Luis Zúñiga

 

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What is your name and your current occupation?
My name is Luis Zúñiga, and I’m an artist at Fair Play Labs, what I do there is concept art, illustration, background art,

What is your name and your current occupation?
My name is Luis Zúñiga, and I’m an artist at Fair Play Labs, what I do there is concept art, illustration, background art, UI design, UI animation, UI integration, 3d animation, modelling, rigging, texturing and unity 3d integration.

What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
Well, I’m not the craziest person, but I’ve done handicraft, I worked at a couple of shops, I’ve been a pizza making/delivery guy, a guitarist for tips, and I’ve done some construction work before going to college at age 18, since I began to study digital animation, all work I’ve done has been in the animation/illustration area.

What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
I loved to be part of Poster Punch’s second and fourth exhibition, The Pin-up Drink and Poster Punch Open MMXIII, I also loved to be part of El Obsequio, my graduation project, I’m glad we were able to get the work done and to create something we felt and still feel very proud of, that graduation project was under my name only, but I am really grateful to the +20 people that was by my side working on it. At Fair Play I’ve been part of +12 video games and I liked the team dynamics in most of them, but there’s one that I totally loved being part of, mostly because it is till now our most ambitious project of them all, Color Guardians, and its almost done, I love to work on my solo and team projects, all of them have been great and have taught me a lot, but those I mentioned are the ones that comes first to my mind.

Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I’m from Costa Rica, and my insertion to the animation/illustration business came naturally, I was just studying animation and sharing with friends, when in 2010 (I think) Bocetos Costa Rica was born and all the people, cool events and dynamics motivated me, I did my best to keep on improving and impressing them, and along the years I became a regular within the community, that helped me not only because of learning and improvement but because there was a ton of huge/experienced/awesome artists there, and meeting them was an awesome thing I’m still glad today, I got used to work in whatever project I liked, personal projects, and one night a guy called for a job, the guy was Oliver Zúñiga, president of Costa Rica Animation Holdings and he was asking me to work in a little project at Martestudio, an awesome animation studio in which he is co-owner of, since then more offers came to me and the rest is history.

What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
I arrive between 9 and 9:30 am after going to the gym (depending on the day), already knowing where I’m gonna start, say hello to everybody and just start working, usually with a earl grey tea, I have to report all my progress to the lead artist of the project I’m working at the moment, then lunch time, with co-workers or colleagues at the coffee shop of my former college, or just alone watching something on Netflix or Youtube, in some projects, depending on who the producer in charge is and the size of the project we may need daily reunions or something like that, but a thing that is always a must is jira or trello, using scrum is needed for a good team work, and weekly reunions with the whole company to be informed of our progress, achievements and future goal, apart from that I just sit and work in whatever they ask me to do with the help of my fellow artists around me. I finish my time at Fair Play around 7 pm and go back to my house, most of the times to work in some of my ongoing personal illustration project (I have a schedule to control the progress and planning) at other times I have to help some friend or friends of mine with their projects or prepare myself for a convention/exhibition, and other times I hang out with friends, at midnight my day normally ends.

What part of your job do you like best? Why?
The learning, since I’ve been working I’ve always had to do stuff I didn’t know how to do. My first flying bug, my first quadruped (and second and third and fouth), the first time I animated a long skirt using just joints, working with vectors, importing to unity, animating textures; I had a lot of first times since the beginning, learning how to use flash, illustrator and unity, and adapting myself to the workflow. And I keep on learning every day, as my partners are amazing artists, most of them more experienced than me and some others with really mad skills, and I love it, it’s challenging and an awesome learning experience, thanks to Fair Play I’ve learned how to lead a team and how to follow orders. Apart from that I also love those little things like the Christmas party or the group birthday celebrations, the soccer games for the ones who like it, the BBQs, and I could continue with tons of things I love about Fair Play.

What part of your job do you like least? Why?
Some times I find very difficult to get along with the project I’m working on (depending on the project). Usually our clients are well known by all of us and we get along and communicate quite well but in some cases it’s still difficult to follow what their are asking related to a piece of art, because sometimes it doesn’t make sense to me (I know, a lot of people struggle with this too). My problem in this cases is that I learned to just accept whatever they ask and if they got feedback for me 20 times in a row I just follow their instructions and try to please them, but by doing that I might be working with the least I have because at that point I become a little bit of a mindless tool, and that’s not good for the final product. Still I always try to keep in mind that to help the team the best I can, I have to do what they need me to do and not what I think I should do, part of my team work learning experience.

