Interviewing Idols: Aaron Covrett
American Freelance 3D Designer, Aaron Covrett, creates wonderfully detailed artworks that ooze endless amounts of creatively and skill. He’s become a well-known name in the industry; with artist spotlights from Substance Magazine, 3D Artist Mag and Greyscale Gorilla to name a few! He’s a brilliant designer, and his work is a dream to look at!
Aaron Covrett — if you’re interested in 3D, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve heard of this guy. I’ve been following his work for a few years now, and I think the 3D industry really saw his potential when he released the ‘Bus Ride’ animation back in mid-2018. The texturing, lighting and just the overall production of the piece was absolutely amazing. It was so hard to tell what was 3D and what wasn’t — something I absolutely love about Aaron’s work.
The guy’s personal work isn’t just the only thing that sounds out. Just look at his client list; Comcast, Logitech, Squarespace aren’t exactly small brands! Saying this, he’s also worked with some of the biggest names in the industry, with Zachary Corzine, Jeff Thomson and Trevor Kerr to name a few. Oh, and did I mention he’s also worked for studios like Stink and ManVsMachine too? Yeah, this guy’s pretty damn good at what he does!
Why does he inspire me?
I think something that's clear through these interviews of mine, is that I’m a huge fan of making things in 3D look real. Aaron is a god at this. Using Cinema 4D and Substance Designer he’s able to create scenes that look like they’ve been taken straight from real life. I remember seeing that Bus Ride animation in 2018 and just being in complete awe that someone actually ‘made’ it. It’s a skill that takes a huge amount of trial and error, patience, and also sheer persistence to a craft — and this is something I truly admire about Aaron and his work.
I’m just gonna quickly ask. How the hell did he create that digital renaissance painting? Everything from lighting, to texturing, to even the camera angle makes it look like a scanned digital painting. He mentions in his talk with Substance Magazine that he spent a good amount of time painting all the “intricate surface details and manually placing dust particles”. Let me just repeat that. “Manually placing dust particles”. I implore you to go check out the full resolution image of the render, it’s a true digital masterpiece.
Aaron’s work is full of experimentation and process — another thing that’s lovely to see. The ‘Play’ section on his website is another great place for inspiration along with his Behance/Instagram page. I always admire designers that give some behind the scenes/development to their projects, as for a student like myself these sorts of resources are invaluable. Aaron also has arguably the best NAB talk (I'll have a link a the end of the article) and it’s amazing how clearly invested Aaron is in his work but also in helping people. It’s lovely to see creators do talks like these that truly help the next generation of digital designers!
The Interview part
I was lucky enough to be able to ask Aaron some questions about himself and his career. I hope this’ll give you a little bit of an insight into his life, personal and commercial as well as his design process. It’s not every day you get to interview an idol!
1. Who are you, and how did you start your journey into the world of design?
I grew up in Michigan, where I studied Graphic Design at a local art college. I was very interested in many different industry facets, so I applied for tons of internships. I applied for everything; from print publications, to package design, to web design, and then finally motion design (As you can tell, the last one stuck!).
In 2017 I moved to New York, where I was really able to hone my skills and interests in 3D through personal work. By 2019, I took a job with ManvsMachine LA and headed west to properly start my journey as a full-time motion graphics artist!
2. Could you give some insight into your creative process?
I’m a firm believer in the process’. I try to protect the entry point of a project as much as possible. I’ll typically start with loads of research — online, in books, on walks, etc; always keeping a sketchbook nearby for jotting down thoughts.
After collecting notes and a mood board, I may spend time sketching out storyboards, or depending on the project, dive right into digital exploration. It all depends on the project!
3. Where do you get your inspiration for projects? Who inspires you!
I try to stay inspired from varying sources. Particularly when working in CG, I find it best to avoid referencing other 3D work — instead, finding something rooted in reality or another medium. Photography, architecture, and sculpture are great for this.
In terms of material inspiration, I love researching archival photography from museums. Images are often distributed in high-resolution; intent on preserving detail through the most generous of closeups. Very handy!
4. What are some of the largest challenges you had to overcome during your artmaking process? How did you come to terms with these difficulties?
As artists, we’re always growing and adapting.
As I transitioned to working more collaboratively with the team at ManvsMachine, I learned the difference between being a skilled artist and the art of production. Where I once took great pride in having bottomless patience, I now had to work smarter in the face of looming deadlines. The answer is working iteratively: avoid destructive workflows when possible, and rely on the review process when it’s not.
5. Do you have any big designs/projects in the works or anything that excites you about the future of your career?
Absolutely! I’ve been slowly tinkering away at my largest personal-project-to-date! Outside of that, I’ve also recently jumped freelance and have enjoyed the discovery process of working with new teams. Looking ahead, I’m excited about pursuing new skills and interests! Hoping for a productive 2021!
6. I’ve been fascinated with the work you created with Man Vs Machine! What was it like to work with them?
I’m incredibly grateful for the experience! Feeling like you’re the worst person in the room is a terrifying feeling, but it’s where true growth happens at an expedited speed. The overwhelming talent of the creative staff was evident from day one, and never let up. But more so, the staff was filled with wonderful people, many of whom have become lifelong friends.
(Charlie here! As someone who’s dream is to work at a studio such as MVSM, this is fantastic to hear. You never think of massive studios being that homely setting, but through everyone, I’ve talked to it seems like they really are! Full of amazingly talented people, in a great environment!)
7. Your realism in 3D is just incredible! I’m guessing you must also have a passion for photography like myself!
I have a guilty confession: I’m actually horrible with a camera. It’s been years since I’ve tried, so I’m likely due for another attempt. Artists like Mariusz Becker are a true inspiration for their hybrid approach/interest. In the meantime, I’ll live vicariously through the photographers I follow!
8. Your talk at NAB was possibly the best I’ve seen! Would you like to do more talks in the future?
Absolutely! It was a lovely experience that created countless opportunities — I’m very grateful to Maxon for inviting me. The community response has been so generous! It may come as no surprise, but I’m a bit of a perfectionist (to a fault), so preparing talks like that to take a lot of time.
9. Your work looks like it takes months to create! What do you like to do in your free time?
I’m in love with modern board games, which is currently experiencing a golden age. Gone are the days of Monopoly and Life. Modern games like Betrayal, Gloomhaven and Root provide intricate social experiences that I find incredibly interesting!
10. Do you have any advice for students trying to get into the world of 3D and Digital Design?
Always Stay Curious!
Especially early on in your career, enjoy the discovery process of learning new software, pipelines and techniques. Doing so will make you more versatile for hiring, but also aid in developing your personal taste and career goals.
11. Thank you for taking part in this for me, Aaron! It’s been great having the chance to talk to you and learn more about you and your process! For the people who will read this interview, what are your social media links for people to follow your future work? (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Websites etc…!
Absolutely! It’s been a real pleasure doing this interview!
If you haven’t seen his work before, I urge you to go check it out! Aaron is an amazing designer and a truly genuine person! It was absolutely lovely talking to him, and I for one cannot wait to see what he creates in the future! He was one of the people who inspired me to pursue 3D design, has he inspired you to check it out?
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