Weta Workshop Concept Artist, Russell Dongjun Lu

Weta Workshop Concept Artist, Russell Dongjun Lu



come meet the artist behind your favorite movies games animation and illustration at the lightbox Expo in Pasadena California this September 6 to 8 here's just a few of the 300 plus artists exhibiting demoing or presenting at lightbox Expo guests of sign and exhibit hall show your work by prints merchandise books even original one-of-a-kind artwork we'll have fun educational events in a two-story conference center like ox panels workshops demos and more lightbox Expo runs from September 16 2009 teen you'll need all three days to experience everything tickets now on sale at lightbox Expo welcome to school ISM interviews with your host Bobby Chu for many of you listening to this podcast your art dreams might feel far away maybe your obstacle is where you live or your language skills or it might be something else altogether Russell Liu understands your pain personally born in China and forced into engineering school Russell had geography language and social expectations working against him who would have ever thought he could one day become a concept artist at what a workshop in New Zealand he did in this humbling interview he talks about the challenges he faced and continues to face and the one thing that got him over the obstacles and helped him to have the career and life as an artist that he always wanted we hope you enjoy it Russell thank you so much for taking some time out of your busy Sunday to speak with me yes thank you Bobby to have me today it's an absolute honor so perhaps we can talk a little bit about the origin story so you were born in China oh yes I born in China and I was moved to Singapore when I was very young and yeah I study there graduate there and work six years in video game industry and after that I I want to jump into a film industry so I came to New Zealand last year and working as a concept marketing we have workshop right now today everybody gets to see a special interview because Russell is gonna be doing a live demo for us at the same time yeah yes so of course the model I'm assuming that you took the picture of this model yeah can I talk about this right now yeah yeah so actually I just I took I bought this model from Bandai and that I thought this really happy for me too capturing the initial thoughts and the Lighting's so I just take a photo it's right it's very simple and after that I just mask this background I know type it is just quickly I did a sum of sketch here okay I just opened this so it's really rough I am lucky from this point hmm when you are painting it mm-hmm are you kind of like i dropping local tones as well to make sure that you keep with the same kind of lighting first oh yes yes yeah I was talking with some kind of black and white Valeo first so just make sure that I have correct this values and Lighting's okay when you're painting this do you paint it very small at first like you you zoom out and then you start painting it like a little thumbnail but yeah sometimes I just like that nothing is this small piece so that my eyes really focus on the entire of this what it's all character here I don't think so and when I was doing details I just give me a little bit like this but I do too me too much he just like like a wrong like this is fine and do you use a lot of different brushes or just like one or two different brushes uh actually I just using one this brush because I created by myself which is this one I think I mean not kind of 99% and if I'd using kind of some light paints are using our this airbrush we would say like anyway this is my mood board I guess Randall I grabbed some photos from internet so my initial thinking of that today is just go with really a simple character design and many background story is more like a mysterious religious who can culture behind that so I just randomly grab some of those photos yeah okay now from destiny that just starts armor seems to be something that you're very familiar with looking at your portfolio and things like that yeah because personally I like kind of medieval those fantasy stuff yeah but in my working I how to work her many different kind of project like you have to do is either works you have to some more erratic work so it's really depends on the project but personally I will spend more time on this kind of fantasy medieval stuff hmm and do you work at what a digital or weather workshops oh it's a we have workshop because I think we thought these two is mostly doing we do affect the way the workshops more like pre-production concept designs like yeah yeah yeah a lot of people they don't know that it's it's actually two different companies yeah yes yeah did you know before you you went there I'll be honest I don't know as well so I hope is one company two different department but when I came here is totally different yeah so what was it about whether that you really liked about it that made you want to work there oh it's like a workshop is really a really cool company those inside we have around 30 plus concept parties there and everyone is great everyone have their old skills to making designs I think in this company you will learn a lot I feel working with those peoples and most important is that the working environment environment is really really nice and those a lot there's a lot of armors props which used in the movie they just hang out in the in the world on the way nothing yes yeah yeah I've been there one time our Tobin Show around and it was incredible it just you know writable the things that what a workshop does it looks like kind of like a playground for adults yeah it really yeah it is yeah yeah I'm also a how like a manufacturing department but your design you directly go to manufacture immediately so we will see your designers come out the next day so it's really really amazing and then so you with the design with the actual fabrication department that actually makes the concepts you can actually work with them very closely yeah yeah Wow so I'm you become always talking wisdom yeah it's really nice when you're a child were you very shy or you very kind of the star of the the group of friends kind of thing I think I'm still worried shy actually I am not it kind of talking too much to people's but I'm actually quite confident on my working because when you're working people already know who you are people already know your skills it's made me very confident I can talk like alone maybe like I can talk along with like Richard Taylor which is the owner of Laura with a workshop yeah but if I talk go outside to talk some kind of stranger I may become a very shy because they don't know who am i and when you were in school did you like school um yeah in my school I I didn't learn arts I created as a generic but all the students surrounding me none of them are artists yeah but quite okay yeah people love me love my art you and your parents were they're very strict with you or very like they give you a lot of freedom whatever you want to do the