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Iajhy Grant: ‘humility is the starting point for everything; we always have something new to learn from others’

Brazilian born and self-proclaimed generalist artist, Iajhy Grant, tells us the story behind his 100 commissions piece ‘Anthony’ and more about his creative career.
Tell us about yourself.

My name is Iajhy. I live in a small town in southern Brazil called Pato Branco. I have a degree in marketing and advertising, but I believe that I fit more appropriately as a generalist artist. Over 16 years I have worked in several areas, including CGI—modelling, sculpting, texturing, and in other more conceptual areas such as digital painting, matte painting, character design, UI/UX and graphic design. Although more recently, I’ve been focusing on real-time rendering and game design.

Although I consider myself a generalist, I like to delve into each of these roles in order to always get the best result possible. And over the years, I’ve found that each area of my expertise often complements the other somehow. I work full time in an IT company, in a product design role. Occasionally I work as a freelancer and do parallel projects in video game design and children’s artwork and literature.

Talk us through your 100 days. 100 commissions. project ‘Anthony’. Where did you first get the idea to create this book?

Anthony came out of a very special desire that my wife Silvane and I had to honour our son.

Interestingly, the drawings she made reminded us a lot of our little boy: his adventures, his pets, his toys, his dog, and through teamwork, this character was born.

How does the dynamic between you and your wife work for this project?

Our work flows well together. We respect each other’s opinions and always try to agree before taking the next step. Sil likes to draw freehand and to sketch and experiment with her ideas on paper. After reaching the desired goal, I start my work creating shapes and digital painting, using mainly Affinity Designer.

We love your character designs. How do you plan a character before developing them?

My wife was a teacher of early childhood education and was passionate about the younger generation and the world around them. While studying the behaviour and phases of the development of children—having purity and truth applied to work, the admiration for minor situations, and the small and perfect details experienced with the little ones—is what inspired her immensely. This was all reported in the form of drawings, in characters, always very cute. According to her, creativity emerges momentarily as a result of the experiences of children. It is a very inspiring process for all of us!

Tell us about some of your favourite projects to date and why you’re so fond of them.

It is very difficult to choose a favourite project. But one that was very important to us and that we learned a lot by doing was the collection of characters “Queridinhos”, which would mean “Sweethearts” in English. It involved a lot of efforts in almost all the areas I work because they were drawings that had very realistic characteristics, presenting many details.

We published this project as printed notebooks for an education group here in Brazil. Each artwork represented the start of a new month in the school schedule. With the children’s theme in each involving values that are paramount in our lives: family, innocence, and inclusion.

We had overwhelming feedback from the children and teachers. It was an incredible experience that made us very proud to see how the children had fallen in love with the characters themselves. We made the collection for three years, but due to work commitments, we couldn’t continue it. We really miss working on this project.

Describe your average workday.

Here we work around 44 hours a week, from Monday to Friday. During the day I work from home for an IT company on product design, and in the evening I dedicate a little time to my own side projects. As said earlier, freelancing is almost an exception. We had to stop the Anthony project for a while because we are looking for an investment in the video game niche, through a Game Design Document (GDD). This project will explore all my proficiencies as a generalist artist, ranging from the sketch to the basic prototype using the Unreal Engine. But unfortunately, I can’t release details about it!

How does Affinity fit into your workflow?

Affinity certainly came into my life for the good. I work with all three: Designer, Photo and Publisher. They totally rock!

I started this GDD on Google Docs, simply because of the ease of maintaining a single source of information in the Cloud. The project with illustrations, UI/UX and prototypes is being done between Designer, Photo and Publisher, with the latter app being the final basis for the project.

Another part that has become very effective is the use of Affinity Photo to make the ID’s of materials for 3D objects when it is not efficient to separate them in Blender. The object’s IDs break efficiently into each type of material property within Quixel Mixer, which is the texturing software that I recently adopted.

Photo has also become an incredible ally to separate RGB channels, where we use one image instead of three, which is usually the information of texture masks for the properties of Specular, Roughness and Ambient Occlusion. In a project like a game, which contains thousands of textures, this is a computing economy that cannot be overlooked.

