Technical Art is an oxymoron – it’s astounding that any job can be the perfect fusion of the traditionally opposite disciplines of tech and art. This role functions as the bridge between programmers and artists, creating the tools needed for the whole development team to build beautiful worlds. In an age where experts excelling at both aesthetics and programming are in high demand, a great technical artist is a rare find. Senior Technical Artist Kris Kirkpatrick moved from Vancouver to Singapore 8 years ago to pursue a Technical Art career and has never looked back since. We sit down with him to find out how he got to where he is now and how you can build the same fulfilling career.
Describe your journey of discovering technical art and choosing it as a career. What inspired you to start?
Like many other technical artists, I’d say I didn’t choose technical art, it chose me! I was learning Digital Art and Animation in school and realized that I tended to use less traditional methods of completing tasks compared to other students. For example, I’d use problem solving and out of box thinking to complete my assignments rather than strictly using taught methods. I started my journey as a Technical Artist when my instructor got me an interview to help their team ship an Xbox 360 game, its been almost 15 years since then.
What does a Senior Technical Artist do day to day?
I support the team by ensuring that artists, designers and programmers have what they need to work happily and efficiently. Our Tech Art team spends much of their time providing guidance, sharing technical constraints, validating art content and maintaining pipelines.
We also focus on features, building the pipelines, pushing visual quality improvements, looking for optimizations, writing tools and scripts, creating shaders, and keeping our documentations up to date.
What are some of your biggest challenges at work?
My job requires me to manage a large number of topics, but this also exposes me to many facets of game development. I think knowing how to manage and mitigate potential inefficiencies is really important, along with a good understanding of the design direction. This ensures that my team can build the right tech and tools to support that design direction.
"I think knowing how to manage and mitigate potential inefficiencies is really important, along with a good understanding of the design direction."
What are the hard and soft skills needed to get and do well in a job in technical art?
I’d say that communication is of paramount importance to a successful Technical Artist. The dev team relies on us to communicate technical constraints effectively and share the tools and pipelines.
Apart from this, it would be really useful to have some knowledge of scripting languages and skills in 2D and 3D softwares like 3D Studio Max, Maya, Substance and Photoshop. Houdini and procedural skills are also becoming more and more valuable in the industry.
"...communication is of paramount importance to a successful Technical Artist. The dev team relies on us to communicate technical constraints effectively and share the tools and pipelines."
What do you love most about Ubisoft Singapore?
The collaboration we have with many studios around the world is something that makes Ubisoft feel special – it’s a fantastic learning and knowledge-exchange opportunity. We also have many clubs and events that bring us together. For example, I run the video games club in the studio! It’s really a place where we work hard and play hard.
"The collaboration we have with many studios around the world is something that makes Ubisoft feel special – it’s a fantastic learning and knowledge-exchange opportunity."
Any advice for Technical Artists hoping to join Ubisoft Singapore?
If you want to do well in AAA video games, keep up to date on the latest industry trends and technologies such as PBR (Physically Based Rendering), procedural and ray tracing. You’ve also got to be very passionate about what you’re doing and have an open mind. Be cool, be open to new areas of development, and you’ll get there!
If you want to find out more about the life of a technical artist in Ubisoft Singapore and see if you’re a right fit, you can meet Kris at SIGGRAPH Asia! Head down to Ubisoft’s booth at C-07 or attend his talk on 18th November, 11:00am – 12:45pm at Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre, Plaza P4. See you there!