ZBrush is one of the premier 3D sculpting software programs created by and for 3D artists, and the ZBrush Summit is a “four-day creative event featuring digital artists and industry leaders from around the globe,” featuring “professional tips, tricks and techniques into an engaging online series of presentations, workshops, portfolio reviews and events both on-site and online by artists from world leading studios.”
Wacom is proud to once again to be a sponsor of the ZBrush Summit. Wacom has been a dedicated supporter of the ZBrush community for years, offering an array of pen tablets and displays meticulously crafted to enhance the experience of 3D sculpting, making it more instinctive and organic.
One of our favorite ZBrush artists is Ana Carolina. A passionate artist and creator who loves working with 3D art and sculpture, Ana has years of experience in workshop teaching and mentorship. She’s a professor, mentor, streamer, writer, and of course an expert 3D sculptor in ZBrush.
And she’s presenting a workshop at the ZBrush Summit that’s sure to be educational and inspirational!
We spoke with Ana about her creative journey, asked her for some advice for young artists thinking about getting into 3D or pursuing a creative career, and about the upcoming summit and her workshop. The interview below has been edited for clarity and length.
You do so many things across creative industries, including VR, gaming, 3D, education, writing, streaming … how would you describe what you do? Is there one thing that you consider to be your “main” job or career?
Even though I am well known online for being a ZBrush teacher and a character artist, my main profession is actually game/VR development and technical art. Yes, I design and code games! As a tech artist, I do all sorts of things from optimizing games so they run faster, creating tools for other artists to use, making complex shaders, optimizing pipelines, and even – gasp – writing things down.
On the side, I stream my digital sculpting online and freelance character work for advertisements, games, movies, and even theme parks!
Right now, I am a professor at the Ringling College of Art and Design, teaching in two majors: Game Art and Design. I also have an online mentorship, where I help 3D artists improve their skills and careers 1-on-1.
Some people ask me how I am able to have so many different focuses. It all comes down to one skill: Learning. If you can harness your ability to learn new things and not be scared off by foreign new concepts, you can create almost anything!
How did you get into 3D art as a passion and eventual career? Did you always know you wanted to do art? Was it always 3D or game design, or did you explore other avenues first?
I always wanted to do art. I was the kind of child who wanted colored pencils for Christmas instead of toys. When I was of college age, I wanted to be a 2D concept artist for games — until I tried ZBrush for the first time. I was hooked and completely pivoted.
A few years later, I began to explore the more technical side of games — optimization, coding, etc…
When did you begin using Wacom tools, and how have they helped you in your work?
The story of my first Wacom tool is pretty sentimental to me. As I had mentioned, I’ve been drawing since I could hold a pencil, and as I grew a bit older I always noticed that most of the artists I admired were using tablets and computers to make their art – something that I thought was a little out of my reach, as I was living in Brazil and the cost for something like a tablet was prohibitive to someone like me at the time.
When I was around 13 years old, my father went on a business trip to the USA and returned with gifts – my gift was my first Wacom tablet. The best part is that I had never even mentioned I secretly wanted one, he just happened to choose the perfect gift! Even now the memory of it still makes me a little teary-eyed. I installed the drawing software that it came with, and did my best to practice on my own. I think getting that early introduction to digital art made my transition into the 3D world much easier.
Do you remember your first “big break” or first big, real creative job? What was it, and how did it come about? What’s something essential that art students need to do to prepare themselves to break into their chosen industry?
Yes! I consider my first technical art job in VR to be my big break. It came about through my small circle of contacts in the industry: one of my college professors shared my work on her Facebook page, and the right person happened to see it. The rest is history!
The first step to preparing yourself to break into your chosen industry is to research the industry and your chosen profession thoroughly. What are employers currently looking for? What’s the latest software you need to know? What about techniques? Make sure that all your efforts are supported by data.
In many creative fields, like game design, women are far outnumbered by men. How have you approached this issue in your creative and career journeys? What might you tell a young woman artist who wants to pursue a career in a creative industry but is worried about this?
I have been relatively lucky in this regard, as I have not encountered much direct sexism in my career — unless weird comments on my social media count?
Whenever I do notice sexism around me, I have a policy of speaking up immediately. My mother, who was CIO of Shell, taught me that rude people tend to back off and can even start to respect you when you stand up for yourself.
Be fierce, be courageous, and don’t let anyone discourage you from YOUR path and YOUR passion. And if they try, prove them wrong and become greater than they could ever be.
You’re an art school professor. What would you say to a young artist who is trying to decide whether art school is good option for them, especially given how many resources there are online these days they could use to learn on their own?
My personal belief on higher education for artists is as follows: there are many reasons why pursuing a formal education is beneficial, but in many cases, it is absolutely not necessary.
Having a degree is essential for securing a work visa to another country, for example. It can also be important if you ever want to become a professor like me.
If you don’t have a lot of self-discipline, the structure and deadlines of college can keep you accountable. However, if you do have a lot of self-discipline and can hold yourself accountable without external pressure and guidance, I believe you can and will excel with or without higher education!
Do you have 1-2 pieces of advice for young people who are thinking about an eventual career in game design, 3D art, or another creative field?
Firstly, remember that while working hard is key to breaking into the creative industry, it is also the bare minimum. I believe that most of the people working in 3D and games right now work hard and have rightfully earned their place. So if everyone is working hard, what can you do to set yourself apart?
I recommend building your reputation and visibility. This means being professional and kind, but also making sure you are participating in industry events, meeting people, and marketing yourself often.
What is your session at the ZBrush Summit 2023 going to cover? Who should attend?
My session is going to cover everything from sculpting and texturing an awesome model in ZBrush, to lighting and rendering it in Unreal! If you already have some ZBrush experience and want to learn new and dynamic ways to present your work, you should join this workshop.
This can also be a great entryway into the real-time gaming industry, and also a wonderful introduction to Unreal 5, a software that is becoming more and more popular across the 3D field.
Editor’s note: Ana’s session will take place on Sunday, October 1st from 3-7pm PT. Register for her session, and the entire Summit, here!
ZBrush Summit 2023
The 2023 ZBrush Summit, the premier event for digital sculpting and art, returns to an in-person format marking its 10th anniversary. Hosted by the Maxon team, the event will take place in Hollywood, CA and virtually from September 28th to October 1st, 2023. The four-day event will stream live, offering an engaging, real-time online experience where attendees all over the world can interact with a global community from a diverse cross-section of industries.
Watch the streams of each day of ZBrush Summit 2023 here:
The 2023 Live ZBrush Sculpt-Off
September 28, 12:00pm PST
The 2023 ZBrush Summit – Day 1
September 29, 12:00pm PST
The 2023 ZBrush Summit – Day 2
September 30, 10:00am PST
The 2023 ZBrush Summit – Day 3
October 1, 11:00am PST
The event will take place at the Gnomon School of Visual Effects, conveniently located in Los Angeles at 1015 North Cahuenga Blvd, and will feature Artist Insight Workshops, a live Sculpt-Off, and Creative Lifestyle sessions showcasing the creative process in action.
About the artist
Ana Carolina Pereira is a 3D artist, game developer, writer, streamer, and professor. The Ana Carolina Art Academy is home to her 1-on-1 mentorship program and is the hub for her instructional courses.
Her Wacom of choice is a Cintiq Pro 24.