Traditional artist, 3D animator, professional illustrator—Pete Sussi [known on Renderosity as "petes"] is a talent to be reckoned with. Not only is he a longtime Renderosity community member, Pete, is also one of those rare talented artists who is exempt from ego.
Between his job as a Senior Creative Director for one of the most prestigious advertising firms in NYC, and moderating two of Renderosity's more popular forums...the imagination goes wild when trying to contemplate how he squeezes more hours into a day than humanly possible. With all that, he still finds time to bring life and laughter into his amazing artistic character creations. For anyone about to whine, "I don't have enough time for my art," [and we all have said it]...just look to Pete for inspiration...
Dee-Marie: A higher education is an arguable necessity among artists, especially those working in the field of CGI. Did you graduate from college, or are you self-taught?
Pete Sussi: Well, I left college after two years. I was one credit short of an associate's degree…with the idea of picking it up the following year. But, it was 1987 at that point, and they were still teaching paste-up mechanicals and hand drawing fonts. Taking a freelance job over the summer, I realized this form of work was on its way out and opted to learn “on the job.”
Dee-Marie: Did your art background help you procure employment in the advertisement industry?
Pete Sussi: I originally tried to be an illustrator…I think my claim to fame was drawing the insects on the side of the Ortho® plant products. Soon after, I realized it is very hard to get steady work as an illustrator so I moved onto advertising.
DM: How many years have you worked at the ad agency, Walter F. Cameron, and do you work as a freelance artist, or are you part of an artistic team?
PS: My current job title is, Senior Creative Director, at Walter F. Cameron. I’ve been there for over ten years now—twenty years in advertising. [laughter] My job is a mixture of design, marketing and production, as well as overseeing the art department's staff and freelancers…and meetings...lots of meetings. [more laughter]
DM: What is a typical day at work, and are you able to incorporate your 3D artistic talents in your job?
PS: I’ve been working in 3D for eight years. At first, it was because I was burnt out in advertising and wanted a more pure artistic outlet. Soon after, it became a nice side job for me. About a year ago, my company asked if I could start a sister company to go after more 3D and editing work, this was the beginning of Miragemakers.
A typical day could be anything from character design, to motion graphics, to a 3D/live-action mix. Right now among our client list is the National Football League, Major League Baseball, General Mills® Cereals (Cocoa Puffs, Trix, Monster Cereal line, etc.), and quite a few odds and ends of Biz-to-Biz and Biz-to-Consumer.
Ad Campaign © Pete Sussi
View: Completed Animation
DM: I understand that in college you contemplated becoming an illustrator as a career alternative...do you still create non-3D images?
PS: Yes, I love 2D work too. Though I believe 3D and 2D live together quite nicely. Not just textures...but design and flow. In the past, I used a lot of pen-and-ink, as well as gouache. But now I do a lot of Adobe Photoshop work using a Wacom tablet. Much of my work is for illustrations for ads or animatics (motion pre-visualization of an animated commercial). When I retire, I’d love to get back into oils...but that’s still some way off.
DM: With such a busy schedule, Renderosity is privileged to have you as a moderator of two of its popular forums: LightWave and Character Creators. When did you first discover the Renderosity community?
PS: Well, thanks for the compliment. I found Renderosity pretty early on in my 3D career. I loved the fact that it was so friendly and resourceful. I started off in Carrara, and was quickly hooked on 3D. Soon after, I switched to LightWave, and have been active in the forum ever since. It’s amazing how many quality artists pass through the forum.
DM: Who first approached you with the invitation to become a Renderosity Moderator?
PS: Long time Renderosity Moderator, Moebius, asked me if I’d like to run the Character Creator forum as a forum coordinator—since I did a lot of character work. Then Zeno, who was the LightWave Moderator, asked if I’d like to take over that forum, and I’ve been a moderator ever since.
DM: As a former member of Renderosity's mod-squad, I personally understand the pressures and joys of working as a moderator; what do you like best about your role as a community leader?
PS: The amount of contacts I've made in the forums. Since I've started the new company, most all my "freelance help" has been through my contacts here, on Renderosity. Mostly, from two members; "pentamiter_beastmete" and "Esclece." Both are really talented guys, but more importantly, I trust them with my work. In a real production studio you don't get the freedom to work when you are "in the mood." It's about getting quality work done on extremely tight deadlines. Both these guys have earned my trust in both those areas. Thanks guys!
DM: Now it is time for the "fun stuff." How did your childhood, and your childhood surroundings, influence your artistic endeavors as an adult?
PS: I was born in Queens, New York, right outside of Manhattan. My father worked for a major Madison Avenue Ad firm. He was the one who first taught me to draw. We’d sit for hours on a weekend drawing with my brothers. He was also the first one who taught me to be critical. Even at a young age, he would critique my work…but, it was never said in a offending way. Which was a great way to understand that being critical is not a negative, but a positive.
