Creative Lives — “Always ask for more”: 3D Artist Anton Hjertstedt on getting paid and personal projects
Creating “all-sorts of images in the digital realm”, Anton Hjertstedt is an artist that shifts between motion-based pieces, character design and kinetic typography with ease. He first discovered his passion for design when making signatures for online gaming forums and, after a brief stint wanting to be a stunt man, studied for a BA in Graphic Design. In 2015 Anton was picked as one of It’s Nice That’s Graduates, propelling him in front of new clients, which now include Adobe, Zegna, Doga5 and Soho House. Here, we chat to Anton about the importance of finding time for personal projects alongside commercial work, and why, when it comes to money, you should “always ask for more”.
Freelance 3D Artist
Adobe, Zegna, Droga5, Soho House
BA Graphic Design, Norwich University of the Arts (2011-2015)
How would you describe what you do?
I work as a freelance 3D Artist, creating all-sorts of images in the digital realm – everything from motion-based pieces, character design and morphing typography. My clients are typically advertising agencies, editorial and design studios, whereas my personal work tends to focus more around uncanny architecture and object materiality – basically weird 3D shapes with funky textures.
What does a typical working day look like and where does it happen?
Working from home, if there’s a project going I will get started on it mid-morning at around nine and go from there. I usually work until early evening, but this can easily stretch into the later hours depending on how absorbed I get. I tend to peak in the evenings, so it can be hard to pull myself away. If I don’t have anything commercial to work on, it’s loosely the same, with most of my time spent experimenting in different 3D software and generally just creating things that please me.
“The freedom is what I enjoy the most about freelancing. I like being in complete control of my own time with the ability to generally do whatever I want that day.”
What are the most and least enjoyable aspects of your job?
The freedom is what I enjoy the most. I like being in complete control of my own time with the ability to generally do whatever I want that day, whether it’s exploring new personal projects or making hot sauce – unless things get super hectic, then I become a bit of a slave to the machine. I think what I’ve started to enjoy the least is the amount of time I spend in front of a screen and, since my work is solely digital, there’s no escaping it
What has been the most exciting project of the last twelve months?
I’ve been lucky to work on lots of fun things over the last twelve months, so it’s hard to choose just one. I was commissioned by StudioSmall to make some animations and characters for Zegna menswear – that was great and a bit of a breakthrough commercially. Another was working on the imagery for the hoardings at Coal Drops Yard, as well as developing Creative Types with Anyways Creative for Adobe. It’s great to see so many people interact with my work. I’m now at Oskar Illustration with a few projects in the works, including some obscure, some super creative and a few more commercial pieces, so it feels like a nice balance.
Project for Adobe
Project for Adobe
Project for Adobe
What skills would you say are essential to your job?
Over the past four years, I’d say the three most important skills to me have been developing my time-management, self-discipline and the ability to motivate myself.
What do you like about working in London?
Mainly just being more connected to other creatives. I initially moved here as this is where all my mates had ended up. Being freelance, I guess I could have moved anywhere really, but on reflection, I’ve had more interesting opportunities pop up as a result of being here.
Are you currently working on any personal projects? If so, how do you manage your time alongside other work?
There’s always something bubbling in the background and lately I’ve been split between collecting and 3D scanning vegetables, and then trying to work out what to do with them once they’re digitised – sculpting these sort of pseudo-erotic 3D shapes in virtual reality. My personal projects are always the most important to me and a lot of the commercial work I get is through the personal bits that I put out there. As for finding time for them, it’s just a case of cracking on with it whenever I can.
Anton’s personal project
Project for Coal Drops Yard
How I Got Here
What did you want to be growing up?
When I was younger and living in Sweden, I wanted to be a stuntman. I have memories of throwing myself into doors or rolling down sets of stairs at school. After moving to England, things were a bit blurrier and I don’t think I ever had much of a clue. It was mostly towards the end of university that things cleared up a bit and I got a bit of direction career-wise.
How do you think your upbringing influenced your choice of career?
Neither of my parents were very creative, so there wasn’t much from their side. My dad however is a big technophile, so I was plonked in front of the computer from an early age, where I discovered how much I enjoyed creating. It all started when I joined some RuneScape [online role-playing game] forums and saw that people had these images at the end of their posts, called ‘Signatures’. I got into making them myself, where I discovered these communities where you’d post your signatures, have them rated, collaborate with other makers and form teams. Then it snowballed from there. I was never very good with traditional media, but on the computer I was able to endlessly create things that I was proud of. There’s fun in exploring new software and coming up with exciting ways of creating things.
“I was never very good with traditional media, but on the computer I was able to endlessly create things that I was proud of.”
Anton’s first computer project creating signatures
Did you study at degree level? Do you feel you need a formal education for what you do?
After some umming and aahing, I decided to go and do a BA in Graphic Design. Mostly following the logic of how I like creating and designing things on the computer, so this will allow me to do that. I wouldn’t say a formal education is required for what I do; I spent most of my time neglecting the course and just going at it alone while creating images. However, what I have gained from this time is a network of friends that have come through with jobs and projects during my time spent freelancing.
After graduating, what were your initial steps?
I knew immediately that graphic design wasn’t for me. I was picked up by It’s Nice That and named as one of the graduates of 2015. This got the ball rolling and my name out there to potential clients, and from there I’ve built up a portfolio. My first project was for an article on an online magazine, imagining the future of male sex toys. There was no budget but they kindly offered me a box of their products instead.
Anton’s first job, Re-Bel Magazine x Tenga
Anton’s work for Zegna
Would you say you ever experienced a lucky break? Or has there been a project that particularly helped your development?
I suppose having the opportunity to showcase my work as soon as I graduated propelled my development, and that’s a lucky break for anyone finding their feet. And with each project I learn more about my process, so it’s an ongoing journey.
What’s been your biggest challenge along the way?
It’s easy to feel unsure and undervalue yourself; I learnt that really quickly, especially when making the move to London and supporting that.
“Always ask for more; realise that there is this business side to all of it and that you need money to work and live (surprise, surprise).”
What have been your biggest learnings with making money as a creative?
To always ask for more; to realise that there is this business side to all of it and that you need money to work and live (surprise, surprise). Being aware of the usage and licensing side of things, and not giving away the rights to your images for peanuts – the things they don’t really teach you in school.
How important have you found social media and self-promotion in your work?
I could definitely have pushed it a lot harder. It was one of those things I never really valued, and I always felt a bit gross posting something with the intent of shouting out about myself. But actually, it’s an important tool and a way for creative people to share.
What would you like to do next?
I think I’d like to step away from the screen for a bit. My work has only ever existed digitally, and I’ve always been curious about bringing it into the real world somehow. I bought 50kg of clay once with the intent of trying something new, but that quickly fizzled and now the bags sit under my bed, going mouldy.
Could you do this job forever?
Probably. I don’t think my drive to create will go anywhere and it’s something I'll always continue. It can also be very fulfilling to see the work you’ve spent hours on appear in the real world.
Words of Wisdom
What advice would you give to an emerging creative wanting to get into the same line of work?
Focus on your personal work, keep creating and perfect your craft. Experiment with digital mediums; have a play with different software and learn how they interact with each other. Maybe join a studio for a bit, as there are lots of skills to be learned by more experienced peers and connections to be made. Say “yes” a lot, any experience is a valuable one when first starting out.