What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis, how has technology changed in the last few years in your field and how has that impacted you in your job?
Well, at Fair Play we artists use mostly pc, windows 7 and 8, programmers use iOS, and our main softwares (for artists) are Photoshop, Flash, Illustrator, After Effects, Maya, Blender, 3dMax, Zbrush, Unity3d, and some helpers like the Texture Packer and some plug-ins the dev team has made to make our life a little bit easier. There are annual upgrades of half the software we use, with Unity for example we experienced such changes that we had to change our workflow a bit, now it’s more agile, lighter and we are now allowed to put a lot more of detail in our games, but the thing is always 50/50, for us to take advantage of the software upgrades and improvements we have to improve ourselves.

What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
Keeping the balance, art and animation have this very unique and powerfull thing: they drive you crazy and they became your world. That’s a good thing, if that’s your case congrats you are closer to be an animator, but there’s even more to a human life, and for your own sake you have to find time to place all the other stuff that matters. My obsession combined with huge risks and the requirements I had to deal with because of the scholarship on my student days almost got me killed several times, at age 19 I suffered my first case of cardiac arrhythmia and it was just the beginning of 4 more years of a very destructive lifestyle. The bright side of this is that now that I have the chance of living the way I want, I’m able to set limits and enjoy my journey through art without sacrifice my health. The other thing is the big wall between artists and the audience, people just take art for granted they think everything just comes to existence automatically, and we as artists think that they just couldn’t even imagine the work that lies behind every image or every clip so we surrender and give up on them, and that way of thinking keeps on separating us more and more. We cannot let this happen because we need the audience, we need people to value our art and to understand that it does comes with a fair cost in the most appealing way possible.

If you could change the way the business works and is run how would you do it?
I would change the way that exposure works, all the time in music, animation, live action, etc, the exposure is given by a sponsor and the whole thing will be revolving around money, and usually just a bit of criteria about other aspects, and we are getting used to see every day stuff we don’t like just because its popular, meanwhile in some other places of earth lots of fantastic project are getting made and we are losing the chance to enjoy them. Now with the internet we are experimenting a quite interesting phenomenon, awesome talented people are getting more exposure than ever, but at the same time tons of trash is getting made, so the final experience for you to find something good is like finding a coin in a dumpster. Another thing that annoys me is the way mobile devices has turned the game development industry in an untenable business, cause people are getting used to download a game without paying for it, and then the game developers need to put some monetary charges to unlock special features or else they would gain nothing, but in that way the user experience loses a lot and the developer still isn’t able to get back the investment, and who wins with that? The device developers, and that’s something that needs to change.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
I haven’t travel out of my country yet, but I have met animation greatness, first in John Timms, my first mentor, a widely known 2d/3d animator and now comic artist for Marvel too, I met Geoff Hemphill, lead animator for Rango, great guy, very caring. I also met Miguelanxo Prado, a huge comic artist from Spain, he came to my college to speak from his experience about the value of sketches, I learned a lot that day, Tim Townsend, a great ink artist from Marvel, he also came to visit Costa Rica and we had a great time, Tom Bancroft, former 2d animator for Disney, just awesome, I have a drawing he did of me and other I did of him as he was drawing me, I learned a lot about character design and development from him, I also met Jimmy Palmiotti and his wife Amanda Conner (writer and artist couple), Jimmy’s a fun guy to hang with, also Mark Irwin from DC came to Costa Rica, now that I think about it, I’m very lucky I’ve met lots of awesome people even though I’ve never traveled out of my country, I’ll love to meet Pascal Campion tho, he is awesome.

