Artist Interview with Kay John Yim

In this interview we talk with Kay John Yim, the 1st place winner of the CG Boost Moving Castle Challenge from Hong Kong. He will give us some insights of his journey as CG Artist and a look behind the scenes of one of his winning artwork.

Kay's winning artwork of the Moving Castle Challenge

Kay John Yim

London / Hong Kong

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1. Tell us a bit about yourself: Who are you, what do you do, and where are you located?

I am a Chartered Architect based in London, specializing in Architectural Visualization. 
As a 3D enthusiast growing up in Hong Kong, I always had an extreme admiration for people working in the film and game industries – for all the surreal photographic and photo-realistic CG contents they produce.

2. Tell us more about your creative path: How did you get to the point you are now?

I got into CG rendering back when I was studying architecture in University, where everyone had to present architectural concepts with renderings in addition to conventional 2D drawings.
CAD software like Rhino, AutoCAD and Revit were essential tools of trade within the architectural industry, tools that I have been using for over 6/7 years until I struggled with the limitations of rendering packages available at the time.

As the one-man band Archiviz team at my workplace, I had the luxury of constantly testing and switching among different DCCs. I picked Cinema4D & Redshift as my primary rendering/modeling tool at the time for its stability and ease of use.

3. What was your main motivation for participating in the challenge?

I took the challenge as an opportunity to up my quality and work efficiency – with a given challenge brief I could focus on creating the image, rather than spending time picking and narrowing down a subject, as I usually do.

4. Where did you find the inspiration for your latest entry, and what inspires your work everyday?

I was inspired by the compositions and color palettes of Napoleonic romanticized war paintings for my entry.
Unlike most works that I have done (which are mostly set in the present) – my entry was set in ancient times, and I intentionally reference war paintings to create a painterly look as opposed to a photorealistic aesthetic.

Although not apparent through my entry, I am a Japanophile, and I am inspired by Japanese culture for a lot of my personal work.

5. What software (and plug-ins) did you use to create this image? Are there some other tools that make your life as artist easier (maybe not only CG tools but also something you used to organize your work etc.)?

I used primarily Zbrush, Cinema4D and Redshift to create this image.

At the moment I am gradually transitioning to Houdini, as its fully procedural workflow allows me to iterate much faster.
Outside CG, Pureref and Evernote are my favorite tools, for both organizing my references and jotting down my ideas.

6. Are there any particular techniques that you use often?

Taking a leaf out of traditional architecture drawing, I always work on central perspective and set my camera at eye height, regardless of the final framing that I am after – this way I can judge proportions easier, hence making design decisions quicker.

7. Can you give us a short breakdown of your entry?

For the Moving Castle itself, I landed on referencing Gothic Architecture early on for its unique and clear silhouette, then spent the majority of the time iterating on the scale, and the camera framing to convey its colossal size.

I experimented with more and less foreground characters for optimal composition and narrative.  

8. What was the hardest part on creating your entry?

As the Moving Castle was completely fictional, setting the scale and proportions between the rhino and the castle was the hardest part. Ultimately the scale was primarily based on the camera positioning more so than realistic (gothic) architecture.

9. Have you learned something new from participating in this challenge and if yes, what?

As an architect I generally avoid adding fogs/atmospherics to my renderings, as clarity takes priority in Archviz.  The challenge brief gave me an opportunity to experiment with fog VDBs, which I believe was essential to add depth to a scene of drastically varying sizes.

10. Any advice for people who want to learn 3D art or join challenges like this?

For beginners, I think that studying photography and cinematography rather than focusing on the technicality of 3D can definitely go a long way – 3D softwares are evolving so quickly these days anything could easily become obsolete tomorrow.

Beyond learning high level 3D concepts (UV/Nurbs vs Mesh etc.), I think one would learn 3D quicker by picking an interesting subject/object to replicate in 3D rather than watching tutorials.
I initially gravitated towards the subject of architecture – as most buildings are basically “sweeps” and “extrudes” in aesthetically-pleasing proportions, it gave me the instant gratification and motivation to move onto more intimidating techniques later on (sculpting etc.).

11. Who are your favorite artists, traditional or digital, and can you explain why?

I don’t have a favorite artist, as I tend to look at real-life architecture and landscape for inspiration rather than studying works of peers/CG artists. However, I have a great admiration for Simon Holmedal – well-known for his wizardly Houdini skills, his work is both technically and artistically brilliant.

10. Any good books, podcasts, YouTube channels or other useful / inspirational content you can recommend to other aspiring artists?

I personally learned a lot from Greyscalegorilla, Ian Hubert and Hugo‘s Desk – they have a lot of software-agnostic tutorials which I found incredibly helpful and entertaining. The School of Motion podcast is my favorite place to learn the in-and-outs of the CG industry without diving too much into the technical side.


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