Michael Morris is a matte-painter and concept artist now based in Los Angeles. For his professional portfolio, he used the ArtStation Pro Sidewinder theme and made it his own with by adding his logo and creating a custom color scheme.
“I love the website builder. It was so easy and straight forward to create a very professional website in such a short period of time. The Pro themes are all fantatsic.”
In this interview, Michael shares his views on the importance of knowing 3D, how he got his start as an artist and more.
How did you begin your career as an artist?
I originally graduated from Lake Washington Institute of Technology near Seattle in 2011 with a degree on Video Game Design and Animation. My main focus and direction at the time was the game industry with companies like Bungie and Monolith literally blocks away from where I lived and went to school. I have always loved creating worlds and environments. A few years after I graduated, I really started to focus on conceptual art and digital matte painting work as a way to bring those environments to life. I would watch FZD and Level Up videos nonstop trying to absorb and learn everything I could.
One day in December 2016, I received an email from one of the Executive VFX supervisors at Double Negative TV in London. He was browsing ArtStation and had come across some of my work I had recently uploaded and I guess there was something stood out to him. I am still so surprised by the whole thing when I look back on it. They were interested with bringing me on board to be part of the newly formed team in Los Angeles. A few phone calls and a month or two later, I left my job stocking boxes at Costco, packed my things, moved from Seattle to Los Angeles and the rest is history. This has honestly been a dream come true for me and has led to meeting so many amazing people and getting some great opportunities. I also really have to give a huge shout out and thank you to ArtStation for having such an awesome platform for artists to showcase their work and you never know who might stumble across your page.
Tell us about one of your favorite projects.
I guess I would say one of the my favorite projects was getting the opportunity to work on the season finale of Westworld Season 2, as it got nominated for an Emmy for best Visual Effects this past year. Though it didn’t win, it was still a great feeling to be part of a team that got recognized in that way, and definitely one of the highlights of my career thus far. It was such an awesome experience to work on such a high profile TV show.
What do you think is a portfolio “must-have”?
Showing at least a basic understanding and knowledge of 3D as a DMP artist (and as a concept artist to a certain extent as well) is imperative these days. 3D has become such huge aspect of the industry that having those skills and knowledge for various 3D toolsets is a great thing for any concept artist or matte painter to have under their belt. The 3D work doesn’t necessarily have to be beautifully rendered with detailed environments or anything like that, but showing anything from simple geometry for blocking out composition layouts, to setting up lights in a scene to help develop mood and lighting quickly is awesome to show on your portfolio. 3D tools really open up so many new avenues for exploration and creativity in general. It also shows that you are a versatile artist with both 2D and 3D skills which can definitely make you stand out as an asset to prospective recruiters.
What was one of your biggest career challenges?
I think the biggest challenge for me personally so far was, and still is, always keeping up the confidence and determination to push myself as an artist. That goes for both professional work as well as personal work that I do in my free time. There will always be the ups and down. I know when I was first starting out, it was so overwhelming sometimes when I would see so much fantastic work posted online and I felt like I could never get anything I did to look anywhere near the quality of what I wanted it to or visualized in my head.
It can be very disheartening and frustrating, especially when you are beginning, but you just have to take a step back and keep working on the basics and goals for yourself to try to achieve. There are definitely times when it is so easy to think that maybe you’re focusing on the wrong direction, or that your skills aren’t improving as fast as you hope, and that can be very hard. But never quit learning and growing as an artist, and never ever give up, it definitely will pay off in the end and all those countless hours and years of hard work will start to show, and that is the most rewarding part.