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Finding Personal and Professional Growth with Legacy Effects Artist Hannah Kang

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When we asked Hannah Kang to talk with us, she asked if she could just make us a mascot instead...Of course we said yes, but the deal was she had 24 hours to get it to us.

She not only delivered on time, but sent 3 characters instead and a page full of answers. Lesson 1 give someone what they ask for, then give them options! 

What was your first interview like? 
The irony is, I tell students to be analytical when choosing your projects for your Demo Reel, choose the subject matter and pipeline that are geared towards the studio you want to work for. However, I had a reel that concentrated on feature animation and I ended up working for Legacy Effects which is the opposite of feature animation. So how did I end up coming to that decision? My first interview was with Dreamworks. It was a lot of fun and I am very grateful for the experience. The person on the phone that was offering me the position could not have made the process any better than it was. They really broke the job down in a way that made me feel safe. They also helped me feel extra reassured when I told them I didn’t know scripting, that they have people who handles that specific job. They also told me the perks of working at Dreamworks. Free food and art books! I love free food. 

When I was attending school, I tried entering for best of term several times, but never made it. So when I was able to get an interview with Dreamworks, I was absolutely thankful and happy. 

I love feature animation and being able to work at a studio to do what I love the most is a dream come true. I love making dorky characters and interesting stylized models. In the end, I decided to turn it down because I felt that I would be taking the seat away from someone that wanted it more. I didn't think I was a good fit for the position. Even if I ever have the chance of modeling characters for them down the line, I knew if i took a job in layout it would be much harder for me to stay motivated and continue pursuing the the pipeline I was in love with. Maybe one day I will have the opportunity to work with them based off of the interview alone. I think they treat their people pretty amazingly. 

Demo Reel Image (Chris Sanders)

That's a nice job to say no to. Do you regret it? 
Not at all. I've had nothing but great experiences so far in my career and I think that both sides of the interview were great experiences. Sometimes you get the right chances at the wrong time. I would like to think that one day they would consider me for a spot I fit in, rather than reward me for taking a spot that someone else was better at. 

How did you get a job at Legacy Effects studio?
I got my job at Legacy Effects by hearing that a modeling position was open through word of mouth. I was always familiar with the type of work that they do and of course knowing Legacy Effects was once Stan Winston’s studio...I quickly jumped on this opportunity by emailing my reel and resume. What drew me to this studio was the diversity you get to see and interact with in just one studio. It’s like a package deal! From concept to 3d modeling/sculpting to 3d prepping to molding to mechanic rigging to painting to fabrication to make-up. You really see the whole spectrum of how things are made in Hollywood. I feel that this pipeline alone is such a unique experience and a great teacher to learning the history of Special Effects. 

What are the benefits of choosing Legacy?
What makes this studio great is the marriage of Traditional Artists with Digital Artists. We all work closely with each other to get the final product. Personally, the benefit of working here at Legacy is being able to work on Triple-A films, TV, Commercials, and Sideshow all at the same time! Also your head will never get too big because you can be working on a major film one day and a commercial the next day. The other benefit is the hours that are unique to this studio. I have an 8 hour work day, then I get to go home and work on my personal art. I believe I’m quite spoiled with these hours and must take full advantage it which is why I am also able to teach!

Demo Reel Image (Pete Cooper) 

Were there any struggles coming into a studio and having to adjust quickly?
I find it funny coming into this studio, my reel is geared more towards feature animation while Legacy Effects is cool robots/mech and creatures. Just that alone, I knew I was going to face some challenges. It was definitely out of my comfort zone but was totally excited for the challenges to come. Of course, I had a few moments in the beginning where I felt panicked having to learn new softwares, quickly learning hard surface, the benefit of knowing topology, learning how to prep my models for 3d printing, and meeting deadlines. I honestly wouldn’t have gone through those moments as quickly as I did if it weren’t for my co-workers. They really helped me with every question and concern that I had. The people I work with are such great people which makes it easy to go into work everyday.

3D world tutorial (Using influences in your art Norman Rockwell)

What is the difference between your freelance work and professional work?
The most obvious difference between freelance work and professional work is managing your time without supervision to meet the deadline of the client. It usually is just you and the client communicating so having open communication also helps a lot during freelance. Also you are your own art director to some extent. You do get feedback however, critical judgement is essential. Professional work tends to be more of a team effort. There is constant communication within a studio especially because you're working next to one another. There's usually an art director or lead guiding a team to get the final product. 

My personal/freelance work is work where I tend to be more picky in terms of what I choose to work on. It's more of a creative fulfillment which is why you only see personal work in my online portfolio.

You mentioned personal art. How important is that to you? 
Personal art is where most of the growing happens because you get to experiment with ideas. You learn the type of art/style you like. You also have the freedom to tangent off into something that interests you, whether that be learning a new software or a new technique you can implement into your personal pipeline. Having this freedom to sculpt or draw whatever you want is so important because the satisfaction you don’t get at work, you can fulfill that at home. I honestly would be burnt-out so quickly if I didn’t have personal work going on for me. Somedays, I look forward to getting home to chip away at my art even more. I have a habit of daydreaming and planning during the day to what I’m going to be progressing forward at home. Pretty nerdy of me, but I really do get excited and having that excitement is important for me because it keeps me going. 

