Graduate's 3-D Artist Career Is a Dream Come True
Steve Hyunsuk Suh’s model for the telepresence box, a futuristic computing device featured on Fox TV’s Minority Report. Photo courtesy of Steve Hyunsuk Suh.
Ever since he was a young boy growing up in South Korea, Academy of Art University alum Steve Hyunsuk Suh loved art. “Doodling was my favorite hobby because I could directly express what I wanted,” he said.
Suh was also a big fan of Disney animated films. And when Pixar came out with Toy Story in 1995, he was mesmerized by the hit movie’s sophisticated animation.
“I’d never seen anything like it before,” he remarked. “I learned that Toy Story was made with 3-D computer graphics and dreamed of becoming an animation artist.”
But as an adolescent, Suh had second thoughts about pursuing a career in the arts. He felt that it wasn’t practical and that art should just be a hobby. Suh began studying to become a computer engineer instead. Eventually, however, he realized this choice wasn’t fulfilling him.
“I knew I wanted to be an artist, so I enrolled at the Academy to study 3-D art,” Suh said. “It was a long journey, but I feel like I’ve finally achieved my dream.”
Steve Hyunsuk Suh. Photo courtesy of Steve Hyunsuk Suh.
Since graduating with a B.F.A. in 3-D Animation & Visual Effects in 2013, Suh has been applying the skills he gained to high-profile films and other projects. Currently a 3-D artist for the Aaron Sims Company, a visual effects studio in Los Angeles, Suh is responsible for designing characters and props based on movie scripts and concepts.
“It has been an amazing time,” he remarked. “I am really loving my job and getting to collaborate with talented artists on great projects.”
He is most proud of his work for one of this summer’s major movie releases, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows. “This was my first project, and I had to create a prototype costume for a foot soldier villain,” Suh said. “It was hard, because I wasn’t sure if my design direction was right.”
Although his design was tweaked for the film, he’s happy that the final look remained similar to his original concept.
He’s also pleased with his contribution to the Fox TV series Minority Report. Suh created a model for the telepresence box, a futuristic computing device featured on the show.
“The client liked my design and ended up using it on TV,” he said. “I’m really proud of it.”
According to Suh, the education and support he received from his instructors at the Academy—including Derek Flood and Tareq Mirza—were key to helping him get where he is today. He’s especially grateful to Craig Marshall, one of his illustration instructors.
“His head and hands class was kind of strict and tough, but I learned a lot of fundamental things and art theory from him that I use in my profession today,” said Suh.
He advises current Academy students training to become 3-D artists to focus on developing solid portfolios. “Some students care too much about tools like 3-D software,” Suh explained. “Every studio uses something different, and you can’t learn all the 3-D software before you graduate. Knowing how to use these tools is good, but I think it’s better to spend more time polishing your portfolio.”
In addition, he recommends students cultivate a strong social media presence, both to get more exposure for their work and for networking, and attend computer graphics conferences such as SIGGRAPH. He also suggests they look beyond film and game studios when hunting for jobs.
“As a 3-D artist, you can work for a commercial studio, product design company, toy manufacturer, virtual reality studio or even the medical industry,” said Suh.
Although he has his dream job, Suh still has other professional goals he wants to check off his bucket list. One is publishing a book to help others achieve similar success.
“In the near future, I hope to share my story and skills with people who want to be an artist, or who are at a crossroads in their life,” he said.
Foot Soldier from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows. Suh worked on the prototype costume for the character. Photo courtesy of Steve Hyunsuk Suh.