wrestle yeah because in my family uh we have three children I have two brothers so my parents really not too much pay attention to I say they just let me go so what do with everyone but when I was in great I mean in high school my parents and my school they always want me to study engineer they don't want me to do art because at that point doing art is it's kind of really difficult to find a job so uh that's why I I just study engineer my stuff in my university yeah how far did you go did you graduate I'm sorry what this mean Papa Oh like did you finish the the engineering school yeah I just finished and and then you did art yeah it's really yeah but when I finished I I decided not to look in any job regarded on engineer because I thought this to Emporia and it's not the things I want to do so uh so I just I think after graduate I really working hard on my portfolio I almost spent like one year to create in my portfolio and after that I was very lucky I got my first job in Tecmo Koei which is one of the biggest video company in Japan so I was stuck to my concept parties there you know you have two brothers oh yeah right and you're you were raised in China for me is like a special case Rosa I am NOT the kind of you know my race is a con Hafez like Korean so yeah and I've got a special policy my my parents can help second the chosen but when they have the second chosen are as twins so me and my brother are twins so it's becoming like three choosing Lima oh wow so did your brother did it your brother like art as a child as well yeah he is also a professional concept artists working in desert but he needs more like good environment designs actually we draw together when we are very young we draw together like the comic books we love comic books a lot but but when we working in bed base industry we just go like totally different direction we called more environment artists I'm going more character artist but it's really good for us because we are doing our own project right now which is the board game and he can manage to do all this environment inside so I can do also characters so it's really I think it's a really good combination for us and a board game that is something that you're doing after work is that yeah yeah so every day here I finished my work I just walked to the night and yeah with my brother so yeah you're not married with kids oh it's like married and I will have my three children next Monday so Oh congratulations that's one of you thank you thank you so you're gonna have twins as well yeah yeah then how does that work that you you work so much but then you you also have you know your wife that's pregnant everything and yeah how does that work and why I think my wife he is really understanding me what I'm doing and he she is a historic she she has really encouraged me as well it is really important like your partner can support your life I mean your career so when I most of my time I just focus on drawings and she just reading books something like that so uh so but this totally worked fast yeah now if I thought about moving to China to go work or yep moving to Italy or something like that where or France you know I don't speak very good French at the time I would be nervous you know I'd be a little nervous so how old were you when you started to kind of think about moving to New Zealand oh yeah I think the point I was also quite nervous when I joined the company I also had nervous to talk to each other because my English is not that good I couldn't understand we can they could they talk but that but when I started working because everyone recognized my skills so they also understand my English is not that good so after that I may have quite confidence nothing mm-hmm and so yeah how did you learn like um did you learn how to speak English when you were in Singapore yeah yeah in Singapore every education is uh we use English I mean the official language is English even they have a lot of Chinese they're all my friends surrounding me they all Chinese and we pretty much like talking Chinese every day so it's really not too much happy to grow my English skill so and so when you're doing art everybody obviously they really respect your skills and they love your art but how do you feel about your art do you love it or do you most the time hate it you know there's so many interesting lines of artists out there yeah correct yeah so um when I finished my every piece of my arts actually I I was thinking I was thinking I can do much better next time you know I'm saying hmm yeah so it's it's also happy to keep studying it's helping me to tell me that you have to keep study because there are so many good artists out there and the problem for me is that I become from art background so it's it's really sometimes I really struggle like the color combination kind of thing so yeah so it's how did you learn how did you learn your art skills most likely by myself and actually I learned from alone from my brother he is from art school and sometimes he also teach me but when we were young we Joe along the comic book comic books my dream has become a comic book artist and from that I can learn many human anatomy studies perspectives and I do a lot of pencil sketching so it really helped me also developing the values and the Lighting's but I do need to a study more colors actually because I am NOT yeah and I didn't try any oil paintings if all that so yeah so I think my next target is no more focus on one thing is designed another thing is two more oil painting or watercolor studies and you know you're mentioning about artists a lot of great artists and I know in Weda workshops there's a lot of great artists yeah so when you first started there were you nervous were you intimidated like oh my goodness I know that person I know that person's work I know that first work no I'm nervous yeah actually I'm still nervous go on yeah because one of the project here actually it goes almost like two years it's really an abnormal for film project I think like one film project you go two years for concept design only so it's really crazy and when I come to when I just put in that project and those people they are super good and be working on the project for two years already it's makes me really nervous and I just really struggle at that time how can I catch them how can I understanding all the design language they use so yeah it's really kind of yeah telling me at that time what would be your biggest challenge now I think I issued the more because when I jump into film industry I start to understand how important that the design is and all how important you using multiple software not only Photoshop you know saying all those people inside the car using like at least 3 12 3 software's so for concept department we use a lot of keyboards as well so yeah I think I hope to put more focus on learning this kind of software and also to study how to observe those designs yeah so right now you use ZBrush as well or something like that or you you plan on learning it later I'm I'm still like