Expert Sculptor, Graeme Gordon, Relearns Craft for Digital Art Industry
An expert sculptor, who has crafted pieces for the Royal family, returned to the classroom to learn his craft all over again – for the digital world.
Graeme Gordon is a highly respected figurative ceramic sculptor, with 25 years’ experience. But, in a move to adapt to a changing industry, decided to return to the classroom to learn how to sculpt using the latest computer technology. Now, thanks to his Game Art and Animation degree at the University of Worcester, he has transformed his career.
“Coming from a situation where I was pretty much at the top of my profession and suddenly being thrust into a room of students, was a little daunting,” he said. “But if you’re not going to totally immerse yourself in the culture of whatever it is you want to be good at, I can’t see the point. I was determined that I wanted to really thrust myself into this. Starting from scratch was a small price to pay.”
Graeme’s sculpting masterpieces are owned by the likes of former American president, George Bush Snr, and the Sultan of Brunei. They can also be found in Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle. He was commissioned to do a horse sculpture for the Queen as a gift and went on to do another equestrian piece for the Royal Family.
Though he largely worked freelance, the 57-year-old was often commissioned to do pieces by various well-known firms, such as David Fryer Fine China and Bronte Porcelain, where he worked closely with BBC TV antiquarian Henry Sandon.
Although successful, Graeme noticed how the industry was becoming less popular and profitable in recent years, with some firms unable to survive.
Graeme left the industry to create craft ale and, although it was successful, after a few years he decided to resume the artistic career that had given him employment for most of his working life. However, he did not want to return to traditional sculpting and began looking for a new direction. He developed an interest in digital art and sculpture – using digital software to generate 3D computer generated visuals for films and computer games.
Visiting the University of Worcester’s Open Day, he heard about growing opportunities for commercial artists in the games, as well as film and TV, industry, which convinced him. Despite never having been to University before, he took the plunge and within days was enrolled onto the degree course.
Though Graeme had some knowledge of computers, he faced the daunting challenge of learning how to utilise his traditional art skills using complex 3D modelling software.
“It’s been such a learning curve, it’s not been easy,” he said. Graeme’s ambition is for his digital sculpture to achieve the same quality he can create with modelling wax, using traditional methods. “What I’m trying to do is learn these skills well enough to be able to replicate what I do in the real world with my hands, but in the digital world. That’s the hard part for me and I’m super critical, but that’s my goal.” But Graeme said that visits from top game artists working in the profession organised by the University had been beneficial to his development.
Despite Covid-19 forcing him to study from home for health reasons and difficulties when his computer hardware failed, Graeme has finished his studies and is now looking to work for a games company as a 3D modeller, turning 2D designs into 3D. His ultimate dream career would be as a concept artist, allowing him to create the characters himself.
Graeme believes it is never too late for a change of direction, and encouraged others thinking about a career change to take the chance. “If I’m prepared to do it at my age, to make the last few years of my employment life more valuable and lucrative, then why not? It’s got to be a good thing,” he said.
He would particularly encourage fellow artists in more traditional fields to think about adapting their skills. “I know professional artists who worked in ceramics who now wait on tables or work in supermarkets, who would likely do anything to return to their art careers,” he said. “I see the game industry as the natural successor to the ceramics industry of old. A new frontier of tech companies that present lucrative employment opportunities in the present day for all forms of professional 2D and 3D artist.”
All images credited to Graeme Gordon