From an early age, I was always fascinated by how ink came out of a pen, or by how a single brush could produce wide varieties of strokes. To me, the primary intrigue of art has always been more about the technique, the process, or the principles - the craft and the pursuit of its mastery.
There is a question that has frequently been posed to me, "What exactly is a 'Technical Artist?'" Well, to simplify it into a metaphor, a Technical Artist is the bridge between artists and engineers. It is my job to ensure, through many means, that visual, audial, and narrative content is received by audiences in the most impactful ways possible. Whether the desired results be flashy or subtle, I help teams by developing, teaching, and pushing toolsets to meet the needs of coherent projects.
Technical Artist Responsibilities
- Tools Knowledge
- To use the tools, you need to know what they're capable of; I act as a translator between those who create tools and those who must use them. Sometimes this is face-to-face, sometimes it's a demonstration, and at all times it requires building documentation.
- Tools Development
- This is a back-and-forth process in which I help to refine tools by expressing content creators' needs, while also helping tool-developers explain or simplify less intuitive tool features.
- On most projects I'm lucky enough to also get to put on my engineering hat and build many tools myself.
- Balance & Limitations
- When framerates are at large, it is my job to worry about finding and understanding the technical boundaries of a project so that I can help content creators feel as unrestricted as possible.
- Highly Technical Content
- There are some kinds of content for which resources are either too limited to create simplified tools, or the nature of the content itself presents a very complex technical challenge - I love stepping in here!
- In general, this is going to be content where people tack "fx" or "effects" onto the end: particle fx, post effects, shader effects, sound fx, lighting effects, etc.
- Bug Identification & Fixing
- Since Technical Art code is so closely tied to visuals, I am able to determine the code or content causes of graphical issues - generally at a quick glance.
- Along with finding visual bugs and their sources, I also fix, or help fix, a wide range of issues.
- Compositional Language
- On many occasions, it is necessary to work simultaneously with game designers and artists to ensure that the visual language of a title also complements the flow of its gameplay.
- Content Validation
- One of my favorite teachers once told me that "it doesn't matter how you make it, as long as it looks cool and meets the requirements." Sometimes being a Technical Artist just means helping identify and/or fix things like UV stretching or overly-dramatic LoD transition states; at other times, it can mean writing tools or documentation that will help ensure content-to-engine compatibility.