Jeff Huang is an amazing digital artist that specializes in 3D and photo manipulation artwork. With a strong passion for art and graffiti, the New York City resident makes breathtaking art that can not be matched by many artists. Jeff gives us a look into the making of one of his best pieces, and he also tells us what equipment he uses. Lets get into the interview.
1. Welcome to Psdtuts+! Please introduce yourself, give us a brief bio, tell us where you're from, and how you got started in the field.
Thanks for the warm welcome! I'm Jeff Huang, a twenty-one year old graphic artist and illustrator residing in New York City, USA. I specialize mainly in digital illustration and photo manipulation, with knowledge in 3D modeling, animation, motion graphics, and compositing.
I guess I knew I would have loved to be in the field when I first laid eyes on digital art - 3D abstracts to be specific. Since, I became intrigued with it, which eventually led me to get a copy of Photoshop (about 6 years ago). I started off like many - bumming around amateur gfx (haha, I always thought that was lame) forums and creating sigs, until I eventually registered at DeviantART and began to produce full-scale digital artwork.
2. A lot of your work involves 3D rendering, what advice would you give to an artist who is looking to start creating 3D renders? What program should they use, and what do you think they should know before diving into that field?
Before diving into learning 3D, one should know that working with 3D and being creative can actually work against each other. Yep, it's true. Before I learned 3D from the ground up, I played and experimented so much with it because I had no idea what I was doing. When you don't know how to do a certain thing, getting creative is easy because you try to create anything and everything. That being said, sometimes you make awesome renderings by accident, and it's a really good feeling when that happens.
Nonetheless, 3D is a great tool to learn regardless. Nowadays, I can't seem to really create personal artwork without the use of some sort of 3D element. I'd say my 3D knowledge in conjunction with my Photoshop knowledge has allowed me to create anything that I'd want in my own artwork because where one of them lack, the other makes up for it.†
I used to use Cinema4D when I first started getting into digital art in 2005, in the era of 3D abstracts. Back in the day, most 3D abstract artists used it to create their abstracts and it was fairly easy to create something cool. Much of my 3D work in my portfolio was created with that program. However since I started learning Maya three years ago from the basics, I've fully migrated to it. It's an amazing program - It can be so simple for starters to learn, but it can be so complex when you start to dig deeper into the program.†
3. What tools do you use for designing, any tablets? If so which, and how does yours help you in your work?
It varies from piece to piece. However, I can say that personally I can't work without using my tablet, especially when it comes to photo-realistic pieces. Pressure sensibility is a godsend, I use it to paint details and fix elements for the most part. In my case, if you see any cracks and other small details in any of my pieces, chances are, I painted it with my tablet.
Sometimes it's much easier to just paint it in with Photoshop then to spend the time texturing it in 3D. It would save so much more time! Currently, I'm still using a old, beat up, 9x12 "Wacom Graphire 2" tablet. I've always wanted to migrate to a "Cintiq" when I can, but it never really happened because my "Graphire 2" has been adequate for me. I've been using it for three years now, so I'm very used to how I should operate it already.
4. Are you a self taught designer or did you attend a school to learn the art of designing?
I was self-taught. I've been drawing since a small child and I went to high-school for art. However, it was for traditional art: pencil & charcoal drawing, painting, ceramics, print making, etc. Designing was something I picked up and gradually evolved from constantly experimenting with my own artwork.
5. "The Rotten Apple" is an amazing conceptual piece of your interpretation of a havoc stricken New York City. Give us a short look into the process of creating this amazing design, from how you came up with the idea until you finished it.
This was also done for an assignment that I had at school, which was to take a stock photo and create a matte painting of futuristic New York City. We all had to create three concepts, each portraying a different mood/environment of the future. As for myself, I made one that resembled "Cloverfield" but on a desert, an underwater one, and finally a futuristic floating NYC. My class liked them all, but I ended up combining the three concepts together to create The Rotten Apple.
