Laura Bermudez: Animating Dreams

Who draws the line between the real world and the imaginary worlds out there? A CG artist. It is fascinating to see how even as technology advances and computers become “smarter,” we humans are still able to dream far beyond our physical limits, and use these tools to bring to our most impossible dreams into the real world just like Colombian art director and 3D artist, Laura Bermudez.

Laura was born in Bogotá, Colombia, and her passion for creating new worlds and characters has always accompanied her since she can remember. She also enjoys drawing and taking photographs. Laura just graduated from Savanah College of Art and Design (SCAD) with a double major in Animation and Visual Effects. For the past five years, Laura has been creating an enviable art portfolio, and we had the chance to contact her and learn about how she brings her dreams into reality.

How would you define your art?

My art is unexpected. I love creating characters and environments that don’t exist in real life, and that produces some kind of feeling in the person that’s seeing my pieces. Making 3D art is such a fantastic experience because we get to dream and create things that are only possible in our imagination. If I want to create a circus that floats in the sky, it’s possible. If I want to create an alien with stage fright, it’s possible. If I want to create a candy world, it’s possible. It’s almost like magic.

Besides CG, what other forms/styles of art do you do?

I usually have a stylized style in CG, which basically means that it’s not photorealistic and you can tell is computer generated. CG is my favorite form of art, but I also love to draw in my spare time and take photos. Drawing makes me feel more relaxed, and taking pictures is just so wonderful, it makes you see how beautiful a moment is and keep it forever.

Why is CG so crucial for your artistry?

Well, when I decided to become an artist, I wanted to be in an exciting industry, one that’s always changing and evolving, that’s how I fell in love with 3D art. CG is a really powerful tool nowadays, and it’s been used in medicine, psychology, sports, advertisement and obviously, the entertainment industry. I just think it’s such a magical ability that makes people see the world differently, and this is so powerful.

What is the process to create a character like Skully?

Talking about Skully is one of my favorite things because he was my first original 3D character. Well, to create a character of any kind you first have to start with a story. First, ask yourself, who is this character? What drives him? What makes him happy? What makes him sad? All about him, basically you have to know him like he’s your best friend. When the story is done, you can start designing the character. Skully’s design is based on the idea of an imaginary friend of a little adventurous and brave boy. I designed him several times until I was 110% sure that was the design I wanted. Then I modeled and sculpted him in a 3D program. I added the textures and painted his details. Then I had to rig him, which is basically when you put the bone structure to the character so he can move. And finally, I animated him. It was so magical seeing him .move for the first time, I cried a little bit.

How do you start a new project? Do you have a theme in mind, or is it free sketching?

To be honest, it kind of depends on what the project about. So, if it’s a project for a client, I have to talk to someone in the design team to see what they have in mind. And then start sketching possible ideas to get feedback until I get the “green light” and I can start doing the project. When it’s for a personal project, it’s so much more random, I guess. I find inspiration everywhere, in music, movies, nature, friends, and even family, and then I start the project. It’s exciting when I start a new project. I have so many ideas in mind I have to write them down. One of my favorite projects was a Night Circus theme, and I thought about it listening to a song of the Beatles, it just came to me like that.

Do you need a team? And if so, what members are required?

It’s always good to have a team and collaborate with others when you have a really challenging or long project, but it’s not always necessary. Personally, my projects are perfect enough for one person, so most of my projects have been solo projects. I’ve talked to fellow artists to get some tips and feedback, but I’ve managed to learn a lot from the process and created the projects like that. Also, a lot of youtube tutorials, those are amazing. So in this industry, we have different concentrations, so one of them is being a generalist, a generalist is someone that knows how to do each part of the process but is not really a master in each part of it. It’s someone that knows the “general” idea of each step and can do a lot of each one, but in more challenging work they don’t have the full knowledge. And then we have the “experts” in each field. So for a project like a short film, you would basically need, a concept designer that will draw the scenes as a guide, a modeler, a lighting artist, a texture and shading artist, animators for the movement, a render artist that will help with the overall quality, a compositor that will put all the scenes together, a sound designer if you have music or sound and finally maybe a motion media artist for the credits.

Photo by Laura Bermudez
What kind of software/hardware do you use/need to create these animations?

In what we do, there are PC people, and there are Mac people, I’m a Mac person all the way. The software that makes all the magic happen is Maya by Autodesk. It’s incredible and such a powerful tool in my life now. The program is heavy, so the Mac I use has a powerful processor and a huge memory to keep up with the projects. I also use Houdini for some more procedural type of Animation. And to edit all at the end, I use Nuke, which is an amazing tool also.

Why did you decide to dual major in Animation and Visual Effects?

Deciding to major in Animation was the easiest choice I’ve made, I wanted to be a 3D artist, and my dream was to make movies and tv shows. When I got to art school, I realized that everything I loved about Animation was, in reality, Visual Effects. So Animation in my university is the movement of the characters, and Visual Effects is the look of the 3D art. So lighting, modeling, texturing, and rendering was Visual Effects and not Animation. I mean you could still learn it in Animation, but it was more in-depth in Visual Effects. So I decided to double major because I wanted to learn the most I could about making 3D art.

Photo by Laura Bermudez
What is the part that you most enjoy while creating?

That’s a tough one because I enjoy a lot of things from the process. But I would say lighting, I have an eternal love relationship with lighting. It is really challenging, and it was really difficult for me to start learning it, but in the end, it’s beautiful. Lighting can change a lot the mood of a scene and guides the viewers through the films or games. It’s so nice playing with it, and it’s one of my passions.

What are your short/medium-term goals?

As a short term goal, I can’t wait to see my final short Never Forget in a big screen on festivals, it was a whole year work, and Skully is the main character, so I can’t wait. As a medium-term goal, I want to finish my role as a photographer in Disney that I just started and move to another aspect of design and 3D art in a game design company hopefully. But honestly, just continuing doing what I love is already a goal.

Follow Laura on her creative journey! Also, check out her website!

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