Career Advice: Working as a Texture Artist in an Animation Studio in Mumbai

Career Advice: Working as a Texture Artist in an Animation Studio in Mumbai

VanArts graduate, Greeshma Chacko shares her journey as a Junior Texture Artist in the Animation Industry.

Greeshma Chacko is a Texture Artist at Cosmos-Maya Digital Studios in Mumbai, India. Vancouver Institute of Media Arts (VanArts) alum, Greeshma, sits down with us to today give her advice for other aspiring Artists looking to join the Animation Industry.

The Journey

What's your current role and what does it involve?

I am currently a Texture Artist. I create stylised and semi-realistic high resolution textures for characters and props for 3D animated shows.

Where do you work, and what type of projects are they involved with?

I work in Cosmos-Maya Digital Studios, located in Film City, Mumbai.We work on several 2D and 3D animated content for kids. We are well known for the Motu-Patlu series which airs on Nickelodeon.

When did you first realise you wanted to work in this industry?

It was 2015. I was in 12th grade, attending a biology lecture. I was pretty bored so I started drawing all the characters I knew from the anime Digimon in my notebook. My classmate sitting next to me saw what I was doing and he went crazy seeing it. He used to watch it when he was young, and we went on discussing Anime. At the end of our conversation, he asked “What are you doing here learning science? You should be out there creating cartoons.”

That question made me wonder! What if I made a career out of art? He made me realise I could work in the Animation industry, and I wanted to. I will always be grateful to him for that.

How did you get your first big break?

It’s only been a year and a half since I started working in the industry so I don’t have much experience yet. I graduated from Vancouver Institute of Media Arts (VanArts), Canada, during Covid and it was a bit difficult to get a job being an international student. So I came back to India and well, within a few months I got an offer to join Cosmos-Maya!

Describe the journey you took into your current role?

I grew up watching all sorts of cartoons and anime on TV, and I always tried doodling my favourite characters on any piece of paper I could find. Art was something that came naturally to me, but since I was a bright student, I went ahead to pursue science. I was doing my Bachelor’s in Chemistry when one of my sister’s friends suggested some Animation Institutes in Mumbai which offered various art courses. So I thought I would give it a shot. I joined Arena Animation, and as a beginner, the first software they taught was Adobe Photoshop. As I was learning, it just blew my mind seeing what one can create with just one picture! Gradually I learnt to use more 2D and 3D softwares here.

I joined VanArts in Vancouver to polish my skills to be a Character Artist. I joined the Game Art and Design program, and the instructors taught us everything from basic sketching to developing a whole game in Unreal.

As I finished my First Term at VanArts, I realised how much I enjoyed making environment art, rigging and animating and that pushed my interest to be a 3D Generalist.

I work as a Texture Artist now, and it helps me improve my UV mapping skills and various technical skills associated while using industry softwares. I am still fresh in the industry, so I hope to climb up that ladder and fulfill my dreams!

Why did you choose to study at VanArts?

I completed my Bachelor’s in Chemistry and the animation course from Arena simultaneously, after which I started searching for colleges or institutes that would help me specialise more in making 3D characters and improve my skills. I attended some education fairs held in Mumbai and that’s when I came across VanArts! I was impressed by the quality of their work and how the students developed their skills in just one year. Their Game Art and Design program curriculum covered up all the things I wanted to learn and more too. I filled up an application right away!

How does your education complement your work?

VanArts helped me develop my 2D and 3D skills in such a short time. The instructors taught us industry-level softwares in depth, how some basic tools and features could easily help in making complex geometric shapes. I learned about the different pipelines in the animation and gaming industry.

Six months into the Game Art and Design program, I had already created an adventure game based on the Hanna-Barbera show Yogi Bear!

From making simple character iterations to developing a working game in Unreal, our instructors at VanArts guided us through the workflow and helped me recognise my strengths and weaknesses in the various stages of game development.

We also had a group project where the whole class had to create a game together in Unreal. It not only helped to understand the pipeline of making games better, but also gave a glimpse of how it feels to work as a team.

Day in the life

Describe a typical day for you and your team?

The studio I work in has a domestic and international division so it's open 24/7. I work the morning shift at 7 am. So with a coffee mug in my hand, the first thing I usually do is check for feedback from my supervisors on the work I did the previous day. I work on corrections, if any, and then go back to uv mapping and texturing the character I have been assigned for the day.

