Interview with Yuko Hwang from United States

Interview with Jinrong Li, Jiayuan Wang, and Yiwei Lin from United States
January 11, 2024
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Interview with Helena Stjernberg From Sweden
January 11, 2024

Yuko Hwang

Yu Harn/Yuko Hwang is a student studying games at the Gnomon School of Visual Effects. She has a foundation in advertising design and learned digital design in college, creating animated short films. She fell in love with Frozen and wants to create similar work.

Interview with the 2023 Vega Digital Awards Winner - Yuko Hwang

1Please give us a brief bio of yourself and your design background.

My name is Yu Harn Hwang. I prefer to be called Yuko. I was born and raised in Taipei. I am currently studying at the Gnomon School of Visual Effects in pursuit of a Bachelor's degree in the games track. Before Gnomon, I studied advertising design in high school, which is where I first developed my foundation of art and design. I studied Digital Design when I was in college.

During these four years of college, I learned various 3D software for character animation, 3D modeling, and texturing. In my third year of college, I joined a program called Animation Workshop- in this program I worked with other students to create two animated short films.

Yes, making two animations in a year was crazy; however, it was an incredible experience and we were thrilled to see the final results after all our hard work. After graduating college, I wanted to see how far I could go in my career. That's why I came all the way to the United States to learn cutting-edge 3D skills at Gnomon. I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity.

2What made you become/why did you choose to become a digital designer/artist?

To be honest, when I first watched Frozen, I fell in love with the design of the environments and characters. I knew I wanted to create work like that. That was the moment that completely changed my career path. Since then, I have explored many movies and games that have also inspired what I want to make.

3Tell us more about your business/company, job profile, and what you do.

I’m a modeling and texturing artist looking to be in the games industry. I’m currently studying at Gnomon School of Visual Effects. Right now, I am enjoying modeling and texturing for both game ready environments and characters, but am also incredibly passionate about developing my skills as an overall 3D designer/ concept artist. I will be graduated at the end of this year, so I’m polishing my demo reel for future job hunting.

4What’s your favorite kind of digital design and why?

As you can see on my Artstation, I love experimenting with different art styles. During term 8 at Gnomon, I created a forest scene based on the original art by Allison Perry, drawing inspiration from "The Last of Us". Currently, I am working on a new environment - a cyberpunk room in Unreal Engine. Out of all the art styles, my favorites are cyberpunk and modern. Two great example artists in these styles are Artem Filippov and Billy Chitkiin.

5To you, what makes a “good” design?

In my opinion, a good design is not only visually appealing and intricate, but also conveys a story. To me, that is the essence of good art. An art piece that strongly communicates a narrative will always captivate people's attention. Also, while it is important for artists to stay updated with technological advancements, mastering the techniques of composition and lighting is what sets great artists apart.

6Describe your design style and its main characteristics.

In all of my works, I explore a variety of art styles. During my time at Gnomon, I was trying to discover my own unique style. What kind of art can people recognize as Yuko's work?

For my environment pieces, I created a post-apocalyptic campsite and a modern style laundromat, among others- both of which are gritty and realistic. In my latest piece, "Prayer," the art style was inspired by "Elden Ring" and Billelis. It combines my favorite game and favorite artist, resulting in an incredible final look. I successfully captured the dark fantasy theme!

In question four, I mentioned that Cyberpunk is my favorite style, so I am currently working on a new environment piece. The reference for this piece is from the artist [Red Hong]( It is still a work in progress, but I am excited to share it with all of you once it is finished.

7Tell us about your design process.

For my Prayer project, It took me five weeks on sculpting the body, and five weeks on texturing and compositing. This was my first time creating a dark fantasy style creature, and I received a lot of guidance from my instructor Jared Krichevsky, as well as ****Jared Chavez**** on YouTube. Sculpting this horrible look creature in Zbrush was a ton of fun. The sculpting part, check!

The second step was texturing the body- for this part, I came up with the idea of giving the character a zombie-type flesh. I found a good 3D texture tutorial from the Adobe channel where an artist showcased a zombie texture demo. For this process, I started from normal human skin, darkened the skin tone, and added blood around the body as well as some signs of decay.

The final step was compositing. I rendered and composited in Unreal engine, not only because of how good it looked, but also because it was super fast to iterate and see the final result. Doing this part in Vray would have taken much more time to render. Plus, I was able to use Unreal blueprinting to make the ring rotate by itself.

8Where do you draw inspiration from?

Movies, series, and games are the biggest inspirations for my work. When I discover a favorite movie, I watch it at least ten times to observe every scene and understand how they designed and created it. This process is one of the most enjoyable parts for me.

Another source of inspiration for me is music. Lately, I have been listening to a lot of electronic and dance music, which has inspired me to create a cyberpunk-themed room for my current project.

