Digital and traditional artist with over 18 years of experience in visual effects for the movies and tech industry (Weta Digital, Digital Domain, Double Negative, Industrial Light&Magic, Apple)
My name is Marco Di Lucca and I am an Italian digital and traditional artist living in the USA. My background studies had very little to do with computer graphic. As a matter of facts they were actually more of my parents’s choice (my father was a house builder) than my own so I eventually ended up getting a high school diploma which was related to architecture/ construction engineering.
The passion for CGI started during the last 3 years (of 5) of high school but it was limited to using CAD software. My subsequent attempt at university (Computer Engineering ) did not last long as my interest for 3D graphic grew exponentially and I rather found myself spending countless hours in front of the computer instead of on the books.
The following years were completely dedicated to learning 3D on my own with the little resources that were available at the time (mostly books, magazines). This was way before the advent of Internet, Youtube, etc…So yes I am that old! In the beginning, I mostly freelanced within the arch-viz (almost inexistent) business The professional background then progressed into commercials, movies, and most currently tech industry.
Could you tell us about some of the interesting projects you’ve worked on?
During my career I was fortunate to join talented teams at Weta Digital, Double Negative, Digital Domain and Lucasfilm (now Disney) ILM. At those companies I have worked on numerous movie projects , some more interesting then others, but if I were to name one for all that would definitely be James Camerons’s Avatar during my time at Weta Digital in New Zealand. I still cherish the opportunity that I had on that project to being able to work , over the course of almost 2 years, in both modeling and lighting departments.
What software and tools do you use for your work, and why?
Usually the software used at a specific company would depend on their pipeline. Generally speaking the main 3D software has always been Maya (apart at ILM where it was/is Zeno, their proprietary software although Maya was/is used as well). – A lot of tools would then be custom written around Maya. Aside from the main 3d package I also used Mudbox, Zbrush, Renderman, Nuke. Personally , for my own projects, my preference would be Maya, Mudbox, Arnold, Photoshop.
How do you organize your day (how many hours do you work per day)?
My work days are from about 9 am to 6pm with some flexibility depending on the company and tasks. It happened in the past to find myself working extra hours (overtime) although that was mostly the case of the final months of a production. Aside from those working hours, I would also spend time on my personal projects during the evenings and weekends. Nowadays though, weekends are most exclusively dedicated to marble carving.
Do you also create with non digital medium (clay, pencil drawing,…)? What does it gives you compared to digital?
Over the years, I confess that I felt a lack of both knowledge and experience when it came to traditional art, especially of skills that would be closely related to what became my job as 3D artist. Never drew, never painted, never sculpted anything in clay , knew little or nothing about art in general, anatomy and so forth.
Sometimes I would get frustrated with myself because of that but surely that wasn’t enough to prevent me from learning, to a different extent, those skills. There came periods where I was always drawing or sculpt using different mediums, even attempted oil painting at some point and definitely put a lot of effort into learning anatomy (specifically human anatomy). Only in more recent years (maybe 5-6) I approached carving as meaning of sculpting.
I always loved the look and feeling that marble as material can give to a sculpture (especially when it comes to figurative sculpture). I felt in love with it since the first experience and if there Is something I could find myself spending full time doing it, well that would be it. The satisfaction I feel after a day (or many) of hard manual labor, it is something that I don’t feel anymore while doing digital work.
What themes would you say your work deals with?
Well I guess it became pretty obvious over the course of the years that my love for portraiture as representational art would become a solid and recurring theme for my personal works. More generally anything related to digital humans and sometimes creature work.
What artwork are you most proud of?
It’s a bit hard to say to be honest as I can’t really say that I emotionally attach myself to this or that artwork. I try to put as much love as I can in all that I do, whether it’s a traditional or digital piece, so in a sense it’s hard for me to favor one over the other. Besides, it would also feel somewhat unfair to have a favorite as the most logical answer would lean towards the most recent works which undoubtedly , quality wise, look better than those dated years back.
Does industry offer enough opportunities for organic modelers like you?
I naturally evolved to specialize towards organic modeling during my career, although I found myself do be involved also in hard surface , environment and props modeling. Honestly I cannot say that it was difficult for me to find opportunities in the area which is more natural to me and that could be seen, out there, through my personal work.
How do you define success as an artist?
