What is your name and your current occupation?
I am José Alves da Silva and I am a freelance character artist/modeller.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
I didn’t have any crazy jobs. However I have a degree in architecture and I have worked in the architecture visualization field for many years before dedicating myself to characters.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
As part of my work I had the opportunity to write several articles/tutorials for magazines like 3D Artist and 3DCreative. These magazines give me a lot of freedom regarding the images I produce, so they end up being very personal. I enjoy this creative freedom a lot and I think that I have produced some of my best characters for these magazines. Among these are the Boxing Kangaroo, the Barrio Guy, General Rhino and Lil’B, for example. I am also involved in the creation of sculptures for collectible figures and model kits. I am very proud of some of these characters, like the Cello Girl and Sasha, the welder girl.
How did you become interested in animation?
Even though I am not an animator, we all have to agree that animation is a kind of magic. As many people, Disney films had a huge impact on me. Seeing these characters come to life is just...magical! I always loved drawing and creating original characters. Working in the animation business not only allowed my characters to come to life but I also found an industry that is willing to pay me to do what I love. Can it get any better?
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I live in Portugal and it would have been impossible to work as a freelancer in character creation 10 years ago. The internet developed to the point in which you can present your portfolio to the world and you can work remotely. I started to show my work online and it started to get some attention. This led to professional contacts that led to projects. I guess a good portfolio never gets unnoticed.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
As a freelancer I have to be very organized and strict because I don’t have a boss telling me what to do. I try to work the same amount of time as if I was in a studio or office. I usually start at around 8:30 and work until 18:30. If it is necessary to crunch I will do it, but it is also important to keep some time for the family. A good balance is essential for some sanity.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
The sculpting of the character concept is the part I like the most. The transformation of a blobby shape into something beautiful and defined is a great joy. Especially that turning moment in which you start to see the character or feel that you have nailed its personality.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
There are 2 technical steps in the creation of a character that can be quite boring. One is the retopology stage in which you create a new model on top of your sculpture in order to have it ready for animation. The other is the setting of the UVs in order to be able to create the textures. The good news is that there is a tendency for these processes to get more automatic with the development of software.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
My main tools are 3DStudio Max and Zbrush. 3DSMax to create the base models at the beginning and to create the scenarios, light and render. Zbrush for sculpting, 3D Concept and detailing.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
As a freelancer, I think that the most difficult part is to compete with the rest of the world. There are many talented artists around the world. Why should a client pick you instead of them? You have to make an effort to be at the top 1% all the time in order to ensure survival.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
When I went to Siggraph I had the opportunity to talk and meet some great artists but I guess my biggest brush with artistic greatness was having the opportunity to hang out with Serge Birault (a super talented french illustrator) for a whole week when he visited Portugal. Great guy!
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
Without getting personal, my toughest professional situation was when I had to decide to leave a full time job in a company in which I worked for 15 years and start the freelancing adventure. I already had 2 kids at the time and I was not sure if I could get enough income from my freelancing activity. Today I think that was one of my best decisions in life, but at the time it was a bit scary.
Any side projects you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
Lately I have been working mainly for the Advertising field. Unfortunately, it is not leaving me too much time for personal stuff. However, I have some cool ideas for new collectible figures but they are still a secret
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
My most unusual hobby was bowling. I practiced bowling seriously for some years and I even won some trophies at national level. However, due to a pulse injury and parenthood I stopped. I would love to get back to practice some day.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Learn and compare your work with the best in business. Aim that high. Also, understand that software and technology are constantly changing and they are only tools. You have to be proficient with those, but more important is to learn the basics of art, stuff that exists for over a hundred years, like anatomy, color theory, composition, acting and drawing. These will always be present in each of your creations, no matter what technology you use.