Pierrick Picaut: "There is a lot of failure I don't show"

A longtime CG Cookie member, Pierrick Picaut is a friend of our crew. We interviewed him a few years ago ( Read: "Blender pays my bills") as we watched him explode into the Blender stratosphere. With the recent launch of his megacourse "Alive!" and the growth of his brand as a Blender educator, we decided it's time to catch up.

When we talked a few years ago, Blender projects were already a full-time job for you. How has your work changed in recent years?

4 years ago I was slowly transitioning from working with a lot of different customers to getting bigger projects. But the main turning point was a couple of years later when I’ve released The art of effective rigging course.

This course was a big success and it did accelerate my content creation activity.

Today, creating educational content around Blender and Computer Graphics in general has become my main activity. 

I also work part time for Atypique studio, directing a part of the team, building rigs and animating. 

I almost never take other jobs aside of Blender training.

Your courses like Alive are pushing the educational bar. What motivated you to make a mega course instead of dozens of smaller tutorials?

I feel like the courses and tutorials offer has exploded lately and it’s not going to slow down with so many new Blender users and content creators. 

I also feel like the overall quality is going down and it gets overcrowded because a lot of people focus on getting as much views as possible and be entertaining rather than focusing on quality educational content, hoping to make money fast.

This is not my philosophy, and this not how I’ve been creating my content during all these years. I have been so disappointed by a lot of courses I’ve bought online, that were poorly edited, with no structure but a simple voiceover with a quick process.

And this is not how you build and keep a quality audience, I believe.

I don’t have a lot of subscribers, based on the age of my channel and the number of videos I have. 

My viewers may perhaps not be entertained, but they will find quality educational content. 

 The foundation of what I teach hasn’t changed in years, and it won’t change anytime soon.

And it shows - my audience is made of a lot new Blender users or hobbyist, but also a lot long term users and professionals, and it has allowed me to connect and build a larger network through a lot of people I look up to.

This is not a strategy per se, as I’ve always been doing things this way, even in my previous jobs, but I want my content to be as reliable and professional as possible.

Regarding the courses, like Alive! and The art of effective rigging, I wanted these courses to stand out, and quality is so important. 

But I also want these courses to become references, so that they will build a legacy and continue on existing years after their release. 

Updating them, adding more content to them. Because the very foundation of what I try to teach here hasn’t changed for years, and it won’t change soon. 

And this kind of content is very hard to find online, or it is very expensive. 

If you ask any seasoned Blender artist, there are courses that stand out like the Humane rigging course by Nathan Vegdahl, Piero Course by Kent Trammell at CG Cookie, the Hard-surface modelling course by Gleb and Aidy at Creative Shrimp

Or, more recently, what Zach (CG Boost) did with the Blender launchpad and his sculpting course. 

Courses that cover a specific topic, with highly detailed videos and great editing. 

And from what I’ve seen, Human by Kent Trammell is the next one.

I try to make courses that will give solid foundation to my students. Now it’s up to them to train hard enough to convert this into true skill, but I believe they will find what they need in my courses to perform.

What have you learned from launching Alive, would you do anything differently the next time?

The production of this course was super long, because animation takes a lot of time (I’m sure Wayne Dixon is nodding in front of the screen reading this…. “Heck yeah!”) but also because I wanted to add a lot of content. 

So, the first good move was to set a deadline, or I would still be recording right now and I would probably lose the motivation.

You can be the best educator on earth, but if your visuals are not appealing, it’s going to be hard to get people's attention.

The second thing I’ve confirmed is that the outcome is so important. 

As mentioned previously I want the content of the course to be as good as possible education wise, but you do need to produce high quality visual to seduce your audience, to motivate them.

You can be the best educator on earth, but if your visuals are not appealing, it’s going to be hard to get people's attention. Your content need to be inspiring.

During the pre-production and the production I’ve written tones of notes and had a pretty detailed overview of the courses and all the topics I wanted to talk about.

This really paid off, not losing track of what I was doing.

For the next course, I will probably take a few days off before the release. 

I was feeling like I was going to collapse during the live stream 😃 and I looked like a caveman 😃

Pierrick's "caveman" look during Q&A livestream for Alive

I know Alive is brand new and perhaps way too soon to be thinking this, but...what's next?

Honestly, I have tons of courses ideas. 

Up next is new chapters for Alive! this is the only thing I will reveal for the time being 😃

At the very least, I have 4 new full length courses I’m thinking of and I will start writing about. Plus, I’m working on the additional content for Alive! and I have some big plans regarding The art of effective rigging.

