Tahiwi was one of our Kiwi entrants of last year’s Gwangmyeong Concept Design Competition. Although he didn’t win (he was awarded a very respectable runner-up), his work caught Richard’s eye and he was invited into Weta Workshop for an interview. One thing led to another, and Tahiwi can now be found deep in the Workshop design studio, lending his talents to some top secret international projects.

We sat down with Tahiwi to get his take on the competition and see if he hopefully has some advice for all the talented Kiwi students who are entering this year.

Hello Tahiwi! Why don’t we start at the beginning…why did you decide to enter the Gwangmyeong Concept Design Competition?
I’m really into sci-fi and fantasy art, especially post-apocalyptic art, so 2015’s theme was awesome: we had to create a world where aliens take control. Yeah, it was kind of a no-brainer to enter (laughs). Mine had some pretty out-there stuff, like huge goat beasts and astronauts raining down from black holes. It’s kind of crazy now that I think of it…

Crazy indeed! How did you come up with your entry?
I was lucky to have a good friend entering the competition as well, so we were able to bounce our ideas off each other which was really helpful. We started out by doing a lot of sketches, just getting our ideas down on paper to see if anything stuck. I learned about the competition quite late so I only had a week to prepare my entry – it was a bit stressful but I’m really pleased with how it turned out!

What have you learned about concept design since the competition?
I think the biggest thing I’ve learned is that concept design isn’t just about illustrating an idea. Concept designers have to think about how things function in a realistic way – even if it’s a fantasy or sci-fi story. You have to do a lot of research so that you can incorporate elements into your design that make it believable for the project. It’s quite challenging but also really fun.

Has anything surprised you about working at Weta Workshop?
I was surprised to learn just how many different projects Weta Workshop is involved in. I only knew about the films they did, but since I’ve been here I’ve been working on a whole variety of different projects. It’s cool to know that concept design plays a huge role in so many things.

How about the tools of your trade – have they changed at all since the competition?
I pretty much always use Photoshop for my art, but since being at the Workshop I’ve been learning more about 3D modelling and sculpting with programmes like ZBrush. Having the ability to take your work from 2D to 3D opens up a whole new world so I’m really excited to work with it.

Although you’re just starting out in your career, are you getting a sense of what it takes to be a successful concept designer?
I think successful concept designers must always be looking around them for inspiration. It’s not just about watching loads of movies and TV shows, although that is important. It’s also exploring nature, cities, animals…even just things in your everyday life. When you see something that looks cool, take a photo of it or note it down because it could spark an idea further down the track.

Any words of wisdom you can share for this year’s entrants?
My best advice would be to definitely enter! (Laughs). It never occurred to me that entering the competition would lead to (a) coming really close to winning, and (b) getting a job at Weta Workshop. But it never would have happened if I hadn’t gone for it.

Secondly I reckon it’s important to spend heaps of time coming up with a great idea. Obviously your work needs to be really good in a technical sense, but if you have an amazing original idea your piece will stand out from the rest.

What’s your dream for the future, now that you’ve come out the other side?
It was pretty much my dream to work here at Weta Workshop, so now I just want to do the best I can while I’m here and see what happens!

Thanks Tahiwi!

Keen to join the ranks of this year’s entrants? Enter now.

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