Florian Aupetit is an Art Director and 3-D Generalist from Paris, France. Currently, he works at a small design and production studio named Monsieur K where he hopes to learn more about CGI to help him realize his dream of creating an animated short. In the interview, he tells us that Father & Son is a personal project he has been developing in his spare time for two years now, and that this is the project he wants to make the short film for. Of course, making this a reality is really tough considering that he has a full-time job and is still learning digital painting. But it is no longer just a pipe dream as him and his friend have finalized a script and most of the scenarios have actually been drawn up and made into illustrations. We hope, in short, that an animated film will be released in the near future.
Surprisingly, Florian originally wanted to become a soldier, like his father, and was more interested in things to do with the military – jet fighters, tanks and the like. This interest in mechanics led him to choose the path he did in high-school, which is where he initially discovered his unkindled passion for the arts after he decided to learn to work with 3-D when he discovered it in Engineering class. After that, he went on to study animation and this is where he finally found the world of digital and traditional art.
Florian said that “The feeling of discovering art as an adult (like I did) is indescribable, and having the opportunity to answer all the questions I had – thanks to the Internet and the museums I visited – was one of the greatest things in my life.” It’s important to note that he had the kind of upbringing a soldier like his father would give, Florian described him as a very serious man. The way in which his father raised him helped a great deal by making it so that Florian was rigorous and disciplined enough to work tirelessly to better his craft.
Today, Florian is here to answer a few questions about his journey as an artist. He will tell you about the tools he uses to further his talents, whether the e-learning courses available online are worthwhile or not and much more. If you like his work then be sure to visit his website and take a good look around!
Tell us a little bit about yourself. What sparked your interest in digital art?
Well, it’s all a bit complicated, My father was a soldier, and since I wanted to do the same, I passed an exam to get into a military high-school when I was fourteen years old. I had to do Engineering for four years and we got to use 3-D CAD software called Inventor (from Autodesk) during the mechanical classes; I was really good at this! I was the best in the class, but it was actually the only class I was doing outstandingly well. So, because it was a boarding school, I wanted to work with 3-D stuff in my spare time and I started to use 3ds Max alongside Valve Hammer Editor to reproduce my high-school since it was basically an old castle. I made all the classrooms etc. and me and my friends actually put it into a Counter-Strike game and used it as a playable level. After that, I passed yet another exam which allowed to study animation and that’s when I discovered the world CG but also arts in general.
How did you go about finding a personal style? Yours is very unique considering you’ve only been painting for a few years.
A whole lot of people talk to me about my style, but I don’t really think about it. I do what I do and that’s all I know. I discovered art (especially painting) when I was twenty, maybe twenty-one, and it was like a big explosion in my minds because I never visited a museum or anything like that before. During these years, it was a need, as important to me as food and drink. I had to “eat” all of those beautiful paintings, sculptures and see all the architecture I could find etc. I was spending all of my spare time in museums, looking at the works of those great artists. I was living in Paris, so there was a lot to see there in this regard. When I was standing in front of those masterpieces, I wasn’t trying to copy them, I was trying to understand all the technicalities instead. These old masters impressed and inspired me a lot, and I also wanted to express myself like they did. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a great deal of technique backing me like they did so I tried to do it with what I had, in other words, nothing. It didn’t need to be realistic, it was all about the feelings. I worked tirelessly without looking at other artists’ works, trying my best to always be myself. I think that a lot of students tend to get too inspired by artists from all over the web and they lose themselves because of this. I find that the old masters inspire me, while artists on the Internet motivate me.
L’entrée – Concept art for personal short film.
You’ve taken a bunch of courses, right? The most recent one was on Learn Squared with Ash Thorp. How were they and would you recommend them to aspirants?
A few months back, Ash Thorp honored me by making me his apprentice for his Learn Squared course called “Main Title Design,” and it was an amazing experience! I was so excited, almost as much as when I first discovered painting since his course was mainly about typography which is something totally unknown to me. Ash is insanely good, I really like what he’s doing and how he’s teaching new things to people. He has his own sensibility, and I have mine. I was wanting to adapt what he was teaching me and carry it over to my own works. If I take the previous example of the old masters with the two layers – feelings and techniques – he was very much the first one. Teaching me his skills and giving me the knowledge I needed to create my own stuff as opposed to reproducing what he had. An example of this would be the Coraline opener where I used my own skills. Obviously, I recommend all of the courses Learn Squared offers, Schoolism and a lot of others are great too. However, you need to be yourself and only take what you need.
You have some great music on your YouTube videos. Do you listen to music whilst you paint?
I am usually listening to music whilst painting, and it’s always related to what I am painting at the time. Let’s say we’re doing a forest scene, I would probably be listening to those three hour long videos with forest nature sounds. I like all kinds of music though, and I am always trying to discover new things.
Take Shelter: Homework assignment from Ash Thorp’s main title design course.
What about your personal project? You told me you want to make a short film with that one. How is that going?
I have a personal project named Father & Son, it’s a story I came up with when I was discovering painting. When I started painting in 2014, I was (and still am now) more attracted by landscapes than character design. But I needed some characters to put in all those landscapes I was painting so I made these two little guys in orange suits and started using them in just about every painting I had. As time passed by, I was getting better so I decided to give them a proper medium to tell their story. And for me, the best one was an animated short. A friend of mine helped me with building their story, and a couple of months back, we finally finished writing the script. I am really excited to do this but I have a full-time job and I do freelance work so I can only work on it occasionally. But I will be doing this for sure, I love the story, and with my job and the courses I am taking on Learn Squared and Schoolism, I am learning a lot of new things that will help me when I come to produce it. Lastly, I have the support of many people on the Internet which motivates me even more!
