Andrew Hickinbottom (opens in new tab) is a freelance 3D character modeller currently based in London. He trained to be a graphic designer, but during a University work placement at a local graphic design and animation firm, he found his real passion was 3D.
"I enjoyed it much more than graphic design and started working there once I finished university. That was my first job in the industry," says Hickinbottom. His love of cartoons and animation began at an early age and he aspired to be a cartoonist when he was older.
"It seemed like a somewhat unrealistic goal at the time, but the emergence of TV series such as Babylon 5 and Reboot, films such as Tron and Toy Story, and polygonal character-based games such as Virtua Fighter and Tekken wowed me."
Hickinbottom began experimenting with 3D in the 1990s when Amiga Format gave away Imagine 2.0, a basic, free 3D software, with the magazine. "It gave me the tools to start creating 3D models, and I realised the limitless potential," explains Hickinbottom. "More and more 3D animation was being produced over the coming years, and then when Pixar became big, I realised that this was the future and what I really wanted to do."
He recently worked on a lengthy job for an Electronic Arts game called JetSet Secrets, where a line-up of five good characters and five evil characters was asked for. "I had to model 10 nicely-designed characters with a retro 1960s feel, and then give them life via facial expressions and poses for a series of promotional illustrations, as well as multi-pose images for the characters' reactions in the games," he explains.
"I enjoyed the initial modelling part the most. Fast, assertive blocking out and shaping can be fun and you get to see the character take shape before your eyes in a short space of time."
A feel for fashion
Hickinbottom says that his inspiration comes from diverse sources: "Real life places, people I see, travel, films, games, random pictures of things I see online, and pin-up, glamour, fashion photography. But mostly I take inspiration from 2D illustrators and cartoonists that I follow."
Brad Bird's much-lauded 1999 animated feature film The Iron Giant is also an inspiration to Hickinbottom. "It has fantastic designs, a lot of heart, and a lot of great scenes," he enthuses. "It looks superb, and it’s not just eye candy - it’s a fantastic film."
Hickinbottom's other favourite animations include Brad Bird's The Incredibles, Sylvain Chomet's The Illusionist and Hayao Miyazaki's Laputa: Castle in the Sky. He also loves Full Metal Jacket: "I never get bored of watching it, and it's so well done, with great characters, cinematography and a realistic, somewhat anti-climactic view of war," he says.
Standing out from the crowd
Andrew Hickinbottom says the best advice that he can give to artists trying to break into the market is to be truly exceptional: "The market for 3D artists is much more saturated and competitive now than it was when I broke into the industry," he explains.
"Try to be original, to be unique and to do what you do very well. Get a good online presence to get yourself noticed and be enthusiastic enough to do personal projects in free time, as you can truly express your skills and vision."
Although Hickinbottom is happy with his current position, he does feel the need to learn new software in order for his art to progress in the future.
"I'm wondering whether to start learning Maya for possible future opportunities," he says. "I want to use ZBrush more and I really want to develop my drawing skills in the hope that it will ultimately make me a better artist."
Words: Kulsoom Middleton
This article originally appeared in 3D World issue 174.