Normand Gaudreau: From the Love of His Childhood Cartoons to an Unwavering Dedication to the Digital Arts

by Joshua Diokno   

Sharpened by his experience in multiple studios where he assumed different positions of digital specialization, Mr. Normand Gaudreau is not just a skilled and talented artist, but an accomplished one. However, much like forward-looking artists of his caliber, Mr. Gaudreau is one to think that he has yet to see a work that he could truly be proud of. When he does retrospection of his work, he always finds them to be lacking, thinking that something could be improved further. And that is a marker of a master, an artist who actually cares about the craft.

When we look at his works online, we could definitely tell that Normand Gaudreau has his own style locked. They might appear to be endearing and child-like, but when you scrutinize the anatomy, the facial features, and poses that each piece is able to execute, you will realize that Mr. Gaudreau had put effort and consciousness in each of his work, allowing him to carve his own place in the multitude of artists like him.

Today, let’s get to know Mr. Normand Gaudreau, the artist behind the brightly-rendered concepts of known Pop icons and cartoons and see why he is a Digital Artist we should all admire and watch out for.

Xeno Creatives (XC): We understand that with just about any craft, passion takes precedence. In your case, how did it start becoming a passion? Would we be right in assuming that you consider it a “calling” as a lot of your contemporaries do?

Normand Gaudreau (NG): I’ve always been fascinated by cartoons. As a kid, I would always watch TV shows and use the Pause function, in picture mode so I could draw “Ren and Stimpy,” Arnold from “Hey Arnold,” Rocko from “Rocko’s Modern Life,” and all the other fun characters from popular 90s cartoons.

After high school, my goal was to join a 3D animation program. I worked on my portfolio to get into a program, but withdrew my application at the last minute due to the lack of confidence in my own work.

It’s only after a few months, while wasting my time in a Human Sciences Program that I didn’t care about, that an epiphany occurred. I was alone, going up on a ski hill chairlift, while listening to Daniel Boucher’s song called “Ressaye” (it means “try again”). The song is about trying again, and how it could be worth it to give it a try. That dude changed my life!

So the following year, I applied to the same 3D Animation program, was accepted, and since then, it has been my passion. There is nothing else that I want to do in life.

XC: Was there ever an art piece (digital or otherwise) or artist who served as a catalyst for your involvement in the craft? When did you get involved fully in the 3D industry?

NG: I believe that every person that you encounter has an impact on yourself and ultimately has some impact on your work. Meeting and working with new artists is, for me, an opportunity to learn and grow.

The visual artists that did have the greatest impact on my work are Julian Garner, Blain Fontana, Eric Blain, Toma Feizo Gas, Michel Martineau, and Bobby Chiu. Although, the one that taught me the most has to be Sylvain Savard from Outerminds Studio. We met when I was an intern at DTIsoft. He was great at sharing his knowledge and is an amazing human being. His humour and ways of treating volumes, highlights, and colors are the foundation of my style. Kisses and hugs to Sylvain!

My first gig in the industry was with my friend. With the greatest of luck, stars aligned, and crystals in our pockets, we’ve landed an architecture pre-visualization contract for a hotel in Belize. The guy who took us in had balls to hire 2 kids for that job. I still thank him today. We’ve put insane amounts of hours to deliver quality work and to prove that we were worth it. After that, I’ve gone to study Fine Arts at a university and got hired as a generalist temp employee at DTIsoft.

XC: Now that you’re an active part of the industry, would you say you have pegged a solid place in it?

NG: No one should take their space in their domain for granted, regardless of where they are. Because new technologies, software and standards are developed every year, It’s super easy to become obsolete. Since the gaming industry is fairly recent, the original employees who have been there since the beginning are barely in their 50s and no one knows if there would still be a place for anyone in the industry once they get really old. If we want to be relevant and needed well throughout our 60’s, the only way I believe is to keep learning and to develop our crafts further.

XC: How does your day look like in production?