Up next is new chapters for Alive! this is the only thing I will reveal for the time being.

But I’m working on other things to give my student a better learning experience.

And I have a brand new website that is still WIP, so it might be buggy but it’s here!

You've mentioned your regret about getting into 3D “so late”. Is there a "too late" for learning 3D? What advice would you give someone considering a mid-career shift to 3D?

It’s never too late!

I know it sounds cheesy, but it’s true. We don’t have all the same opportunities in life, I do know that and this is something I always tell my students.

And it may resonate with a lot of people that have watched the Blender conference 2020 video, together apart, and Ton’s testimonial.

Luck is a huge factor in life, where you were born, what are your social and personal conditions etc… My brother and sister support, the decision my mother took to allow me to choose what I wanted to do. The understanding of my girlfriend, this is a lot of luck.

But if you have the possibility to choose what you want to do, whatever your age, just go for it. 

But don’t lie to yourself, if you want to change career or change your life, you have to commit 100%. There are tones of people all around the world that have completely switch career for the best, why wouldn’t you? 

Ask yourself this, why not? 

And answer honestly, because you won’t lack people around you saying you will fail. You need to know, from the bottom of your heart, what you want to do in your life, what you do like.

 You can ask anyone in the industry, they would always rather work with a nice person, even if their skill level is average.

And if you watch any interviews of people that did succeed, there was a luck factor at some point, but they DID TAKE THE OPPORTUNITY and WORKED their ass off.
It’s a pretty extreme example but, I like the philosophy behind Arnorld Schwarzenneger's talk.

Just to finish on this "too old to do something" idea - one of my favourite students is over 60 years old!

Some time ago, you were working on Noara and it was expected by the end of 2017. 4 years later, Noara is not here yet - why?

Welcome to game development world 😃

I think I can say, without lying, that it is going to be released very soon, but I won’t give any date, just in case 😊

Here are my thoughts on game dev in general:

  1. Game dev is not linear, you do, you destroy, you start again, you modify. It’s not as linear as a short movie production for example. While there is always a lot of back and forth in any creative project, game dev is one of the most demanding in this regard. So don’t get too attached to your work and test a lot. I have litteraly hundreds of animations that won’t get into the game.
  2. Consider gameplay feeling and Point of view first. We all want our art to be super polished and details but if it doesn’t show in game or bring inertia to the responsivness or gameplay feeling, then you’re failing and wasting time and money.
  3. Team work is an incredible source of self improvement. I’m learning so much having the chance to work with other amazing artist or direct a part of the team.
  4. Soft skills are super important. It won’t show in your portfolio, but you can ask anyone in the industry, they will always prefer a good person with an average skill level than an incredible artist that acts like a duck (Editor's note: Pierrick used a different word.)

You used to rough out your sculpts in Blender and then polish them up in ZBrush. With Blender's new sculpting tools, has that changed?

To be honest, I havn’t sculpted that much during the past 4 years, but I have mostly switched my whole sculpting process to Zbrush and then I do the retopology and UVs in Blender. 

I generally texture in Substance Painter. 

I’m not a genius at all, you don't know how many hours I’ve spent training to get these skills.

This is mostly a matter of personal choice and comfort. 

I have only made 4 or 5 characters during the past 4 years, now mainly focussing on rigging and animation and so I don’t get that much time to test and learn new Blender sculpting updates but they do look impressive and I know that Blender is a very solid sculpting tool. 

I plan on a little something on this side, but it’s way too early to even think about it.

Here are a few videos of my latest character production.

 

To the outsider, you seem like a genius in many areas of 3D art (animation, rigging, modeling, shading/texturing). Is there anything that you are not good at?

I do believe I seem dumb to a lot of people too 😃. 

I’m not a genius at all, you don't know how many hours I’ve spent training to get these skills.

I don’t have any scripting knowledge or skills, which is a bummer, but I have such a hard time getting into it. I think this is something I really lack to take my rigging skill to the next level.

I don’t like simulations. Physics, smoke, cloth….I’m not skilled at all in this area neither.

I just do what I want, what I love, and it should be the case to anyone reading this. 

There is a lot of failure I don't show, and I fail a lot - like anyone.

If you choose to improve something you don’t like to do, you won’t put the energy to perform.

I’m not saying it’s not painfull to me to learn to draw, or to animate or rig. It’s a lot of failure, that I don’t show, but like anyone, I fail a lot. But when I succeed to produce something I like, it’s so satisfying.

I’m into 2D drawing and 2D animation lately, so this is what I’m trying to train on.

I should learn scripting, but I don’t like it, so I don’t 😃

You are one of the most prolific Blender creators in the world. How do you get so much done?

