Mr. J Steven Restrepo: Hard Work and Dedication Over Talent

by Joshua Diokno   

We have all been told that talent is something that you are born with. It’s either you have it, or you don’t. Tragic is the individual who doubts him or herself for not pursuing something that he or she really loves primarily because society and common opinion expresses doubt and immediate resolve.

Mr. J. Steven Restrepo had risen above this. And had triumphed. If you look at his works now, it is easy to say that he does have talent. But what we must note, as he had explicitly expressed, is that with hard work and dedication everything is possible. It may sound like a cliché, and it probably is, but if it resonates then it must be the truth.

Needless to say, Mr. Restrepo inspires us. He is a man who had gone through the ropes and had successfully earned the right to call himself an “artist”.

Let’s get to know Mr. Restrepo now through this short feature and get to know what makes a good artist.

Xeno Creatives (XC): Given your experience in the industry, what do you think is your edge as a 3D artist?

Steven Restrepo (JSR): I would say organic and anatomical sculpture. I’m really excited about the subtleness it requires that sometimes it drives me crazy. Once you push too much, it loses all the purpose and taste, but if you don’t push enough it will lack of quality and realism.

XC: Before concentrating on ZBrush as a primary tool of 3D creation, what other software did you use?

JSR: I started using Maya in 2011. It was until 2015 that I did the switch. I was too afraid of the ZBrush interface and all the new definitions that came with the software; that didn’t help me with the transition. I think I was too comfortable doing box modeling that I never feel it could be necessary, until I hit my limit and I decided to give a second try after I saw one of my friends being 3-5 times faster than me. Looking at the quality of his works beside my own, I decided to jump and learn it at any cost.

XC: What made you turn to ZBrush? What about it appealed to you?

JSR: The speed and the amount of details you can add to a model, and the way everything turns into an artistic trip instead of a technical one. At first, it wasn’t appealing, the user interface was clearly too overwhelming to me. But now, it’s one of the things I like most of the software is too different from everything else. Another thing I can add that appealed to me is the amount of polygons it can handle. It’s just an amazing tool to experiment upon.

XC: So far, what were the challenges that you had encountered working in the 3D industry?

JSR: Working from a remote place. Pointing to the fact that directors and teams have the abilities to work and talk about what is being done and point at it with the tip of their fingers is something pretty cool. Working from a remote place has its own pros and cons. Communication has to be key in this case. The differences between time zones and how it can affect the review of the works every time an update is submitted is a central consideration. This is indeed one of the challenges.

Another one is to work with more than one director. This is something really great even if the process becomes hard because you have to meet the requirements of two or even multiple minds. You really find out how great it is to follow instructions when you compare the first product to the last one. The results are astonishing and you find out that every project improves your artistic and professional skills. Because being a professional is as important as being a good artist.

XC: What is your most exciting project to date?

JSR: I think I really like the projects I’ve been working on. I feel pretty excited about each one of them, but right now I don’t have something that I really find ”exciting”. I think I’m still waiting for that one.  

But I will have to remark on one project that I share with one of my friends. In the project, we had to redesign of environment (the forest) in the opening of the new movie, “The Box Car Children”, which is going to be called, “Surprise Island”. It was really challenging because we did a lot of experimentation. Getting the desired results wasn’t easy, especially because of the hardware limitations and the deadlines. It was a fun project that gave us a lot of satisfaction upon conclusion.


XC: What other concepts do you want to create through ZBrush?

JSR: Right now, I’m just playing with forms, I really like the way the shapes open its own way through different art styles, so I really like to play around with it all. It refreshes me; makes me feel revitalized every time I start a new project.

But after I end this little game, I shall be looking forward to creating my own pieces. I love mythology and this is one of the things I want to represent in my works, and I have some new ideas for sculpture, but it will require more time for deliver.

 XC: Do you have any advice to aspiring artists?

JSR: Yes, the same I always give to all my students.

Don’t be fooled by the idea of “A great artist is gifted”. This got me stuck for more than 4 years, made me quit 3D and abandon my career. I just thought that I wasn’t good enough right from the start, so I thought the quality I had at the time was going to be my limit, from there and on.

I would say I regret about those 4 years, but I used those for sculpt myself and my thoughts, and I’m my most important project, but I just wanted to realize sooner that a great artist is a way to do the things, you can be a great artist every time, without the need of a good project. The only thing you really need is passion and dedication. Being objective and being your own-critic with your works will you well. Study and practice as much as you can, not trying to store information but trying to approach your own mistakes.

 And maybe, one of the most important attitudes that one needs to adapt is, finish your project even if they’re not at the level you want. Cut ‘em loose when you find yourself to be in a dead-end, you always can come back. Work through your anxiety. Ask for feedback and build your own portfolio before trying to find work. Focus on improving your work and you’ll find one thousand ways to be good at it.

Thank you very much for your time and wisdom Mr. J Steven Restrepo! Xeno Creatives is one with the hope that you find further success in you field.

Want to see more of Mr. Restrepo’s works? Click here!

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