This Is a hard one and might be very subjective. As far as I am concerned success for me might be explained with the achievement of specific goals with some of them born as a dream to, for instance, work for this or that company. But it’s never so simple, so black and white and things change over the course of time with aging , life and professional experiences, just as the forementioned goals change. Then there is the ‘egotistical ‘ side to it as well, largely amplified in the recent years by social media where we all reach out to in order to get ‘an approval’ from the crowd, to be recognized , to be liked.
I personally , despite trying to more or less regularly post my work in progress or final artworks, try not to focus too much on that or get negatively influenced by this modern aspect of our society. I just love to work, learn new things and stay grounded within the boundaries of my passion for art and more specifically sculpture.
How do you collaborate with other artists?
I confess that collaboration isn’t something I have been interested in and to this date I still much prefer prefer working alone. And just to clarify this is only true when it comes to personal projects (whether they are my own or someone else’s) as for the rest of my time, at the current employer or past employers, collaboration with other artists (and other professional figures) it is a must and a daily routine.
PROMOTION & FEEDBACK
What social channels do you use for communication with your followers?
Do you have a network of other artists, and how do they support you?
As far as I can tell the vast majority of people connected with me through the various social networks are indeed artists. I am not sure how we can define support in this case or if you had a specific meaning to it but surely they follow my work through various forms of interactions, whether it is a simple like, a comment, a private message etc. This amongst other things is of encouragement to keep going, keep striving to make better art, learn new things but also it’s an occasion to exchange opinions, to ask questions, to share knowledge, etc.
Part of the creative process is also a failure, how do you deal with it?
I am not sure I would necessarily the word ‘failure’ per se, but I understand the point the question is raising and I do think that ‘failure’ is a natural factor of the creative process. I think all of us dream about something, come up with an idea that , at first seems great, but then once we put it down to take form with whichever medium we decide to use , it might not turn up as great as our minds ‘originally’ thought. Sometime we loose interest into that idea altogether … I find this quite normal to be honest and once we are aware of it, acceptance should also come natural. Do not overthink it, just try to learn from it , move on, keep trying, growing and creating
Do you have an existing customer base?
Since I don’t have my own art business I guess I cannot really and properly answer the question.
How do you seek out opportunities?
I confess that the seeking part in a way (and without wanting to sound cocky or anything) was more a thing of the past, beginning of the career. Let’s say that in the past 10 years (out of 18+ years) of my professional career, opportunities came and come by pretty much naturally to my email. Or at least inquiries , that because of contractual obligations, lack of time or interest or both I kindly decide to decline.
How do you cultivate a collector base?
I am not exactly sure what the question implies …
How do you price your work?
I did freelance work for very short periods of time between various full time jobs and usually I would base my rate (hour or day) on the my latest job pay. In general there are factors to keep in mind when pricing yourself, like the amount of experience you have, your skillset and also your location to name some.
Can you give a starter tip for a 3D printer beginner?
Not sure what a good answer could be here. I think firstly it is a must to do a bit of research around 3d printers , see what other people have purchased, join 3d printing communities (a must). But in general I would say the decision is based on just couple of factors those being the kind of 3d prints (functional parts vs display objects for instance) and budget. The choice most likely would gravitate towards either FDM(using different type of filament materials) or SLA(resin).
If you mentored younger artists who are beginning their art careers what single most important piece of advice would you offer?
Do NOT undervalue themselves and I apologize if this that can seem more relating to the business aspect of doing art (of whatever sort) came to mind before any other more strictly related to the art itself.
How do you manage a work-life balance as an artist?
Well things evolved over time and with life changing event. In a way it was easier when you are young, perhaps single and be able to dedicate a lot of time to your art and whatever other passion/interest you might have. Once married and perhaps kids come into picture, things might become a bit more difficult but if you have an understanding partner I am sure that you can still carve personal time to work on your art. Nowadays though, I tend not to spend too many hours outside of the regular working hours on digital projects. I do however spend pretty much every weekend working on my traditional marble sculpture projects.
What’s the best thing about being an artist?
I think the creative side that is associated with being an artist is a way to give ourselves a sense of pleasure, to express ourselves and to touch other people with it, generating an emotional response in return (whether a good or a bad one but hopefully just a good one) and therefore I think that is definitely one of the best things about being an artist.