Story Arts Centre

Story Arts Centre

At Centennial College’s Story Arts Centre, creativity and commerce intersect as artistic students are taught how to make media, and how to succeed in the industry that makes that media. One such program is Game Art and Design, taught at the Story Arts Centre. Game Art Students receive intensive hands-on training in current software and modelling methodologies in a lab setting, learn how to build 3D art assets for environment and character.. More than that, the program directly links students to careers. This was the case with graduate Helena Dufgran, who now works as a surfacing artist at Arc Productions.

Helena_Axe_Wire“I’ve always played video games, and have wanted to get into the industry for about eight years now,” Helena says of her motivation. “I previously did filmmaking and visual arts, so combining those with my love for games just suddenly made sense.”

Her desire to break into the industry would eventually cause her to move overseas. “I’m originally from Stockholm, Sweden,” she says. “I came to Canada six years ago and attended a small private career college for concept art for animation and video games for four years before starting at Centennial.”


She chose Centennial’s Game Art and Design program out of a desire to develop more digital art skills that could be of use in the industry. “I liked that it was short,” she says about the program, “with only four consecutive semesters, since I had so many years behind me already. I wanted to finish quickly, yet learn a lot, and I got what I needed.”

Helena_turanian_2_handed_battleaxeThat shortness was also a challenge, though, as the program packed a lot into that time. “It was very intense, hours and hours of hard work,” she admits. “It’s all about how much you want it.”

Working in animation

Helena currently works at Arc Productions Ltd., a Toronto animation studio, as a Surfacing Artist on a new television show.
“I’m at a dual-monitor work station with a Wacom tablet, and I create textures that go on top of 3D-models,” she says of her position. “I also create the material and look of the assets. They can be either props, characters or sets. I love getting to be creative every day and to be part of a product where I can clearly point out my contribution. A big plus is that Arc is very keen on letting their employees learn new software and always update our skill set, which furthers my personal and professional development at a regular basis. The great thing about this job is that it’s very close to what I’d be doing at a game studio, and I’m happy where I am.”

She credits Centennial College with providing the skill set necessary to get the job, and for letting her see the company on a tour before she applied. “We did go on a tour here last year, and I think doing more of that is definitely helpful,” she says. “That way you get to meet the recruiters and see what the studio is like in a way you can’t get from a website or through someone else’s eyes.


Helena Dufgran:  Turanian Axe Made in 3DS Max, ZBrush, Photoshop. Rendered in Unreal 4. Original concept copyright by Funcom (provided). Polycount - 6120 Texture - 2048x2048

Helena Dufgran: Turanian Axe
Made in 3DS Max, ZBrush, Photoshop. Rendered in Unreal 4. Original concept copyright by Funcom (provided).
Polycount – 6120
Texture – 2048×2048

While the Game Art and Design program itself is rewarding, Helena stresses that you get what you’re willing to put into it. “Listen to your instructors, don’t play games in the back of the room without paying attention,” she says. “The program is over in a flash – you’ll risk regretting not using your time better.”

“Keep at it, work hard, take your time to learn the basics well, and spend time at home reading and watching tutorials, and play around with software,” she continues. “Study traditional art techniques and history, there’s a reason these ideas are going strong after hundreds of years.”

By Anthony Geremia

We’re living among a generation where many of us were raised with game controllers in our hands and want a career making these things that entertained us. Gamers have come a long way from the days when video game testing was thought of as the ideal career, though. Now, if you want to work on games, you need to be one of the creators, and to be one of the creators, you need the artistic skills. That’s the thinking behind the Game Art and Design program, giving students the chance to develop skills that can make them creators in the industry, or even other industries like animation. One student who was connected to a career was Yury Uvarov, who now works at Ubisoft, the Montreal-based company that created the Assassin’s Creed, Rayman and Far Cry franchises, among others.

Yury Uvarov

Yury Uvarov

From play to work

“I started my journey to Game Art in 2000, when I got my first PC and I discovered a wonderful game called Half-Life,” Yury says. “After completing the game I discovered that it had a level editor and I started creating my own maps. In 2004, when Half-Life 2 was released, I continued to make my own maps for the new game using the assets that were included with the game. But I quickly started to wonder how I can create my own assets, and that’s how I got introduced into the wonderful world of 3D modelling. In 2005, I got my hands on 3D Studio Max 6, became obsessed with game development and started to dream about a career in the game industry.”

