This week we are having a talk with Senior Environment Artist, Glen Fox.

Who or what inspired you to get into 3D art?

I think, as with a lot of other game artists, it grew from my love of videogames. Realising that I could make a career from building the worlds that I spend my spare time escaping to excited me.

What are you working on at the moment?

For my 9-5 I'm working at Rare on the (just been announced) Anniversary update for Sea of Thieves. This involves mostly asset creation, so I tend to stick to more scene creation when I get home.
I'm really bad at starting loads of personal pieces and not concentrating on one thing at a time, but I've mostly been working on a variety of fanart, including a Game of Thrones diorama, a scene from Broken Sword, and a dungeon from A Link to the Past.

What are the best and worst parts of your job?

I don't really think there's particularly bad parts of my job, but there are definitely times when it's fun and times when it's less fun.
The very start of a project is amazing; you're deep in the creative flow, you have tonnes of great ideas swirling in your head, and you're focusing on fun things like visual development, thinking about all the cool styles and palettes you can explore. It's the honeymoon period of the project.
The sucky times are usually when you're deep into a project, and it's just not turning out the way you have it in your head. It's difficult to then push through this wall, even though if you do the work usually turns out fine. I still hit this stage a lot and, if I'm honest, I'm still pretty bad at simply wanting to just move onto the next thing.
It always reminds me of that classic meme that did the rounds, outlining the creative process:

  • This is awesome,
  • This is tricky,
  • This is sh*t,
  • I am sh*t,
  • This might be okay,
  • This is awesome!

How your typical workflow looks like and which tools and software do you prefer to use?

It really depends on the type of thing I'm working on, and the desired look. For most scenes I start with a large amount of time gathering subject reference and style reference, and slapping it all in a PureRef board (I CANNOT recommend PureRef enough!)
I then work on a blockout to figure out scene composition and the list of assets and materials that I require. I can break that list into 'hero' props that are close to the shot or are used a lot, and secondary props that are less important and I can get away with spending less time on.
Then comes a first lighting pass (if the scene is even being lit at all). I'll then keep doing quick screengrab paintovers and iterating on composition, lighting, and dressing until I'm pretty happy.
Then we start properly asset creating! Software depends on the scene, but I usually do all low poly modelling/UVs/retopo in Maya, just because that's what I'm most comfortable with.
If I'm working on something organic I'll use ZBrush, but if it's hard surface then I usually prefer to create the high poly in Maya, by using a mix of crease tool and retaining edges. I may not even need a high poly at all, and will only create one if it's going to add to the desired look.
If I'm going for a high end PBR look or more granular textures then I might use Substance Painter, or if I'm going for a painterly/stylised look I might just stick to Photoshop and just a selection of nice brushes.
The final 10% of the scene is usually doing lots of paintovers, and tweaking materials, lighting, and dressing/composition until I'm happy. I always render the final result in either an engine such as Unreal, or Sketchfab. I'm a realtime artist so I render as such.

What key piece of advice would you offer to a 3D artist aspiring to work in the games industry?

Be passionate about what you do, and be passionate about personal growth. The super talented artists you see on Artstation and at the best studios are there because they've worked hard, and they've grown by watching tutorials, listening to and applying feedback, and being self critical to a certain degree. Open yourself up to critique/feedback, and your guaranteed to get some sage advice that will help you push your work to the next level.
Also, along the same lines, don't be intimidated by the insane amount of talent on places such as Artstation. It's easy to slump into a mindset of 'I'll never be as good as them', but the truth is we all start somewhere, and they got to where they are by working hard and growing.

What's your favourite game and why?

Narrowing it down to one game is way too hard!!! I would say my favourite game to play of all time is probably either A Link to the Past or Super Metroid; they were the first games that really stuck with me when I was growing up. In terms of inspiration though, the Resident Evil games are my favourite, just for the sheer quality of the environment design and storytelling.

What do you like to do in your spare time (if you have any)?

I spend a lot of my spare time working on random personal projects, mostly fanart of some description, usually trying to experiment in differnt art styles and medium (Sketchfab/Unreal/print/etc.). I also like to spend time playing videogames, and watching really trashy old horror and action movies. I find I get a lot of my inspiration from what I consume, and I consume a lot!

I would like to thank Glen for another awesome interview and please go check his work at: