Thursday, 5 April 2012

Marc Hermitte Interview

I have had the privilege of having concept designs that I have created for a games project, turned into 3D models by Marc Hermitte and I hope that one day in the not so near future, more of my work will go through the 3D process via this talented 3D modeller, animator and artist. But, there is a great deal more to Marc than 3D work. He paints, writes and teaches and has had an interesting career that spans many media outputs.

Lloyd Harvey: Looking over your lavish website, you show an aptitude for 3D design and software packages and have a strong portfolio of architectural work but also, you show that you can draw and create realistic make up effects using latex and other techniques. And on top of that, you teach as well? I honesty don’t know where to begin!
Well, let us start at the beginning. How did you first decide that a career in the creative industries was right for you? Was it something that was gradual or something that you knew from a very young age that you wanted to get involved with?

Marc Hermitte: Actually I never plan anything. Have you see a jelly fish? It can barely swim, it's mostly pushed around by the streams or the wind. I'm a jelly fish. Sometimes, a door opens just in front of you while others get closed on your back. Some people decide to ignore them and stay the course, whatever happens. I tend to see new opportunities and adventures ahead. I always made a living with my passions and I've been very fortunate.
I was 16 when I saw Ridley Scott's Alien and found out about H R Giger. I already drew and painted since childhood but this was truly a revelation and I don't think I was the only one. At that time, I started using an airbrush and did my first makeups and prosthetics. But you know, Geneva is not the key place for those things, especially to find material and information.

When I graduated High School I decided to start studying art in the “Decorative Art School” of Geneva. I had so much work painting murals that I didn't finish the school and quit after two years. After a few years something happened in my life and I started traveling for a while. Mostly the Caribbean and South America. I did a hundred different things from fisherman to wrestler. Don't ask me why, when I came back to Geneva in 91, I started working in sport clubs and went to get certifications in California. While I was studying to be a fitness instructor and physical coach, I worked for the California Theater and did latex foam prosthetics and makeup for “beauty and the beast”. Back in Geneva, I used to work during the day as a fitness instructor and having a low sleep requirement, I was painting, sculpting and making molds at night.

At that time, I purchased Dick Smith's “Advanced Makeup Course” and learned quite a few tricks from that humble genius. In 98 I went to Vancouver Canada to find out about the industry. A friend of mine was working at Toby Lindala's workshop (X-Files, Millennium) and told me It was worth opening something there. I never believed I was good enough but I tried anyway and we opened SFX Studios in Burnaby, BC.

In the beginning, I was doing most of the sculpting and painting, sketching and creature design. I loved the speed at which you have to work for TV shows. The Outer Limits (we did the two last seasons) for instance had always two episodes in the making, one that we were completing and a new one that we had to start working on. Reading the script and making designs and FX breakdown is usually a matter of one or two days. Tight budgets and short deadlines are the rules. After a few artists around us died of cancer (nasty products and cheap protection) I decided to make the move toward CGI and 3D, fields that had already attracted me for a couple of years.

So, as you see, everything had been carefully planed all along!

Were you trained or are you self taught and did you grow up in a family that fostered creativity?

Mostly self taught, with the exception of Dick Smith's advanced course. I think that the first man who tried to draw or paint didn't learn from anyone. He had to invent, observe, test... I feel like if I try to learn too much from someone, I'm going to mimic, somehow, his style and manners. I can learn a lot by studying a piece of art that I like and by watching things around. My parents have always been very supportive, to the point that their dinning room became my workshop for a while and they didn't dare inviting people home for a year or more.

Because of the scope of your work, you must have a very wide range of influences and inspirations. Who inspires you artistically, stylistically and what impacts on the content of your personal driven artwork?

The first that come to my mind would be Jeronimus Bosch, Mattias Grünwald, the Detmold brothers, Gustave Doré... then Giger opened a door and it took me time to get out of his gravitational field. Hans Bellmer has been (and still is) a very strong figure for me, Flemish Master like Quentin Metsys, Pieter Brügel, Van Eyck and outsiders like the belgian artist Paul Delvaux. Enki Bilal... Not to mention digital artists such as Meat Meyer, Henrich Kimerling... too many to mention here, really!

Some artists have that fundamental quality that when you look at their work you understand how it's done. There is a very strong line empowering the design but it is the strength and quality of the sketches that let you feel the creative process, the bones under the skin. (Wayne Barlowe and Neville for instance) You instantly feel like you want to grab a pencil and start drawing.

