In the Ask The Master section today, We're thrilled to have Master in Motion Graphics: Ash Thorp - a director, illustrator and creati...
In the Ask The Master section today, We're thrilled to have Master in Motion Graphics: Ash Thorp - a director, illustrator and creative director He has been working in many feature films and other creative projects. Some of his projects include Dawn of the planet of the apes, Mission Impossible – Rogue Nation, James Bond Spectre, Call of Duty, Prometheus, Iron Man 3, The Walking Dead and dozens of others like his own short-film: Lost Boy
Ash Thorp will talk with three great Motion Graphics Artists (also his Student at Learn Squared included): Sava Zivkovic, Seiji Anderson, Ezequiel Grand about his work for Ghost in the Shell movie and insights about his path to a creative career
1. Looking back at the time before your career, could you tell us that initial spark that ignited your creativity and set you down this path?
The first spark for me came from living with a very creative family. All of my relatives participated in some form of art, from photography to illustration. So it allowed me to express myself naturally since my youth.
2. Tell us a bit about your involvement with Ghost in the Shell. Was the opportunity to work on the feature film a direct result of your project “2501”?
This is a common question that comes up in regards to these two projects. When I first met the director, Rupert Sanders, he mentioned that he had known my work for some time, and had also seen my affinity for Ghost in the Shell. So he felt it would be a great fit to have me on board with the team he was constructing during the pre-production phase of the film.
I have a very deep love for the first anime, and I feel that everything beyond it in the franchise lives in its shadow. It is very sacred for me, and so knowing that I was going to be working with this rich source material from my youth, was a bit of a challenge to get over mentally. Rupert mentioned that he aimed to make his own vision for the franchise holistic, merging various story elements from other parts; that new perspective helped me to push my designs further and aim my tasks to help achieve his distinct vision for the film.
4. You've collaborated with a lot of close friends on Ghost in the Shell, can you expand on the workflow you shared?
I learned a great deal during the production of GITS. I got a chance to work closely with my close friend and Learn Squared business partner, Maciej Kuciara. With Rupert's blessing, Maciej and I exchanged files and resources to work together closely on various elements and props during the pre-production phase. This open exchange of information and our joint desire to learn and grow from one another eventually spawned the foundation and premise for why we built Learn Squared. The workflow on GITS was very natural and enjoyable. It was an incredible moment to be able to work with such amazing creatives because I came up in my career idolizing them; it was a great privilege to work alongside them and share our thoughts and trade secrets.
5. What was the experience of working with Rupert Sanders? Can you share some thoughts on the back and forth between the Director and the Designer and establishing a good communication between the two?
Rupert was so great to work with on this film; he is an artist himself and very approachable. You can share a rough concept or an idea with him, and he can easily envision it. He really allowed us to be free with our ideas and goals. I strongly believe that communication and trust are vital tools that increase your ability to grow and succeed in this industry.
6. You've worked with Maciej Kuciara, Vitaly Bulgarov, and Chris Bjerre on many projects in the past, both personal and commercial alike, did you learn anything new as a team while working on Ghost in the Shell?
Every project offers a new list of challenges and demands, which opens up new levels of growth and development. Each collaboration is different from the other and ultimately yields different results. I think for GITS in particular, I learned how to reach new levels and to communicate my ideas and goals clearer, and in return, I felt the work benefited from this.
7. Having in mind your long-term admiration for Ghost in the Shell, what was the most valuable take away for you while working on the film?
The Ghost in the Shell film on the production side of things is filled with great memories of working and growing with my friends and respected creatives. I am honored to have had the chance to be involved in this film and incredibly grateful to have been a part of the team involved.
8. If you had a single advice to give to young creatives out there, what would it be?
Remove your ego as much as possible, and be thankful for what you have and love what you do with a determined ferocity.
Wow, thank you Ezequiel! I would like to think that this has come with experience and the many years I have put into watching, studying, learning, drawing, and creating. It is a general form of observation and knowing what needs to work and also where it needs to go. I am still learning and constantly seeking to find new ways to improve this ability daily.
2. I have been following your works for a while, and the way you progress is admirable. How do you manage to be proactive? Apart from your client stuff, I know you had side projects (Epoch, Lost Boy), you also teach at Learn Squared, got the Collective Podcast, constantly learn new software, tune your NSX, practice jiu jitsu, and last but not least taking care of your family, I’ve heard about the “task master” in one of your talks, is that your key?
I am constantly going full speed, but I feel like I can do even more if I allow myself. I wish I didn’t need to sleep, so I could do so much more with that time I feel is wasted. The task master is a big part of my life; setting daily goals and keeping a checklist on progress is a huge part of my own personal happiness and ability. It is something that I have learned from so many books that I have read and continue to read regularly.
3. Could you describe a bit of the process involved in your latest work for Ghost in the Shell? There are a lot of particles aspects (as well as some great polygon subdivisions) involved in your process reel. Was all of that done with X-particles/Zbrush? Or did you start implementing Houdini in your pipeline?
