We’re glad to introduce the interview with David Connolly, a SOA student and friend from the advanced course on V-Ray for ArchViz.
Could you present yourself to our readers and tell them the position you currently hold?
Hi, I’m David Connolly and I’m from Ireland although I’ve been living in London for over 10 years.
I was a freelance artist for around 7 years, working for studios in London and the UK, before recently joining Cityscape Digital – an arch-viz studio specialising in marketing and planning. I attended the V-Ray course at State of Art shortly after starting at Cityscape at a stage in my career where I wanted a really comprehensive grasp on V-Ray which the course certainly delivered on; I gained a much greater insight into the aspects necessary to succeed in the industry and hope to attend more SoA courses in the future – the Realtime one looks like great fun!
Why have you chosen to become an Arch-Viz Artist?
I see myself as a visually driven and creative person, it’s nice to be able to earn a living in a way that allows me to utilise the skills I’m best at. I have had an instinctive passion and respect for architecture from a young age; I loved technical drawing at school and studied Architectural Technology in Dublin, but once I got a taste for modelling and lighting my projects in Autocad & 3dsMax I realised I wanted to create CGI’s instead of drawing plans and sections all day long. After working in a few large architectural practices in Dublin I gained enough experience to go freelance and started working for my own clients. 3 years later I moved to London and started working at Hayes Davidson where I was lucky to have met & worked with talented artists like Gianpiero.
I’ve entertained the idea of becoming a full time photographer but I think I would miss the CG side of things and the creative freedom it brings. I can’t really see myself doing any other job at this stage in my life.
What were the biggest difficulties you faced at the beginning of your career? How did you handle and overcome them?
When I moved to London I was still using scanline to render and didn’t know what a mask was in photoshop so Hayes Davidson was a massive step up for me – the first 6 months were quite stressful trying to feel on par with my colleagues who were all producing amazing work; I didn’t have a very strong CG portfolio being mostly self taught, working out of my bedroom in rural Ireland, no CG community to speak of and it was extremely difficult to source relevant and current learning material to improve my skills in a fast-paced, ever-evolving industry. My CG portfolio was so weak that I printed out my favourite photography from a trip to Asia and showed that in the interview instead (luckily it did the trick & I was hired).
There’s heaps of good information online these days to bulk out your overall learning but I strongly believe it’s good for juniors to work in a team with senior artists to be able to pick up the finer details and practical tips that can often only be learnt by shadowing and observing colleagues, not necessarily senior to yourself. For me it was really crucial to join a big studio to differentiate and learn the workflows and techniques, and ultimately to make good friends for life– not just ‘network’.
My best piece of advice to anyone is to graciously share – and accept – knowledge with and from those around you. I have always learnt something new from everyone I have worked with and I hope I am always able to offer a different perspective if not a solution to overcome stumble blocks that inevitably arise when creating that perfect image.
Is there a work/ an image/ a project that you created which is most valuable to you? Why?
Oh, that’s a difficult question! I’ve been fortunate enough to have worked on some really great projects but if I narrow it down to two within the last year or so I’d say one of them was a project for the world’s deepest indoor dive and astronaut training centre called Blue Abyss. It’s not every day you’re asked to render images of astronauts and spacecraft so it was a nice shift from the type of projects I normally work on. It was also my first project with Corona, which I found to be a very easy software to pick up and learn on the job – handy when the deadline was yesterday.
I’d also mention the first realtime project I worked on last summer. We used unreal which I found was quite a steep learning curve and whilst I initially struggled with the interface having come from a 3ds max background I eventually got the hang of it especially as I had some very talented colleagues show me the ropes and speed up my learning. There’s such a massive difference between creating stills and realtime – a real breath of fresh air. Realtime and VR are at a really exciting stage in the industry and they’re only going to grow in popularity in the coming years.
What do you do in your free time after work? Can you balance your working life and your private one?
When I’m not working I love being with my gorgeous wife & two young brilliant daughters, whether it be at home, in our local park or discovering something new in or out of London. My second passion in life is photography: https://www.instagram.com/insightfullight/ and I get quite a buzz out of being there to taking a shots in the perfect light. I mostly shoot with natural light and I like trying to find different ways to shoot the same location. I dabbled in a spot of wedding photography and these experiences were really valuable in honing in on my ability to frame, compose & give a story to a photo – which all feeds back into my cg work.
Finding a work-life balance can be difficult sometimes as I’m a perfectionist. When you have a need to make things look perfect it can be difficult to know when to quit and go home but I recently came across a quote by Leonardo da Vinci I believe which says “Art is never finished, only abandoned” which really rings true to me!