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One of our local Maya gods had the thought of making his own Youtube channel and without any thought of a good name, he took what his students dubbed him – Maya Sensei.
This week we chat to Cobus Van Staden, one of only two Autodesk Certified Instructors in South Africa. Now, what this means, is that this man went through his crucibles and completed the 12 tasks of Hercules to do what Prometheus did when he gave fire to humans.
To start off, this is no easy feat and anyone who completes this certification can tell you that this is not for the weak. So; without further delay, let’s dive right into this.

This video shows how to use the Modelling Toolkit inside Maya.

Formalities first, as always –

Please tell us a bit about yourself and where you come from

Thank you for honour and a privilege to have this interview with you, I’m 29 years of age. I’ve been into cg for almost a decade now and love sharing my knowledge and experience with people, whether it be life or cg.I feel most fulfilled when can help
others reach their potential.i got my autodesk certification as a Maya and Mudbox instructor in 2011 and recently got certified as a Vray licensed instructor for maya (2014)


What has been one of your defining moments in your career, that made you decide,
this is the route you want to take?

To be honest it was during my college years at The open Window where a few of my class mate told me that I have a really in-depth way of explain certain concepts. They tried to encourage me to do it more often because i’m good at it. It took me about a year to think this through and decided to start giving lessons during the evening where i honed my skills as an artist and at the same time become comfortable to stand in front of crowds. I am very grateful for those who stood by me and keep me motivated every step of the way.


Now, you are one of two Autodesk Certified Instructors in South Africa and this is really something we hear about very rarely.

What was the most rewarding moment for you, when you obtained this certification?

I would say the journey leading up to getting my certification was probably more special to me.

Please tell us about this journey, what did it entail?

Going to Vancouver Canada was an experience of a life-time and sharing the journey with a dear friend of mine, Chris Combrink who helped me so much on this journey and an amazing boss Gustavo Correa who gave me this amazing opportunity, was the most rewarding.

What was the most difficult obstacle for you to overcome during this course?

Calming the nerves and presenting in front of an audience half of them was pretend students and the rest was Autodesk certified evaluators. Check off all the things that I had to do and raising their brows when I did something wrong. It was nerve racking. In the end they were very chilled and we all hanged out afterward. We went to a pub and had a beer together.


This video explains Low-Poly modelling techniques.

You’ve really taught me a lot when it comes to modelling, I went on to your Youtube channel and I worked through your Maya Modelling Series and I always wondered if you would do more videos. Now, you started your recent Youtube Channel, Maya Sensei.

Please tell us what was the spark that set this fire alight?

The honest truth is that I wanted a way out of the regular teaching pattern and do more other fun projects and yet still teach at the same time. So i decided to take my youtube channel more serious and start promoting it more and more. My goal is to
have a strong enough following to start looking into Patreon and Gumroad for more exclusive content and in-depth one to one training. I would be in the clouds if I could teach people my workflows, have fun doing it and get a monthly salary for that.


This project is really amazing, what would you say is the heart and soul of what you are trying to achieve with this project?

Giving those who have no means to get a formal education an opportunity to also become artist. All they need is an internet connection and the will to work for the dream. There are many individuals who seek a role model and someone to help
them along the way and teach them the skills they need in pursuing this career. I would love to give people the platform and opportunity to do so.


What has been some little nuggets for you from your viewers, that made you feel you are doing something good?

(here’s a little nugget from me: I really love how you explain your work as you create items, you teach all the time).

I have to say it’s great to hear when people tell me that they enjoyed watching the videos and felt a sense of accomplishment after watching it. I’ve have a few people tell me that the learned more in one video than in a semester of formal training at an art institute. Those kind of comment really make me feel like the effort i’m putting into these videos means something and truly helps people

Have you ever thought that this would be something you would do?

I wouldn’t have thought that this would be a career choice for me, but i’m very glad it turned out this way



This video explains Maya texturing, using a Cola can as an example.

Something that always comes up, especially for someone like me, who like to ask questions and to gather knowledge, is about driving your own skill.

What would you say is an essential skill for all upcoming artists and students to learn if they
want to become the best they can possibly be at their craft?

Lesson 1 – Learn how to fail successfully. Allow yourself to make mistakes,failure does not mean you should give up. Becoming content with failure will shift the odds in your favour and make you more receptive to gaining knowledge.

I feel that aspiring artists should have a sense of drive beyond the classroom.

Seeking knowledge from many other sources.
Hence: Lesson 2 – never stop learning, try find one big thing to learn every year. I set a goal to learn a new piece of software every year.

Lesson 3 – Loose the ego, don’t be afraid to ask questions.Every person feels the same way in the beginning.

Lesson 4 – Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.

Lesson 5 – Goals mean nothing if you can’t enjoy the journey, this includes your struggles and the successes.

Lesson 6 – don’t get discouraged when looking at successful people, we only see the success and not how much they had to sacrifices to get where they are today.


Do you have a few tips for students, currently working on their showreels?

  • Don’t make your showreels to long 1 minute or so is long enough,
  • Only use your best work.
  • Cater your showreel for the position you would like to be hired for.


What are some essential habits to develop when just starting out in this industry?

  • Communicate with your supervisor.
  • Observation is key and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
  • Learn how to productively look for reference and get familiar with search strategies.


What are a few necessary skills to learn, to remain employed in this industry after you’ve made your break?

Networking with others. This industry is more about who you know. Companies rely heavily on other artist who they have worked with in the past to recommend someone for a position.


If we would like to get in touch or learn more about you and what you do, where can we find you?

You can send me a message through my Facebook page:
Or send me a comment on my youtube videos:

Those of you that were curious about the livestreams that you see so often – here is the stream that Cobus modelled a paraffin lamp.

Neal Strydom

Written by Neal Strydom

Co-Owner of Pixelsmithstudios. Specialising in creating content for digital platforms Working fulltime in marketing & Advertising Always meeting new talent