Ash Thorp

Illustration by: António Piedade

Interview by: João Miguel Fernandes

ash thorp cgi artist

Ocuppation: Creative director, Graphic Designer, CGI artist, animator, director and photographer

Click here to read the interview in Portuguese


1 – In what way did anime influence your artistic vision and way of thinking?

I think for me, anime really influenced my sense of scale and introduced a different realm of moving picture because it was so controlled.  Unlike live action, where you need to live within the confines of reality, animation is completely conceived and created by the animator.  So, using Akira as an example, Otomo’s magnitude of imagination and his ability to understand how cinema works is what makes that film so special.  You feel his love affair with films and animation in his product.

I learned very early on that if you can control the aspect of your art, then you can control the dimensionality, the scale, the depth, the pacing, the time, and everything.  In animation, you can make a person move very fast, but in camera you may try to cheat and adjust it, but you won’t ever get them to move as fast.  So, you are kind of stuck to the grounds of reality, which makes it interesting and challenging.

2 – As an original Ghost In The Shell fan, how was it for you to work in the production of the new American movie so many years after the original one?

It was awesome working with Rupert.  In order to honor his vision of that world, I had to remove my personal connection or comparison to the older anime films. Whenever you work on a film, your main goal is to facilitate and focus on whatever is necessary to communicate the director’s vision for the film.

3 – Considering that the videogame industry is becoming more and more similar to the movie industry, what do you think could be the next evolutional steps of these genres? Perhaps more interactive movies like videogames?

I think the next art form will be about evolving the experience.  It is going to be more immersive and not in the form of a single storyteller or narrative.   In the next 10 years or so, we are going to have pretty decent eye tracing and graphics that will make you feel like we are living inside the movie or game; it’s going to create a full immersion experience.

Last night I was playing a visually beautiful and fun video game but I was getting frustrated while I was playing it with what button to press and at what time.  In my mind, future games will be about what choices you make and carrying out an alternate life basically, one that lives in the game.  I actually think we won’t even use the word “game,” because it will be more about sharing memories and experiences, rather than actual gameplay. We are going to be blurring the lines between reality and fiction, in the sense where we will create simulations to alter reality so much that it will be hard to know what’s real or not, only our bodies will tell us what’s real.

I have a lot of thoughts on this topic.  If you look now at any public space, everyone lives on their phones, but the problem is that it’s hardware. Elon Musk talks a lot about this and how we have this connection problem, and that the data transfer is so slow still.  However, if you were to wear some type of of neural sock, then would be living something completely unique without holding a piece of hardware.

In the past we used to read books more than using our phones, and that’s amazing, I hope we never lose that connection with books.  In the future though, we are going to live within the books. For creatives and artists this will be even more rewarding and amazing, because we will be creating the next frontier of reality.

We are all students and we are all teachers.  Even the most beginner artist can still teach somebody something.  You are still a human first, then you are an artist, so you can teach them about who you are and share your journey

4 – Cities as big metropolises are a key part of some of your work, such as Akira and Ghost in The Shell. How do you think the cities of the future will be like?

I think that cities of the future are still going to be similar to what we have now. Every city has its own identity based on the people that live there. For example, New York city is very different from San Diego, and Berlin is very different from Lisbon.

I think of the film “Her” and how life will get better for most people due to information sharing.   There will be less control of information and the internet, contributing to more success and individual evolution.

I don’t really believe things will be exactly like the world shown in Blade Runner, but I suppose there will be some similarities, minus the flying cars and big leather jackets, and instead of holograms, people will be wearing AI goggles.

5 – Learned Squared and the Collective Podcast focus both on sharing knowledge, do you think artists should do that more often and maybe teach new students in a new way?

I think sharing things is great and that’s how you evolve.  Every high level artist should be open to sharing some of their skills and knowledge. A student can either take that information and surpass it, or just miss out on the opportunity. It’s kind of up to the student to blend knowledge and practice in order to improve. I know there may be some artists that will never share their trade skills and that’s their own prerogative, but I think that’s a bad approach. When you share, you are opening yourself up, exposing both your weaknesses and strengths, allowing yourself to evolve in the process of helping others.

We are all students and we are all teachers. Even the most beginner artist can still teach somebody something.  You are still a human first, then you are an artist, so you can teach them about who you are and share your journey.  Excelling at your craft is a result of time and practice, it’s the experience of trying, failing, studying, succeeding, and then trying all over again.

6 – Metal Gear Solid revolves around the question of identity and who we are. Do you think we are defined by our actions or is society and governments defining us as people?

I think it’s a bit of both.  It’s the long ongoing debate of nature versus nurture, but we are ultimately defined by both experiences. The key is to have your own original thought and be constantly questioning everything. Why do I feel this way about this thing? Rather than just accepting it in a good or bad way.

They (godfather and his dad) weren’t obligated to help or give me anything, but they did and their selfless acts of love changed my life. It gave me the reason to do helpful things for others, to make Learned squared, to share, and to give, because I know how important those things are and how little of it exists in our world.

7 – What does photography express more than the other creative tools that you use?

Photography is probably one of the greatest gifts to any visual/CGI artist. It’s so essential because it allows you to understand how to see the world through a lens. It helps you understand composition and depth by teaching where is the light source.  How am I using the light? How am I telling a story?

I would suggest all CGI artists to start with photography, because it will help your vision so much. It has helped train my eye and see if something is not quite visually right with CGI. For example, I might take a photo of the inside of a room two hours before sundown, and by remembering how the light is coming through the window at a certain angle, then I can utilize that knowledge when creating a similar environment in CGI.  This is something I never realized the benefits of until I started doing it, and so now I tell everyone I can to do it. I know that photography can be an expensive hobby, but you don’t need to have a crazy amount of gear to benefit from it.  Acquire a simple small kit of lenses and start learning and growing.

8 – Who influenced and inspired you most in your life? 

My older brother is a very passionate person and artist himself.  He doesn’t necessarily do art in the same media that I do, but he has always inspired me to be original and authentic.  His support was a big influence for me.

My other huge inspiration and who I consider to be family as well is Anthony Scott Burns. He is amazing because he constantly inspires me to just go for things.  He directed, scored, and edited his first film all by himself, and it’s so good.  I’m so proud of him and hope to follow his trajectory of growth.

I never knew my biological father, but I consider my godfather to be my dad.  I moved out of my mother’s house when I was 14 and moved into his dad’s house. They weren’t obligated to help or give me anything, but they did and their selfless acts of love changed my life. It gave me the reason to do helpful things for others, to make Learned squared, to share, and to give, because I know how important those things are and how little of it exists in our world.

My wife is amazing, but she is amazing in a different way, because she is my partner for life.

9 – Without too much thinking, which childhood memory comes to your mind?

I actually had a childhood memory last night as I was in the kitchen holding an avocado and I instantly thought of growing up in Hawaii.  It’s very tropical there and avocados grow in abundance; it’s one of my favorite places on the planet. I remember going on adventures a lot, making things, and playing make believe. It’s a beautiful memory, not having the distraction of phones, social media, or worrying about work, I was just enjoying being a kid.

I think that every kid should grow up in nature.

10 – What are the things that keep us close as human beings and what are the things that keep us apart?

Survival. Survival keeps us close, but it also keeps us far apart. My wife and I love each other of course, we work together well, and we also survive well together.  Anyone though that threatens that security and survival would instantly cause me to act and create distance.

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