DM: How has the influence of your father, specifically his critiques of your art, helped in your current work situation?
PS: I still use his critique techniques with my staff. I can rib them, even be harsh in a fun way...but to them it’s sort of a joke. Like they are passing some test. I also always explain why something is wrong and what would fix it. I know it sounds weird, but you'd be surprised how many, "I don't like it," comments come from clients without any explanation.
DM: Rather than sounding weird, I think it is very solid and outstanding advice. Now, to change course just slightly, besides your father, who (or what) were your artistic influences while growing up?
PS: I always loved the Old Masters of course, but for a character style, I always loved Mort Drucker—the old MAD Magazine's master caricaturist and cartoonist. He had a great way of having a style that was very realistic, yet characterized at the same time. However, there are many styles that I love and try to mimic.
DM: I can see how Mort Drucker would influence your youthful aspirations as an artist. So, here is a loaded question...what artist, music, or life experiences, currently influence your artistic creations?
PS: Hmmm...that is a loaded question. My iTunes list is all over the place. From jazz, to rock, to American Indian chant music. I love experiences. As far as art, right now there are a few: Sabastion Kruger, Marcus Pierson, of course Mort Drucker is an influence even today.
Also, I try to put myself in the "mood" for a specific artistic endeavor. For instance, if I want it strong and powerful, I put on strong powerful music...maybe some German Classical piece. If it's a soft "love" type piece, I'd put on some sappy tunes. You'd be surprised how your hand feels the music.
DM: What was your first CG creation and what software did you use to create it?
PS: Technically, my first 3D attempt was with Carrara and Poser. I believe it was titled Tunnel Guard [contains artistic nudity], which is still featured on my Renderosity gallery. But, my first “created” character was Zook. A sort of goofy alien, created in LightWave.
Zook © Pete Sussi
DM: Which genre (horror, fantasy, Sci-Fi) do you prefer for your CG creations?
PS: I love it all! Weird creatures, characters…I even love 3D motion graphics, like the graphics you see on the NFL games.
DM: One of my favorite of your characters is, The Oddfather. For the rare few who know nothing about this project…can you give our readers some background information on the image and the upcoming animation of the same name.
PS: The Oddfather has been around for quite some time, I think six years, or more, now. Originally, it was one of my first serious head creations. I always loved the Godfather movies, and I am a fan of faces with character. Eventually, I wanted to try lip-syncing, so I invited my friend, Dennis Daniel (whom I work with), over to my house to write a cute fifteen-second script. At the end of the night we had a good five-minute script. I eventually animated a minute of the script. It was funny, but it was my first animation, and after investing several months, I decided to put it away and chalk it up to a good experience.
After posting it in a few forums, I noticed I was getting a few thousand hits a day. It was great to know people enjoyed it, and I left it at that. However, over the next few years I was contacted by several directors looking to do anything from making an animated short, to TV spots, to a full movie. For one reason or another, whether I was uncomfortable with the deal, or they got cold feet, it always died out.
Soon after, I realized with so much interest in The Oddfather over the years, I should just produce it myself. First off, I remodeled all the figures; the head had a few upgrades. Everything else was rebuilt from scratch. I started to animate him, but to achieve the level of quality I wanted would have taken far too long, since my time was getting scarcer by the minute with my job. Luckily, I had met some great people here in the Renderosity LightWave forum. Forum member, Craig Monins, I felt, was always a great compliment to me. He was very technical, while I was better at building and texturing. Also, I feel we have a similar animation style. So, with that, I hired him to rig the figures and animate with me.
The Oddfather © Pete Sussi
The Oddfather Animation Preview
DM: The Oddfather animation preview is just too much fun! When can we expect to view the finished project?
PS: I hope to have the project done late summer of 2008 (fingers-crossed).
DM: Thank you so much, Pete, for taking the time out of your busy schedule to allow us to get to know more about you. Now, the inevitable last question…what advice do you have for artists who wish to break into the field of CG art?
PS: My biggest recommendation for artists is to be critical of your work and always challenge yourself. You need to be brutally honest with yourself and ask if your work is as good as some more popular artist. If not, why? And keep pushing yourself to better your art, working on the areas you feel are off. Too often “good, is good enough”. This will not get you noticed. Also, artists seem to shy away from things they feel are too hard. You need to break some eggs to make an omelet as the saying goes.
Other than that, studying art will always go a long way...whether it be school or on your own. If you're into characters, study muscles and faces—if hard-body is your thing, study industrial design.
By the way, I am not above any of those comments. I always see areas that need improvement, and I’m glad for it! The journey is half the fun.
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April 14 , 2008
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