The process started with first setting down the mood/atmosphere of the overall piece. Setting the overall color theme and lighting should be the first step in doing scenes like this. I first started to cut pieces of the city scene to use on top of itself to simply distort the reality first.
After that, I started looking for proper stock images to use - Statue of Liberties, etc. Once I find stocks, I start incorporating them into the scene by color correcting, perspective matching and all that good stuff. This piece is a perfect example where a tablet is ideal because I can paint light sources and fix color manually and paint details on the elements. I just kept repeating the previous step until I've laid out all the elements that I need.
After I've done all of that and the piece is starting to really come together, I begin to go in and detail and finalize the piece - painting the cracks and details on the pieces of the statue of liberty, adding smoke, adding reflections, adding blurs and depth of field, etc.†
That's about all I guess. For the assignment itself, I had to make this a animated matte-painting, so I actually have a HD format QuickTime movie file of this in motion. It's quite cool when it all comes together!
6. A lot of your work seems influenced by Graffiti and Street Art, what exactly draws you into this style of design?
I've been fascinated with Graffiti and Street Art ever since I was a young kid. Something about the use of shapes and colors of Graffiti that just grabs me in! I started doing Graffiti during high school and became obsessed with it. Though I wasn't much of a bomber, I loved doing Graffiti on paper, mainly because I loved the feel of a drawing utensil on paper. To me, it feels better than spray painting on a wall because you don't feel any "texture."
Anyway, as I said, I was obsessed. I covered my a few sketchbooks with Graffiti and surely my notebooks which I'd use to take notes in class. I can definitely say that I had way more Graffiti than class notes in my notebooks, ha-ha.†
Graffiti may look like a thing to many people, but good Graffiti seriously involves much artistic skill and talent. Everyone can make shapes, squiggle lines and color something, but it's what kind of shapes you make, how your lines flow and intertwine, and how you color the piece that makes you extraordinary. That's why there are so many Graffiti artists out there, but there are only a small portion who I feel are truly amazing.
I love Graffiti because I believe that Graffiti is a blend of many styles and forms of art. It's a blend of aspects of traditional fine arts with graphic design, maybe even architecture (drafting, compositioning, color theory, type design, perspective, and more). Therefore, I feel as though if you were to understand and grasp all aspects of Graffiti, you would become an exceptional artist and would be able to use your knowledge on all types of art. And of course, talent is a big bonus, but that's not something you can control.†
7. What exactly can we look forward to from you? Any projects you'd like to tell us about?
In the near future, I'll just be doing more features and commissions for random clients. Very recent random stuff would be: Feature in Adobe's design center, being represented by Debut Art, and just some more features in magazines. To be honest, the biggest project that I want to tackle right now is to finish my last year (this year) in college! I've been working on my senior thesis project where I will be creating a surreal style 3D animation. I'm excited to see it come together!
As for my own artwork, I really hope I'll have time to make some of that soon! I have yet to create something for myself for ages! School, freelance work and my lovely girlfriend takes up all of my time, therefore I haven't made anything. There are a few unfinished PSDs in my hard drive however, maybe I'll finish those up one day and release them.
8. Thanks again for providing Psdtuts+ with this opportunity to interview you. Any final thoughts? What would you tell other designers that hope to be as good as you one day?
I don't exactly have much input for designers who hope to be as good as me, because I really don't feel as though I'm that great to begin with! I guess the biggest thing about my work is that I'm myself. People want to hire you and work with you because they feel as though you're the one standing out from the crowd.
Don't follow trends simply because they look cool! Look and absorb work of others and blend aspects of it with your own style. Experiment a lot and don't be afraid to tackle a piece simply because you feel as though it would take too long. Patience is a virtue, and you will be rewarded when you see the final outcome of the countless hours spent.
Thank you for the opportunity for the interview, the pleasure is mine. Take care!
Where to find Jeff on the Web
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