Mahendra Suryadi is a freelance digital artist currently living in Singapore. He has worked freelance as a concept artist/illustrator for games and as a comic artist on the official manga adaptation of the Aldnoah.Zero anime for the Japanese publisher Houbunsha.
What is your background as an artist? What educational experience/background did you have coming into CGMA? Do you have professional experience?
I've always been interested in becoming an artist for the entertainment industry, but a complicated situation had me graduating with a Bachelor of Engineering from Nanyang Technological University's Mechanical Engineering course in Singapore. I turned to entertainment industry straightaway after graduating by getting a job as a 3D animator for brief time before pursuing a career as a concept artist/illustrator.
Why did you decide to take CGMA classes?
A friend recommended CGMA to me, "This is better than what I learned at my art school!". I've always wanted to go to an art school, but by then my resources was already eaten by my engineering degree. To go to school again was simply impractical for me in terms of cost and time. While I've been studying by myself the whole time, CGMA offered me a chance to learn from the pros, fixing my foundation, and expanding my skills and knowledge with flexibility on my budget and time frame.
What classes did you take and why did you choose them?
The first class that I took was Analytical Figure Drawing by Michael Hampton. I was aware of my weaknesses in figure drawing and it was on the top of my to-fix priority. Subsequently I took Vehicle & Mech Design by Paul Christopher to reaffirm and develop my knowledge on one of my favorite subjects. At the moment of writing, I'm taking The Art of Color & Light by Tyler Carter to lay a foundation to my shaky understanding of colors and to further advance it.
How did taking classes help you refine your craft and help you along your artistic journey?
Michael Hampton introduced me to some very basic and memorable design principles that I can use every time I draw a character, a composition, or even a mech. That was knowledge much better than I bargained for from a figure drawing class.
What was your first big gig and how did you get it?
From 2014 until just last June 2015 I had the opportunity to illustrate 4 volumes of the official manga adaptation of the Aldnoah.Zero anime for the Japanese publisher Houbunsha. While this is not my first professional experience, in terms of time frame, work load, challenge, and responsibilities, this project easily became the new 'big' in my dictionary.
In January 2014 I uploaded an illustration I did for AnimeExpo 2013 Los Angeles to Pixiv, the Japanese equivalent of DeviantArt. It was doing quite well and my manga editor seemed to have caught a sight of it. He then emailed me, offering a chance to participate in a closed competition for a "comicalization" of an upcoming original mecha anime. By then I've already worked for a number of Japanese card game illustrations, but a manga project sounds like it's on a totally different level. I had doubts in my abilities, but nevertheless I decided to try it out. It was very challenging but I managed to win and grab the gig. Drawing a Japanese manga was one of my childhood dreams that I abandoned out of simple feasibility problem so this turn of event was very exciting for me.
Why would you recommend CGMA to another artist?
I'd recommend CGMA to another artist for the combined reason me and my friend took CGMA classes. However I would recommend CGMA program as a whole, especially the Foundation & Design Program for students who want to go to entertainment design because the curriculum makes a lot of sense. From my observation of people and students I encountered, having mileage in simply drawing stuff in perspective goes a long, long way - which is precisely what the first 3 classes of the foundation program are about.
Why is having professional feedback important to you?
The assurance that the one giving the feedback knows well what he/she's talking about is extremely valuable. The Q&A session is also great for getting answers to many questions that I had in mind while doing assignments or my own work.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
My life after graduating has been full of moments where my perception of what's possible and not in my life was turned head over heels. I'm happy to say that CGMA is one of them. Doors are really opening the more one learns.