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Conversations with Matt Young

Today we’d like to introduce you to Matt Young. 

Hi Matt, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstories.
From as young as I can remember, I’ve always enjoyed creating. When I was younger, I was more focused on drawing. As I got older, it grew into making and building objects. I remember as a kid thinking that if Santa made all the toys, then he could make me whatever I asked for, even if I made it up myself. Over time that turned into “well, if he won’t make them, then I will,” and I started trying to whittle and mold action figures. This slowly evolved into making more practical things or using existing items to kit-bash my creations. My freshman year of high school, I was introduced to digital 3d modeling and started self-teaching for a summer and posting 3d animations to YouTube. I started making other crafts and creation videos to drive traffic to my animations, but as these videos took off, I left the animations behind to peruse more views. 

Fast forward 4 years, I enrolled at UCF in their Digital Media: Game Design program and began my official education in 3d Modeling and Game Art, flip-flopping again back to digital art and leaving behind my YouTube channel to pursue the career that I wanted. After undergrad at UCF, I joined FIEA, which is UCF’s Graduate level Game Development program. Through this, I met many other talented developers and was fortunate enough to meet the professors who would help me enter the game industry as a 3d Environment Artist. In the digital world of 3d sculpting, modeling, and texturing, I can create whatever I can imagine without the limitation of physical tools, materials, or the decision of what to do with a creation once I finish it. While the challenges of digital are different than physical building, it allows me to create anything I can imagine. 

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back, would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
I’m incredibly grateful to say that while it has taken a lot of work to get to where I am, I’ve been supported and guided by many great individuals who have made it a smoother ride than it could have been. While this story isn’t necessarily a challenge, I do sometimes wonder about what could have been. 

As I mentioned before, during my time in high school, I had a YouTube channel. Over those four years, I joined an online community of fellow YouTubers, signed with sponsors, had 17,000 subscribers, and became the largest YouTuber in Florida within my specific niche. These numbers feel tiny by today’s standards, but 10 years ago, it was something to hang my hat on. I joined the YouTube Partner program which was the only way to make money from videos back then. It became the equivalent of a high school job for me and encouraged me to learn many skills in video editing, marketing, and even engaging with fans in public on the rare chance that someone would recognize me. However, when I started college and returned to digital 3d art, my YouTube videos felt more like an obligation than a hobby. When I wasn’t doing school work, I wanted to hang with friends and family, not film and edit videos. If I missed a scheduled upload, I’d notice an audience drop-off, and people would start commenting why they thought I left or disappeared. 

After my freshman year of college, I did disappear. I decided to leave it all behind. It didn’t make me happy or fulfill me anymore. Faced with that decision again, I would do it all the same 1000 times over. I love working as a 3d Environment Artist, and I love working with large teams to create something amazing. I’d be lying, though, if I said I never wonder what could have been. I’ve lost contact with all but one person from my YouTube days. Most have left their channels too, but a couple who stuck with it have well over a million subscribers and live off of their video revenue. Could that have been me? Could I have been some sort of influencer? Would I have been happy doing that? I leave this in the past, generally, as a fun part of my life that I’m proud of but don’t often dig up. Like a time capsule, I only revisit to reminisce that most people know nothing about. 

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
5 years ago, I joined Iron Galaxy Studios in Orlando as a 3d Environment Intern and then as a full-time artist after graduating. It’s been a terrific 5 years at Iron Galaxy so far, as I’ve gotten to work with many great people, learn a variety of game engines and pipelines, and contribute to several exciting projects. This past year I’ve had the opportunity to step into the role of Lead Environment artist on my respective project, having the chance to lead a small team of environment artists and work directly with our external partner. I’m also very proud to say that I spent a portion of last year working on the newly released Rumbleverse, making it the first AAA title of my career. I couldn’t be happier for Iron Galaxy and all the individuals who have contributed to making this happen. 

While I’m constantly learning and creating art for work, having the flexibility to create on the side has been very important to staying creatively fulfilled. The main way I’ve been doing this has been hosting a lunch group for other artists I work with to explore our own creative projects and share what we learn with each other. Our program of choice has been Substance Designer, which is a node-based texturing software. While the program thrives in creating tileable images that can be repeated side by side, such as wood boards or tiled floors, I’ve found the most fun is creating random objects and designs to push the limits of my own abilities. I’ve recently started posting these projects on my ArtStation, two of which are a Game Boy Advance and a bowl of ramen noodles. This lunch group has brought our community of artists closer together during the pandemic, helped all of us learn new skills, and provided us with new work for our online portfolios. 

We love surprises, fun facts, and unexpected stories. Is there something you can share that might surprise us?
Since visiting the Jameson Bowstreet Distillery in Dublin on my honeymoon several years ago, my biggest hobby is collecting whiskey. I love all types of whiskey, but I mostly collect bourbon and rye. This past winter break my dad, and I built out the closet of my home office to contain a display for everything I’ve collected so far. My collection is between 60-70 bottles currently and slowly growing. Every bottle is open and available for sharing with friends except for the Jameson 18-year Bowstreet edition, which I brought home from the distillery, kicking off this obsession. That bottle is still waiting for a special occasion. 

Mixing my digital art background and hobby of collecting whiskey, I’ve been dipping my toes into the world of creating illustrations for single barrel store pick bottles. This is where a shop buys an entire barrel and releases that unique bottling with a funny name and illustration printed on the label. This is still a new endeavor, but I’m hopeful that in the future, I can buy a bottle with my own art on it and know that a couple hundred others in the Central Florida area have done the same. 

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