Interview with Neil Hooson of


BC, Canada

Profile Identity:
My name is Neil Hooson and my online handle usually revolves around the phrase "pointblank". I quite often post as pointblank27, which I registered when I was 27. Not too forward-thinking, I guess. I am currently 30 years old, having been born on July 27, 1973. For more details, ask my mom.

Life Style:
I currently work full-time for an online publishing company, where I am primarily responsible for the design of new online products such as web sites, Flash & Director presentations. I started at this company as an HTML programmer, then moved into the graphics department after shamelessly whoring my freelance work to anyone who would look at it. After I'm done work for the day, I go home and hang out with my wife and son until he goes to bed. Then I usually sit down and do a few hours of either freelance work, or personal development work (sketching, adding to the Point Blank Studios web site and learning some new tricks).

My education culminated in a Bachelor of Science degree with a major in Mathematics. All through school, I was convinced that I'd never be able to get a job if I pursued art and design, so I leaned towards more academic pursuits. In my final year of university, I saw an ad for a local school that was teaching computer animation, so I went for it, having been a cartoon and animation fanatic my whole life. After finishing that program, I unsuccessfully freelanced for a year with a business partner, under the name Pixelhead Productions. Then I decided I needed to make some money, so I went looking for work and this is how I got my current job.

I love music and like to have it around me all the time. I am changing favourite bands all the time, but my permanent faves are the Pixies, Husker Du/Sugar, Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. I don't listen to the older music too much these days, but I know I'll come back to it at some point. I love Mexican food, chocolate chip cookies and easy video games (I suck at those things). My favourite video game is still Unreal Tournament.

I started in the design field in 1996, right after completing a computer animation course at a local college. I thought, as a freelance animator, I'd be in high demand. But, I didn't really do any local market research so I didn't know what I was getting myself into. I found myself having to pick up new skills such as web design, HTML because those were the types of jobs that were plentiful at the time. I freelanced (went broke) for a year and then found a full-time job as an HTML programmer for an online publishing company. I continued doing freelance work, ironically enough doing animation. I did character design and 3D modeling for a few local TV commercials, as well as 3D special effects for some local video projects. Upon showing this stuff around at my job, I got recruited into the graphics department. I have no real formal training in drawing/illustration, but it's always been something that I've loved doing and people always told me I was good at it. So, I found myself doing digital illustrations in a cartoony style full-time. I did this for 3 years and my position evolved into doing a mixture of illustration/cartoons and web and multimedia design.

I have continued to freelance in the evenings and on weekends, under the company name of Point Blank Studios Inc. I have always had a steady influx of work, doing a wide variety of work, including illustration, Flash animation and game work, web site design and implementation, 3D animation and rendering. I'm glad that the path I've taken has lead me here, but I now wish I'd gotten more education in art and design in both high school and college. There's a lot to be said for learning these things yourself, but I can't help but think I'd be further along if I'd done more when I was younger.

Tools Used:
Flash and Lightwave are my main tools of choice for my freelance work. I do all of my web design comps in Photoshop, however. It's taken quite a few years and lots of software to figure out what I am comfortable with, but it always comes back to these three.

Hardware-wise, I always use a Wacom tablet – a 4x5 graphire with my laptop and a 12x12 Intuos with my desktop machine. My computers are:
Powerbook G4 550MHz
- 512 MB RAM

Pentium II 450MHz
- 512 MB RAM
- 64 MB video card
- Epson 1650 scanner

Pretty basic machines, but they still hold up surprisingly well. The laptop really changed my workflow and the amount of time I find myself working. Being in an Apple environment was also a big change for me, but I like it. I have no real preference between Apple and Windows though - they both have their good and bad points. My newest toy is a Canon G2 digital camera. I use it a lot for taking reference pics, as well as backdrops and textures for my 3D work. I have also used the video feature to get reference for my animation work.

As far as what I'd like to 'master' in the future, I'm currently playing with PHP and MySQL. Not to enhance my resume, but to let me build a better, easier to manage website. My current site isn't vast by any means, but I'd like it to be a more interactive experience.

Current Status:
Some of my recent projects include Flash intros, Flash games, 3D renderings and some print work. I'm pretty happy with all of them, even the ones that I had to rush out. I make money from my freelance work, but not enough to pursue it full-time and with my present situation. Hopefully one day soon.

Everything starts with pencil and paper. I always do a rough sketch, quick mockup or flowchart before I get started. It's always good to have a gameplan. I really like working in a team because fresh ideas always come out of that dynamic. If I'm not confident in a team, I tend to work more independently, but that hasn't happened too often.

My ideas usually come from my own mind, but are undoubtedly influence by my love of cartoons, primarily the old Looney Tunes ones. But I like anything funny or well-executed. I read a lot of 'Dilbert' and 'Calvin & Hobbes' as well. A lot of my inspiration comes from the artists I know, both in person and online. I've met a lot of really great people at Shane Glines' Drawing Board. I've been going there for 3 years and it's always a good source of inspiration.

I am fairly happy where I am right now, although I would ideally like to put more focus on illustration work as this is my first love. Specifically, I want to do magazine and book illustration. I also want to develop my own animated series, or comic strip/book. We'll see what happens. Right now, I am enjoying working on a wide variety of projects and being a new father.

Insincerity, dishonesty and selfishness are the big three that drive me nuts. It doesn't take a lot of effort to make the world turn smoothly for everybody, but sometimes it seems that everybody is just in it to make sure they look after themselves and nobody else.

Thank you for the opportunity!