“Never forget that the computer is only a tool”: Texture artist Giorgio Lorenzetti
Giorgio Lorenzetti always knew that one day he’d become a storyteller. Even while studying classics in Rome and working on his BA in industrial and product design, he continued to draw and apply a narrative to everything he did. Now, he’s working as a lead texture artist in the film industry, applying his skills in visual effects to projects such as Power Rangers, Spiderman: Homecoming and Detective Pikachu at Framestore London. Giorgio speaks to us about his love-hate relationship with the industry, whereby stressful deadlines and tight schedules are increasing, and gives some sound advice on how to juggle that all-important work-life balance.
Lead Texture Artist, Mill Film (January 2019–present)
Texture Artist, Framestore, London (2017–2018)
Texture Artist, Digital Domain, Vancouver (2016–2017)
Junior Lighting Artist, Rainmaker Entertainment, Vancouver (2016)
Place of Study
MA Computer Graphics, Think Tank Training Centre, Vancouver (2015–2016)
BA Industrial and Product Design, ISIA Roma Design, Rome (2011–2014)
How would you describe your job?
My job as a texture artist is to apply the surface properties to an object and to make it resemble real life. Skin, clothing and objects need to be painted. I use digital brushes and various other softwares to make an object look as real as possible. Most of the time, I work closely with modellers as well as lighting and look development artists to make final tweaks and to be sure that the character or the object fits perfectly in the scene.
What does a typical working day look like?
Generally I would get a task assigned – such as a character, an object or an environment – and a deadline. Then I split my workflow into different steps. My first step is to gather proper references of what I am going to paint, which can be either photos of the object on set, or generic pictures I can find online for inspiration. Once this is done my job is literally to paint for the whole day, using pictures, colours and different techniques to achieve a final result which looks believable.
What skills are essential to your job?
I think the two most important skills are observation and communication. It’s important to learn to observe, to look at the outside world, develop some aesthetic awareness and then be able to apply that in 3D. Communication, as I said, is very important as well – in terms of talking to other artists, and making sure you make clear requests for what you need and what you are delivering to the next department.
What tool do you use the most in your work?
I would say the most significant tool for me is Mari – a 3D texture painting software created by [creative software developer] The Foundry. This is an essential tool for my everyday job as a texture artist. Substance Painter and Substance Designer by Allegorithmic, [now Substance 3D] as well as texture softwares that are very user friendly and fast to learn, were also definitely game-changers.
How I Got Here
What did you want to be growing up?
Well, like every kid, I had various different aspirations. An archeologist and NBA player were at the top. Then one day my parents took me to watch Lord of the Rings and for the first time I realised how it felt to belong to an imaginary world. Since then, I wanted to do something creative. I always felt like a storyteller, whether in front of a piece of paper, a computer or having a beer with friends. So to be able to tell a story with any tool at my disposal was my goal; I like to entertain people.
“I always felt like a storyteller, whether in front of a piece of paper, a computer or having a beer with friends.”
What influence has your upbringing or background had on your work?
I actually did classical studies back in Rome, where I studied Latin and Greek – although I was not very good at it. I do believe that reading many books and poems inspired me to be a storyteller in some way.
I kept drawing on the side in my free time, and then I got into industrial and product design. I thought it would be a good way to put my drawing skills to use – even then, I kept feeling the need to introduce a story factor to every design. My final thesis was a table lamp, which had a face and two feet – it was very Pixar-inspired. This is when I realised that I was going down the storyteller path.
“I was scared I wouldn’t be good enough. But nobody is – you learn so many things on the job and from the people around you.”
How is the subject you studied useful to your current role?
During my BA in design, we learnt how to use 3D software. I remember how just after a couple of weeks I was already very into it, and I would help all my classmates. By the third year, I was enjoying it so much I would find excuses to render something on my laptop. I never knew there was a school for such a thing until a good friend of mine and fellow colleague, Renato Scicchitano, told me about it. So I flew to Vancouver to enrol at Think Tank Training Centre, and a few years later, here I am.
After graduating (or first starting out), what were your initial jobs and steps?
I have to say I was luckier than most. After just a couple of weeks of graduating, I found my first job at Rainmaker Entertainment in Vancouver. My first role was lighting artist on the animated show Bob The Builder, which I found hilarious as I used to watch it when I was a kid. It was a very fun first experience!
Was there a particular project or step that helped your development?
My first job in visual effects for live action movies at Digital Domain definitely helped. I got in as a texture artist, although at first I wanted to maintain a lighting position. I was scared I wouldn’t be good enough. But nobody is – you learn so many things on the job and from the people around you. It was a great experience with great projects and a great team. Both shows – Power Rangers and Spider-Man: Homecoming – made me grow as an artist and I think that paved the way for approaching my job today.
What’s been your biggest challenge? Have you made any mistakes along the way?
I would say the biggest challenge for everybody in the industry is to keep up with the technology and prove that artists are still very important. Nowadays, computer softwares are becoming incredibly powerful – particularly with the help of Artificial Intelligence – that it’s now so important for an artist to keep up with everything that is happening. Also, I have learnt to always, always continuously save a scene and make sure you have a backup. The software will crash and you will bite your fists. The computer is an unforgivable machine.
“The biggest challenge for everybody in the industry is to prove that artists are still important.”
How important would you say social media has been for establishing your career?
Social media plays a crucial role. When you have a very creative and visual job, you need to make sure your portfolio is as good as it can be. It’s important to connect with people and publish yourself and your work through ArtStation, Instagram, LinkedIn and Facebook. You never know who will look at your work and be interested enough to get in touch.
Is your job what you thought it would be?
There is a big disbelief and a very misleading conception about this job and the industry. When I started this job, I always thought about how cool it would be to work in movies – and still, part of me is very happy about it. But there are major dark sides to this industry that are not spoken about enough.
Artists are pressured by stressful deadlines, unpaid overtime and uncredited titles. Unfortunately, the movie industry works around very tight schedules and the demand for visual effects in every movie is getting higher and higher. Every movie has visual effects – you just don’t see it. With more demand and crazy deadlines on multiple shows, this can mean lower quality results and more stress for the artists.
What would you like to do next?
I’d love to work in one of my dream job studios such as Weta, Industrial Light and Magic, Dreamworks, Pixar and Disney. This is probably my short-term goal. In terms of the long term I would say I’d like to produce and direct my own short movie.
Could you do this job forever?
Not as a texture artist, but definitely as a storyteller. I would like to have some more experience in other departments and then maybe become a supervisor or a director one day. In the far future, I see myself as a teacher – probably for VFX. I think passing over your knowledge to somebody else is the most noble job.
Words of Wisdom
What advice or recommendations would you give to an emerging creative wanting to get into the same kind of work?
Never forget that the computer is only a tool. Grow a love for observing the world around you and its beauty. Take some photography classes, take some art classes, sculpt, read, and feed yourself with creativity and the imaginary.
Mention Giorgio Lorenzetti
Interview by Marianne Hanoun
Written by Ayla Angelos