As it was Affinity’s most recent release, I had started this GDD on Affinity Designer, but I soon migrated this project to Publisher, leaving only the illustrations to Designer and Photo. I must say that Publisher was also a terrific surprise! The interaction between those three applications using StudioLink is incredibly fluid and unified.

I don’t see myself using other apps in this area. Just the fact that Affinity Designer can work in vector and bitmap simultaneously was already a massive shift for me. Designer’s Pen Tool is unbeatable. I challenge anyone to find this function in other software and not come to the same conclusion. Shapes that were practically impossible to make with similar tools are remarkably easy in Affinity Designer.

Also, just to add, the software evolution and update process are almost legendary.

What would you say is your biggest source of inspiration?

I believe it is our life, family and everything around us that inspires. I often observe everyday things in order to replicate in computer graphics. So, it’s kind of strange and a bit curious. I end up seeing the objects in another way, trying to separate the textures, seeing how much specular, roughness, normal, diffuse, etc., is being “applied”, it’s kind of funny. When you spend a lot of time on 3D projects and games, you end up having that kind of inspiration in everything you see. I’m sure it happens to everyone working in that area.

Painting the artworks is a similar process of inspiration. I start by analysing where the points of light are and imagine how the environment bounces that light onto other objects. It is almost as if it were an interpretation of the ray tracing and global illumination method, which, differently, needs to be painted manually instead of being generated by computational rendering.

I believe that I have this perspective because I started CGI studies before moving on to painting and design. So I’ve ended up with a tendency to analyse these points in each project.

What would be a dream project for you and why?

That’s a tough question. I’m fascinated by game, character and product design. These areas intersect in several stages. I consider myself privileged to be able to have a good understanding amongst them all.

However, no project is the same as another, which requires the need to dedicate and reinvent yourself every day. That’s why in these three areas I feel challenged to overcome what I have done previously. As much as I try, I never end up using the same method, as I always find another way to bring better results.

Therefore, I think that it doesn’t matter on the project, but work in any of these areas and finding people who add diversified value, who commit themselves and add efforts to surprise any of our customers and possibly stimulate their outcome.

Finally, by finding harmony between work and family, I’ll always be satisfied and peaceful.

How long does it take you to create each illustration in a project like ‘Anthony’?

The time to create a character varies a lot according to what information we want to pass on to people; the characteristics, the peculiarities and the details. The digital artwork can take up to three days approximately.

The character’s creation has my wife as protagonist of course, because the inspiration comes from her experience with children and their truest and simplest experiences. Children are the biggest inspiration for this kind of project. Knowing how to capture the information you need to be able to pass on a beautiful message through a character is a great challenge, but undoubtedly, a magnificent gift.

What is the greatest piece of advice you’ve been given and how has that affected your work?

One piece of advice I recently received from a friend and colleague was helping others in everything you can in their lives and careers, being helpful daily and looking for ways and methods to help develop them as professionals.

This is one of the key characteristics of prominent leaders who inspire followers, where you set an example before criticising, and above all, seek mutual growth.

I believe that having humility is the starting point for everything. We always have something new to learn from others, whoever they are.

Where would you like to see your work in the next ten years?

In the children’s literature niche, we hope to see our work reaching the children’s hearts, so they never neglect the fact that they are children who need to play, run, jump, sing, have fun and learn.

In many situations we see that the scenario is not quite like that anymore. We’ve seen children being treated like adults, maturing too early due to the obligations and needs that life imposes on them, or having their moral rights cruelly violated by distorted ideologies. So, we wouldn’t know how to say it, but our desire is to bring messages of love, affection and tenderness, faith and courage to all the children in the world, with work like this.

In the area of games we want to see our project bringing quality entertainment and fun to players, inspiring them for a healthy life, being accessible and open to everyone. In the process, we want to instigate new methods of continuity in the marketing interaction within the platforms, in order to impact the constructive economy of our business partners, making sophisticated interaction mechanisms between players and companies.

In the product design area, I want to continue helping by creating high-fidelity prototypes, observing and applying all the references brought by the technologies and by the user’s valuable perspective, also counting and trusting on the strength and dedication of the teams to solve problems, generating value for our users and customers.

You can see more of Iajhy’s work on Behance.