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What is THU? V-Ray artist & Total Chaos contest winner explains


Total Chaos competition winner and V-Ray artist Ivona Alexandrov shares how her passions for science, technology and art magically collided at THU 2019 in Malta

At Total Chaos 2019 earlier this year, attendees were given an incredible opportunity: To win a free “Golden Ticket” to the THU event in Malta. 



What is THU?

  1. THU stands for Trojan Horse was a Unicorn. It was founded in Portugal in 2013 by Andre Luis and it’s now one of the largest events of its kind in Europe.
  2. It’s an event that is geared towards artists and creators of all kinds looking for a creativity boost — attendees include traditional and digital artists, as well as sound designers, game and VR developers, entrepreneurs, marketers and more.
  3. The unique event experience is held over six days and includes inspiration, education and networking for those studying and working in the 3D, VFX, games, and concept art industries. 
  4. Attendees travel from all over the world and returning attendees refer to THU as “home.” Those who attend THU each year become members of the “THU Tribe” — a global gathering of like-minded, creative people.
  5. Learn more about Trojan Horse was a Unicorn at the official website.

THU and our own event, Total Chaos, share much of the same DNA. These events are about community, education, inspiration and empowerment. For this reason, Total Chaos 2019 was the perfect opportunity to award one lucky attendee the chance to experience THU 2019 for themselves. As an Agent of Chaos!

To enter our contest, entrants simply had to tell us their story — either as a written description, an image, or a video — and convince the judges why they should be the chosen one. The prize included the flights, accommodation and a full event ticket for this world-famous gathering, all courtesy of Chaos Group.

Competition judges Andre Luis, 3D Environment Artist Joy Lea and Chaos Group’s Director of CG Labs Chris Nichols and Managing Editor Lynette Clee pored over the many entries and one winner stood out: Ivona Alexandrov. This CG student’s positive perspective shone through in her application and before she knew it, she was on her way to Malta.

At THU 2019, she took photos, jotted down thoughts, recorded a CG Garage podcast with Chris Nichols, made countless new friends, and left with a refreshed perspective on her career. On the heels of her adventure to Malta, we asked Ivona to give us an overview of the event and what she gleaned from it.  Read on for Ivona’s interpretation of THU and how it magically brought together her passions for science, technology and art in Malta. 

© Ivona Alexandrov


THU inspired Ivona to create this evocative render of her event experience.
 

How did you feel when you found out you’d won our Golden Ticket?

Ivona Alexandrov:
I was over the moon! I refreshed my email a few times to check if it was real. I was exhausted doing a long bus ride when the massive wave of excitement suddenly hit me. My thoughts were traveling way faster than the coach; I could barely sit in one place and it was the best feeling ever.

The fact that I was familiar with the people doing the selection made me even more thrilled. These are individuals I have been inspired by and I’ve admired their work for years. It was an absolute honor.


Did you find the THU experience useful?

IA:
THU was among the best things that ever happened to me! I never thought an individual could grow so much within just seven days. Sometimes you see posts and interviews about THU on social media and think, ‘Oh, that must be an exaggeration.’ But now, having experienced it, I can say that THU truly changes your life and you go home as a bigger, better version of yourself. 

Seeing all the incredible talks in the hall and hearing countless fascinating stories outside, I actually learned a lot about myself. Within a few days, with the help of many incredible tribe members, I started to connect the dots in my life. I figured out who I am and what I want to be. To be honest, this has been my biggest struggle for years.

The tribe gave me immense support and encouraged me to chase my wildest dreams in the CG industry. Now, I feel more determined than ever before to grow and develop my skills. I cannot wait to give my contribution to this amazing industry. 

What is the biggest value young artists get from attending industry events?

IA:
I’ve been to many different events since I was around 16 to 17 and I cannot emphasize enough how beneficial they are for one's development. Not only for keeping on track with the innovations in such a fast-paced industry but getting valuable behind-the-scenes insights. Every talk broadens your horizons and stimulates you to try something new. When you are just starting, you cannot be sure which direction you want to go in. Learning from the experience of like-minded people can help you figure out a lot for yourself.


What did you learn?

IA:
The most important lesson I gained is that everyone, even the most successful individuals, has their self-doubts. Insecurities are normal and they are not something you should be ashamed of. Although we are all unique and take different paths, at the end of the day we share the same struggles. It is the immense support of the tribe that helps you overcome every pitfall on the way. 

At THU, you meet so many unique individuals based around the globe. After a while, you realize that you all share the same blood type for being creative, ambitious and self-driven. Mingling with everyone was so easy and exchanging ideas was priceless. Over this memorable week, you build priceless connections and make friends for life.

What impressed you the most?

IA:
I was fascinated by how friendly and humble everyone is. It was so easy making new friends and being around hundreds of open-minded people. What is more, at THU there isn't a division between speakers and attendees. Instead, the informal atmosphere is one of a kind. I was able to freely chat with some of my favorite artists as if I was hanging out with my friends. I never imagined that the incredible artists you admire, and even the successful supervisors from Hollywood, are so humble. In fact, everyone is willing to support and help you grow. What an amazing industry to be part of!


What inspired your passion for computer graphics?

IA:
My first encounter with computer graphics was back in 2011 when I was in seventh grade. There was a new extracurricular club in my school focused on 3ds Max. “I have to try this,” I whispered to myself while reading that you need to be three years older to join. Gathering all my motivation, I persuaded the headmaster that I could cope with the pace and difficulty. In just a few days I had my first lesson in 3D and that was a turning point in my life. At the age of 14, I was speechless with surprise how the former gray shapes rendered with V-Ray for 3ds Max looked so real. It was like creating magic on the screen.

You're successfully combining your studies with freelancing and working at your university. What is your advice for other young artists who are just starting out and still studying?

IA:
From my experience, I learned that being part of diverse activities from an early age is crucial for an individual’s development and shaping their personality. For many years I have been actively involved in lots of extracurricular activities, volunteering in youth organizations as well as doing sports along with my studies. Every initiative taught me how to be more organized and value my time. All the fantastic people I meet every day motivate me to push myself even further. Last, but definitely not least, boxing gave me great discipline and still helps me unwind after a stressful week.


How has your experience in 2D art and animation translated into the world of 3D?

IA:
The world of CG is a magical place where art, science and technology intersect. I started my journey with traditional drawing and painting. When I look back, I realize how beneficial it was for my growth. Undoubtedly, doing life drawing and studies is a way of training your eye like no other. Doesn’t matter if it is 2D or 3D, there are core principles which overlap. 

When it comes to animation, it broadened my horizon. I started thinking more about storytelling and world creation. Also, while working on a tight-deadline production you realize the importance of planning and sticking to the schedule along with finding ways to work smarter and more efficiently. 

You seem to have grown up with V-Ray! What keeps you coming back to it?

IA
: V-Ray was my first love back in 2011. We were working on reconstructing and visualizing jewelry from the 10th Century. There was a variety of materials that had to be simulated, such as gold, emeralds, amethysts and pearls, and I was blown away by the result. The fact that a 14-year old student managed to use the render engine is testament to how intuitive it is. At the same time, it gives you the chance to dig deeper as it has so many options for control over your project. 

Nowadays, I admire the phenomenal realism of the lighting system combined with photography-like parameters and amazing material handling. What is so special is the fact they don’t come at the price of insane render times because, let’s face it, we all know how precious our time is.


What would be your dream job when you graduate?

IA:
I believe that magic happens where science, technology and art collide. The ideal opportunity for me would be to put my creative skills into more technical practice and work in a 3D department producing environment art. For many years I have been dreaming of being surrounded by like-minded people in a big team. Now I realize that with the right mindset and hard work everything is achievable. 



Join us in at Total Chaos 2020 in Sofia, Bulgaria for more career inspiration (plus another chance to win THU tickets!) and catch up on all the incredible action from Total Chaos 2019.