Andrius Balčiūnas

VMU Master’s degree student of Company Organisation and Management

The place where you live does not hinder improvement, whether you’re here or somewhere else

Andrius Balčiūnas stands out even in the very colourful crowd of VMU students: most of you probably don’t have a friend who is a recognised 3D graphics artist. Whis is why this interview is worth your attention: Andrius told us a lot about graphics and shared his experience and opinion on studies, career choices and philosophy of learning.

Hi. Tell us what you do.

I work with computer graphics, or, more precisely, 3D graphics. At the moment I am learning everything related to it: mostly modelling, texturing, rendering, lighting, composition. I am probably the least involved with animation.

In other words, you do not add motion to your graphics?

Yes. Everything I do usually ends with the creation of an image. But I do practice with animation, I just do not show the end-result to anyone.

Is this your hobby or your bread and butter?

I would call it a professional hobby, because I do work a bit in this field as a freelance specialist. However, I try to avoid it, because otherwise I’d have no time to learn and improve. About 70 to 80 percent of my work is personal, and 20 to 30 percent is made-to-order.

By ‘personal work’ do you mean works of art?

Yes, but works of art are just a pretext: usually they begin with my desire to learn something new. So in order for me to be motivated to learn, I think of an image or something else I have to create. Then I know that I will use the elements I’ll be learning about in that work.

I’ve heard that your works have been published in famous magazines. Could you brag a bit?

Well yes, I did publish some of them. When I am making an image, one of my goals is to show it to as many people as possible. So I have seen some recognition. It all began with my first work, Open Green. Ballistic Publishing publishes one or two issues of Exposé and Exotique every year. I have been published in both. There’s also Digital Art Masters by 3D Total, they also published my creations. It is nice when your work is recognised, but the images in those magazines are not necessarily the best: the publishers simply choose the works which they deem suitable for that particular publication.

You’re talking about foreign publications. Is anything happening in Lithuania?

Barely. Of course, there are strong specialists of this field in Lithuania, but they are working in the global industry, and we know very little about them. I am probably the only one who’s showing his images in Lithuania, so people know more about me. Anyway, there are people who work in graphics very seriously and make quite a lot of money.

Isn’t it a shame that this art is not taught as a professional occupation in Lithuania? Is that why you’re studying at VMU, because you can’t study what you like?

Speaking of learning, I wouldn’t say it is a very big problem. I know there are many arguments about what is better, to be taught something or to learn about it yourself. It is only clear that this question leads nowhere because everything depends on what you want. You can learn it yourself: there’s a lot of material. Nowadays you can learn anything you want about 3D graphics. In the end, it is all determined by your patience and competence: how much of it will be enough for you, how much you’ll want to learn… As for the information, there are no obstacles, regardless of whether you’re in Lithuania or elsewhere. The place where you live does not hinder improvement too much. Perhaps it all depends on the mentality more, maybe it is not as popular in Lithuania, fewer people are interested or involved. But in terms of opportunities, there is absolutely no difference whether you’re here or somewhere else.

Tell us more about your studies at Vytautas Magnus University.

I’ve earned my Bachelor’s degree at the Faculty of Informatics, and now I’m pursuing an MA degree in Business Administration and Management. I’m studying part time: I’ve already finished my studies but I’m still writing my thesis, and there’s always something wrong with it. I chose a topic, but it was unsuitable, so now I have another one. I’m even trying to bring the new topic closer to my work with computer graphics, to connect them somehow. Of course, I do my best to push myself towards marketing. So I’m an MA student, I haven’t graduated yet.

Do you manage to find mutual points of contact between business administration, marketing and 3D graphics?

Yes, I do. It is hard to express in words, but I think that the Master’s degree studies have had more influence on my graphics than the studies of informatics. You’d think those are similar, because both involve computers, but I’d say I benefited less from my Bachelor’s studies than I did from my Master’s. I think this is more related to the mindset: these studies change the way you think and how see everything. Also, I’ve learned a lot of things about marketing, they’ve helped me promote myself, present myself in the field, be aware of how to do this right. I think that my creations are more visible in the world because of what I’ve learned here.

