Shayleen Hulbert, proves that there is prosperous professional life after a rocky university experience, a reality for so many of us. Headhunted on social media helped Shayleen kick-start her dream job in 3D Character Art. She is now a successful Freelancer owning Heroes of the Storm, Spyro Reignited and Borderlands 3 in her portfolio. We asked Shayleen, some key questions about getting into the games sector.
Explain your role like I'm 5 years old
All the characters you see in a game, I make them! I take someones drawing and make it 3D so it can move and interact with the world.
Take us through your average day at work
Being self employed is a bit of a roller coaster, one day can be drastically different from the other. When I have a full-time project, I'll start at 10am and finish at 6:30pm. Mostly its all at my computer but my day is spent making art; sculpting, painting, modelling, technical problem solving, communicating with clients and working together to build a product we all are happy with. A lot of my job is simply making others happy.
What was your educational and career journey into your current role?
I studied game art at De Montfort University for 3 years but I was a terrible student, falling behind the others in my class. It wasn’t until I graduated four and a half years ago that I started learning 3D art. Since then I have worked on Heroes of the Storm, Spyro Reignited, Borderlands 3 and Last Stop with Variable State; I've even worked on VR concerts with musicians!
Once I graduated I didn’t have very good grades and I didn’t know a lot about 3D modeling or design. I knew the basics but that was about as far as it went. After graduating I worked in a bar for almost a year, applying to every game art generalist position I could. It was a hard year of repeated rejections, and unfortunately like a lot of people I gave up on trying to make it into the industry. At the time I was very active on LinkedIn art groups so I was contacted spontaneously by the Art Director at a mobile company asking me to come in for an interview as he liked my personal illustrations. I got the job! They believed in my potential, from there I started learning 3D modelling and found my love for the discipline.
I worked there for two and a half years, was made redundant (the best thing to happen to me) and from there I took the leap and became self employed, I have been loving it since.
What is the most rewarding thing about your role
It honestly is the excitement of my clients, them being excited and happy with what I've made makes it all worth it. I'm a people pleaser, so working with people closely to make their projects come to life is something that keeps me going every day.
What other roles do you work with the most
I don't at all really, just me and my cat!
What's the most challenging thing about your role?
As much as the clients are the best, it can also be the hardest. You have to be very good at communication, being as clear and constructive as possible. Being a good teammate when you're possibly on the other side of the planet is hard and it takes time to train.
Another is self-management, it gets better with time but you are your own boss, your own producer so if you don't get the work done, that's on you. No one else is going to get you out of bed!
What software or digital tools do you use the most?
Zbrush, Maya, 3Dcoat and Substance Painter are my most used software. A lot of them have free or massively reduced student licenses too which is great for people wanting to learn.
What are the key skills needed for you to work on to do your role?
Fundamental art knowledge - Form, function, design, colour, anatomy etc.
Core technical skills - Basic modelling, hard surface modelling, unwrapping, retoping, baking, texturing
Its a lot!
What advice would you give to your younger self looking to get started in the industry?
Comparison is the thief of joy. Your journey can't be compared to another, the time it takes one to pick up a skill or get a job will be different than yours but it doesn't make you any lessor. There is room for us all and we all have a place somewhere in the industry.
Do you have any links to good articles or videos that you think might give some tips or advice to someone starting in your role?
80Level has a lot of interviews, workflow breakdowns and tools that they share on their website to help share tips and tricks from various industry professionals:
There is also the ZClassroom on Zbrush that has all the videos they have made sharing workflows and tutorials:
And then websites like Pluralsite do have 3d modelling courses for pretty cheap on there, i've done one myself and really enjoyed it: