Zombie Studio from São Paulo is the CGI company with the highest number of submissions selected and published in this volume.
A persistent and insatiable hunger for “brains.”
Reason enough for editor-in-chief Michael Weinzettl to talk to the studio’s co-founder and creative director, Paulo Garcia, about this remarkable Brazilian outfit.
Hi Paulo, you’re the co-founder of Zombie Studio in São Paulo, whose work is frequently featured in campaigns published by Archive. And, of course, you’re also very much in evidence in this latest volume of 200 Best Digital Artists. Tell us about Zombie Studio. When did it all start? Who was your co-founder? How did you meet? How many of you are there? And where did you get that name?
Hi, Michael. First of all, I feel very honored to have this opportunity to speak about the successful life project that is Zombie. I say this not only in my own name but also on behalf of every artist that works together with us – and also admires the work Lürzer’s Archive does in our field.
In Zombie’s first year, we had six pieces selected for the 200 Best. In the next edition, we had 22, more than any another studio. Now, with 50, we have more than doubled the previous issue’s pieces as a share of all work selected for the new 200 Best. Zombie Studio was created out of my frustration as an art director. I realized that I had been spending hours and hours trapped in an endless process of approvals and disapprovals and was unable to focus on the details of each campaign. It led me to open my own studio where I could put together the dream team and dedicate running time to layouts and seeking the forms, compositions, and visual solutions for each piece on which we were working.
My partner for both business and life, Natalia Gouvea, had a huge deal of experience in working with big clients, media groups, and advertising agencies. She brought to the studio a creative expertise of management and production of which I had no knowledge. We added features that have promoted constant studio growth. Today, we have more than 30 artists/employees – divided into different disciplines such as photographers, designers, 3D artists, illustrators, finishers, etc. – who are all committed to producing the highest possible quality in each work.
About the name Zombie: I have no idea how many zombie-genre movies I have already watched, but I have always admired their persistence and insatiable hunger for “brains.” And this is extremely relevant to what we do every day at the studio, which is to absorb as much as we are allowed of each artist and their art.
What were your main influences as a digital artist when you started out? Which artists/photographers do you admire?
I worked all my career before Zombie as an art director in agencies. I always had a very eclectic admiration for different types of art, ranging from art direction, design, and photography, right through to illustrators and digital artists.
I’m sure that I’m a lucky art director because I worked alongside one of the best advertising professionals and – in my opinion – a brilliant Brazilian art director called Tomás Lorente (in memoriam). We worked hard together at Y&R Brazil, participating in many of the pitches, spending long nights working hard to create the best campaigns, and our dedication paid off in the conquest of new clients. Immersion in hard work, together with this leader and his talented team, helped create the professional I have become today.
I confess to sometimes having a bit of a problem with some digital art. To me, the endless possibilities available to digital artists today sometimes lead to a kind of excessive use that I find quite horrible. There is a tendency to overkill thanks to the countless possibilities at your fingertips. So there is a fine line between beautifully realized works of digital art and overabundance even grotesquerie, i.e. work that is anything but subtle. Frequently, in fact, there seems to be a kind of sledgehammer approach to CGI. Subtle it is frequently not. Could you comment on that?
I agree. It’s a constant challenge to measure the use of each technique and be careful not to succumb to indulgence. I also believe that the market for digital artists is a new one compared to that for the photographer or art director. This achievement requires the constant maturity of these artists. Often, they are only used to handling software and 3D, and exclusively in their chosen arts, and have been doing this pretty much alone in their own studios. This reality has now changed and there has been an improvement in the overall equation, mainly due to the union of these resources within the same space. Just look at Zombie and other major studios selected for publication by you, where photographers, art directors, illustrators, and 3D retouchers are no longer separated the way they used to be. As in a soccer team, when these artists come to play, the constant exchange of experience creates a far higher level of quality and makes the work more subtle.
You have been in the CGI business for quite a while. What were the landmarks in its evolution for you? Generally speaking, I mean … CGI in Brazil, perhaps.
The CGI market runs in a parallel world with differences in the availability of equipment and software in some areas, but I’m happy to see that the quality of the work is not affected by these limitations. The websites and communities of artists show us that, today, quality is not focused in a single production center but is spread across many countries around the globe. It is not difficult to find references to amazing people from remote and distant regions, and the same is happening in Brazil where, although we tend to centralize jobs in the city of São Paulo, there are a lot of studios providing a fantastic service in other states. This diffusion of artistic quality – and, thankfully, the internet, which makes this work accessible to any client – is a landmark and a long-term trend.
Can you give us some examples of work by Zombie Studio that you’re particularly proud of – and tell us why?
I think Zombie eventually became a byword for characterization in particular. Certainly, our most famous works follow this line. For example, a campaign that constantly acts as a point of reference for other pieces that I see coming out today is the Chez Restaurant, which won numerous awards in the craft category at various festivals worldwide. However, looking at our portfolio as a whole, I am proud of all the jobs in it, each with its own challenges and particularities.
A lot of digital art is about collaboration. Which artists (dead or alive) would be the dream collaborator for you?
I will not name names to avoid the risk of committing an injustice, but all who are or were involved in the day-to-day Zombie world, and who lend us their qualities and help achieve the results we are always looking for in our work, deserve our recognition and admiration.
How much of your own inspiration is usually involved when working on a project commissioned by an ad agency? Is there an exchange going on, or is it mostly just the client/agency telling you what to do and what to deliver? I guess it could be a bit frustrating if they are familiar with a certain work of yours and want exactly the same thing again.
This subject is an everyday discussion in the studio. We have a huge range of services to offer, and we raise and discuss all possible ways of developing an idea when it comes to the studio. And it is a little frustrating whenever we find ourselves trapped or limited by any reference to a previous layout. But I also understand that this is not a problem deriving from art directors themselves but results from the multitude of processes and screens to which an idea is exposed before getting into our hands. This process creates unreasonable expectations about what has been seen or approved, and does not leave many loopholes for surprises. Certainly, the best works already executed in the studio are also those that can suggest opinions and present new approaches. I call this the natural evolution of the idea. Once conceived within the agency, it must then be created and nurtured by the studio to achieve the best results.
The capability to interact is especially important. There’s no point in having artists do an excellent job if they are unable to take criticism or share their wisdom with others. The collective creative process is the basis of the studio, and we are looking for people open to that idea.
What are your plans for Zombie Studio? Are you going to open up branches outside of Brazil or is that something quite unnecessary in the digital age?
We are planning to open small structures outside Brazil, but we are keeping the main focus of production here. The goal is to be closer to some customers and markets. Even with the advent of the digital age, we realize that physical proximity is essential for the development of bigger campaigns. Nothing is more precious to an art director than being able to follow their production and having a say throughout the process. This situation is somewhat harder for our customers in Europe and North America but I anticipate that, some time soon, we will be closer to you.