You’re talking about the positive aspects of combining two different lives. But aren’t there negative ones? Doesn’t art interfere with studies?

It doesn’t. I only know that if I studied computer graphics and had to do it every day, I’d be sick of it. My character is like that: I keep myself hungry, yearning for graphics, and then I want to do it. If you work on it every day, you have to be interested all the time, and I grow very bored with it, I want something else. I have a very good idea of how to design my lifestyle, how to always want to do something and improve. By the way, this is related not just to studies but also to how I’m not trying to find a permanent job in computer graphics. I’ve had this kind of job before and quickly grew tired of it, because I had to do the same thing every day: it’s very tedious. I enjoy being a freelancer: I work whenever I want or when there are offers, and I have time for myself afterwards, for my personal work and life in general. It all comes together very nicely, in accord with my character.

It seems that another way out could be a permanent job related to something completely different, e.g. informatics or marketing, and you’d have graphics on the side.

Everyone makes choices based on their character. The life I’ve described has some negative aspects as well. First of all, there is no stability. Another drawback is that sometimes you’re left to stew in your own juices too much. On the other hand, even when you’re in that industry, you’re stewing in your own juices as well. Well this is how I do things and it is acceptable for me so far, I’ll make a change when I’m tired of it.

Let’s return to the subject of studies. What made you decide to apply for business management studies after you earned your degree in informatics?

First of all, it was a good opportunity and I used it. Secondly, I knew that I definitely didn’t want to pursue informatics in my Master’s studies. Bachelor’s degree was enough. I wanted to look for something a bit more similar, more related to graphics. I had decided that informatics would be the closest, but I was wrong. Only later did I realize that it actually doesn’t matter what you’re studying, unless it’s something directly related. I’d even say that it is wise to study things like photography or even philosophy. It might not have any direct benefit, at least in my case, but such studies develop your sub-conscious: your mentality begins to change, and then everything else improves as well.

The idea is more important than the technique?

Yes, exactly, that is what I think. Technique, especially in graphics, can be learned. As I’ve said, it all depends on patience. But there are so many things everywhere now that the issue is how to make something interesting. I like to think about that, and it fascinates me. There are so many talented professionals, just like in every other field, and I am just a beginner. Unfortunately, many of those professionals do very superficial things, and this automatically casts them out. I ignore them, many people do. I try to avoid being dry, I want my technique to be joined by excitement, so that the image would be not just technically impressive but also interesting for everyone. Especially now, when there are so many things around and it’s all boring.

Describe 3D modelling a bit, because people might actually think that you work with Photoshop.

It’s worse: many people think that this is drawing. "You draw well", they tell me sometimes. That is completely wrong. What I do is called virtual modelling. It’s very similar to, for example, pottery, except you do it digitally. Of course, there is some drawing involved, but I’d call it painting rather than drawing, because Photoshop is used to cover the texture of the models. On the whole, 3D graphics is what is now used in films, ads, games. There’s a lot of it everywhere now. It’s in the movies, and not necessarily sci-fi, we just don’t see it: because many things are much simpler to fix with this method instead of re-filming. Some companies even present themselves as makers of invisible effects: e.g. they change the colour of a certain element, or the entire element, in a moving frame. It’s a very wide area: if you’re working on this, you can choose what you want to do in particular. It’s not like you work on graphics and your work involves everything. If you’re modelling in graphics, you could be modelling various elements, i.e. characters, environment, vehicles, technology, etc. Each field is divided into smaller areas.

How and when did you start modelling graphics?

I started eleven years ago. At the time, the thing that inspired me the most was video games. I liked to watch the cutscenes, and wondered how to make them. I took interest in that, and later, in the 10th or 11th grade, started modelling. Of course, the resources about it were very sparse at the time, it was kind of exotic. Now there’s a lot of material and the tempo is completely different because the field has become very interesting, there’s a high demand, and it is growing very fast.

You can find out more about Andrius and his work on his website and on Facebook.