We usually work on our own characters and props but we get together time after time to discuss some episodes we work on or any issues anyone’s facing.

Our studio is located in Filmcity, so usually everyday after lunch my colleagues and I go out for a walk to catch a breather and stumble upon some movie or tv show shoot. Later, I get back to my system, work on my character and send screenshots of it to my supervisors asking for feedback. Then I leave for home by 3 pm.

What third-party and proprietary tools do you use on a daily basis?

On a daily basis, I use Autodesk Maya for UV mapping, Adobe Substance 3D Painter for texturing and Adobe Photoshop to create some seamless textures and alpha maps. Some of my colleagues use ZBrush, Mari and Bodypaint 3D.

What does your workflow look like?

It’s a pretty simple workflow. Most of the characters and props we work on have a concept to refer to and texture. Maya files of the characters and props are provided to unwrap. While unwrapping, we use the UDIM workflow. And after that we take the OBJ or FBX files to Substance Painter or Mari to bake and texture. Textures are exported in 4k resolution. We later render the character in Maya using Arnold and check if everything matches with the concept provided and send it to our supervisors for approval.

Which departments and key people do you work closely with?

I work closely with the Modeling and Texturing departments. I usually communicate with the Department Head and Supervisors everyday. I also work with the Technical and Look Development departments from time to time.

Many studios have started utilising Unreal Engine in various roles and projects. The studio I work in have also gradually started using Unreal, and as texture artists we bake and export textures accordingly.

One thing you’d never change about your job?

I do like the new hybrid working system that many studios and companies have adapted to. It takes me nearly two hours to commute from my place to the studio, Mumbai being a pretty busy city. So the hybrid work culture helps in saving time and money.

But one thing you wouldn’t mind seeing changed is?

I am still new to the industry so I haven’t really thought about any. I have heard a lot about ups and downs in this field with respect to the work-life balance but I think it all depends on the company or a specific team within the company.

Career Advice

Is formal education essential for someone aspiring to do your job?

I won’t say it's essential, but it can help. Being a Science graduate and also having no connections in my family or friends who worked in the animation or gaming industry, going to an art school helped me a lot. It helps you build lasting relationships with people who have experience in the field, and understand the ways of the industry better. It helps you build a foundation, a path towards your career.

Without a school however, you can learn art through various tutorials online. There are so many tutorials out there which help you develop a game from scratch. If you have that passion and inspiration to learn and create, then there is no need for a formal education.

What tasks would you be typically asked to do as a junior artist?

As a Junior Artist, I usually get to texture side characters or make some tweaks on some that are already textured. Once in a while I get to texture some birds and animals too, and I find that really exciting. I also get to do some prop modeling when there is no texturing work.

What skills seem to be missing all too often?

Teamwork. One may be good at art and using softwares, but it’s also important to collaborate and work as a team while working on a project.

Describe your attitude towards your job?

I try to have an optimistic attitude towards what I do. I have an introverted personality and working in a big company with so many people around sometimes weighs me down. But I am working on improving my social skills as communication is key and everyone in my team is working hard towards achieving a common goal.

Where do you get your inspiration from and how do you implement it into your work?

I love Anime and 2d animated shows a lot, especially the old Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon ones. They're the reason why I love making stylised artworks. They remind me of simpler times and it brings a smile to my face, something that I would like to portray to the world, through my art.

I also love fictional books and movies. All these really inspire me to make art.

What mistakes do you see artists making when applying for jobs?

Do some research on the studio that you will be applying for a job. Each studio has got their own art style. If you are interested in working somewhere specific like a studio that made your favourite video game, check out their art styles and concepts and create your portfolio accordingly. Every studio tends to hire artists who have similar art styles as theirs.

If you could give one piece of advice to artists starting out, what would it be?

Practice a lot. Never question your ability. Looking at other artists' artworks for inspiration is great, but don't compare them with yours and let it get you down. Also don't forget to take breaks and rest properly. Stay hydrated!

If you could go back in time to when you first started out, what advice would you give yourself?

You are going to face a lot of challenges and triumphs. Embrace the journey and be grateful for every encounter, advice and criticism along the way that will help you grow to be a wonderful human being, and create the path to the life of your dreams.

Greeshma Chacko is a Chemistry graduate, climbing her way up to be a 3D Generalist in the Animation Industry. As a Game Art and Design graduate from VanArts, Greeshma's dream to create and work on amazing animated feature films that touch people’s hearts, like how it touched her own!

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