9What current trends in digital design (or really anything digital related) are you most excited about?
Every year, new trends emerge in our lives. One of the biggest trends I believe is AI art- although this new technology also poses a threat to artists. Right now, Midjourney is the most popular AI art generator that people use. With just a few keywords and simple code, art can be generated within minutes. I experimented with AI art for fun, and it did inspire me with new ideas for my creativity. However, artists are well aware that it poses a significant threat to their careers, which is why we need to find a way to coexist with AI.
10Congratulations! As the winner of the 2023 Vega Awards, what does it mean to you and your company and team to receive this award distinction?
It was such a great honor that my creature character is recognized by the Vega Awards, and to let the whole world see my work- before this, I only really shared my work on Artstation and Instagram. This is my first time participating in an international competition, so really a big thanks to the judges for recognizing my work. It has definitely given me more confidence.
11Can you explain a bit about the winning work you entered into the 2023 Vega Awards, and why you chose to enter this project?

Like I said, I initially created this project during a creature modeling class at Gnomon. I found inspiration from watching various YouTubers play video games, with Elden Ring being the one that stood out the most. The game's art was incredibly impressive, combining elements of horror and royalty. With this in mind, I aimed to imbue my creature project with a sense of sacredness.

After completing the sculpting phase, I dedicated time to texturing and compositing. This project is one of my most recent works and, in my opinion, one of the best in my portfolio. That's why I decided to submit it for the Vega Awards- I was hoping to gain recognition among other talented competitors.

12What was the biggest challenge with this project?

When working on this project, I found that texturing the creature's body was the most difficult part for me. Creating a realistic zombie texture posed a challenge. Learning Substance 3D Painter itself was not difficult, but the real challenge was making my artwork convincing enough to appear real. As an artist, I am always eager to learn new things and embrace new challenges.

13How has winning an Award developed your practice/career?
It for sure let me have more confidence in my creativity- winning this award reinforces my position as a professional as I enter the entertainment industry.
14What are your top three (3) favorite things about the digital industry?
  • Creativity with good story telling
  • Strong connection to other artists
  • The cool and humble people I get to work with
15What makes your country specifically, unique in the digital industry?

Taiwanese 3D artists incorporate a significant amount of Taiwanese culture into their artwork. A notable example is the horror adventure video game called Detention, which was created and developed by Taiwanese game developer Red Candle Games.

The game is set in the background of Taiwan under martial law in the 1960s. The unique game design and cultural elements have attracted considerable attention from people of different nationalities. As a result, it can be said that we have introduced a new style in the digital industry.

16Where do you see the evolution of digital industry going over the next 5-10 years?
One of the big changes in the industry is the ability to use AI for customizing design. Like I said, we will see the development of new AI tools sooner rather than later- whether we like it or not. This will definitely have an impact on the digital industry, but ultimately I believe that we artists will have to find a way to coexist with these tools and developments.
17If you were a student entering this industry or an aspiring Vega Award submitter, what advice would you give them?

I am still a student, even though I only have one more term left. Submitting your work for the Vega Award takes a lot of courage, especially when you are new to the industry. So, here are two pieces of advice I can give: submit your best work and work hard. Make the most of your time and take advantage of the opportunities while you are still a student.

18What resources would you recommend to someone who wants to improve their skills in the digital industry?

YouTube is always a good and free resource for anyone learning 3D- attending school is no longer the only option. Even though I am studying at Gnomon, I still rely on YouTube to solve technical problems most of the time. While searching for resources on your own is essential, I believe it's important to go outside and talk to people.

This year, I attended Lightbox and had conversations with industry professionals. They provided me with valuable advice on job hunting and building a portfolio. Building connections is crucial for artists because the digital industry is a small community and we should always be willing to help each other.

19Tell us something you have never told anyone else.
I can’t wait to gradated from school and work professional team to make great game or movie.
20Who has inspired you in your life and why?
My first inspiration came from my mom. She would take my sister and I to various art-related events, such as museums, movies, and musical shows. She has a passion for collecting fashion magazines and art books, which I sometimes read as well.
21What is your key to success? Any parting words of wisdom?
Hard work and continuous learning are the keys to success. Winning the Vega Awards means a lot to me and is a significant achievement before I officially enter the industry. The quote "This is the beginning of anything you want" resonates with me at this moment.
22Do you have anything else you would like to add to the interview?
The last thing I will say is don’t be afraid to fail. It has happened to every artist at some point. When you fail, you will find what you need to improve and grow as a result. Also, never stop trying. This year is very hard for everyone, but keep creating and learning.

Winning Entry

Prayer | 2023

Prayer is a dark fantasy creature with a golden, regal appearance. The creature's backstory involves being killed by people, but still maintaining a prayer gesture ...
(read more at Vega Digital Awards)

Yuko Hwang

Yu Harn Hwang is a student studying games at the Gnomon School of Visual Effects. She has a foundation in advertising design and learned digital design in college, creating animated short films. She fell in love with Frozen and wants to create similar work.

Read more about Sirui Li of Tripo.o's interview for the 2023 Vega Digital Awards!