Walter Leon: Amazing Artistry, Impressive Industry Experience
Possessing a Degree on Bachelor’s in Design and Visual Communication from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), Mr. Walter Leon is a prolific 3D and motion graphics artist.
He’s had a 5-year experience as a freelancer in TV and advertising. After that, he went on to become a Lighting and Compositing Artist for one of the most prestigious studios in Mexico, Cluster Studio. There, he worked on numerous advertising projects for a good 2 years.
After leaving Mexico, Mr. Leon struck gold in Japan where he was employed in a post for Square Enix’s film, “Final Fantasy XV: Kingsglaive”. There, he worked as character modeler and simulation artist (hair and cloth). During that time he learned a lot about character creation, hair grooming, and simulation. Mr. Leon went further in Japan by working in some other Japanese films and TV shows as modeler, lighting, and compositing artist.
Now, he is working in the game industry, specifically as a CG Designer in Soleil Ltd. The one responsible for the online game, “Naruto to Boruto, Shinobi Striker”. Mr. Leon had a hand in it by being both a modeler and lighting artist for the game.
At the young age of 35, Mr. Leon already has a rich experience in the digital arts industry. Today, let’s get to know him better through this short feature and find out how he was drawn to the craft and became one of its emerging and promising artists.
Xeno Creatives (XC): How did you get involved in the 3D industry? Do you consider it as a “calling” or something that just pays for the bills?
Walter Leon (WL): Since I was young, I knew I wanted to do something related to the arts. When I was 10 years old I liked to draw. It later evolved into painting, photography, and film. Then I got very much into computers, so it was natural for me to mix both interests.
I started researching about computer graphics and visual effects. High School prepared me for my path. There, I learned 3Ds Max and Cinema 4D on my own. Eventually I moved on to Maya. I spent a lot of my free time learning and practicing 3D.
In College, I decided to study design, even though they didn’t offer any 3D related classes. I continued to practice 3D and motion graphics. By the time I started to look for a job, it was natural for me to look for something in the 3D graphics field.
XC: Who or what influenced you the most? Was there a digital art piece or an artist whom you found to be really inspiring that made you aspire to become a better artist yourself?
WL: If I have to mention just one thing that inspired me to become a Digital Artist, it would be the cinematics of the game “Final Fantasy IX” by Square Enix. I have a friend who loves the Final Fantasy series since the beginning, I was never a gamer, but when I visited his house and he showed me the game, I was amazed! So much that I borrowed the game and played it, just to see the cinematics. This was back in the year 2000, from that moment on, I knew I wanted to work for this industry.
XC: What was it like to be thrown into the 3D culture? What were the ropes that you had to learn to be the artist that you want to be?
WL: One of the most important things that I learned is to keep learning all the time. Now the competition is really difficult and there are a lot of Digital Artists so you have to keep up-to-date with the new workflows and most important of all, improve your skills. Also networking is very important. Whether it is for getting feedback for your work or to get new projects, it is essential to work on your social skills too.
XC: What’s your workflow like? How does your day look like in production?
WL: Currently, working in the game industry, I’ve been working on projects for PS4 and Switch, so my workflow relies on Maya and ZBrush for the modeling, then texturing in Substance Painter and a bit of Photoshop. Afterwards, the assets are imported into Unreal Engine, where I create the materials.
A day in production is quite normal, you get a concept from the Art Department, then work on the asset, receive feedback from your supervisor. We have a tightly-organized pipeline, so I’m glad that most of the day, one can focus on the development of the assets.
XC: What are the common hurdles or challenges that a 3D artist like you encounter day-in, day-out in a project?
WL: The most common challenges for me appear when the project is not well-organized or the concept is not well-established. Maybe it can be summarized as lack of communication. That creates a lot of worries in the members of the team and missteps in production. People start to get stressed and that is the worst environment to work in.
When you have a good team and a good environment, if some technical challenges appear, it’s great to work them out as a team and learn something new.
XC: Your works online are really something. Browsing through them was truly a treat. It might be a tough question to ask, but do you have a favorite piece? What made it stand out for you?
WL: Thanks a lot! “Portrait of Viviana”, which is a portrait of my wife, is my favorite so far. There are many things I’ve tried doing on my portraits over the years, and with this one I reached some personal milestones, like the hair groom and the skin shader. Technically, I learned a lot from working on it. I still see some issues with it though.
XC: If you were to market yourself as a 3D artist, what would you highlight as your strengths, your edge?
WL: I always notice the more talented artist out there, so it’s difficult to point them out, but I think one of my strengths is being motivated to improve my skills all the time. Even though I’ve been working all day at the studio, almost everyday I continue working on my personal projects when I get home. I can say that I have a very strong motivation to become a better artist.
XC: If you weren’t a 3D artist today, what could you see yourself working as?
WL: Oh! There are a lot of things! But as I’m interested in photography too, I can see myself working as a cinematographer of still photographer. That would be awesome.
Want to see more of Mr. Walter Leon’s works? Click here!