Mr. Praveen Natarajan: Already a Master, But Still Voracious with Learning

by Joshua Diokno   

Mr. Praveen Natarajan is certainly a Jack-of-All-Trades. But a “master of none”, he is most certainly not.

He knows what’s going on—he knows the ropes around his discipline. Having a grasp of a lot of technical know-how and possessing a great deal of patience Mr. Natarajan emerges to be an artist that we can all look up to. And his works through the wonder that is ZBrush are truly notable.

Here, he had been more than generous to walk us through his own experiences so that we may learn a thing or two about how it is to be a true artist.

Xeno Creatives (XC): ZBrush brought a lot to the 3D industry. As it is relatively new, what were the processes you had to learn to work efficiently with it? How did ZBrush help you in your craft?

Praveen Natarajan (PN): ZBrush is easily among the most enjoyable 3D applications available to an artist today. I cannot stress enough how integral ZBrush is to my overall pipeline as an artist focusing on real-time art. And so, the areas that I’ve had focus on and learn in ZBrush are mostly related to game art. As a character and environment artist for games, learning to use ZBrush in the right amounts and in a manner that fits in with the subsequent stages is always important. What I mean by using ZBrush in the right amounts is that when you create high-poly models for Game Art, all the information present on the said model needs to get transferred and baked on to a low-poly model with the minimum amount of loss in details. So, learning to use ZBrush effectively and as an advantage is the real key here.

XC: When did you realize that you want to produce 3D art through ZBrush? Would you want to just focus on it or do you still have other media in mind?

PN: I basically realized I wanted to get into 3D art through ZBrush in mid 2011 when I came across the works of stalwarts like Mashru Mishu, Wayne Robson, Kris Costa, Rafael Grassetti and Jesse Sandifer. In those early days, I found the artworks presented on Dominance War absolutely inspirational. I was mesmerized by the creative outbursts on internet based CG forums like Polycount, GameArtisan and ZBrushCentral.

As for the question regarding my desire to focus on ZBrush… I want ZBrush to be the core of the set of skills I posses. I love texturing for real-time art as much as I love sculpting for them. My goal is to focus on producing high-quality Game Art with the help of tools like ZBrush,  Substance Painter, Maya and 3Ds Max.

XC: And how about media that you have already used? What were these?

PN: I usually create a base mesh in an external 3D application and bring it into ZBrush to create the fine details necessary to make a model look likeable. Although depending on the requirements, there have been multiple instances where I’ve created entire High-poly assets within ZBrush itself. As an artist working in a studio with multiple inputs in art direction, I generally prefer to keep the pipeline as non-destructive and flexible as possible, and prefer using ZBrush accordingly to maximize my efficiency and aesthetics in a non-rigid manner. Apart from these, I generally use Maya for Polygon Modeling and UVs, Substance Painter for Baking & Texturing, Topogun for Retopo,  and Marmoset Toolbag or Unreal Engine for the final output.

XC: How did you start with 3D art? Was it a passion or just a job for you?

PN: 3D art has always been a passion.  I knew I wanted to get into 3D art because of my love for games like Assassins’ Creed, Alan Wake, the Arkham Series and too many more to name.

XC: Your works over at ArtStation are just plain COOL. You have rendered characters in Pop Culture in such a way that appear your own (e.g. Lobo) and “The Journey” looks really promising! Do you have favorite pieces? What are these and why?

PN: Thanks. I am generally very critical of my own art. And hence, I find it hard to have a favorite piece of Art. Having said that, I do think ‘The Supplier’ (based on Geraud Soulie’s gorgeous concept art) is one of my better pieces yet. J

XC: Who do you consider your influences? What is it about them that caught your attention?

PN: I am a huge admirer of Adam Skutt and frank Tzeng for their contributions to the advancement of real-time art. The way they consistently push the boundaries of game art is unbelievable.

XC: What other pieces do you still want to create?

PN: I’m a die-hard Superman fan. I love DC Comics in general. So, a real-time version of something related to that has been on my mind for a long time.

XC: Has working for television and film been a prospect for you?

PN: It’s something I want to do for sure, but for now I want to become better at producing characters, props and environments for games with each passing day.

XC: What’s it like working in Exigent Game Art?

PN: It’s been an amazing 5+ years at Exigent. At this point, I have a huge personal attachment with everyone here. It’s a small and closely-knit team that believes in Synergy. I love every bit of it.

XC: How’s your experience working on, The Journey? What did you find exciting about it?

PN: It was a great experience. It’s one of those art pieces where I wanted to tell a story in a single frame. Artworks like those are always challenging. To find the right balance between story and art was definitely the most exciting aspect of that piece.

 XC: If you weren’t doing what you’re doing now, what do you think you’d be specializing in instead?

PN: I guess I would have been a comicbook artist/writer OR a singer. J

XC: What advice or message can you give young aspirants wanting to enter the craft/industry?

PN: There’s no age to stop learning. You’re always a student. The more experienced you become, the more you need to learn in order to stay competent. You’ve got to put in the hours. And lastly, always stay humble.

We are more than grateful for Mr. Praveen Natarajan for sharing with us his time and talent. And while hearing him sing could definitely be quite a treat, we are thankful that he pursued his craft as we are in awe of his works. We are hoping only the best for the success of his future projects.

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

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