Hailing from Bellville massive, Jean-Pierre Le Roux is a sought after multi-disciplined creative specializing in 3D and motion design. His five years as a working professional in Cape Town’s creative industry have seen him working on major animated movies ‘Adventures in Zambezia’ and ‘Khumba’ at Triggerfish; as an in-house motion designer for an ad agency; and most recently at local TV station eTV. Before he makes his next move, we got chatting to find out about JP’s journey so far, his personal project The Sweatshop, and what’s next.
What and where did you study? And what has happened between then and now?
My journey started at a little college called Prestige Academy in my hometown of Bellville. I was never really sure what I wanted to do I just kinda rolled with it. All I knew was that I always loved cartoons, animation and drawing as far back as I can remember. So I enrolled in the 3D design and animation course at Prestige in 2007. I immediately fell in love with this 3D idea of crafting objects in space and making things move. I sat through many nights just playing around with the software and soon was excelling in my first and second year.
I graduated in 2008 and then the real world hit me pretty hard. I struggled for a good few months to land a job and the rejection played a great deal on my mind. The graduates in our field of 3D/animation have a major misconception when leaving college, as our industry here is tiny and it’s survival of the fittest, really. Many graduates give it a shot with their college reels to get turned away 1 too many times and eventually give it up. I was determined to make it as I’m quite a bad loser and on the other hand the bank was expecting the first student loan payment in a couple of months.
So I went back to the drawing board (pardon the pun) and scrapped my college portfolio for a fresh start. I started teaching myself new disciplines and advancing my skillset in different fields to give myself more commercial value. A few months later I saw that Triggerfish Animation Studios was recruiting for an animated feature film. I went for the interview and Mike Buckland, co-founder of Triggerfish, was kind enough to take a chance on me. I was made previz artist on “Adventures in Zambezia”. After a couple months at Triggerfish I made the animation team and was specialising in character motion. I spent 3 years at Triggerfish and went on to work on our second feature film “Khumba” which was just released a few months ago in cinemas across the world.
While working at Triggerfish I was dabbling in motion design and was quickly being drawn more into the design field. I bought myself an iMac but my software of choice at the time “Autodesk Softimage” was not available for mac which is when I stumbled onto my favourite toy “Cinema4d”, which I saw was kicking up a storm with motion designers in Europe and the US. I started freelancing on a couple of small jobs in motion graphics and eventually left Triggerfish to pursue this love of motion design. I went on to work at Matt Advertising as their in-house motion designer. Gaining great experience on projects for Sanlam, Stimorol and others.
I was eventually headhunted in early 2013 by ETV to help create their new channel identities. I have spent around 7 months at ETV working on various projects.
I was recently contacted by the ECD of Gloo Digital and have been offered a position as a 3D designer there, which I am really excited about. Lately my focus has shifted towards 3D illustration. I am really enjoying the illustration side of it. Motion work can be really time consuming as asset creation and movement is a little time heavy and good results can take a few weeks.
What do you love about 3d design and illustration?
I guess I love the craft of it really, playing music and zoning out. It’s quite relaxing to me. Also I get pleasure out of a seeing a finished product, as most designers do I’m sure. I’m a really competitive person and always need to be on top, so I have a personal battle going on, challenging myself to create work on par with the best. I’m not saying my work is at all there yet. I still have a long way to go but I am a lot happier with my results these days.
Can you tell us about why you started The Sweatshop?
The Sweatshop is a tumblr I started recently as a personal challenge. I initially wanted to create an image per day as a lot of designers do to push themselves, but soon realised that 3D is a little more complex and time consuming so I just try to make one every few days. I use it to explore different styles of design through typography or characters. It also helps me speed up my workflow and learn new software tools I may be too afraid to test on a commissioned job as there are no real time constraints. Although I try not to get too caught up in each one so I give myself approximately four/five hours to work on each.
Where do your ideas for your personal work come from?
I spend a lot of time on design blogs and behance finding out what the leaders in the industry are doing, and basically taking a lot of direction from that and turning it into my own. It’s a great way to start, looking at something inspiring and thinking of creating something similar. And by the time you are done and it has filtered through your own mind it comes out quite unique. I also look into my own life experiences and think about who I am and what I enjoy. Our own experiences are really powerful forms of originality in this world of plagiarism we live in today. I am one of those people that get really annoyed with the aspect of plagiarism in design. I know people say nothing is original anymore but we can all think for ourselves and using just a tiny bit of thought can make a piece your own.
What has been your favourite project to date? What are you busy working on now?
My favourite project has to be the Virgin Active Happy New You job I completed in December last year. It was a brief I was super excited about. I hardly left my computer. I was briefed to design the print artwork for Virgin Active’s Happy New You new year campaign. The reference I was given was designed by one of my favourite 3D designers Chris Labrooy. I was asked to conceptualise and design the letters from the words “Happy New You” out of objects you may see whilst at the gym.
What can we expect from you in 2014?
2014 is a big year for me, I have high hopes for what I expect to achieve. As I’ve said I’ll be starting at Gloo and I’m really excited to work with their team. Another side project of mine is a collaboration with a close friend Shaun Swainland. We are starting a little joint venture called “Made by Gentlemen” basically just building up a high class portfolio of work and seeing where it goes. It is still really early in the making but we will feature our work once we have a substantial porti going. We have a really complimentary skill set and hope to push boundaries and create some inspiring work. We are already working on projects with Wired magazine and are hoping it grows into something great.
I’m also going to continue my sweatshop blog and keep trying different styles and ideas. I publish every post to instagram “@jeanpierrelr”, tumblr, and Behance. I will be creating desktop wallpaper renders available to download every few days.