How do you stay motivated and keep going when you feel discouraged or have an artist block?
I feel that motivation and time management go hand in hand. Yes, a lot of people say you need the passion and ambition. However, sometimes it's not enough to keep me going every single day. I quickly realized how everything eventually becomes a job. It's fun at first, but getting it done becomes a job. It's also your job to stay on top of your skills. It’s your job to market yourself. It's your job to chip away at something every single day. When you have a full time job and family, it can be very hard to get the motivation to start working again, especially when you're exhausted! Many times I won't be able to sit down and actually work until 9 or 10 at night during the weekdays. It's easy to tell yourself to relax and work on art tomorrow. This is when time management and diligence come into play. Even if it's only an hour you can spare of getting your personal work done, it can accumulate over time. The thing with art also, once you start going and you have a good rhythm going on, it's hard to stop! It's the initial push, just like working out. After you feel much better you got something done. 

There are times when your art doesn't turn out the way you want, no matter how much you push and pull. That's when you want to throw your computer out the window. When I feel like that, I take a break or come back at another time. Coming back with fresh eyes and new perspective, it helps break whatever I was struggling with. 

Vray Practice Sketch 

With social media being such an important factor to almost every type of industry, what are the pros and cons of dealing with social media as an artist?
The pros of social media are the vast information you are able to access. You are able to gain knowledge from other artists you are connected to. It’s made being connected to other artists so much easier. You can pretty much google anyone these days and get in touch with them. You also get to see how other artists are progressing forward with their art and career, which can show where you stand. As artists, it’s very normal to compare yourself to other people because the nature of art is to constantly keep getting better. But finding that balance is important of being analytical versus falling into the trap of getting insecure. Trying to have real-world experiences, and not relying solely on other people's work and google images is so important.. I believe that's also how you get your own style. Constantly relying on other people's art to find your style isn't the best method because your art eventually starts looking like the artist you admire. Look at it, be inspired, then put it away. 

You are one of the new forum leaders for the zbrush forum here at CGSociety. What reward is there in taking time out of your schedule?
Giving back to the community is something I want to incorporate in my daily life. So whether that be giving feedback to students or helping out questions on forums are all ways that helps both sides of the party. Explaining/breaking down a process or even your own pipeline, it can be a lot harder than it looks. Sometimes you make artistic choices without even thinking because you have put the hours into it. But somehow when you try to explain that process, it can almost be like learning a new language. Maybe not to that extent, but you know what I mean. A community such as CGSociety isn't about gaining knowledge all to yourself, but lending a hand out to people that are in need of help especially people that are just starting out. Learning new softwares can be daunting. I think there is a gap for people that are a bit slower or just starting out who are unsure if this is the right path for them yet. The art community expands throughout the world so I find it really rewarding and humbling to help someone that don't have the same access as me or people that are more local to the industry. People that are genuinely looking for help and not just an approval stamp, I also find that very rewarding to help people that are truly trying to get better!

Class Wip Captain Carrot 

Can you elaborate more on style? Every artist is trying to find their own voice, how does one go about it? 
I'm still trying to "figure out" my style. But instead of forcing myself to find a style, I rather like to sculpt things that appeal to my eye. I guess that's how you find your style right? There's no formula to it. Do what you love and eventually the type of "style" will come out. Feature animation isn't just a look like Disney or Dreamworks but rather can be a range of stylization. 

I think finding a style other people want or expect from you is the challenge. Anyone that is passionate about drawing, painting, sculpting starts out doing it because it's entertaining or they find it as a reward in bringing their own ideas to life. It really is about pretending and playing. When people talk about personal style, they tend to be talking about what they are drawn to whether that be color palette, shapes, contrast, scale diversity or levels of detail. Every image created by the artists are a collection of choices that people agree with or are put off by. We all see the world differently which makes the word appeal fit into many categories of genre. 

Don't step away from creating what you love doing and don't aim for work that another artist who’s ahead of you told you you should, to fit a certain style. Rather, focus on looking for bad fundamentals and ignorance of mistakes. These things show weakness and a broken image. 

When you work on fundamental principles to the point where you can see with an artist eye, then proportions, compositions, anatomical decisions are all choices you made in a way that appeal to you rather than something that holds you back. It's what I believe and I continue to work on those skills everyday!

Class WIP 

What advice can you give students? 
When a student is trying hard and is eager to learn in class, it makes me feel more motivated to go the extra mile to help. You're only going to attain the amount of skill that you want with the time and effort you put into it. I feel very proud of people that go the extra mile to email me on their progress. They’re not looking to just get a confirmation that their piece looks good, but they genuinely want to know what they can fix to improve themselves. You need to work hard, but you also need to work smart. What most of us are doing to get better at drawing, sculpting, painting, etc, we are trying to perfect our pipeline so that we know it like the back of our hands. In order to do that, it takes many hours of trial and error. Pipeline becomes habits so make sure to develop good habits early on. I found that being proficient in shortcuts but still making your work look professional are very important when working for a studio because you need to meet a deadline. 

That skill is very important to have however, make sure when you go home, you're developing your process in the way that makes you better as an artist and not just a production artist. You need both. 

Be smart in what you show on your reel and be very clear on what you want as your position.Speaking as a modeler, know your topology. Even if you claim to be more of a concept artist, knowing topology is the foundation of a 3d modeler. And above everything else, when it gets tough, it's easy to forget why you started doing art in the first place. It's a job, but enjoy it when you can! 

Thanks for your time and good luck with the class! 
I look forward to getting to know and help my students. Working through their struggles together in order for students to get a piece that they are please with is my goal for the class. It’s a rewarding feeling to help another artist achieve creative fulfillment.

Classes start February 18!
Click here to take Stylized Character Creation: From Cartoon to Realistic with Hannah Kang

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