Passion is Everything: Introducing 3D Artist, Mr. Alec Hunstad

by Joshua Diokno   

Every now and then, an artistic interest comes to tease us, perk us up. But more often than not, the interest dies off, leading one to pursue other more “lucrative” endeavors. This is why admirable is one who is brave enough to dive into an interest head-on, especially in a society dictated by the corporate and the unimaginative.

One such artist is Mr. Alec Hunstad.

Going through Mr. Hunstad’s experiences as a 3D artist is a breath of fresh air. There is a certain excitement to his tone, an enthusiasm that doesn’t seem to have any reservation. It is inspiring and inspiriting.

We look at his works and see his effort and genuine talent. We are amazed not only by his ability to come up with such amazing concepts and renders, but by the knowledge of just how much work had been dedicated to production.

We here at Xeno Creatives are more than honored to have been given the chance to talk to such a promising artist. Mr. Hunstad gave us the skinny on his experience as a 3D art enthusiast which led him to become a real 3D artist.

 Xeno Creatives (XC): We understand that ZBrush technology had been quite an innovation in the industry. And unlike producing visual art by pencil and ink on paper, much technical know-how is required for the software. What processes did you have to learn to be skilled in Zbrush? As a dedicated artist, how does this help you progress further in your craft?

Alec Hunstad (AH): You’re absolutely right, ZBrush is an extremely innovative program that requires a great deal of technical knowledge. As with any program, ZBrush takes a bit of time to get used to, but when you do it’s obvious why it’s the best digital sculpting software.

ZBrush is used for in many industries, so it has a lot of great features that allow you to do everything a few different ways. Features like Dynamesh and ZRemesher are major game-changers when it comes to digital sculpture. Dynamesh allows for much more freedom when sculpting, and ZRemesher allows for easy generation of more sculpturally friendly topology. The processes behind using these features are really simple, but they allow artists to sculpt quickly without worrying much about the technical stuff. Another thing I learned pretty early on that is essential in 3D is that an artist needs to work out primary forms and silhouette before moving on to secondary forms and tertiary details. After I understood this, my work improved tremendously. It is a necessary sculpting/modeling “pipeline” that must be kept in mind to make a good model.

XC: How did your decision to pursue ZBrush come about? Would you want to expand to other media or do you want to just focus on it?

AC: I have always been in love with the characters and creatures from my favorite games and movies, but it wasn’t until 2015 that I started to become really interested in ZBrush and the process of creating models. It was at that time that I realized I could do work like my favorite artists and studios if I worked hard enough. When I purchased ZBrush, however, I was still very new to 3D and art in general. I feel like I’ve come a long way in the past two years, but I still have a lot to learn.

ZBrush is by far my most used 3D software at the moment, but I’m currently learning Maya for polygonal modeling and Marvelous Designer for cloth simulation. ZBrush can do a lot, but I want to learn a 3D package like Maya because it’s an industry standard and has many other tools that are useful for working on the technical side of 3D art. There are other programs I definitely want to learn such as Mari, Substance Painter, VRay, and a bunch more, but I’ll jump into those after some more time learning Maya and MD. I’m attending the Gnomon School of Visual Effects for the next two years as well, so I’ll learn a lot about those programs and several more during my time there!

XC: Is it integral for you to be masterful in human anatomy when working with ZBrush?

AH: I always use my knowledge of human and animal anatomy when I sculpt a character or creature. Believable anatomy is an essential part of creating something that is grounded in reality. That said, the rules of anatomy can be broken for the sake of design. Carlos Huante, my favorite creature/character designer, is in my opinion the best example of an artist who knows how to break anatomy in the most extreme ways while still maintaining believability. Studying the human muscular, skeletal, and integumentary systems helps me immensely when I sculpt organic forms, human or not. Everything from muscular origins and insertions to wrinkle behavior is critical to making a character or creature feel alive.

XC: Do you see yourself lending your talents to the movie and television industry?

AC: I would absolutely love to work on films, game cinematics, and TV shows. Working at a studio like Blur, ILM, MPC, or one of the many other VFX studios around the world would be a dream come true. Though I’m also extremely passionate about video games, I’d be very happy in either industry! Perhaps someday I’ll reach a level at which I can work in both industries.

XC: Were there other media that you explored? What were these?

AC: Yes, I’ve explored a lot of different media. In fact, before I wanted to be a 3D character/creature artist, I wanted to be a concept artist. During that time, I was drawing a lot with graphite and charcoal. I then bought Corel Painter and began exploring digital painting. It was very fun, but I jumped in before I had a solid foundation in traditional art. I didn’t know the fundamentals, so my perspective, anatomy, gesture, etc. were very rough. Also, I’m just not as passionate about 2D as I am about 3D. As soon as I purchased ZBrush, I knew I had discovered something truly special. I immediately realized that my true passion is for 3D art. My first sculpts were certainly not amazing, but that passion had been sparked.