When creating personal work, how do you conceive ideas and concepts and in what way do you approach creating a piece? Do you decide that in the beginning you will want to do a drawing or 3D render then fit the idea to that medium or is it more of a spontaneous experience? Do you plan ideas meticulously in sketches or because you find real freedom in digital medias, you experiment on a digital canvas?

In general, I tend to follow my guts, both with a pencil or a mouse. I like to start “fuzzy” and find out where the lines bring me to. Sketches have a strength that finished works tend to loose. I'd like to keep that strength until I decide I'm done. Too much preparation doesn't work for me, I feel like I'm copying myself and there is no more spontaneity. Then for specific (mostly commercial) works, I'm actually able to plan things out somehow.
The good thing with digital medias is that you can try everything out without destroying your work. I generally save numerous increments of my scenes so that I can always go backward.

If you think about it, digital art has re-defined the value of art, as it removes the uniqueness of a creation.

We’ve spoke about your commissioned work before in emails and over Skype and what strikes me is the number of different projects you have been involved with. Currently you and I are working on a number of different computer games together, which is incidentally how we met. Has doing computer game work always been something that you have wanted to be a part of or? What sort of computer games would you love to be involved with creating in the future and what computer games make you think, “Wish I was part of that project”?

I worked in the past for Electronic Arts in Vancouver but that had nothing to do with 3D. We (at SFX Studios) were casting the little rubber trackers that performers wear during the motion capture sessions.

I think that computer games have a great potential but they mostly tend to follow the same path as TV or the Movie industries. No real content, brainless action, sci-fi worlds... Great artistry in the service of scripts that would fit in a matchbox. I'm thinking of a new application of the game engines, especially now with increasing graphics capacities. A virtual piece of art you could travel into, interact with the artist's intimate world, penetrate into a painting that would become the game. That's something I've been thinking about for almost ten years.

Now I won't deny myself the pleasure I take when sculpting, painting and animating those little buggers you designed for the game we met on!

Not just computer games, but what other types of projects would you like to turn your hand to?

I would have been proud of working on “Fight Club”, or “Enter the Void”, both risk-taking anti commercial projects with the budget of blockbusters. The first Matrix was very innovative visually and benefited from a really strong scenario, nice one to have on your resume too.

I love Guillermo del Toro's personal movies, like “the Devil Backbone” or “Pan's Labyrinthe”. I rather consider the final result of a project, artistically I mean, than the number of kick ass vfx I have to endure for 2 hours.

But mostly, you're just a little part of those big productions. The Holy Grail for me would be to handle my own project from start to finish, know that whatever the result is, I'm totally responsible for It. (sounds pretentious?)

Question Set 2 – Questions for every artist

What has been your career highlight to date?

Not sure If I feel like I'm having a career... and if I do, it's highlight is still to come.
What was the best piece of artistic advice you have received or can offer?

Being an artist is about taking risks. I remember in that movie “Tous les matins du monde”, Mr. de sainte Collombe, a very well known cello composer, after auditioning an applying student, tells him: “you'll play the music but you'll never be a musician”. Technique is not everything.

As an artist, what are your biggest challenges that you face?

Create something that pleases me.

The Random Question Section

Who do you think would win in a fight: Dumbledore from Harry Potter, or the Wizard he seems clearly based on, Gandalf from the Lord of the Rings…or Godzilla?

I guess Gandalf would. Isn't the original always better than the copy

At the time of asking, what are you top 5, all time favorite songs?

Some of Pergolesi's Stabat Mater, the last of Strauss's 4 last songs, Mahler's Kindertotenlieder and to change from classical, “avec le temps” (Leo Ferré) and say “les oiseaux de passages” (Brassens- Richepin) interpreted by maxime le Forestier. (Not too groovy, is It?)

Other than art or drawing, what hobbies do you have and frequently partake in?

I love sports, cooking (my dad is a chef) and writing.

What is your fondest childhood memory?

My dog “Ambra” who was one of my two only friends and made me feel protected when I was wandering around the fields or the woods. My parents were tenants of a big restaurant, always very busy, so I had more freedom than any other child of my age.

And finally, what handed are you? Left, right or ambidextrous? Or do you use some other kind of appendage?

The last part of you're question is interesting... however I'm just a right handed. 

More of Marc's stunning work can be seen at his website 

Interview by Lloyd Harvey 

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