First of all, and I think it will resonate to a lot of people, including Wayne, Kent, Jonathan and lot of other from the Cookie crew and the people I know. I don’t have kids 😃

I try to organise my week and stick to the plan. 

Monday is YouTube tutorials.

You'll be more efficient if you avoid multitasking.

Mornings are dedicated to my courses and educational content, afternoons to Noara.

I generaly work from 7:00 A.M. to 6~7:00 P.M. So I have a pretty big work load.

 What I have learned is that you need to try to focus on one task at a time if you want to be efficient.

Multitasking is a great skill but even if you are comfortable with this, you’ll be more effective avoiding it. I’m learning to say “no” to projects so that I don’t get scattered over too many projects at the same time.

If I still have energy I try to draw a bit after dinner or watch courses and tutorials before bed time.

I think it’s important to have a routine.

There is often an electric guitar in the BG in your videos. Do you play or is that just a prop to make you look even cooler than you are?

It’s a bit painfull to say that I “used” to play guitar as I haven't played in a couple of years, so each time I come back to it, it’s frustrating. You loose a lot when you don’t practice often.

When I was in my 20’s, early 30’s I used to record music almost everyday, I was obsessed with it as I am now with CG.

I have been in few projects. I was in progressive “metal” band at some point called Lao-koon and we did publish an album.

 

Then I was working on a project with one of my best friend called Sources. We did record some songs but then I moved to a new place and we were getting too old to be able to put enough energy in such a project.

This tutorial has some of the music I composed for this band.

I hope to play music again at some point, but it’s clearly not my priority at the moment.

Do you have a favourite band?

I’m a metal fan, mostly in the extreme side of the genre but I’m open to other music, too.

Right now, I’m a lot into Rivers of Nihil, Benighted and Cattle decapitation… lovely bands 😃

But, the ultimate best band ever to me is Pantera and the early days of Sepultura. Dimebag Darrell, Pantera’s guitar player, is my favorite musician of all time.

Do you listen to music while you work?

Yes, it depends on what I do and the time of the day. But if I’m in production and I’m not recording or thinking that much. I do!

Have you ever released any tutorials in French?

Not really, I did a couple of making of for Noara’s channel in french but I think that’s all.

How much more difficult is it to produce content in a second language?

It’s not that difficult to create the content currently, as I’ve found my workflow where I can take the time to think of what I’m going to say and try to have a good speaking flow.

One of my big weakness is my accent, and I got quite some (rude) critics about it, but I feel like I’m improving and I’m planning on taking classes to improve it even more.

My frustration is not to have a good enough flow to be able to work and speak at the same time. I can do it, but it’s not ideal. And I’d like to participate in talks and do more streaming, and live related things.

But it’s a little too soon to talk about this 😉. I did make a presentation in French during a conference, and it was a blast, being able to talk about what you are passionate about without any language limitation.

Maybe it’s for the best my English is not so good because I speak too much 😃

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  • Mary Fazzolari (maryshan)

    Really interesting! We share same music background with Pierrick! Thanks for the advices ! Great to read how many pros struggle to achieve their success. The Road is never easy for anyone!

  • David Soares (donsoarese)

    Thank you CGCookie for sharing this beautiful interview.
    Thank you for the excellent tutorials, courses, it is a lot of hard work!

  • johnrili

    Nice read, I've only started taking Blender seriously this year. All my life I didn't had any plans at all of what I'm gonna do for my future and then I bought a cheap graphics tablet and started learning sculpting. Now I'm 8 months deep down into my studying, and have loved it , I've learned a lot but I have a long way to go before I can reach my goal. Thank you for the inspirational Arnold video, now I'm thinking of adding more time to my learning and cut down my sleep to 6 hours, lol. I've also bought your course but haven't gone and seen it yet since I am finishing my course with Wayne on the basics of Blender animation. Hoping the best for all of us.

  • rayan fernandes (rayanfernandes)

    The 2 people who inspired me personally to stick to blender is Ian Hubert and Pierrick Picaut . Ian hubert Blender conference 2019 presentation is a Total Game Changer and Pierrick Picaut's Art of effective Rigging is what i always wanted for Blender. I have not gone through other premium tuts mentioned by Pierrick as I'm currently concentrating more towards rigging and animation but i have heard about Zach Reinhardt's Blender Launch Pad to be really Awesome and obviously Cg Cookie :)

  • Dhamesvara (dhamesvara)

    I have just started with Pierrick's courses on rigging and animation and absolutely love his French accent and his teaching style! 😊

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