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Conversations with Dean Scott

Today we’d like to introduce you to Dean Scott.

Hi Dean, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
I’ve always been interested in world-building and crafting images. At six years old, I became a video game-level designer – well, not in a professional sense. You could find me sprawled out on my bedroom floor, drawing pretends stages for Sonic the Hedgehog replete with traps, coins, launch pads, and enemies, joined across countless sheets of printer paper. I later drew and painted my way to a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Maryland Institute College of Art in 2015. Following graduation, I composed a series of paintings in a sun-drenched studio space on Mulberry Street, and my art was featured in a group painting show titled “Bread and Butter” at Terrault Contemporary.

Even with my successes, I was starting to feel uninspired. I needed to balance working odd jobs full-time with painting on the side. And while participating in group shows brought me a lot of joy, working in solitude most evenings was wearing me down. The words of one of my painting professors came to mind before our class departed from their summer residency, “You are all very talented, but not all of you will go on to become painters, and that’s ok.” So, instead of trying to paint through the pain, I sought inspiration from a new artistic medium. I started teaching myself 3D modeling and digital sculpture through YouTube tutorials and free online courses. At first, it was just an enjoyable challenge, but with some determination, I was able to become more proficient and confident in my abilities. In the beginning, I was modeling coffee cups and radios, but after a year, I was making full environments and dioramas.

Today I’m fortunate to make a living creating 3D art for video games. In the past three years, I’ve done freelance work for BulletVille. A game successfully backed on KickStarter. I’ve gone on to work for local video game studio Mohawk Games before landing at my current job at Firaxis Games.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I had to rely on other means to make money while I worked as a studio painter and taught myself how to make 3D art. I did odd jobs for my landlord on my building and other properties he owned nearby. I washed dishes, delivered food, hosted and served. I helped some friends start two new Thai restaurants in Mount Vernon and Hampden. As a studio assistant, I painted for a local artist based in the Crown Industrial Park building in Highlandtown. During long days working for Grubhub. During this time I also delivered food all over Baltimore through Grubhub, I listened to audiobooks ranging from science-fiction to dealing with a quarter-life crisis as I drove. It’s not an exaggeration to say that I reshaped my life during this period and had a range of diverse experiences along the way.

Sitting in a cool basement coffee shop, between two deliveries, I started my most meaningful habit: journaling. I’d write down major concepts, hotkeys, and branching roadmaps of what to learn in what order. I think if I hadn’t started this journal on day one, I wouldn’t have made it far at all. It was something that really made me accountable and helped me internalize my goals.

As I further developed my skills, the challenge became finding a way into the video game industry. Baltimore is a friendly place that has a growing arts community, and it’s a small enough town that there aren’t many degrees of separation between people. Fortunately, I happened to find that a mutual friend knew someone who worked in a senior position at Mohawk Games, a small game studio in the Baltimore suburbs. This person was willing to meet with me, see promise in my work, offer me a paid internship, and, more importantly, help set me on a path to where I am today. It’s an opportunity that I’ll always be grateful for.

Knowing where to find your community outside of an academic setting was also a challenge for me. To thrive as an artist, it’s crucial to be part of a supportive circle. Two places that I’ve found to be good resources are the Baltimore chapter of the International Game Developers Association, which promotes video game development events, and Discord. Discord is undoubtedly the best place online to network and make friends with other individuals in the game industry from all over the world and from all levels of experience.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
I’m an Environment Artist for games. I make 3D models and materials for anything that’s not a character. I’ve built trees, castles, mountains, skyscrapers, and more! My job usually involves taking concept art and turning it into a 3D object. As a 3D artist, I’ve been able to take my favorite parts of oil painting – texture, sheen, brilliancy – and channel them into my 3D material work. I continue to make art in my personal time, sometimes for competitions, and I’m proud of the honorable mention I received in a recent Artstation Challenge-themed “Grand Space Opera: Light Age.”

How can people work with you, collaborate with you or support you?
You can support me by following me on social media!

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Art by Dean Scott, original concepts for artwork by Hue Teo (Tree of Mystery), Ihor Tovstohan (Grand Space Opera: Light Age) and Alexander Minze (Ice Spa)

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