Yury studied and worked in Russia, but his desire to enter the field would soon take him to Canada. “In 2008, I got a chance to travel to Canada to study and I thought it would be a great opportunity to pursue my dream of becoming a game artist,” Yury says. “After some careful research I made my choice to study Game Art and Design at Centennial College, because I really liked the curriculum and at that time it was the only college in Toronto that offered a 2-year diploma course in Game Art.”

yury-uvarov-6Game Art and Design

“I really liked the diversity of the program,” Yury says. “Besides the various 3D modelling courses which were my top priority, it also had some classes dedicated to improving our 2D drawing skills.”

“The most challenging aspects of the program for me were getting used to a very different educational system compare to my home country, and also life drawing classes,” he says. “I had a lot of experience in 3D modelling before starting the program, but I had very little experience in drawing and I had to learn a lot more during those classes.”

“The most important thing that I learned in the school,” he says, “is that if you want to be successful at your craft you have to work hard and keep improving your skills even after you graduate to achieve your goal.”

“While I was at Centennial College I built very good work relationships with some of the teachers,” he adds. “These connections were very important later on for me to land a job at Ubisoft.”


“Currently I’m working as a Model Artist at Ubisoft Toronto,” Yury explains. “I model assets for Level Artists, which they use to create environments for the game.”

The project he’s working on is shrouded in secrecy, but he can talk about his daily tasks. “Typically, I model 3D assets in 3D Max that are requested by our Level Artists and export them into the game engine,” he says. “Sometimes I also help Level Artists with set dressing in the game editor.”

“What I like the most about this job is that I’m working very closely with a lot of talented artists from whom I can learn new tricks and techniques which will help me to grow as an artist and also share my knowledge with others.

Advice for his path

“The main advice that I can give: Be passionate about art, always try to learn something new and keep your skills sharp,” he says. “When working on your portfolio strive for quality over quantity, it’s better to have only two amazing art pieces in your portfolio instead of dozen mediocre ones.”

“Be prepared to work hard and multitask,” he says. “Even though it’s an art course, it doesn’t mean it will be a walk in the park. There will be a lot of things to learn, lots of assignments and deadlines. But remember that without hard work, there is no success.”

By Anthony Geremia

Tags: Great Reads,Centennial college programs,Centennial college education,Centennial college in Toronto,Centennial college students,Community college in Toronto,School of Communications Media and Design,Alumni

Second semester of Centennial College’s Animation-3D program has students focus on advanced modelling and character animation.

Departure is a short film by graduate Wonjoon Lee. He was hired as an animator (before graduating!) by Sony Pictures Imageworks Vanvouver. Congratulations Woonjoon!


I think this info-graphic sums it up nicely!

3d production

The Animation-3D  program at Centennial starts with practical skills like modelling foundations in Maya and Animation Theory. These skills are put to use in creating a station identity piece. Students walk through the process from top to bottom. Brainstorming, story-boarding, layout,  composition, camera movement and of course modeling, texturing, lighting to final comp and render! I am always impressed with what students can produce from having no knowledge of 3D, in less than 14 weeks. Below is the project by 1st semester student Debbie Chan.

The Game Art & Design program starts right away with the skills you will need to be a video game artist. From the first week you will work in traditional media, as well as begin the process of mastering software such as ZBrush, 3DsMax, Photoshop and others. Below are some samples from the Fall 2014 semester.

Students work with the Autodesk Entertainment Creation Suite (3ds Max and Maya) to learn the specifics of modelling for game engines involves creating efficient topology. Environment as well as character design is explored. Fundamental like anatomy and perspective, layout are covered in the first semester as well.

As the snowstorm rolled over the city, students from Centennial’s Digital Animation program were cozy and warm inside ToonBox Entertainment’s Toronto studio. ToonBox_studio_visit_Centennial_banner

This studio is the home of the highly successful animated feature The Nut Job, (having grossed $62 million in 4.5 weeks!). ToonBox graciously gave us a tour of the studio and a sneak peak at the production process on current projects.

Will Arnett's  "Surly"

It was great to see Centennial College alumni and faculty working in the studio. The success of The Nut Job has ensured the health of ToonBox, and reinforces Toronto’s reputation as a major force in the international animation industry. We are proud of our talent and the role the Centennial play’s in developing the animation industry.

Coincidentally, the two lead characters were voiced by Canadians, Surly by Will Arnett (originally from Toronto) and Brendan Fraser (originally from British Columbia) as Grayson.


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