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Graduate blog: running my 3D studio RenderFolk

David Richard Allan moved from West Sussex to study BA (Hons) Games Art and Design at NUA followed by MA Moving Image and Sound.  After graduating David moved to Toronto where he set up 3D studio RenderFolk.

We catch up with him to find out about his journey, and his ethos of experimentation and perseverance. 


Can you tell us about your journey through your BA (Hons) Games Art and Design and MA Moving Image and Sound?

I spent a lot of time drawing fantasy monsters, suits of armour and making 3D models in my late teens. I had been heavily inspired by Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings which I still like to think influences my work to this day. It was this early love of fantasy that led me to study Games Art and Design and eventually set up RenderFolk.

After the first year I think I knew working in video games wasn’t going to be for me. I used the course as a means of developing a set of 3D skills, which I would later find opened me up to a broad range of potential industries.

I was passionate about sailing and Naval design at the time, so I started modelling and 3D rendering yachts. My hope was that maybe I could turn that into a career in Yacht design after my degree.

After developing this set of core 3D skills I moved onto the MA Moving Image and Sound, where my work took yet another creative pivot. I started exploring digital sculpture using Zbrush, and the process of 3D printing those sculptures for film production.

I think it was very important for me to keep trying new mediums for my work. It enabled me to have an overview of all possible professional routes, and allowed me to have a top down view of paths forward.

I really like to try everything, which I don’t think is a bad thing. I think learning to try and fail, and to fail well, kept me moving forward. My advice to students would be to explore as many mediums for your work as possible when starting out.

Can you tell us about your studio RenderFolk?

To have a studio that you get to build yourself is a very special process. My goal had always been to eventually build an environment that felt creatively nurturing, low stress, and ultimately somewhere that was very enjoyable to spend time in.

After pushing through more stressful roles, I knew the healthiest way for me to live and work would be for me to create the space I want to work in. This would allow me to have complete control over my professional fate and mental wellbeing.

After freelancing under my own name for 2 years I decided it was time to grow. I had reached what I understood was the peak of what I could manage on my own, in terms of client work. RenderFolk was the next logical step, a brand that I could build a narrative around and form a community of 3D creatives.

One of the biggest challenges is knowing when to purchase a studio space, and move out of the home office. I don’t think there is ever a clear moment when you feel 100% ready for that move. You kind of just have to take a leap of faith and trust in your work ethic. In addition, the support and belief of close family and friends, made a huge impact on my ability to persevere through rough times.

As you get older you become really good at telling who is and isn’t a good influence on your life. The people that will make time for you in your hour, day or even week of need, are the ones you should hold onto, as these people are going to help you reach your goals.

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What impact has Covid-19 had on your studio?

Since the start of the pandemic we actually had one of our best years to date, where we doubled gross revenue from the following year. I think this paints the picture well for digital artists and should reassure students who are still looking for their lane that it’s a good direction.

Our jobs can be done from anywhere which is going to be the new normal. In particular for our industry we are seeing a slow down of product photography and a huge uptick in 3D rendering. Clients are now beginning to realise the endless possibilities that 3D rendering can provide.

What mark do you want to leave on the creative industry?

I’d like my studio to help drive a new modern visual aesthetic, which is something we are constantly developing as we continue to grow. I suspect we will never reach the end of that process, and that’s okay.

We are beginning to see brands be much more open to exuberant creative sets and image design. This indicates that the market is now understanding the power of 3D rendering, which is to not remake what can be made in the real world, but rather create something that is completely out of bounds physically, yet it has the appearance of being completely real to the eye.

Do you have any tips for someone looking to get into the creative industry today?

I can not tell you the amount of times I’ve got what I wanted, just because I’ve had the guts to ask. If there is someone I want to work with, I message them. If there’s someone I admire and look up to, I ask for 30 minutes of their time. This does not always work, but who cares? I am always astounded at how kind people are when approached in a non threatening manner. Do not be afraid to ask for help, this is something that I wish I discovered much earlier in life.

Perseverance is the second most important trait when it comes to moving into the creative industry, or finding a role in general. During my course time I was not the most talented artist, my success came from simply refusing to let the dream go.

I kept exploring new mediums of 3D, sculpture, VR and photography. Eventually through a series of different short jobs, I began to narrow my sights on Creative Digital Rendering. This brings us to today, and the creation of my studio, RenderFolk.

Find out more about RenderFolk on their Instagram and website

Explore BA Games Art and Design