The Rusted Pixel

ART  .  October 5th, 2015



Interview with the Irish illustrator, Paul McMahon a.k.a The Rusted Pixel


Hi Paul, can you tell me who you are and where do you come from?

Well, my name is Paul but I prefer Pauly. I’m from Kildare, Ireland and I am currently living in Donegal, Ireland which is the most northerly county in the Republic of Ireland. I am a freelance 3D artist while also working full time as a graphic designer.

What do your days look like?

Well, I work as a graphic designer from 9am to 5:30pm. I get home by 6:30pm, talk to my partner and dogs, have dinner then I freelance as a 3D artist from 7:30pm to 1am Monday through to Thursday. Then on Friday I usually freelance until about 3am as I don’t have work on Saturday. The weekends I try to do as much as I can with my partner – go to the cinema, gym, swimming, xbox etc Sundays are supposed to be more relaxed but I usually study on Digital Tutors or on my own personal work.



In February you published an incredible 3d project called ‘On the Run‘. Can you introduce this work and why you did it?

Ah yes, the project I’ve become most known with to other artists. “On the Run” started out as a really small modeling project for a client that they didn’t like and was canned. I saw there was hope for it so I scrapped the original idea and started anew this time with even more stylized vehicles. The process began back in 2013 when I was just getting to grips with modeling in 3D. The first model – the family saloon – was selected by a few 3d magazines to be printed. This gave me the encouragement to try some more. The RV was next, followed by the squad car and news van. I was pretty happy with them until friends started asking when I was going to paint them? It was never my intention to paint them. I was content with modeling but after enough persuasion I bit the bullet and started to learn UV Mapping in BodyPaint. It was something I wanted to do for a while but there was so little material out there and I thought it would take too long to learn…six months later I was very confident in BodyPaint and was able to create reasonably good UV maps to paint.

Each vehicle would take anywhere between two days to two weeks to model, depending on how much time I had available and how happy I was with the end result. The uv mapping stage is the slowest taking a week or two to complete with the fine, edge details. The painting process is the most fun. You’ve got all the hard work done. You have the model made and mapped and now its time to give the vehicle a voice. A personality of its own. It’s the most playful time and Im glad it comes last as it’s something to look forward to.


These stylized car models are some of the best I’ve ever seen! Can you tell us more about your process to create one of these?

hahahahaha well firstly, thanks very much. That is a very high honor indeed coming from a great artist yourself who I admire greatly. I love the work of illustrators. They would be my main source of inspiration. For a long time I wanted to be an illustrator but my drawing skills leave a lot to be desired. I never thought I would, one day, call myself a 3D illustrator but I guess that day has arrived and I’m pretty proud. I take pleasure in going the long way of making a 3D model, uv mapping, texture painting and then rendering it to try make it look like a 2D image. So far most have been unsuccessful but some do look like 2D illustrations, a trio of cacti being my best work to achieve this look.


The process of the vehicles first starts with deciding with what is needed. So, for instance, I am currently working on a fire engine. I will have an idea of what I want to achieve. I will then do a google search for the vehicle I have in mind. Sometimes I add time frames such as the 50s or 20s to get a certain style. Sometimes I will search for different countries to get different flavors of the same vehicle. A fire engine from the US in the 20’s is gonna be very different from a German fire engine of the 90’s. When I have enough images, I will then pick and choose certain features I like and bear that in mind when it comes to modeling. I will bash together a Frankenstein vehicle. It will have elements of things I like plus a few of my own ideas. While modeling I will bear in mind what I want to paint so if I want to add large painted elements I will leave big, flat open spaces.

One thing I really don’t like in modeling – mostly prevalent in C4D modeling – is low poly or faceted modeling. I really don’t see the point in it anymore? it’s so old hat and people are tired of it…well I certainly am anyways. I don’t think it’s a nice look at all. Especially when artists get carried away with it. They would model the car body with very few polys but when it comes to the wheels they will drop the poly count to 16 or 8. I really hate that! The wheels look so ugly. Why do it? Why not accept that the wheels will be smooth and round while the car will have less detail. I love having a mix of big, open spaces of no detail just a bold polygon shape, then crammed in a corner or edge is a ton of character and detail. It gives the viewer something to look out for. It gives the vehicle a little bit more of an unexpected look. Take for example, the monster truck. Its wheels are huge compared to the rest. I couldn’t add tiny wheels like the rest yet I think it still works. I wanted to break the mold. Just because everything that came before had tiny wheels, it’s not set in stone it has to be that way. This loosening up gives me much more freedom to do what I want and be able to change the rules when needed.




What’s next for ‘On the Run’? We can see some animation work in the creative process videos, have you planned to create a whole animation?

On the Run is going to be an animated short. Since posting Part One to Behance which shows the first 8 vehicles of the short it has gained far more attention than I had ever expected. It was a little scary how many people added it to their “inspiration” collections on Behance or left comments saying the couldn’t wait to see it animated. That worried me a lot as Im not a great animator but Im very happy to say I have now a small but exceptionally talented group of artists working with me. I have an animator working on both 3D and 2D cel animation. I have a lighting and composition guy who is also a fantastic scripting and storyboard artist which is very handy indeed! We also have a few people helping us out making music and sound effects. It’s very much a group effort. Everyone is chipping in to see it completed to the best it can be!

I can’t wait to see what you guys are going to do with it :)
And what’s next for you?

At the moment the 3D industry is very small in Ireland. I’ve been offered some art director jobs and motion graphic roles in Dublin but I really love the beautiful valleys, forests and beaches of Donegal. I would like to set up my own small business up here. When I get home from my current job I work for studios in the US and Canada as they are just starting their working day when I am ready to freelance. If I can gather some clients from the UK and Ireland for the day time then I can take the plunge into starting my own studio and then I’m golden! It’s always that easy right? :)

Héhé absolutely ,)
Can you tell me now what were your favorites activities when you were a kid?

I always loved building forts and climbing trees with my friends. I loved being outdoors with my sisters or friends, we would spend hours outside every evening after school. When growing up my brother always had a computer of some sort – an amiga 500, a gateway PC – and gaming consoles such as a gameboy and playstation which sparked my interest in 3D and design. One day when I was going to school my mam was reading my then very young sister a book. I was amazed by the pictures (as always). She told me that people have jobs and make money from illustrating. I never knew such a job existed. That planted the seed in my very young brain to always focus on art. In secondary school my careers guideance teacher gave me a brochure on animation college and I was sold! All during math and history class I would work on my portfolio. I never was one for numbers, dates or places. I loved classes that involved drawing such as geographical formations, biological drawings of the human heart or eye and, of course, Art class itself. If something required drawing and images I excelled in it. I’m not great with languages, including English, but I do love listening to someone break down poetry for me and what it means. I find that very interesting. I based my whole college entry portfolio around the poetry of Emily Bishop, still my favorite poet.





What are you going to do just after having answered to this final question?

HAHAHAHAHA emmmm well I have CINEMA 4D and Spotify open so it would be very professional of me to say I’m going to continue working but I’m a very honest guy so the truth is I’m going to step away from my pc to make a cup of weak, milky tea (my favorite) and play some Batman on my xbox one!

Haha thanks Pauly for these great answers!