NG: The first thing I do in the morning, is go through 3D art and animation blogs and webpages to gather inspirational and referential images, with a gallon of coffee in my hands. I look for very specific things: anatomy, hair, clothes and images that I just find inspiring. Over the years, I’ve collected thousands of images that I find relevant and know are good. This habit has contributed to speeding up my process for when I need references.

Then, when every team member gets to the studio, we have daily scrum meetings, where everybody gets up to speed with what everyone else is doing. Afterwards, I tackle the blockers (tasks that, due to any kind of issue/problem, is blocking the production) and other important tasks. Since I’m a generalist (can work on many tasks related to my field) and work in a small team, these tasks can look like concept, modeling, texturing, rigging, animating or even engine integration. Every day is different.

Working dynamically and wearing multiple hats is what I prefer to being a specialist. Since my attention span is around 8 minutes, I don’t see myself spending 40 hours on a specific thing. So having a variety of different tasks helps to keep me focused.

XC: What are the common challenges that a 3D artist like you encounters daily in a project?

NG: The most important thing for an artist to learn has to be getting rid of his or her ego. Obviously, no one likes to be told that his work isn’t working and that he or she needs to start over, but it’s really important not to interpret ”this is bad” as ”you’re bad”. Being opened to comments is the only way to progress and to learn good reflexes. If you need to be told that you are good and beautiful, there is your mom for that.

XC: Your works online are really endearing. We like how you turned known characters into your own. Do you have favorite pieces? If so, why are these your favorites? Also, what would you consider your biggest or most exciting project to date?

NG: I don’t really have a particular favorite piece, since after a short while, I all find them not good enough. Although, I still appreciate them for what I’ve learned while doing them.

The most important project that I’ve ever undertaken is, with some friends, the creation of our own studio called TripleHey! We are currently on the edge of releasing our first game, “Dance Ron”, that we are really proud of. Someday, hopefully, we’ll be able to make it our full time job and make a living off of making our own games.

XC: If you were to market yourself what would you highlight as your edge?

NG: With my management background, I market my trade as a self-supervised artist. Over the years, I’ve had the chance of working on a wide variety of projects, that allowed me to practice all kinds of skills and knowledge of production and pipelines. I usually do a 75% creation, which I crave and need, and the rest goes into planning and teaching the juniors and interns.

XC: If you weren’t a 3D artist today, what would you be working as?

NG: Other than 3D, I’m deeply passionate about cooking. I love this shit! The majority of my bookshelf is filled with cookbooks. Although, it’s probably the worst bedtime reading. Reading about ribs, and deep fried wings will always get you out of the bed and then makes you shame eat in the middle of the night. If my fridge’s light would give sunburns, geez Id’ be very tanned.

XC: What is your message to other artists in these challenging times?

NG: I’d say, don’t overload yourself with crazy projects that are complicated. Focus on the small wins. It’s easy to get too deep with a crazy project. Although, they require a ton of work and are more likely to be abandoned half way, which will contribute to motivation loss. Aim for small wins!

Also, while choosing a project to tackle, it’s always best to find one that will teach you some new techniques and style.
There is no secret to getting good at something. We need to put time and effort. Keep up the good work guys!

Mr. Normand Gaudreau is 33 years old. He holds a degree in the
Fine Arts from the Universié du Québec à Montréal and another in 3D Animation from Collège La Cité

Mr. Gaudreau has an impressive CV of the various companies he has worked for including:

Behaviour – 2021 – currently – Artist Team Lead
TripleHey! – 2018 – currently – Co-Founder / Artist
Ludia – 2018 – 2021 – Senior 3D Artist
Nvizzio – 2017-2018 – Senior 3D artist
Hibernum – 2014 – 2017 Lead Artist / Character Artist
Gameloft – 2013-2014 Lead Artist
Gameloft – 2012-2013 Environment Artist
DTI Software – 2009-2012 – 3D Generalist
Collège La Cité – 2010 Character Design Teacher

Want to see more of Mr. Normand Gaudreau’s amazing works? You can visit his ArtStation account and get to see his professional history through his LinkedIn.

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