The man behind the mask. “Goon” is the pseudonym for the incredibly talented Sydney based CGI artist behind the car renders you see featured here. Goon’s work is tedious and requires extreme attention to detail. In our conversation, he explained to me the importance of learning a car’s heritage before jumping into creating it. We chatted about car interests, the industry, and more.
Within the first five minutes of our conversation, I could tell a lot about this guy. He’s cool. He’s got good taste, and he’s easy to talk to. We chatted about the state of the world (this interview occurred a few months into the COVID-19 pandemic), what we both were doing to try and stay sane while staying at home. And then we got onto the actual interview.
Goon has always been creative and has always liked to draw. One of his first jobs was actually painting miniatures, which I can imagine requires real attention to detail. After high school, he went to study graphic design. From there he spent some time in London trying to figure out what his career move was. He told me, that one night while drawing he came to realize there wasn’t going to be a lot of money or opportunities with just a pencil and paper. But perhaps animation, 2D or 3D. So he decided he was going to learn those skills required to make 2D or 3D renders.
Soon after that, he came across print advertising. Creating renders for print advertising is perhaps the most detail-oriented form of CGI. The renders (most of the time) need to photorealistic enough that if you were thumbing through a magazine you’d think that picture of the new Ford Bronco is real. It seemed like a challenge he was up to. 13 years later he’s still doing that, that’s where his passion lies.
In talking about what got him excited about CGI, he explained the process of moving from 2D low poly to gaming assets, moving all the way up to high poly, high detail. For Goon, it was a mix of interest, and falling into it. “I got a job in print and I had to learn that quickly. My skill set wasn’t great, it was quite wide, jack of all trades but master of none.” Luckily for him, he was able to learn from an artist who worked with him. Grant Warrick created the online program called Mastering CGI, Goon was able to spend the next three years learning from him, “what I learned from him in three years I couldn’t learn off of anyone in 40”.
Which illustrates another great way of learning which is to learn from the people around you. For Goon this was the case, “If you’re constrained and competitive with your other workmates or industry teammates you won’t go anywhere. I’m a firm believer in taking as much advice from everyone and learning as much as possible. There should be no secrets. There are people who hide what they know. There are always going to be people better than you. Spreading as much info as possible is the best thing for this industry.” And I’d add if there aren’t people directly around you, find them. You can reach out to anyone via social media, and if you’re asking about their personal work they’re more than likely to respond.
The level at which he does these renders shows that he’s been doing this for a long time. So I asked him how and where he learned all of this. He’s completely self-taught (aside from the advice he received on the job) and chalked a lot of it up to “hours and hours of youtube videos, which [are] a godsend. If I would’ve been born 15 years earlier I don’t know how I would have learned.” I’ve found more and more that creatives at really every level can attribute so much to what they’ve learned on youtube. Learning CGI, automotive design, exterior design, visualization, graphic design, any of these creative endeavors, are becoming more and more a possibility through youtube.
“I find my best way of learning is doing, not just watching. Same with drawing, if I want to draw something I get a reference, I get a photo and I just exactly copy it. If you exact copy [something] enough times it becomes fluent in your head that then you can be creative about it if you want to be. If you draw a bee a thousand times, you’ll know the structure of a bee, if you need to do it again you don’t need to look. I found that same way with youtube, every tutorial I would sit down and do it all the way. I would do that over and over again. Then I try and do that project again without looking at the tutorials.”
For work, most of what Goon does is not automotive. Although “it’s my biggest passion” he says. For him working on these cars is more than just creating the renders. A large part of it is learning the history and the heritage of the car beforehand. Before he starts any car project he needs to know where it’s from, how it was meant to be driven, and any heritage behind it. He’s working on a big project with a large group of other CGI artists he couldn’t tell me a lot about, but he explained that for his piece of the project he’s spent hours learning the history of the car and how it was built.
His love for cars is more than just CGI. He’s a GTI driver, and loves Volkswagen. When he was younger he even imported a Subaru Legacy RS Turbo from Japan. Spent time in auto salons, car shows. We swapped some more car stories including a time he was able to drive his buddies Dodge Viper out on the empty night streets of Denver CO. That was a good moment.
Last I asked if there were any last words of advice for someone who wants to get into CGI.
“It’s got to be your passion. It’s hard to do a job like CGI if it’s not your passion. If it is your passion, there are a lot of paths to go down, 2D, 3D, gaming, etc. Find the direction you want to go, and just go bananas. Just focus on that, don’t necessarily worry about everything. Youtube is your friend, if see people that do cool work, hit them up and ask how they do it. You’d be surprised at how many people out there love getting questions thrown at them. I know when I was starting out, I came across a lot of people who didn’t want to help and it made life harder. Now, I’m a big fan of hitting up people whose work I like. 99.9% of them will tell you how they work. And if anything, you can do collaborations with them. Everyone is keen to be creative, and it’s easier to collab w/someone because you’re only doing half the work.
This interview is a part of a series exploring the basics of automotive design and cgi, and the people who are designing the future of human transportation. If you enjoyed this interview please consider signing up for my weekly newsletter.