Jason Tonks is a 3D/Concept Artist working with Bethesda Game Studio in Montreal who also teaches at Syn Studio. We talk with him more, learn about his inspiring path to the digital arts, why KeyShot is an important part of his workflow and get some great advice along the way.
What sparked your interest in becoming a 3D/Concept Artist?
Well, I grew up most of my life watching cartoons, playing video games and watching movies. I never really excelled at anything in school. When the time came to choose a career after college, I didn’t have the grades to get into the media and art University programs in town. I knew I wanted to go into the entertainment industry, but I didn’t know how to get in or what to do. My parents suggested saving up some money and enrolling in a private school offering a new diploma in 3D animation. That is where I fell in love with the digital arts and knew within the first semester I was on the right path. My first Gnomon Workshop tutorial DVDs from Vitally Bulgarov and Neville Page were what really sparked my interest in becoming a 3D/Concept Artist.
What was the turning point in your career? or highlights of your career?
I think there were many little highlights. I was lucky enough to get the chance to work with and be mentored by some amazingly talented artists throughout my career. Working at Warner Bros. was my turning point. We had a hell of an art team over the five years I was there. That’s what pushed me and motivated me the most to improve. I am truly grateful for that experience. Working with and leading such a great crew was priceless. Now, I find myself blessed to work for a great company like Bethesda that shares and believes in the same values I do. I am also lucky to teach at Syn Studio here in Montreal where I can pay it forward to the new generation of artists.
What is unique about your approach to a project?
I think that my 12+ years of experience as a 3D modeler, as a level artist and as a concept artist in games, helped me create my own pipeline and workflow that is efficient and productive. I consider myself a jack of all trades. I’m not the best at anything, but I try to be the most dependable and productive artist on every project I get the chance to work on.
What is your primary 3D modeling software?
My primary 3D modeling software is 3ds Max. It’s what I have always used since 3D school. It’s the software I am the most comfortable and productive with for modeling and the modeling tools are hard to beat.
Where in the process do you use KeyShot?
I use KeyShot in between 3D modeling and post FX; Mainly for creating materials, lighting, and rendering.
What makes KeyShot an important tool to have?
KeyShot is a beast of a software. It helps me save time when I’m on a tight deadline at work and when I have to bang out high-quality rendered shots. It can handle a lot of geometry in one scene at a time. Most programs don’t give me that kind of flexibility. It is awesome for rendering out small objects just as well as large-scale scenes that can reach up to 40+ million polygons. It is very stable; the material graph is easy to learn and to work with to achieve advanced procedural material/ texture layering. The interface is also simple and straightforward. It’s a great tool overall for concept art and high-quality 3D renders.
What advice would you give to someone interested in doing what you do?
There is no secret really to become a 3D/Concept Artist. It takes a buttload of practice and a little bit of determination and positive thinking. Once you get the basics down, by either going to school or learning online, find companies with good mentors that can help you get to that next level quickly. Money should not drive your career in the beginning. The opportunity to be around artists that are as motivated, as humble and as passionate as you are, is what will help you the most in the long run. You will get exponentially faster and better if you put in the time and effort in early. Believe in yourself.