all the stuff coming together. I’ve got my Quest 2 somewhere next to me. And I’m starting to become a [crosstalk 00:56:11]. Yes, it’s right there.

Gio:

It ain’t going to undust itself man, you got to [crosstalk 00:56:16].

Ryan:

Well, I really appreciate you taking the time out, my friend and thank you for all the work you do.

Gio:

Thank you. Thank you for having me, man.

Ryan:

Absolutely. All right. Take care.

Gio:

All right. Thank you.

Ryan:

See you.

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