Describe a tough situation you had in life.
When I was about to start my thesis my mom suffered from a critical breakdown in her back that left her paralyzed from the waist down, and I had to take care of her, find a job and also take care of everything in the house, with no father, no brothers and no family other than my mom. At my college they told me to look up for my family and solve my situation within 4 months and then come back to start my thesis, so I did it, I got my job, and went to the doctors I was able to pay for to help my mom, she recovered the movility of her legs but it wasn’t the same, she was extremely slow and always in pain, always fragile. We continued trying to fix our situation and I came back to work on my thesis, and they told me I lost 4 months to do it, so I had only 8 months left to do a short animated film from scratch, I could not use more time because if I did I would lose my scholarship, I couldn’t change my project because I would have to re take a class to get another project approved and repeating a class means loosing my scholarship, and so on… So I decided to go on and work on my thesis while working at my job and taking care of the house chores being absolutely sure it was impossible for me to finish the project under such conditions (I already had experience making animated films to know what I was dealing with). The first 4 months were the worst state of despair I remember to have lived in, I was alone, trying to making sense to the scripts, and making the storyboard, characters/enviroment design, color palettes, modelling, texturing, etc. It was until rigging that I found help from friends, and then my tutor (awesome guy btw) helped me to make a plan for distributing the animation shots and backgrounds, we were advancing quickly, but not quick enough… When the 8 months passed the project wasn’t done yet, I talked to my animation school’s principal, and she told me not to worry about that, she helped me to improve the quality of everything related to the project and it came to a good end. For me it is still hard to believe it, now after more than a year of that I’m well recovered and my mom is way better than before, and I still have my job now with a degree in animation.

Any side projects you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
At this moment I’m just working in my personal illustration schedule and a commission I have to make, also I have to help a couple of friends in the final stage of their thesis and help other friends that are just starting their graduation project. My plan by now is to finish as many illustrations as I can and to keep updating my sites, specially my online store, then bring some of my products here to show at conventions and get more attention for the store, the next step is to get slowly involved in more cooperative projects, I want to illustrate at least 1 book, maybe a children’s book, and maybe next year I would like to teach somewhere, but first gotta get as much experience as I can.

Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?Maybe playing guitar and composing are not very unusual things to do, hahah. As for a hobby I like to know (hear/watch/read) stories, I never get tired, specially comics related stuff… Yeap I’m that kind of geek.

Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Look for guidance, not only in one or two but several people, and be critic with whatever piece of information you receive from them, then focus in whatever you want to achieve, be organized, you are most likely to achieve your goals if you have a plan, so write one on paper or on a computer to keep track of your work, don’t loose yourself working, I live by the saying “work smarter, not harder”. If your teachers seem too hard to please then you need to open your eyes a little more and be more demanding with yourself, the day you become your hardest critic, that is the day when you start walking in the right direction. Other thing, follow me with this one: Talent gets expectation, effort gets results. UI design, UI animation, UI integration, 3d animation, modelling, rigging, texturing and unity 3d integration.

What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
Well, I’m not the craziest person, but I’ve done handicraft, I worked at a couple of shops, I’ve been a pizza making/delivery guy, a guitarrist for tips, and I’ve done some construction work before going to college at age 18, since I began to study digital animation, all work I’ve done has been in the animation/illustration area.

What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
I loved to be part of Poster Punch’s second and fourth exhibition, The Pin-up Drink and Poster Punch Open MMXIII, I also loved to be part of El Obsequio, my graduation project, I’m glad we were able to get the work done and to create something we felt and still feel very proud of, that graduation project was under my name only, but I am really grateful to the +20 people that was by my side working on it. At Fair Play I’ve been part of +12 videogames and I liked the team dynamics in most of them, but there’s one that I totally loved being part of, mostly because it is till now our most ambitious project of them all, Color Guardians, and its almost done, I love to work on my solo and team projects, all of them have been great and have taught me a lot, but those I mentioned are the ones that comes first to my mind.

Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I’m from Costa Rica, and my insertion to the animation/illustration business came naturally, I was just studying animation and sharing with friends, when in 2010 (I think) Bocetos Costa Rica was born and all the people, cool events and dynamics motivated me, I did my best to keep on improving and impressing them, and along the years I became a regular within the community, that helped me not only because of learning and improvement but because there was a ton of huge/experienced/awesome artists there, and meeting them was an awesome thing I’m still glad today, I got used to work in whatever project I liked, personal projects, and one night a guy called for a job, the guy was Oliver Zúñiga, president of Costa Rica Animation Holdings and he was asking me to work in a little project at Martestudio, an awesome animation studio in which he is co-owner of, since then more offers came to me and the rest is history.

