An interview with Character Artist Sze Jones
The first time I met Sze Jones it was a late summer Saturday 2008, she was dropping off some artwork for a Blur Studios group showing at the Gnomon Gallery. We had some difficulty finding a good time to meet as she was working long hours at Blur, still feeding her constant search for new creative outlets with drawing courses and dance classes, then the group show on top of that. I was in the same boat with scheduling ST shoots and organizing the Gnomon Gallery show as well. I had saved that Saturday for volunteering at an adoption event for shelter animals, I think we both realized upon our first meeting that we were two girls that piled our plates high, and mutually respected that quality.
In person, she is not only visibly lovely and gracious but she has an immense patience that you can see and feel in her presence, she hangs on each word spoken and thinks long before forming her response. She is the rare listener and I believe it’s not only her natural kindness but the knowledge seeker within her that carries that trait so beautifully.
The most amusing memory I have of Sze is the day she arrived for her first Sketch Theatre filming session. We were tucked away upstairs in the ST studio for maybe two hours before we wrapped up for the night, when I opened the studio door, standing there in the hallway was a cluster of warm bodies anxiously awaiting their turn to meet Sze, she had groupies! No lie. I don’t even know how they knew she was there. But that’s how it goes with groupies you know…. A crafty bunch. She of course happily chatted with them in the hallway for another 30 minutes, that’s where the kind and gracious part comes in.
What do you enjoy about exploring your creativity within digital art?
The most compelling part of being a digital artist is the speed and connectivity of the mind to the visual I am creating. There is no limit, no boundary, no restrict in any form, shape, texture, movement or sound in the virtual world.
When did you make the transition from traditional to digital art? Was it fairly natural or did you have a hard time?
The transition happened fairly naturally, I always loved to draw girls when I was a little girl. The first encounter of digital art was playing a video game, Castlevania, on the Nintendo. I really like the pixel arts and the character designs in that game. I continued to study art in high school and colleges. Back then there were very few programs that would make digital art. The closest was graphic design and learning Photoshop. I then studied computer graphics in college and made character designs and modeling female figures. It was hard work but rather a fun time during the transition. I am currently employed as a Character Lead for Naughty Dog making female characters for video games.
I know that you have a varied interest in creative outlets, what has been your latest passion and do you see yourself moving into any new mediums?
I really enjoy the physical interaction with traditional media. Especially the smell and feel of water base clay, and the actual dimension of an object existing in real space. My goal is to find the balance and common ground for both traditional and digital mediums. I would like to explore different materials and mediums to best suit the ideas and effects desired. My next personal piece is fairly experimental and it will be composed of digital and traditional disciplines.
Having worked at Blur Studios and now at Naughty Dog, what would you say are the greatest challenges of working at a studio?
The greatest challenge is to make high quality models day by day with intensive focus, working with lightening speed but retaining the artistic integrity of the artwork. The goal is to make the digital model come to life and memorable with very short screen time. It helps a lot to have both digital and traditional experience in order to develop an effective and personal workflow to get the task done.
What advice would you give specifically to new female artists trying to get hired in a male dominated industry, particularly in a studio environment?
My advice is to follow your heart and create artwork that you enjoy the most. Focus on your craft and always respect other artists. Try your best to polish and finish the project you have started. Take only constructive criticism and know your value and place at all times. Learn, share and help others. Know your limit, be honest and open with others no matter what the circumstances are. Be strong and confident personally, artistically and technically.
Sze definitely walks that walk, she is an inspiration to all with her talent, kindness, strong vision and work ethic, if anyone is looking to work in the film and games industry I would heed those words wisely. Thank you Sze! – ST
Check out Sze’s Sketch Theatre videos here
Written by Lily Feliciano for www.sketchtheatre.com
Special thanks to Fernando Caire for his assistance!