I always see you recommending books, films and videos. Do you learn a lot by looking at things like that?
Films, books and photography are three of the best tools to learn for me because they were all created to tell stories and that’s what I want to do. I prefer books rather than saving pictures on to my computer because it’s the real thing, I can use it and I have post-it notes all over them so I know where I can find a particular reference when it’s needed (as well as discover new things on the remaining pages). You can’t actually see it on the photograph I took of my desk, but usually, it’s covered in books! I think that cinema is also a great tool since there are lots of jobs you can do and each and every one of them teaches you some things. You can watch a film and only study the realization, or the cinematography with the colour and light they chose, or the composition of each shot, so I really like cinema for all of these things.
And like you said, I really like sharing things with people because I want share the thirst I have for knowledge, but I spend a long amount of time on the Internet or in the library to find these things. I think that other artists should be interested in everything just like me, and not only in the subjects they like. For example the haute couture is not among the first few subjects that students will tend to be interested in, they will be much more attracted by the art-books of AAA games or other things like that. But I recently bought a book called Savage Beauty by Alexander MacQueen and damn, if you like character design, then this is your man! He produced some absolutely insane designs! But if you just are just interested in things you like, you will probably never come across someone like him. In simpler terms, try to be interested in everything.
Tell us about your favourite film and how it influenced your art?
It’s impossible for me to choose only one film but I can tell you about the ones that really influenced me. The first one a silent film, The Passion of Joan of Arc, directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer, it came out in the year 1928. I remember the first time I saw it was in a class about art history during my studies, I was dazed. It was difficult to believe that a film shot so long ago could be so ahead of its time. The composition of the frames are insane and I’ve been interested in photography ever since I watched it. Especially old photographs, and so I learned about composition for my paintings. Next, I really like The Tree of Life (I get that it’s not everyone’s favorite) directed by Terrence Malick and released in 2011. And I am completely amazed by the cinematography of Emmanuel Lubezki because from my point of view, it’s more of an experience than just you watching a movie. And every time I watch it, I have this feeling that I am repeating a part of my life. The lighting is so natural and I don’t feel like I am watching the film, it feels more like I am in it. It’s a strange feeling, that’s for sure. I learned that lighting is a very important thing because you can deliver a message with lighting and how your characters react to the lights etc. thanks in large part to The Tree of Life. I also love The Fountain, Toy Story, Road to Perdition and many others, but it would be too long if I discuss them here.
Nowadays, a lot of western entertainment artists are all inspired by the same things. They all watch the same blockbuster movies whilst playing the same AAA games. How do you think this affects the art community as a whole? Recently, you shared a YouTube video titled “Nobody Cares About Your Photography,” and the guy in the video says that we need art that matters and art that means something. Is it now, that a lot artists are trying to gain more and more followers online by making fan-art etc. because they know that’s where followers come from?
Good question! As Ted Forbes (the man speaking in the video) said, we need art that matters and I get the feeling that we need to put a part of us into the art for a particular purpose in order for it to matter. And if everyone is watching the same movies or playing the same games then they will lose their own part and it’ll all be the same. It kills uniqueness. Getting inspired by the finished product is kind of a trap that’s easy to fall into. For example: a game where the lead character designer came up with the lead character, that person was inspired by something. I don’t know what, maybe it was pictures of some tribe in South America etc. but they certainly weren’t inspired by other AAA games’ characters. You also have to be inspired by the source and not the final product. Planes were designed after we spent a long time studying birds. And I get that it’s way easier to be attracted by the design language of a famous game or a movie and that it’s way harder to study things you don’t know to help you create your picture.
I am not a big fan of fan-art either but if that’s what you’re passionate about and you don’t care about followers or likes then it’s fine. I mean, I also prefer having nice comments but real feedback helps you improve, and it will help me a lot more than having a thousand followers who just like the picture I post. You should be working for you, not for them, and that’s probably why people like my own work. Because I do it for me with my own sensibility and some people identify with it.
30 minute sketch
You work at Monsieur K in Paris at the moment, what do you do there? Is it a good environment?
I am currently working in this studio as an art director and a 3-D generalist because my best skill is 3-D at the moment. The people here are great and I get to work on various different projects in advertising. I even make music videos, some things for a game for the HTC Vive or animation. I am learning to do so much with CGI but I continue to work with digital 2D because that’s what I enjoy the most. I think that I’ll stay here for a few more years and then I’ll try going for some bigger foreign studios.
Does traditional art play an important role in your work?
Yes, it most certainly does. I am learning traditional painting by myself and it’s really hard but what helps me the most is my photography. Now, you can easily use your smartphone to take pictures, or you can use a proper camera and learn all about composition or lighting. I always have a camera with me in case I need to shoot some references for current or future projects, so yeah, traditional arts do play an important role in my work.
What’s next for Florian Aupetit?
I am hoping to finish my animated short in the next couple of years and I am also looking forward to new 3-D projects where I’ll use a new renderer called Octane. Also, I’ll be doing loads more photography and of course, painting!