I remember how we used to discuss how so not ready we were to become AAA artists while enjoying some top-notch burgers in Valencia.
At that time, we used to spend a lot of time together talking about our future plans, or discussing how our day at work had gone.
One day, without none of us realizing it, we started to get apart. I guess it is what life does sometimes, especially with a job that forces you to move around so much.
Sometimes the planets align and special things happen. After around 7 years of not knowing much from each other, I decided to contact him to get an article for the blog.
I'm not lying if I tell you it seemed like the day before was the last day we had a burger together. Our conversation started again with the only difference that we are almost a decade older now, but natural as always.
Today, I'm having a talk with Enrico around his portfolio.
J. - Hello Enrico, it is great to have you back on the blog! For those that don't know you very well, could you please introduce yourself and tell us what makes you special?
By the way, expect me to be a bit of a fanboy on this one. I'm a huge fan of your work!
E. - Hello Javi! Thank you for having me back, it's always great chatting with you, and the same goes for me. I have learned a lot through your blogs.
Well, my name is Enrico Santi. I am primarily a weapons artist that has transitioned to environments and lighting. I guess what makes me special is I absolutely love video games and am constantly working to improve my knowledge and quality of work.
Funny enough, I am teaching myself about performance optimization, which is a whole other world.
J. - It is indeed. One of my favorite aspects of developing games. It's always fun to see how much you can cut down without losing quality.
As you might know, this is a portfolio-centered talk. You have a ton of great stuff in there, but for this interview, I'll ask you to choose the three pieces you are the proudest of so that we can talk about them. Which ones would those be?
E. - Absolutely, being able to have things run smoothly while looking great is extremely satisfying.
Wow, that's a tough question. I think the pieces I am most proud of would be my FN FAL, my Glock, and the small environment piece I did for Warframe. Though I did not have a huge role there, it's still something I am pretty proud of.
J. - Those pieces are just astonishing. I can see why you chose them. You spoke about the FN FAL in an article for the blog, which I enjoyed a lot. To our readers, please find a link to the article below.
It was a great breakdown and taught us a lot about your workflows, so let's start with that model. I guess my interests for this interview are more focused on the intentions of that piece.
Why exactly did you choose the FN FAL? What did you learn from the process that will influence you as an artist from now on?
E. - Awesome! Well, the FN Fal was/is made for my personal project.
Some friends and I are working on a game and wanted our guns to be extremely modular. I am a huge gun nut, so having the chance to make a gun with all its interior parts is extremely fun.
The reason why I chose the FN Fal is because of the setting our game is based, It is based in Post Apocalyptic Africa, and the FN Fal is almost a staple besides the AK, of course. I also used to use the FN Fal when I would go target practicing, and it's an extremely fun and heavy gun to shoot!
I learned a lot throughout the process. The most important thing for sure would be to take your time and plan your steps.
With so many different parts that have to fit/look like they fit perfectly, it's extremely challenging. So many things can go wrong and have gone wrong far into the project, like realizing a piece is not matching, or some faces were deleted that should not have been since they will be visible in the "analyze mode," which required me to go back almost to the start and fixing those issues.
You want to make sure to have everything you need from the start. The texturing phase was particularly interesting because I took a different approach. From previously rushing through this time, I really wanted to spend time and really treat each piece uniquely, meaning I would not re-use materials but always start with a blank material and work from there.
J. - It seems to me that those goals really show in the final product, which is great to see. You say it is for your game, which kind of answers my next question.
Usually, we work on models to meet the standards of a certain audience, that being ourselves many times, or to serve a certain purpose, in this case, your game. If this was dedicated to an audience, who would you say they are, and how are you touching them with this model?
E. - Absolutely, it is important to cater your work to where you would like to work eventually rather than randomly creating art.
As for my audience, I would say it is dedicated to gun enthusiasts or people who want a more refined and realistic view of guns. Still, in a game format, not everyone gets as excited as I do when you can see a spring or all the internals, but I guess it's sort of a love letter to those that love those details.
With this model, I wanted to show people how one would go about making modular guns for games, which is something when starting out I have no idea, and more importantly that taking your time making something can pay off rather than rushing to finish something.
J. - "A love letter to those who love those details." I must say this shows how much you care for your work. Truly remarkable, in my opinion.
E. - Thank you, I find it important to make something you love and are passionate about and know that those with a similar passion/interest will also like what you make. It's easy to fall into the trap of making what you think others want to see rather than what you would like to see. Of course, this takes time and a lot of patience.
