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Mixing art and science

By Minlu Zhang | China Daily | Updated: 2021-10-18 07:30

Hu Te creates his award-winning artwork, Nine Songs, based on Warring States Period (475-221 BC) poet Qu Yuan's poems. Hu presents the stories of Nine Songs with CG art that he thinks Westerners can understand. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Hu Te sets the background of his virtual meeting as a starry universe. He is wearing a minimalistic white shirt, with a short turtleneck that makes him look like an astronaut in a spaceship.

As a computer graphics artist living in San Francisco, Hu, who's in his 30s, participated in the production of AAA games earlier, too. They are video games with the highest development budgets and levels of promotion, and projects of Industrial Light & Magic, a special effects company created by George Lucas when he began production of the Star Wars films.

Hu now makes CG animation at Pixar. He combines science and art especially well. Hu's work, Nine Songs, has won many awards, including the Gold Award of the ADC 100th Annual Awards in 2021-the oldest continuously running industry award, which such artists as Salvador Dali and Andy Warhol also won. He also won the Gold Award of the JIA Illustration Awards in 2021, organized by the Japan Illustration Association.

"A little boy, wearing big pants, holding a big pencil, drawing a picture bigger than me on an easel twice as big as me-that was every weekend in my memory as a child. My father would not prepare materials for me. I just used the same materials as my father, who is an oil painter," Hu says.

When he got tired, he would run to his mother and draw traditional Chinese paintings on rice paper to relax. At that time, Hu did not regard painting as his profession, and art was only a hobby.

When he was studying software engineering in college, Hu says he found that art had already become a part of his life.

"I cannot live without art," Hu says.

"I started to think about how I could combine science and technology and with art."

After arriving in the United States, Hu worked as a technical artist for Industrial Light& Magic in many virtual-reality video games, including five Star Wars games, Transformers: The Last Knight VR and Marvel Avengers: Damage Control.

"Based on my background in science and engineering, I can make special effects with algorithms and metrics," says Hu.

The work he is most proud of is Flesh and Sand, which is directed by acclaimed Mexican film director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. It was the first virtual-reality project featured at the Cannes Film Festival and was the first to be awarded a special Oscar since the 1995 film Toy Story. Hu was leading the real-time rendering work for the new film.

Although Hu's projects are mostly "American in style", he says he identifies with Eastern culture.

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