Jonathan Williamson is a well known artist, specifically because he helps run the popular tutorials website, Blender Cookie.
Jonathan has authored around two hundred tutorials and has some special skills with character construction and design. He also has a small business, Montage Studio, in which he, Ben Dansie and Jean-Sébastian Guillemette collaboratively run. Along with this, Jonathan is a part of Maven Seed, a website offering private CG training from experts in the field.
I think he can tell you the rest ;)
The most cliche’d question must be asked: How did you come to use Blender?
It may be cliche but always fun to compare stories! I actually came about Blender by way of a family friend. This guy was intrigued by Free Craft, a free Star Craft port, and wanted me to do some character artwork for them since he knew I was an artist. At that time I was strictly a traditional artist but he recommended I try out Blender. It didn’t take me long before I was completely hooked! For the first two years I probably spent 5-8 hours a day in Blender. I never did get involved with Free Craft but I still consider the family friend to be the reason for what I’m doing now.
We all know you as the main tutor at blendercookie.com – how did you get into the whole blendercookie thing?
Actually, I barely got in at all! Originally, it was just cgcookie.com, that Wes Burke was running. At the time he was accepting tutorials on a commission basis from submitted proposals. I found the site and sent in a proposal for the Blender tutorial. At first, Wes was thinking “who is this Jonathan dude and what the heck is Blender?” He almost didn’t publish the tutorial, but taking a chance, he published the tutorial anyway. Immediately the views started coming in, apparently people were craving Blender tutorials, and so I did another one. Then another and another. Before long it was apparent it was time to launch a Blender-specific tutorial branch of CG Cookie and so Wes and I went in together as business partners and launched Blender Cookie. The rest is history.
How difficult is it to obtain a unique topic for a tutorial, or do you simply pick one out of the bag-full of requests that you get?
Due to the large number of users watching the tutorials, I also get a lot of tutorial suggestions. Thus it really is just a matter of picking out a request. That being said, I always try to pick out suggestions that help to fill any voids we may have in tutorials.
Do you find that making tutorials so frequently prevents you from working on personal projects?
Very much so! However, I think it is more of a matter of being a full-time job that prevents me from working on personal projects as much as I would like. When you combine full-time work with a fiance and a overly-active dog there is not much time left for personal projects. I do try and squeeze a bit of time in every now and then, though.
What do you do in your spare time?
I’m sorry what? Spare time? Ha! In all seriousness, I don’t really have much spare time. However, that is mostly by choice. I like to stay busy. Whenever I do have free time I quickly pick one of the many projects I have in my head to begin working on, thus losing the spare time.
Blender Cookie hasn’t seemed to have changed much – are there any plans for a bright future, or shall it continue as is with it’s winning formula?
Well if you have checked out the site in the last couple days, then you will see we just released a CG Cookie 3.0 Teaser! This is a quick video showing some of what we have been doing for the new site. Hopefully new site will launch in the next month or two, making the Blender education process much more streamlined and enjoyable :) We have spent a lot of time on the new site, not to mention a lot of money. We really think it’ll be awesome and hope people like it.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
I know it sounds cliche, but literally everywhere. However, if I had to pick a single area of inspiration it would have to be back alleys and people watching! I love the flipped view of urban life that back alleys give and people watching is just, well, fun! Aside from those two things, most of my inspiration comes from things in nature.
You seem to create many more character models than finished scenes in Blender – would you say that this is better or worse when trying to get a job?
It really depends on the industry you’re going for. In the game world, character modeling is a very, very competitive and hard to get in to. It is also less secure than an Environment modeler, for example. Most games have hundreds upon hundreds of environment assets but only a few characters. In end, I guess it’s lucky I don’t work in the game industry much!
What advice would you give to fellow Blenderers?
To not sacrifice what you love for the sake of money. Everyone has to eat of course, and there’s certainly a balance, but if you put in enough time and are smart about it, your passion can very well start paying your bills and fulfilling your artistic needs.
What was the best thing before sliced bread?
Opening a model from another artist and finding it has good topology ;)
Thanks for the interview Jonathan!