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Transforming Stories into Magical World with Nicolas Imhof

October 25, 2013 | Campus News

The One Academy students learnt plenty of first hand knowledge in the art of production design and storytelling through the seminar by Swiss digital artist Nicolas Imhof. He motivated the students to strive for excellence in their endeavour for marvellous artistry, with which designers can turn the wildest ideas into silver screen blockbusters.

Armed with extensive experience in the digital art industry, including 7 years of concept arts drawing and production design in the Hollywood, Imhof is back in Malaysia for yet another round of the masterclass titled ‘From Story to Drawing’, which saw overwhelming attendance by Digital Animation and Illustration students. Imhof shared about ways for artists to expand the horizons. He emphasised on the importance of meaning and emotion in the paintings, the source of imaginations, softwares and techniques used for paintings, as well as tips on making a living in the arts industry.

Recounting his story, Imhof disclosed that his parents began nurturing him in arts when he was 15 since he was really interested in that field. From a special effects designer in Rhythm & Hues studio, Imhof moved on to be a 3D modeller and animator for blockbusters such as Babe II, Battlefield Earth, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and Scooby Doo. Reading Harry Potter the novel reminded him of childhood days, and Imhof felt engulfed by the magical world. After thoughtful study, he managed to conjure snowy Hogwarts castle and other landscapes into alluring visuals. This highlight the inspiration we may derive by reading and travelling widely, Imhof told the audience.

As a big fan of ancient historical sites, Nicolas tend to include many contrasting scenes in his designs, for example, brightness and darkness, future and past, new and old, and mixes all of them into the environment that he creates. These dreamlike worlds were filled with intriguing realism, and form the backbone of the platform where stories were set to unfold. Amazed by what they saw in this out-of-classroom learning experience, The One Academy students were motivated to enhance their mastery of art.

Apart from thinking and observing keenly, he was also very fascinated by the working of traditional machines. “As an artist, I have to reproduce what I see, and love to produce it truthfully.” Imhof advised students to observe every detail in our surroundings attentively, and question whatever that intrigues them, as we are surrounded by inspirations in everyday life. By observing how others paint, we might also understand their techniques.

Imhof then demonstrated techniques to transform concepts of people and places in the scripts into dynamic, charming digital masterpieces. He accentuated that the importance of fundamentals of art couldn’t be over-emphasised, as understanding the basics is the key in developing one’s styles.

Feeling that the American cinema was too commmercialised, he decided to lend a helping hand to the struggling independent films scene back in the Europe. Imhof thus returned to Switzerland in 2003, and began assisting independent filmmakers to produce niche films, besides lecturing and exhibiting his artworks around the world, sharing his vast expertise and experience in the field to budding artists.

For him, working as a freelancer allowed him to learn how to survive. Improving one's communication and persuasion skills is vital, as it will come in handy when artists try to strike a balance between pursuing idealism and making a livelihood. “Start building your contact network. An artist has to be known, to be seen, and always look for opportunity to sell yourself.” In addition, artists should fully understand clients’ demands, and present the pros and cons of every option. Advocated as part of The One Academy’s practical coaching approach, it is proven that sharings such as this are tremendously effective in gearing students towards excellence.

Imhof stressed that one would never walk alone in creating art, as like-minded friends would surely inspire and help each other. He advised budding artists to create movies and animations without spending too much on Visual Effects. Imhof opined that artists should sincerely appreciate one's own works, because it is genuinely unique and belonged to the creator himself.

To gain a wider exposure, Imhof encouraged the students to work in different aspects of the discipline and keep the mind open to new subject matters, and alerted young artists against focusing work in just one area. Last but not least, he reminded the audience to plan the career advancement thoughtfully, “Keep it in mind that you are the one who creates art, and you are actually dealing with your future.”

Prior to this, he has visited The One Academy twice, and participated in the ‘Swiss Design in Hollywood’ world exhibition in 2010, whose Malaysian leg was hosted by The One Academy. Together with another Swiss designer, Christian Scheurer, they showcased an array of timeless digital artworks produced for many blockbusters such as The Lord of The Rings, Hellboy, Ratatouille and Flushed Away, and successfully aroused students’ passion in digital art.

Learning directly from professionals is the essence of The One Academy’s ‘Masters Train Masters’ philosophy, which allowed students to acquire the latest knowledge from creative practitioners face-to-face. With insights and guidance by renowned masters, The One Academy students will stay ahead of their peers, launch into successful careers and achieve ‘Just World Class Results’!

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