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Meet Tom Hearne

Today we’d like to introduce you to Tom Hearne.

Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
My mother and her family are from Cuba, and when I was a kid, I learned that I had a great uncle who worked as an architect there. I was never able to meet him, but for years I wanted to follow in his footsteps and become one myself. I always had an affinity for art and was lucky that my family supported this – I took classes to explore different media from drawing to painting, ultimately going to college at Brandeis University, where I majored in both studio art and art history. All of this was meant to lead up to my eventual application to a master’s in architecture program, but there was one moment that lead me down a different path. I had the opportunity to intern at an architecture firm where I created images using SketchUp, VRay, and Photoshop. An architect there introduced herself to me, asking me, “are you the one that makes pretty pictures?” That innocent question struck me, and it dawned on me that architecture did not have the kind of artistic expression I sought – that I needed to make “pretty pictures.”

This meant listening to the gut feeling that had been with me since childhood: I had found it while trying to reproduce the concept art that filled the pages of the art books for Star Wars episodes I and II, and Halo I and II. I wanted to be a concept artist: someone who creates images for movies, sci-fi, fantasy, or anything in between, to inform a project’s artistic vision and feel. In my search for how to get there, I discovered the Gnomon School of VFX in Hollywood, the leading school for training 3D artists. I never intended to work in 3D, but I had a gut feeling once again; this was where I needed to be: in the heart of the entertainment industry surrounded by artists like me. After a grueling two years of learning computer graphics, I emerged from Gnomon as a modeling and texturing artist/3D generalist and started working in commercials.

If there’s anything worth taking away from my story is that achieving a dream is not a straight path; the journey getting there will find new and unexpected destinations. Gut feelings are very important and I would not have gotten to where I am today without listening to them. I know I’m still on this journey, and I won’t be afraid to continue to take the scenic route.

Please tell us about your art.
I enjoy making things, whether it be a full-CG photo-real image/animation or a marker/ink drawing of someone’s pet as a gift. My primary medium, however, is on the computer working in 3D software. I love science fiction and most of what I create comes from the genre: spaceships and hard-surface armor, embellished with bright lights and lens-flares, are all things I find myself drawn to create again and again. I am enthralled by the opportunities for storytelling that come out of sci-fi, whether it be a message of hope for a better future, or as a warning of a post-apocalyptic or dystopian future. These stories have captivated me since I was a kid and I want to be a part of envisioning the futures that I see.

Choosing a creative or artistic path comes with many financial challenges. Any advice for those struggling to focus on their artwork due to financial concerns?
I know that choosing to work in an artistic field is challenging financially, artistically, and emotionally. I still find it tough to focus on personal projects while working a full time job, even as my job is within the industry. My advice would be to work on small own projects on the side – treat them like sketches – this way they are not overwhelming or too difficult to pick up. Doing this can foster artistic excitement, develop skills, and produce a greater volume of work at the same time. Taking a small freelance job wherever possible, is always helpful as well. Even if it doesn’t earn much, it can help in the long run with gaining experience, adding something to a resume, and becoming a possible demo reel piece.

How or where can people see your work? How can people support your work?
You can find my work on my Artstation (Tom Hearne), Instagram (@hearne.tom), or my website (tomhearne.com). I keep them up to date with any of the new personal work I do.

This is not specifically applicable to me at this moment in my career, but I always think people can take the time to watch the credits after movies as a mark of respect to the people who create them. Just watching the sea of names scroll by, catching the different studio titles, and seeing the myriad of roles within them feels like saying “thank you” for all the countless hours of hard work that was put into the film.

In the same light, working in commercials has made me realize how much hidden CG goes into the simplest shots in everyday ads, with months of hard work in creating them. People can take more time appreciating commercials – not in regards to the products they are selling, but rather to experience them as mini-art pieces that whole teams of artists worked to produce.

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Image Credit:
Tom Hearne

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