ArtStation Masterclasses 3 Instructor Spotlight: Alex Nice

An online learning experience unlike any other, the ArtStation Masterclasses offer exclusive access to Q&A forums with 10 all-star artists at the top of their field that users can interact with from anywhere they are in the world.

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A veteran of the entertainment industry, Masterclass Instructor Alex Nice has over 15 years of experience as an Art Director, concept artist and illustrator on films like The Jungle Book, Hunger Games, Oblivion, Pacific Rim, Elysium, Tron Legacy, and Amazing Spider-man, just to name a few As a member of the Art Directors Guild, Alex currently works in the Art Department as a Concept Illustrator collaborating with Directors and Production Designers to visualize ideas in the beginning stages of production.

Masterclass: Advanced Key Art Illustration

Art Departments in the film industry are constantly changing as new tools and technology make things easier and faster. However, with these new tools comes additional complexity. The never-ending challenge is finding a comfortable balance between art and technology within tight, uncompromising production schedules. As a professional artist for feature film, Alex will cover his pipeline for creating a sci-fi environment set using various 2D and 3D applications. Throughout the lesson, we’ll explore a few of the new next-gen tools available to us, and find ways to save time when creating professional production art. This lesson will stay broad in scope so that it can apply to all levels of artist regardless of experience, and focus on concepts rather than what buttons to press.

Tell us about one of your most valuable learning experiences on the job.

Well I’ve been in the film industry for almost 15 years and worked on about 20 films. The most valuable learning experience I would say is learning how to keep a positive attitude regardless of the situation. Sometimes jobs get really challenging, and it’s easy to get cynical about things. Don’t give into the dark side! Stay positive and always do the best you can. People who are pleasant to be around tend to always stay hired.

What is one thing that people who follow your course can look forward to or expect to learn?

I’m somewhat of a connoisseur of tutorials and I watch them on my iPad in the background while I work quite often. I find the best tutorials are the ones that broadly cover the process rather than getting too technical because there are varying levels of skilled artists. Because of that, I tried to do demos that can relate to everyone and with the ultimate goal of sharing new workflows.

For my masterclass I did two demos. The first one is a time-lapse using 3D to create an environment concept illustration. Then, I noticed there’s a lot of 360° tutorials out there but they but they mostly focus on sketching or drawing in 360 and then just stopping there.

For my second demo, I tried to do something a little bit unorthodox. I started with a 360° panoramic photograph, turned that into a 3D scene, then painted on top of that in Photoshop. Going one step further, I brought my scene into a game engine to interactively explore in VR. That might seem like a bit of overkill, but going though a pipeline from start to finish should hopefully inspire some new ideas in those who watch.

As someone who works as both a 2D and 3D generalist, how much do you think that being comfortable in both is important to get a job in the industry?

I think we’re in the process of seeing 3D becoming a pretty standard tool in film design. There’s just so many benefits and with GPU renderers like Octane, Redshift, Keyshot, and Vray, it’s fast and efficient.

On the last two films I worked on, not only did I create copious amounts of traditional concept illustrations, but because I mostly used 3D as a base, I was also  able to bring my 3D environments into VR.  3D and interactive VR are changing Production Design. The ability for the Director, Production Designer, or the cinematographer to spatially walk around inside my concept environments set designs has been huge.

 What was one of your favourite recent projects to work on and why?

It may sound crazy, but my favorite job that I’ve worked on in a career of over 20 movies was the last film I was on, John Wick: Parabellum. The reason why is because I got to work so closely with both the Director and also the Cinematographer from The Shape of Water (a huge inspiration to me).

Together, we created a massive set design made up almost completely of glass. Starting with 2D concept art, I was then able to create this set in VR using Unreal Engine. This allowed us to do interactive shot planning, set decoration, stunt-vis etc. Typically in film, you only have a few days between the time that the set is the physically built, and filming. With VR, we were able to interactively walk the set months in advance.

The big payoff on this project for me was being invited on to the real physical set for filming and being able to walk through a design we worked on for so many months. No words can describe how incredible it is to walk around something you helped create. It’s surreal. This kind of stuff really excites me.

Find out more about ArtStation MasterClasses and save $50 when you buy your ticket by February 19. 

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About the author

Sierra is the Editor of ArtStation Magazine.