What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
I arrive between 9 and 9:30 am after going to the gym (depending on the day), already knowing where I’m gonna start, say hello to everybody and just start working, usually with a earl grey tea, I have to report all my progress to the lead artist of the project I’m working at the moment, then lunch time, with co-workers or colleages at the coffe shop of my former college, or just alone watching something on Netflix or Youtube, in some projects, depending on who the producer in charge is and the size of the project we may need daily reunions or something like that, but a thing that is always a must is jira or trello, using scrum is needed for a good team work, and weekly reunions with the whole company to be informed of our progress, achievements and future goal, apart from that I just sit and work in whatever they ask me to do with the help of my fellow artists around me. I finish my time at Fair Play around 7 pm and go back to my house, most of the times to work in some of my ongoing personal illustration project (I have a schedule to control the progress and planning) at other times I have to help some friend or friends of mine with their projects or prepare myself for a convention/exhibition, and other times I hang out with friends, at midnight my day normally ends.

What part of your job do you like best? Why?
The learning, since I’ve been working I’ve always had to do stuff I didn’t know how to do. My first flying bug, my first quadruped (and second and third and fouth), the first time I animated a long skirt using just joints, working with vectors, importing to unity, animating textures; I had a lot of first times since the beginning, learning how to use flash, illustrator and unity, and adapting myself to the workflow. And I keep on learning every day, as my partners are amazing artists, most of them more experienced than me and some others with really mad skills, and I love it, it’s challenging and an awesome learning experience, thanks to Fair Play I’ve learned how to lead a team and how to follow orders.  Apart from that I also love those little things like the Christmas party or the group birthday celebrations, the soccer games for the ones who like it, the BBQs, and I could continue with tons of things I love about Fair Play.

What part of your job do you like least? Why?
Some times I find very difficult to get along with the project I’m working on (depending on the project). Usually our clients are well known by all of us and we get along and communicate quite well but in some cases it’s still difficult to follow what their are asking related to a piece of art, because sometimes it doesn’t make sense to me (I know, a lot of people struggle with this too). My problem in this cases is that I learned to just accept whatever they ask and if they got feedback for me 20 times in a row I just follow their instructions and try to please them, but by doing that I might be working with the least I have because at that point I become a little bit of a mindless tool, and that’s not good for the final product. Still I always try to keep in mind that to help the team the best I can, I have to do what they need me to do and not what I think I should do, part of my team work learning experience.

What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis, how has technology changed in the last few years in your field and how has that impacted you in your job?
Well, at Fair Play we artists use mostly pc, windows 7 and 8, programmers use iOS, and our main softwares (for artists) are Photoshop, Flash, Illustrator, After Effects, Maya, Blender, 3dMax, Zbrush, Unity3d, and some helpers like the Texture Packer and some plug-ins the dev team has made to make our life a little bit easier.  There are annual upgrades of half the softwares we use, with Unity for example we experienced such changes that we had to change our workflow a bit, now it’s more agile, lighter and we are now allowed to put a lot more of detail in our games, but the thing is always 50/50, for us to take advantage of the software upgrades and improvements we have to improve ourselves.

What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
Keeping the balance, art and animation have this very unique and powerful thing: they drive you crazy and they became your world. That’s a good thing, if that’s your case congrats you are closer to be an animator, but there’s even more to a human life, and for your own sake you have to find time to place all the other stuff that matters. My obsession combined with huge risks and the requirements I had to deal with because of the scholarship on my student days almost got me killed several times, at age 19 I suffered my first case of cardiac arrhythmia and it was just the beginning of 4 more years of a very destructive lifestyle. The bright side of this is that now that I have the chance of living the way I want, I’m able to set limits and enjoy my journey through art without sacrifice my health. The other thing is the big wall between artists and the audience, people just take art for granted they think everything just comes to existence automatically, and we as artists think that they just couldn’t even imagine the work that lies behind every image or every clip so we surrender and give up on them, and that way of thinking keeps on separating us more and more. We cannot let this happen because we need the audience, we need people to value our art and to understand that it does comes with a fair cost in the most appealing way possible.

If you could change the way the business works and is run how would you do it?
I would change the way that exposure works, all the time in music, animation, live action, etc, the exposure is given by a sponsor and the whole thing will be revolving around money, and usually just a bit of criteria about other aspects, and we are getting used to see every day stuff we don’t like just because its popular, meanwhile in some other places of earth lots of fantastic project are getting made and we are losing the chance to enjoy them. Now with the internet we are experimenting a quite interesting phenomenon, awesome talented people are getting more exposure than ever, but at the same time tons of trash is getting made, so the final experience for you to find something good is like finding a coin in a dumpster. Another thing that annoys me is the way mobile devices has turned the game development industry in an untenable business, cause people are getting used to download a game without paying for it, and then the game developers need to put some monetary charges to unlock special features or else they would gain nothing, but in that way the user experience loses a lot and the developer still isn’t able to get back the investment, and who wins with that? The device developers, and that’s something that needs to change.

