Learn From The Best: Star Wars Art Director Nick Hiatt

Game Day artist Nick Hiatt (Star Wars: The Force Awakens Art Director) recently created a course called "3D Sequence Illustration" with our good friends over at Learnsquared. This in-depth course is a must for concept artists and illustrators, and dives into creating 3D worlds to share with creative directors, tell more dynamic stories, and streamline your creative process. Nick uses Future Slums, Cyber Streets, Sci-Fi Industrial and Brutalist to showcase his entire process in Maya, Substance, Redshift and Photoshop (but the actual techniques in his training are certainly not software dependent!) So if you need more convincing, continue reading, if not-- hop on over to Learnsquared and grab that course! 

Nick, before we get into discussing your course, please give a little back story of how your career began. When did you first start your professional career? How’d you land your first job in the industry?

I started my professional career while I was still in College, I won best portfolio and that landed me with a gig at MTV on their graphics team. My first gig in the industry was with Rhythm and Hues for a 3-day texture job. I packed up my entire life and drove from Miami to LA over a weekend, then that 3-day gig turned into a 4-year job that launched my career. Fortune favors the bold.

Hopefully that didn't result in any speeding tickets on your road trip. Did this opportunity lead to future jobs?

It most certainly did-- both the speeding ticket and future jobs. After my work and experience at Rhythm and Hues I began to bounce around town to as many shops as I could to increase my network and get more studio names and titles on my resume. That's my advice for young artists starting out who want to hustle… bounce around, get as many studios on your resume, and the work will start coming to you. This will allow you to increase your rate each jump and you can always go back to your first employer at anytime… but this time you can do that at a slightly higher rate and with a lot more experience. This of course requires living in a city or town that has multiple studios to choose from like LA, Vancouver, Montreal etc. In a smaller city this approach may not be an option. Either way, do your absolute best work and make as many friends as possible.

Can you share a career highlight with us?

For sure my career highlight is the time I spent as Art Director on Star Wars Episode 7 working for JJ Abrams. That was an experience that I will never forget and I am eternally grateful for.

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You have had quite the journey. Star Wars is one of the biggest reasons this industry exists! Now that the force is with you, you've recently gathered your world of knowledge and launched a new Learnsquared course? 

Indeed, and I used multiple kits for this course. Future Slums, Cyber Streets, Sci Fi Industrial, and Brutalist-- without these, this course would have not been possible.

In the images below, I used the Cyber Streets and Sci-Fi industrial kits to help me design the scene, and help me focus more on the story telling and less time modeling assets.

In the cyber world I was creating, I wanted to convey an intense chase through the Cyber Streets where the character is fleeing for their life after they've made some less-than-recommended life decisions. 

Even though at first 3D requires a longer setup vs 2D illustration, the 3D workflow allows you to explore infinite angles while simultaneously adjusting sets, props, lighting, and characters. Your initial 3D setup can inform your project's production crew with set design and camera lenses. On top of all the flexibility 3D already gives me, KB3D kits help speed up the process even more!

Who is this course for and how will it help others in the industry?

This course is for anyone who wants to create their own digital art and tell a compelling story with images. It's perfect for concept artists, illustrators and 3d artists who want to get an insight on a production workflow. I walk through my entire process: from taking the words of a script to fully creating compelling imagery that captures the mood, vibe and narrative of a sequence from a film, game or tv show.

Before we let you go, Nick, tell us why you made this course.

I make art, because it's what I was put on this earth to do. I love it, it pays the bills, but most of all it gives me a purpose. For other people that feel that same way, this course is for you. Besides all that duty (the professional kind), serotonin and cash monies that art can bring, we could all use a little more love, artistic freedom, and purpose.

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Nick Hiatt is an art director, matte painter, and concept artist in the film and video game industry. He is also the founder of The Terrain Domain, where he has been building a library of 3D photogrammetry terrain assets you can access at his website www.nickhiatt.com

Make sure to follow Nick on his social platforms below and make sure to check out his Learnsquared course here!

Instagram
Artstation
Linkedin

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