Tim Van Wassenhove is a 3D Character Artist who holds a Bachelor's degree in Game Graphics Production and 3D Animation from Howest - Digital Arts and Entertainment. With a passion for crafting captivating characters and creatures for the gaming world, Tim leverages his expertise in 3D modeling, texturing, rigging, and animation, honed during his studies at Howest, to produce impressive portfolio pieces. In this article, he shares insights into his journey at Howest and his post-graduation experiences.
Tim's most recent experience was a four-month internship at Larian Studios, where he contributed to the highly-anticipated RPG, Baldur's Gate 3, set for release in 2023. His responsibilities included crafting armour sets for the Ranger Beastmaster subclass and designing outfits for Twitch rewards. Tim specialised in hair grooming techniques utilising XGen and Unreal Engine 5, and he also played a role in debugging and handling smaller tasks. Working with a skilled and diverse team of artists, designers, and programmers provided him with invaluable insights and feedback. Tim looks forward to applying his expertise to new projects, embracing fresh challenges, and continuing his growth as a 3D Character Artist.
Can you introduce your school to us and share what makes it special from your perspective?
The school where I graduated from was Howest Hogeschool West-Vlaanderen located in Kortrijk, Howest has a dedicated study branch called DAE where you can study everything to get you started in the game/movie world.
Howest DAE is special for me because of the wide international culture you can find here and because it has an English-based course where you find students from all over the world.
What made you choose Howest DAE, and has it lived up to your expectations?
When I was in high school, I was studying digital arts and entertainment where I saw some base of digital art but when I had to decide where to continue my studies. My sister showed me the work of a friend of hers, Tim Coddens, who was studying there and that’s how I got to learn about DAE.
I came to DAE with expectations of learning about the world of 2D and 3D, but my experience exceeded my expectations. Instead of just that, I delved into a wide range of subjects, from programming and rigging to animations. My favorite courses were on character design and sculpting.
How do students and teachers interact at Howest DAE, and is there a supportive mentorship dynamic?
During my years of study, the school was smaller compared to its current size. Students and teachers often mingled, and on Thursdays, there was a study night where we could all get together to have a drink, study, or play games. These gatherings provided a great opportunity to seek help or feedback from teachers. If they saw that you were genuinely making an effort, they'd go the extra mile to help you.
What have you found most valuable about your learning experience so far, and how has it impacted your artistic growth?
One of the most valuable learning experiences during my studies was the opportunity to explore various facets of the gaming industry. This hands-on exposure helped me determine my career path. It equipped me with the knowledge to create characters with a deep understanding of how they would be rigged and animated. This, in turn, ensured that the sculpt and topology were accurate for the best results.
Can you share an example of an assignment where you received valuable feedback from your teachers?
During my stylized course, I worked on an assignment that involved creating an adorable creature and guiding it through the entire character creation process. This project provided me with invaluable feedback, particularly on sculpting and proportions. While I initially found the topology and UV aspects confusing, my teacher's detailed explanation helped me gain a clear understanding of these concepts, greatly enhancing my skills in this area.
What helpful resources or opportunities does Howest DAE provide outside of regular classes?
Throughout my time at Howest DAE, I had numerous opportunities to engage with industry professionals. These interactions included insightful talks about their work, valuable feedback sessions, and attendance at industry events such as playgrounds, where we could converse with professionals, explore their creations, and benefit from their presentations.
These experiences extended my understanding of the industry beyond the confines of the classroom.
Can you describe any collaborative projects or experiences that have enhanced your artistic skills and fostered teamwork?
During my final year at DAE, I participated in a course called 'Group Projects.' In this course, we were organised into groups consisting of 4 to 5 students from different majors, tasked with creating a game or film animation within a single semester, covering everything from preproduction to the final presentation to a jury. This experience was immensely valuable as it taught me how to collaborate effectively on larger projects and, in my group, I also took on the role of a second lead, providing me with insights into guiding and leading a team.
Have you had the opportunity to work with industry professionals or participate in real-world projects during your time at Howest DAE?
To obtain a degree, you have to finish a 4- to 5-month internship at a gaming or film studio. During this time, I had the unique opportunity to intern as a 3D Character Artist at Larian Studios in Barcelona, where I contributed to the development of 'Baldur's Gate 3'.
How does the Howest DAE promote diversity and inclusivity within its student community, and how has this enriched your educational experience?
DAE offers a variety of diverse social groups created by and for students, fostering a welcoming and inclusive environment. Students are encouraged to establish social groups, and the school provides them with platforms to promote their groups, access classrooms, and organise evening activities.
I was a part of the Study Night Crew, collaborating with DAE's community managers to create a safe and vibrant environment for students every Thursday evening. It was a place to study, work together, unwind with a drink, and escape the pressures of impending deadlines. We even organised themed evenings with activities and special drinks. This experience enriched my education journey, allowing me to teach fellow students through small classes and offer a helping hand wherever needed.
What are your future goals, and how do you feel Howest DAE has prepared you for them?
My aspiration is to one day become an Art Director or a Character Artist Lead, leading a talented art team to create exciting gaming experiences and bring beautiful art to life in games. I'm passionate about inspiring the next generation of young artists and gamers.
My school experience, including my role as a tutor in the Study Night Team and the courses I undertook, provided me with a strong foundation for a career in the gaming industry. My internship further enhanced my knowledge, empowering me to embark on my journey and move closer to my goals.
You can reach out to Tim via his Rookies profile here. You can also read the recent article he wrote about one of his pieces in his Rookies portfolio.