In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
I haven’t travel out of my country yet, but I have met animation greatness, first in John Timms, my first mentor, a widely known 2d/3d animator and now comic artist for Marvel too, I met Geoff Hemphill, lead animator for Rango, great guy, very caring. I also met Miguelanxo Prado, a huge comic artist from Spain, he came to my college to speak from his experience about the value of sketches, I learned a lot that day, Tim Townsend, a great ink artist from Marvel, he also came to visit Costa Rica and we had a great time, Tom Bancroft, former 2d animator for Disney, just awesome, I have a drawing he did of me and other I did of him as he was drawing me, I learned a lot about character design and development from him, I also met Jimmy Palmiotti and his wife Amanda Conner (writer and artist couple), Jimmy’s a fun guy to hang with, also Mark Irwin from DC came to Costa Rica, now that I think about it, I’m very lucky I’ve met lots of awesome people even though I’ve never traveled out of my country, I’ll love to meet Pascal Campion tho, he is awesome.

Describe a tough situation you had in life.
When I was about to start my thesis my mom suffered from a critical breakdown in her back that left her paralyzed from the waist down, and I had to take care of her, find a job and also take care of everything in the house, with no father, no brothers and no family other than my mom. At my college they told me to look up for my family and solve my situation within 4 months and then come back to start my thesis, so I did it, I got my job, and went to the doctors I was able to pay for to help my mom, she recovered the mobility of her legs but it wasn’t the same, she was extremely slow and always in pain, always fragile. We continued trying to fix our situation and I came back to work on my thesis, and they told me I lost 4 months to do it, so I had only 8 months left to do a short animated film from scratch, I could not use more time because if I did I would lose my scholarship, I couldn’t change my project because I would have to re take a class to get another project approved and repeating a class means loosing my scholarship, and so on… So I decided to go on and work on my thesis while working at my job and taking care of the house chores being absolutely sure it was impossible for me to finish the project under such conditions (I already had experience making animated films to know what I was dealing with). The first 4 months were the worst state of despair I remember to have lived in, I was alone, trying to making sense to the scripts, and making the storyboard, characters/enviroment design, color palettes, modelling, texturing, etc. It was until rigging that I found help from friends, and then my tutor (awesome guy btw) helped me to make a plan for distributing the animation shots and backgrounds, we were advancing quickly, but not quick enough… When the 8 months passed the project wasn’t done yet, I talked to my animation school’s principal, and she told me not to worry about that, she helped me to improve the quality of everything related to the project and it came to a good end. For me it is still hard to believe it, now after more than a year of that I’m well recovered and my mom is way better than before, and I still have my job now with a degree in animation.

Any side projects you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
At this moment I’m just working in my personal illustration schedule and a commission I have to make, also I have to help a couple of friends in the final stage of their thesis and help other friends that are just starting their graduation project. My plan by now is to finish as many illustrations as I can and to keep updating my sites, specially my online store, then bring some of my products here to show at conventions and get more attention for the store, the next step is to get slowly involved in more cooperative projects, I want to illustrate at least 1 book, maybe a children’s book, and maybe next year I would like to teach somewhere, but first gotta get as much experience as I can.

Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?Maybe playing guitar and composing are not very unusual things to do, hahah. As for a hobby I like to know (hear/watch/read) stories, I never get tired, specially comics related stuff… Yeap I’m that kind of geek.

Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Look for guidance, not only in one or two but several people, and be critic with whatever piece of information you receive from them, then focus in whatever you want to achieve, be organized, you are most likely to achieve your goals if you have a plan, so write one on paper or on a computer to keep track of your work, don’t loose yourself working, I live by the saying “work smarter, not harder”. If your teachers seem too hard to please then you need to open your eyes a little more and be more demanding with yourself, the day you become your hardest critic, that is the day when you start walking in the right direction. Other thing, follow me with this one: Talent gets expectation, effort gets results.

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