kind of beginning beginning level I guess using data for posing or like very simple and it to me I'm gonna put some lighting there yeah but I definitely need to go more starkly onto that it's really difficult you nothing when you're working it's really hard to find the time to study another software when you think about the artists that you know maybe the English is not their first language but then they want to work in an english-speaking place what kind of advice do you think about what kind of advice do you think you you would want to tell somebody like that oh I think you'll have to are too much to worry about that at least that you can communicate with the English that is totally fine even how to speak fluent English because other people understanding you again is you can communication a little bit the most important I think I co ask you under the design I mean the thinking of the design to design knowledge behind you this is more important I think and when you're starting this painting did you have an idea did you know what colors you're going to use uh yeah because right now I don't have any idea because it's too nervous talking with you and panting here is yeah but when I just Joe by myself partly I think a little bit with kind of color combination here but here today I just go whatever it goes I think it just because I'm I really cannot sink too much on that and I really appreciate it as well I'm very thankful yeah that you would do this interview and a demo at the same time you know it's like you're you're talking so you have to use your brain to talk and play at the same time you have to use your brain to paint as well so it can definitely be difficult is is that something that you're used to doing or I guess when you're working do you talk to other people while you're working or you just you like to just concentrate when I working hi I'm Emily don't prompt anyone yes but I do listening some like pouring drama it's a sight but I don't watch I just listen we're all kind of talk show mm-hmm I could play all I mean they all use some kind of your native language so it's no problem but today is like right here copying talking with me like an English so it's either me extra brain on that so you know your brother is working before you you know did that make you feel more encouraged like oh yeah I can do it or did it make you feel like oh man I'm already I'm behind and I you know should I keep going with this I've always thinking I'm always behind like I am kind of wasting four years compared with other artists so but it's totally okay for me because it doesn't actually is no need like a you have to be very young or something no it's not a required age so no matter how old you are let's keep going at the least you can draw it doesn't matter right and a lot of times of course you know as an artist we meet other artists and if I was to ask you who is one of the most kind of memorable artists for you that you met in your life who would that be and why was it so memorable why was it so important I think I really not met too many artists when I before I think the more say amazing guy our meet as the kakaako cocky at that period he we leave workshop in Singapore so it's really lucky for me and he is and he has actually really influence on my style as well yeah I learned a lot from him yeah and here's another always after that I realized there's so many good artists there like you and like Craig Mullin and and so James Jim Jones yeah so yeah to mine artists you live in a different place and then you move to another place a lot of times that job that you got is either from your friend you know telling somebody or from the internet there's other ways as well but those are the most the two most common ways were you discovered on the internet for Wetty or did you apply or what yeah it's I think when I come to New Zealand I never stopped I can look as a in with a workshop because I thought is really difficult to things so uh the reason I come to New Zealand in the first place is like I want to kick stop it so I applied a program here in a school and and also are you thinking like I have more free time working on my own project but when I come here it's really lucky that I can meet with some people who is working inside already and he is talking about the beta workshop and I'm really yeah I just hey can you send my portfolio to anyone inside here so he sent my portfolio to Richard Taylor with the owner and after three weeks later he contact me like hey we have one project which is exactly needy all kind of style you won't come with Lucas so I started working as a part-time I said around the three months later Richard talked to me like if you want come to like full-time so yeah why not I just so yeah I'm very lucky yeah now if you could talk to the ten year old Russell from the past what kind of advice would you give him oh it's a hard question yeah I think but why is let's say at that time I really play too many video games with too many times as I talked to him like I just spent more time trying some more oil paintings treasure most traditional kind of art in Creole skills yeah that maybe make you really happy on a future career if you could have an opportunity to thank someone from your past and who would he or she be and what did they do or teach you that was so special I think I still need to send to my wife I think because we married already like five years and I think I really need to take time with her but the most of my time I just focus on my art and yeah he she sometimes she also complained to me like how can we go outside to watch a movie and every every time she talked to me like that I'm thinking that I have to convince myself to go out with her to watch a movie you know I'm saying I have already working three hours already Hey so that you can go out outside one hour I always like I had to talk with me and I actually I hated that you know I'm saying so I think I really – thank you her to support me as well yeah you know before when I was starting off I was very much on a mission you know like the only things that are important is drawing and eating and a little bit of sleep you know that was the only thing I cared about and for a long time it was very much like that like I just care about work that's all I wanna do and then it became because it was so long I actually had difficulty just hang out with my friends yeah you know it's like I would think why am I here why am I doing this I'm not getting any anything done I'm still thinking like yeah yeah so it's like we have to retrain ourselves relearn how to just have fun and hang out just people right yeah but the foam for right now it's really hard to me to doing that because you have to so many works to do yeah so we have to keep trying that I think yeah and you have two babies on the way oh my goodness yeah yeah well Russell it's been an absolute pleasure I want to thank you for your time and your thoughts yes thank you so much well Jaime today yeah

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