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Meet the Faculty: Trever Johansen

Trevor is an instructor in the 3D Modelling and Visual Effects Production program and is an alumnus of the 3D Animation program. His contributions to an Emmy Award-winning episode of Vikings were recently recognized by the Television Academy. The episode, "The Best Laid Plans," won for Outstanding Special Visual Effects In A Supporting Role - 2020 earlier this fall.

We sat down with him to talk about how he got started as a character artist working in 3D and VFX, as well as some of the challenges and rewards of working in the industry.

How did you get into 3D and VFX?

I got into 3D and VFX from a close friend of mine who suggested Humber College. He currently works at Rockstar and is a technical artist and [he] told me about the program and what it had to offer.

What does your creative process look like?

My creative process always starts off with a long walk around the block or the neighborhood and a good audiobook, preferably something fantasy. I usually start mulling up ideas for characters or backstories and from there I start sketching and grabbing references. From there, I start by opening up ZBrush with my reference and start loosely sculpting my basic forms and shapes to work the silhouette and the design of the character. I always tend to think ahead of projects so I have a consistent workflow and so I avoid trouble in the future. Whether that is UVs or retopology or rendering software, thinking ahead and planning are always good things to do.

What is the best advice you received from industry mentors?

Some of the best advice I've received always went back to the basics: work on your primary forms and shapes. Some of my mentors are Gregory Strangis, Werner, my lovely wife Emily, and lastly my parents, who encouraged me to do what I wanted to do and never said no. Unfortunately, they're both gone now, but having some pictures around the apartment reminds me to keep pushing myself and to keep trying new and exciting things. I honestly couldn't do it without them.

What tips do you have for students who are looking for work in your industry?

 It's hard becoming a character artist, and you need to put a lot of hours and study in to improve yourself and study smart. I've had teachers say, “I don't know if you should do characters--it might be too difficult,” but in the end, stick to what your gut tells you and if you work hard enough, you'll come out on top. Some great books I’d suggest are Anatomy for Sculptors and Michael Hampton’s figure drawing book Figure Drawing: Design and Invention.

What is the most challenging aspect of working in your industry?

I would say learning the different pipelines each studio has. Every studio is rendering with some other software or using some sort of different shotgun or Linux, so for the first two months, you have to be able to learn it and ask questions.

What is the most rewarding aspect of working in your industry?

I’d say the first shot you do and seeing it on TV and going, “Hey, I made that!” But my favorite aspect of 3D and VFX is teaching it to other people. The industry is fun and all, but when you teach students, not only do you get to create or design a lesson that is fun for the students but it’s also fun for you!

Trevor Johansen