Education: Master of Fine Arts degree: Animation. Utah State University; Logan, UT (Undergrad Major: Theatre Set and Lighting Design).
Professional Portrait: DMA Instructor Adam Watkins is a teacher and noted author of multiple books on the subject of graphic arts, with special emphasis on Maya. He’s also written more than 100 magazine articles on the subject. An Associate Professor of 3D Animation for the School of Interactive Media & Design at San Antonio’s University of the Incarnate Word, Adam also serves as Art Director for the Justice Media Lab. Recently, Adam has been using his animation skills to produce ultra-realistic simulations for nuclear training facility inspections while serving as an animations developer at the historic Los Alamos National Laboratory in Los Alamos, New Mexico.
DMA Campus: Harvard University
Adam Watkins is a longtime Digital Media Academy animation instructor and when he’s not teaching DMA’s summer sessions, he’s a full-time teacher. He’s also a published author, with a handful of books and more than 100 articles on the subject of computer graphics. However, there things we can’t tell you about Adam. Why? Because it’s classified.
As the Artistic Director and animation developer for the VISIBLE Team, based at Los Alamos National Laboratory, Adam is using animation skills to develop training tools that can improve the quality and safety of inspections of nuclear facilities. This August he’ll leave New Mexico and head for Harvard University, where he’ll be teaching animation with Maya at DMA’s Harvard summer computer camp.
Putting Maya into Motion
“Maya is very robust,” Adam says. It’s true. Maya is recognized by the videogame and film industries as the premier computer graphics 3D modeling tool. This summer Adam’s again looking forward to sharing his experience. In terms of creating characters, Adam will show students how to model, UV map and texture a character…and then rig that character for animation. At that point, Adam will teach students how to animate the character with some basic animations (like walking and running). After that Adam will familiarize student campers with a collection of Maya’s amazing special effects.
Teaching Tech with Passion
Adam keeps his teaching skills sharp as an Associate Professor at the University of the Incarnate Word, a liberal arts college in San Antonio, Texas. Adam calls it “the largest university you’ve never heard of,” with multiple campuses in China and Mexico. And although the school is run by a charitable organization it still functions like a normal university, in most respects.
The 3D Animation and Game Design program that Adam teaches for the University is an intensive, four-year program that concentrates on utility.“We are product-focused and students who successfully complete the program have many projects and a robust demo reel upon graduation,” Adam says, “A degree is nice, but as part of the mission of the university, we make sure to graduate people with the reel, tools and skills to get real work…fast.” He brings that same practical industry focus to the courses he teaches for DMA.
The ‘Ah-ha!’ Moment
We asked Adam Watkins about what motivates him as an educator. “My philosophy of teaching in very general terms, is to focus on helping students do real work (and will show off their skills to an employer.”
“I don’t do tutorials,” he says. “I believe that especially for beginning 3D students, tutorials simply teach students how to follow recipes, not how to solve problems. Great 3D artists are great problem-solvers, and they get this way from practice. When I teach, I give assignments that require students to help define a problem, and then grow into the solution. I’m there to assist in the process.”
And that process pays off big for him when a student learns how to solve the problem for themselves. “I love the ‘Ah-ha!’ moment that students have when working through complex ideas,” he says. “3D technology can be abstract, and good 3D is a complex collection of technical and artistic skills. Helping students harness these divergent ideas to create good work really gets me going.”
For aspiring 3D animators, videogame designers or graphic artists, DMA instructors like Adam Watkins can help you learn how to turn your passion for computer graphics into a career…so you can experience your own ‘Ah-ha!’ moment.
(Images from Creating 3D Games with Unity and Maya: How to Develop Fun and Marketable 3D Games, Adam Watkins, Focal Press.)
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