Out of the Screen and On to your Couch: Artist Wil Hughes Discusses 3D Art, Animation, and Realism.

"A lot of people ask questions like; “how are you so good at what you do?” and “how do you become an artist?” and I think people are looking for an easy answer, a shortcut answer. They already know the answers to these questions. There are no easy ways to become a good artist. It takes time and effort and practice, but the more you enjoy it, the more you will want to learn and progress." -Wil Hughes

Have you ever sat around wondering what Rick Sanchez from Rick and Morty would look like if he was rendered in 3D? How about Courage the Cowardly Dog? Well no worries, UK artist Wil Hughes has you covered with his take on how these legendary personalities could appear if they stumbled into 3D space.

Inspired by the works of Nick Park, Tim Burton, and detailed close-ups in properties like The Ren and Stimpy Show and SpongeBob Squarepants, Wil flirts with the uncanny valley phenomenon to create hyper-realistic 3D renditions of popular characters. These imaginings have helped in garnering him a substantial amount of praise and adoration. As many of these figures were at the epicenter of the average millennial’s childhood, it makes sense that people would like to see “realistic” interpretations of them.

His work is so captivating in fact that some of the companies responsible for hosting these IPs (such as late-night favorite Adult Swim and the iconic Nickelodeon) have expressed an interest in his work.

Although he has made some impressive headway with his creations, he remains humble and still views himself as an aspiring artist. 

After being introduced to his work by a friend, I felt it be a good idea to pick his brain in this interview.

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Prox: Let’s start off by learning a few things about you. Where are you from and how did you discover your artistic talents?

Wil: I grew up in the UK watching many animated films and loved to draw. I was always praised for my cartoon drawings but wasn’t something I was good enough at to pursue as a career. It wasn’t until high school that I discovered digital sculpture and knew then that art is what I wanted to pursue. 

Prox: Was there any particular reason why you decided to be self-taught in the beginning? Why did you choose to hold off on University for a bit?

Wil: My high school didn’t teach anything about animating or sculpting software and it was something I was really interested in so I decided to pick it up myself in my own time.

I enjoyed it so much that I’ve spend countless hours watching tutorials online and figuring it out myself. Straight after high school I went into tertiary education for animation. Unfortunately, by the time a sculpting course was available to me in my third year I had already learnt most, if not all, that the course already had to offer.

Prox: How do you think the 3D space adds to art? What drew you towards this medium?

Wil: After being inspired mainly by The Lord of The Rings I wanted to look further into CGI and developed a love for sculpture. 3D artwork I think just feels more valuable as it is one of the more rare skills in art to have, instead of playing music or drawing or painting. A good drawer is easier to come by than a good sculptor. Also having a tangible 3D creation I think is more valuable to such a consumer driven and materialistic society. 3D printing is something I really want to get into as it fits perfectly with my passion for digital sculpting.    

Prox: What compelled you to produce realistic renditions of iconic characters like Ronald McDonald, Homer Simpson, and SpongeBob Squarepants? Why did you inject an element of horror into some of the designs?

Wil: As a child I was also intrigued by the hideous close up renders used in cartoons like The Ren and Stimpy Show and SpongeBob Squarepants. I wanted to apply the cartoony realism to iconic characters. The uncanny valley is very easy to fall into when it comes to “hyper realistic” CGI. Instead of avoiding it I thought it might as well be embraced. I think it’s interesting to see popular cartoons reimagined in a different light whether it’s cute or creepy.  

Prox: Have any of the creators of these characters contacted you about your interpretations of their work? Are you surprised by the fan reception?

Wil: Both Adult Swim and Nickelodeon have shown an interest in my renditions which I find pretty mind-blowing. Fan art is so common I really didn’t think it would get such recognition. I don’t think anything I do is particularly original, just lucky I guess. 

Prox: Who are some of your favorite artists, business people, creatives or intellectuals?

Wil: A lot of my influence and inspiration come from Dominic Qwek, Aris Kolokontes, and Dennis Carlsson, not to mention the more renowned creatives like Nick Park and Tim Burton. Influences can come from watching horror and monster films and also from stumbling upon all kinds of great illustrations. I see a lot of artists who are all very, very similar so that also influences me to try and steer away from what’s already been done. 

Sennheiser

Prox: Favorite Hobbies?

Wil: Besides sculpting, music has been a big part of my life. I play a few different instruments and at one point wanted to pursue music as a career. Music is what I was most known for during high school and always holds a place in my heart. 

Prox: Tips for aspiring artists?

Wil: This is a tricky one. I would say I am most definitely still an aspiring artist. A lot of people ask questions like; “how are you so good at what you do?” and “how do you become an artist?” and I think people are looking for an easy answer, a shortcut answer. They already know the answers to these questions. There are no easy ways to become a good artist. It takes time and effort and practice, but the more you enjoy it, the more you will want to learn and progress. 

Prox: Anymore information on other upcoming projects and releases?

Wil: I usually don’t plan what I’m going to sculpt next. It’s usually quite spontaneous. I do hope to 3D print my models in the future though. I would love to be able to physically hold my sculptures as well as provide them for those who like my renditions.  

Wil's latest work can be found on his Website or you can support him on ArtStation, Facebook, Instagram, and Society6.

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