We’re privileged to interview local hero, Barry Gelderblom. What makes him so unique to us, is that he is the first artists we’ve interviewed that discovered his passion through trying to communicate a message by drawing and then be able to take that lesson and make his full time career storytelling.

Barry shares some of his insights with us and tells us about his journey that took him to where he is now. Read the article below and please share with your friends.

Please tell us a bit about yourself – who you are and what you are currently doing?

Hi my Name is Barry and I am a Digital Artist. During my professional career I have had opportunities to work in various fields in the Visual Effects and Animation industry.
After working as a generalist for a few years I found my footing as a Visual Development artist and am currently working as a surfacing artist at Triggerfish Animation studios, on something that will blow a few minds when released later this year.

Recently I have founded a business called Artkhive.
Artkhive is a cloud based business that draws from different sectors in the creative and development fields to mostly create independent content for the mobile market. We do however service clients as well.

Please tell us about your skills, how long have you been working in this field, making the awesome art that you put up for us to see?

My professional career kicked of about 5 years ago. Being a CG Artist in South Africa demands having a variety of skills, but I have been predominantly specialising in Visual Development, including Concept Design, Modelling, texturing and Shading for the past 2 to 3 years.

During this time, I have had the leisure to work remotely on an international Animated short film called ‘One Per Person’.
I spent a total of a year working on the project as a look development artist. This was an amazing experience for me since I got to work with a large team of very talented people from around globe, including artists at Disney and an amazing producer at Digital Domain.

Alongside this I have been privileged enough to share some of my professionally acquired skills with students, as a lecturer.

Image from short film: One Per Persom

Image above taken from Short Film: One Per Person

What made you decide that this is a field you want to pursue as a career?

To cut the story short, I went to live in Japan for half a year after school, where I spent basically all my time training in martial arts while living in a Kyoukushin-kan Karate Dojo. Due to the initial language barrier I found myself drawing a lot of pictures and storyboard-like comics to communicate some ideas. This experience lead to the realisation that art is truly a universal language, and it introduced the notion that it might even be possible to pursue a career in animation.

I started doing more research into the animation industry while living in Japan, and ultimately decided to return to South Africa to study Graphic Design, as I was not sure whether Animation alone would present great job opportunities at that stage.

Graphic Design lead to a Major in Multimedia Design in my final year at college and so I grew into the vast world of Digital Art and Animation.

During the incubation of my Career I wasn’t sure exactly which area of expertise I would like to pursue. After doing a few workshops on CGSociety I determined that look development and Concept Art fitted well with my general interests and so my career mostly developed around these fields.

Coffee, Tea, Beer or Energy Drinks?

Coffee, Most definitely Coffee. Lots of it! In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Coffee was really the answer to everything instead of the number 42.

Do you have any mentors that you would like to give a shout-out to?

Naming only one person in particular is a bit of a hard task. I have not really had any one mentor in particular. I learned a lot myself while travelling through the industry and enrolling in workshops on CGSociety.

Also, I truly believe that almost anyone you encounter in life can be a mentor on some level.

Having said that, there are 3 people I would have to thank for the contribution of their insights that has truly had an influence in the development of my career and lead me to see things in a different light: James Hall (a Great teacher and Philosophical thinker), Guy Van der Walt (Owner and Director at Plastic Boy Pictures) and Magugu Nzimande (An Experienced 3D Artist and old Colleague).

What was your first day of work like?

Unforgettable. My first job was in Johannesburg. I remember walking into the studio, getting briefed on a few realistic environment sets to build and dress.
While I was excited about this, the studio did not have an extra machine with Maya installed so I had to jump into Cinema 4D for the first time in my life and still have work ready to send for client review by the end of the first day.

Don’t ask how, but I managed to get it out, and everything worked out fine.

Property of PlasticBoy Pictures

Image above – Property of PlasticBoy Pictures

What has been your funniest experience to date?

This is an extremely hard question to answer. There have been so many funny experiences. I suppose the best experiences are usually with good colleages during those long hours of work into the night. A Client once required an animated rebrand of their newly designed Logo.
We were excited to get started and asked for them to send through the logo for us to reference. Turned out they did not have the logo designed yet, but still asked us if we could start to animate it regardless. That was quite a unique experience.

Would you rather be a superhero or a super villain and who would you rather be if you could be any character?

A hero definitely and this might be cliché but I would have to say Goku from Dragonball Z. He might not be the smartest Guy around, but he’s got a lovely bunch of awesomeness.

The deep stuff:

What has been a turning point in your career that caused you to reflect whether you want to stay in this field and despite all the thoughts that could possible tell you to give up, you persisted and shut those thoughts down?

I couldn’t really say that there is one specific event that made me reflect on my career. There has been a combination of circumstances however, that has influenced the persistent development of my career as a CG artist.

A few years after starting out on my professional journey, a company where I was working went through a difficult time and called a general staff meeting to announce an unforeseen change in everyone’s contracts and the termination of all permanent employment.

However stressful this was at the time, it presented me with the opportunity to explore the industry as a freelancer and essentially find my true interests as well as experience different working environments including lecturing.

Having done work for well-established as well as very small boutique studios, as a freelancer, I realised that even though the scale of the work might differ from one place to another, the general culture persists and achievable quality as well as a healthy client base is always attainable under proper management and a decent amount of ambition.

Having worked for, and with entrepreneurs, lead me to see the potential and continuous development in various Digital Arts industries.

I’d have to say the preliminary final frontier for me was when this realisation manifested into the founding of my own independent business, Artkhive, that manages to run alongside my occasional employment as a contractor, which I can now enjoy just for the fun of it.

In hind sight I suppose there is no single defined turning point. It is all a jumble of twisted roads and turns that eventually lead you to the destination that you choose along your way.

Do you have any thoughts or advice for aspiring artists that wish to enter this field of work?

It’s a tough industry to be in, but as long as you focus on your passion and create new things while learning from everyone around you, it should be fine. Due to the creative industry having a vast range of different facets, one of the most difficult things to decide is what you really are interested in. Is it animation, modelling, lighting, motion graphics, illustration etc? Experiment with it all early on and observe what fields you default to, those are often your true interests.

Furthermore, it is good to have good contacts, but contacts alone will not compensate for mediocre work. Make sure you have a great portfolio, a sound network and a world of passion.
Keep creating new things. Do not fear the unconventional and finish what you start.

Finally, remember that your only limitation is your own perseption of the world around you. You can do anything you set your mind to, so no excuses. Go out there and make it happen.

Where can we find you online and follow your work?

Well it depends on what you are looking for. Although most of the major projects I have been working on over the past 3 years, have been long term work with companies on independent animated content that is either premiering at present or is still in development, and so will only be available for viewing later this year.

I have a keen interest in Illustration and have portfolios on CGSociety and Behance. Alternatively, I can be found behind the scenes of Atkhive (www.artkhive.com) or on LinkedIn, which of course is generally the preferred method for personal contact.

Follow me on twitter @3DBarry or on my new Facebook Artist page, Barry Gelderblom Digital Artist for exclusive updates on my ongoing art, doodles and projects in development.

Written by Neal Strydom


I’m an animal loving, outdoorsy enthusiast with a huge passion for digital art. In my four years of experience in Graphic Design and Digital Marketing