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CGHero Administrator July 9th, 2021

Artist Interview with Jaakko Saari

We caught up with Jaakko to find out about his working experience in freelance and what he wants to achieve in the future.

Jaakko Saari

Located: Tokyo, Japan
Experience: 13 Years
Key skills: Materials, Texturing and Rendering

This week, we're interviewing Jaakko, a Senior Environment, Lighting and Material artist, living in Japan. Jaakko has worked on numerous projects for us here at CGHero.

Who are you? Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Hello! I am Jaakko, musician and photographer originally from Finland. In my youth my passion was Japanese film and Japanese art. I visited Japan many times during and after my student years, and I eventually moved to Japan in 2007. There is something magical here, and after 13 years I still feel so.

I found my passion and career as a CG artist (started with Lightwave3D, on a Mac!) after I moved to Japan. I was in love with Japanese movie and animations from directors like Kawase Naomi or Oshii Mamoru; Japanese CG animation such as Oshii Mamoru was a great inspiration, but also my friend who is a guitarist and who has a medical advertisement company here which was a big reason why I moved here.

Desolation Lookout Post, created for VR.

What attracted you to being a Freelance Artist? Do you prefer it to working onsite?

I think it suits my personality. I love working with various people but also with various industries. It might be that I need the freedom part in it. Walls easily start to close in on me in a company, no matter how good the people are. That said I am incredibly thankful for having had the chance to work in companies like Adobe.”

Cave asset, creatued using Medium VR

Do you have any advice for someone wanting to move away from full time work and become a freelance artist?

One thing I would advice is not to limit yourself to just games or film for example. Many of the skills in CG can be translated to other fields. If you only limit yourself to games or film for example, you may find yourself having a hard time or you have to be insanely good to be recognised. Take a mattress company for example; they might very well be looking for a freelance CG artist to make product renders. Second advice would be to get to know your worth and not to do the work too cheap.

Rainy Season, creatued using MetaHuman and Ray-Tracing.

As a game developer, I have to ask; what is your favourite game?

It's going to have to be three! System Shock 1, Alien Isolation and Firewatch. Loving the art direction in all of them. System Shock 1 was my teenage year escape from being bullied in school, my favourite game in my 486/66 PC (the music of the Executive Level is forever burned in my soul). Alien Isolation had fantastic modelling and source material, and I love the mature story of Firewatch.

Patterned Fabric Materials, created using Substance Designer.

Do you have a dream job/studio?

My dream job would be to work in the medical industry. I want my work as a CG artist to directly help people. And I find medical devices and the industry fascinating, because everything is designed precisely to help or save people. I saw a VR app that was designed to help children with cancer to get used to scary radiotherapy machine. I thought, this is so good. Or a 3D bio-printed human heart.

Alienship Sci-fi hull, material created in Substance Designer.

How did you settle on your current hourly/day rate?

When I started I really didn't know what to charge and ended up working with next to nothing. I felt awkward to bring up the topic with steady clients I had, worrying I would lose them if I asked for a better compensation. But after I did, I was surprised to know actually it was no problem mostly. Sure, some clients said they couldn't afford it, but more often than not they just said okay. I realized I was providing them a solution that helped them to make more money.

Being a freelancer you need to be able to take care of your health insurance, buy the necessary equipment and software licenses, things like that. Don't be afraid to negotiate a proper amount, good client will pay it. Quality work is always worth it and the industry will thank you at the end.

Lighthouse scene, creatued using 3ds Max and V-ray.

What is your favourite piece of work you've done?

It's got to be the modelling work I did for Viaplay original "Home Invasion". Getting chance to work with director Don Bitters was a dream came true and I loved the amazing sci-fi concept art by Cosmin Rosu.

Wall materials, created by Jaakko for 'Home Invasion' TV show.

Finally, many thanks for doing this! do you have any shoutouts?

My shoutout would go to Richard Pipes Piper whose Youtube videos helped me to get into Substance Designer many years ago. I recommend his tutorials warmly, especially his fantastic leaf generator Substance tutorial, which I believe is still on Vimeo.

Second, Laura Gallagher & Outgang in Youtube. Seeing her videos makes me to want to move to Canada and say hi to folks in Eidos Montreal. She is shows fantastic tips and tricks especially related to Zbrush and Marvelous Designer, a must watch.

And at last to CGHERO, you guys are the best, I got to say I am thankful for finding these great people and companies through this site.

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