J. - I would now like to move on to the Glock. Did you have the same aspects in mind? Or were there any differences with the FAL in terms of target audience and so on?
E. - For the Glock, it was a mix, from wanting to make something cool and something I would like and also to experiment with something new I had not done before, I found my weapons would fall short of reaching my expectations, and I feel it showed in my earlier work.
My Glock was a nudge towards the right direction, but I still feel it did not really surpass my expectations. I am still proud of it because it did bring me that much closer to figuring out what would make me different and special in the industry. That being said, I still have a long way to go.
J. - I'm curious now. Do you have any examples of artists that are at a point where you want to be? It's not easy for me to picture how much better you can do, actually, keeping in mind the limitations of our current tech.
E. - Absolutely, well, there are a few that I really look up to for their work.
When I started, I was lucky enough to get mentored by LoneWolf himself, his work is a HUGE inspiration, and he taught me a lot of what I know about SubD modeling.
Stefan Engdahl does textures and presentations that are stunning to me. I find myself opening his Artstation to just staring at his work at times.
Alex Khaliman produces some incredible work too.
Not to mention the hundreds of other artists that I probably forget to mention, I don't think we ever stop learning or reach an "end" point, there is always something new and always new ways of doing things, but these are the ones that immediately jumped to mind.
J. - I couldn't have said it better myself. I should check these guys out.
LoneWolf was a huge inspiration for me too. It's amazing to see he shared his knowledge with you. I'd say you are not too far from getting to this point at all man, don't sell yourself short!
E. - Yeah, I was amazed that he would take the time to teach me! I am still grateful to this day and owe a lot to him. For sure, check all their work out. Tons of great things!
J. - You decided to choose an environment piece among the three. I was not expecting that to be one of your favorites since you are such a weapon art geek.
I love the piece, by the way, but how come this is one of your favorites? Are you trying to reach a broader audience with work like this, or is there something else you wanted to get out of it?
E. - I did. Well, it was my first ever environment I got to work on that was released, so it's a big achievement for me, having had no knowledge on environments and being trust in after having released this small piece to now being in charge of a couple of my own levels has been great progress in both my career and the constant pursuit of knowledge.
The choice to change for me was both tough and easy, tough because I love guns and its a lot of fun to make, but easy because from early in my career, I have had terrible management belittle my work, from being hired to make guns I only ever textured one and got booted off the project which was a HUGE blow to my confidence on my work.
Only after working on Warframe did I get to make weapons, however after a couple of years of constantly making weapons I felt I was stagnant and needed something new and exciting to improve myself and grow in my career, as of now I am still learning a lot about environment work.
I love it. There are so many different things to explore and learn.
J. - It is terrible to see how much bad management can affect one's morale for such a long period of time. I'm glad to see you are now striving again tho, you totally deserve this. I remember working with you was a constant feeling of healthy envy towards you, and it sucks to see this happening to great artists like you.
To wrap this up, I'd love to hear what we can expect from you in the near future. Any cool guns in the works, or are you up to something else?
E. - Absolutely, bad management can really hinder everything. To this day, second-guessing everything I do has basically become me, which is a tough thing to overcome and extremely crippling, but that is where it becomes important to remember to do things the way you think is cool while staying within the parameters of what is asked.
Having been drilled with the wrong mentality and self-doubt early in my career, it is interesting, to say the least, to hear someone/anyone would envy my work. It is very appreciated, though!
Well, for my future, there is certainly a lot I would absolutely love to accomplish. I do have another gun in the works, this one will be just like the FN Fal in terms of modularity, but it's an MP5. I expect to push the quality past the FN Fal, so stay tuned for that!
Of course, my game is in the works, but that is most likely something for a very far future since it's a very small team. I am also working hard to become a lead, which is my next big goal, and I am extremely excited to pursue this venture.
I have been learning more about technical design as well, which is quite the hit in the gut but extremely interesting, and finally, I am finishing up my lighting course! Which has been a very interesting venture learning about proper lighting setup!
J. - This is incredible, Enrico, loads of good stuff coming your way. I'm sure you'll make a great leader, and I wish you a ton of luck with these endeavors.
It has been a pleasure to talk to you today. Thank you for your time, man! I can't wait to see that new gun of yours!
E. - Thank you! It's been extremely fun doing this interview! I can't wait to get the MP5 done and out for everyone to get and have in their game as well!
And for those that read this through, thank you for taking the time! Have a great one, everyone!
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