XC: Was delving into the craft really a passion to begin with or a mere necessity?

AC: When I started sculpting, I was driven purely by passion. I wasn’t going to let my fear of failure stop me from becoming a good sculptor. That passion has been with me from day one, and I don’t think it’ll ever leave. There’s always something new in the 3D world, and my passion drives my desire to pick up new techniques, learn new software, and challenge myself to work on bigger and more difficult projects. That said, there is a necessity in this as well. Learning new things and keeping up with the ever-changing software and pipelines is essential to being a successful 3D artist in any industry. My passion for learning and getting better at what I love, however, will always be the primary force that pushes me to level up.

XC: Seeing your works on Facebook was quite a visual treat! Picking which our favorites are among your creatures and heroes proved to be a challenge. Do you have favorite pieces? What are they and why?

AC: Thank you very much! One of my favorite pieces to make was Jerry, the wasteland mechanic with the nasty pustules and bladed wrench weapon. He was the first character I retopologized, UV’d, textured using Spotlight in ZBrush, and rendered with multiple passes. In addition to those things, he was the first character for which I sculpted clothes and modeled complex props. To put it simply, I learned so much in the time I spent working on him and had a ton of fun! My interpretation of H.P. Lovecraft’s “Pickman’s Model” was also an awesome project to work on because it’s my most detailed and carefully sculpted organic model I’ve done so far.

XC: Who or what can you consider as your influences? What attracted you to them?

AC: There are tons of artists that inspire me every day. Some of those artists are Adam Skutt, Glauco Longhi, Rafael Grassetti, Marcin Klicki, Giovanni Nakpil, Bruno Camara, Jason Martin, Carlos Huante, and Ben Erdt. All of these artists are legendary character/creature artists and designers, so it’s no wonder why I like them! There are also many games and films that have inspired me throughout my life. Games like The Witcher, Gears of War, Halo, The Last of Us, Borderlands, Wolfenstein, DOOM, and many more greatly inspire me. Furthermore, films such as Star Wars, Predator, Alien, Mad Max, The Lord of the Rings, and tons of others have inspired me for many years and will always have a place in my heart.

I was attracted to these artists, games, and films because, as you know, I love characters and creatures! The artists I named above create some of the best work in the world, and the games and films I listed have influenced the work I do and driven me to reach my goal of working on such amazing projects in the future.

XC: What other pieces do you want to create?

AC: I can’t even begin to list the pieces I still want to create! There are so many I’d love to do, but before I start the more complex projects I have in mind I want to learn more about polygonal modeling and cloth simulation. Those skills will help me push the quality of my future projects to a whole new level.

XC: Aside from rendering your own amazing character concepts, do you also see yourself getting involved in Game Character Design?

AC: Yes, I would love to work in the game industry as a character artist. I enjoy rendering my high-poly models, but there’s a lot more to getting a character into a game-res state that is ideal for animation and rendering in a real-time environment. The pipeline involves retopology, UVs, baking, texturing, etc., and I’m really excited to learn more about all of these processes during my time in the modeling and texturing program at Gnomon!

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

AC: I can’t imagine myself doing anything else! If I wasn’t studying character/creature art, I’d be lost. About three years ago (my sophomore year of high school) I became very interested in biology and anatomy. Shortly after that, I began to take art very seriously and knew that I wanted to work in the game, VFX, and/or collectible industries. I’m thankful to have discovered my love for art and anatomy around the same time because that combination is what ultimately led me down the road of character and creature art.

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

AC: Although I haven’t broken into the game, VFX, nor collectible industries yet, I can offer some advice to artists that want to improve and reach their goals. First of all, choose what you want to do and what industry/industries in which you want to work. You can be a character artist, environment artist, texture artist, concept artist, rigger, animator, etc. In order to work on big projects, it’s best to specialize in the thing you love most and be very good at it. Secondly, identify the projects you’re inspired by and find the artists that worked on those projects. Analyze their work and compare yours to theirs. Is it of the same level and style? Could you see your work fitting into one of the projects they helped make? Questions like those are important when determining where you want to work and how to get there. Next, be sure to get your name and your work out there. Post online and get feedback from other artists. Don’t be afraid to get critique! Finally, you have to practice. There are no shortcuts on this journey, so make it fun for yourself!

With his wisdom and evident talent through his works, it’s hard to believe that Mr. Hunstad is just two years into his craft.

We here at Xeno Creatives are grateful to have been given the chance to interview Mr. Alec Hunstad. We wish him more power and all the success!

To see more of Mr. Hunstad’s works, you may visit his ArtStation account by clicking here!

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