There are many different phases and points in the GITS workflow. The work you are probably referring to was the work that I created alongside Chris Bjerre in the post production phase of the project. We mainly employed C4D, X-particles, Octane, and very little Zbrush. Chris really knows his way around C4D and together we produced a massive amount of work in a short time to match the budget and timeline put upon us from production.
4. Did you use Cinema 4D native tracker for the shooting of the face floating in the streets? Or did you use another tracking app? Also, did you use an HDRI to light the scene or you lit it manually?
The floating faces shots were very quick sample tests to sell our concepts and ideas to Rupert and his post production team. We employed AE tracking to help us keep things aligned. Most of the HDRI lights were the ones that Chris and I purchased, and when they didn’t work, we manually lit the objects to our liking.
5. Something that always impressed me about your work is the proper combination of colors. How do you go about that process? For example, in FITC TOKYO you have a large amount of colors, yet all of them combine perfectly in harmony with each other, can you give us some advice on that aspect?
Thank you so much! In regards to FITC, I have to give massive praise to the team of friends who put that together with me. When I was designing the look and style frames for the project, I was thinking about how to harmoniously balance these colors and clash them together. Usually, I simply navigate around the design and move things until they feel right and this comes from years of observation as I mentioned above. I wish there was an easier way to explain that creative realm, but it mainly comes down to taste, intuition, focus, and years of observation.
6. Scrolling through your work on your site, there is a transition between a comic style to a more minimal-complex one, can you talk about your influences and what has driven you onto this path? Was it something that occurred without realizing it or was it a conscious decision?
I love so many different things about art, so I love doing every style that influences me, from drawing to photo-real CGI work. I think the shift you are noticing is due to my current love and obsession with building and manifesting my ideas in CGI, which has been really taking its hold on me. I haven’t forgotten my love of art and illustration, and will come back to drawing soon enough, but right now I am completely immersed in the CGI realm of creation.
7. What would be the 3 best pieces of advice you would give to a growing artist trying to enter this competitive industry?
Be hungry, be humble, and be thankful.
8. Are you planning on teaching another course at Learn Squared?
YES! I actually have a course in development for many months now and have been slowly chipping away at it with Andrew and Maciej. With so many other distractions and priorities taking up my attention and focus, I have had a challenging time bringing it to life just yet. However, it will be due soon enough, and I hope it will be worth all of the sleepless nights and challenges bringing it to all of you.
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I would have to say that this growth has been largely due to the amazing people I surround myself with. My total submission of personal ego allows me absolute focus and openness to learn and grow as rapidly as possible. I don’t really care what software or what tools work, I am simply trying to pull the ideas and concepts from my mind out to share with the world.
2. Do you have any tips for artists who feel they have relented in their growth? How do you push yourself to the next level?
I've said it many times, you must remove your ego. Remember that you will never be the master of this craft, so open yourself to adversity. That is how you feel ALIVE. You must fail once in a while to sometime remember what makes life worth living and striving for. Taking yourself to new levels is all about your perspective and having an open mind to accelerate and grow in all aspects of life, and I do my best to attempt this daily.
3. What are things you notice in any work that tells you if it’s good/bad?
I am often my worst critic and tend to focus on my faults; it's honestly difficult for me to confirm anything as “good” other than when I receive very kind compliments and support from others telling me so. On the bad side of things, I think I often work very 'dark' and so my subject matter and content is often very dark or muted. This darkness is somewhat subconscious, as I don't notice it until after I complete the work. So I wonder how I could improve or change this with time, if I feel the need to do so. I don’t like repeating myself and constantly hope to elevate my work over time with diversity.
4. What developments in the industry do you find exciting or are capturing your interest presently?
Game engines and the elevating art of VR! That is the direction in which things are moving to in my opinion.
5. You stress the value of enjoying the journey when it comes to personal and professional growth. What do you do to stay motivated during tough times of the journey?
I ONLY pick projects involving things I love. Love is what carries me through the rough stages (which there are many). My love for a certain topic, a character, a franchise…that pure and honest love and joy of it keeps me going steadfast.
6. Is there any moment where you can point to as a designer in which you found your voice?
That's a difficult question as I feel I am always changing, so therefore, my voice is constantly in flux. I don’t know if I have ever really found that nor think that I ever really will, but I am totally content with that reality.
7. Can you talk a little bit about the process of working with clients and the role their feedback plays in influencing the outcome of the product?
Like all relationships, each one is uniquely different from the other. Every client has their own particular strengths and weaknesses. I do my best to speak openly and truthfully at first contact in order to achieve total trust as soon as possible. It is my job to help clients seek what they are after. Sometimes a client may be so wrapped up in their own ideas that they can’t see what they truly need, and in those cases, it is my job to help them see through a different lens. At the end of the day, creatives are in the business of communication… so the better I am at that, the better my journey will be.
8. Any other dream projects now that you've crossed Ghost in the Shell off your list?
My list is vast. It's endless as I love so many things. I will have a busy busy life until the end of my days :)
Thank you everyone for your amazing questions! I hope they helped shed some light on my process and gave you something to take with you on your journey. Much love!
Thank you Ash and also big Thanks to the Artists to join us today!