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Matthew’s Journey

Matthew Ullrey will be our main facilitator for learning the 3D software program, Blender, in the upcoming AniMissions school in 2021. Matthew has a bachelor’s degree in Studio Art from the University of South Carolina and a Bachelor of Science in Computer Animation from Full Sail University in Florida where he continued his education in the field of Computer Animation. He is presently working on independent projects and tutoring art students. Check out some of Matthew’s work at www.matthewullrey.com.

My family became Christians all around the same time, yet each of us came to Christ in our own unique way. Mine was literally the faith of a child. My attitude about the whole thing was, “Of course I want to be a Christian . . . it is so amazing . . . why wouldn’t I?”

Becoming a Christian and becoming an artist were similar in a sense. It was more of a natural thing I gravitated to as if it were meant to be. I have been drawing and creating since I was a little boy. The encouragement from my parents and praise from teachers and friends for my art helped my motivation to keep drawing. It kept me busy in church as I drew the topics, stories, and word pictures from the sermons the pastor was preaching. This was a skill that I would use later on in life. It also kept me relatively safe from harm whereas my older brother and sister were prone to breaking arms and legs with their more active hobbies. When it was time for me to go to college, art and language classes had the most appeal. After graduating, I found it difficult to find a job in the fine arts so I traveled down a few different career paths.

Those non-artistic jobs always seemed to include freelance art projects for colleagues and friends. At one point, while I was working as a hospital database administrator, I was asked why I was working with computers and not doing something in art. It was an excellent question. Not too much later I met a very special lady and after getting married we did some soul searching and decided to pursue art again, but this time in computer animation. When I gave my boss my two weeks notice and told them I was going to get back into art they asked why would I do that and not work with computers anymore.

While doing some research I found a few schools that specialized in computer animation, but Full Sail University won out because of its location near family in Florida, and the accelerated class schedule. Instead of sixteen-week semesters, the classes take only four weeks to complete. Unlike my past self who just coasted through high school and my undergraduate degree, I was motivated to get as much out of my time at Full Sail as possible. Perhaps it was from years spent in a career doing uncreative tasks or the demanding bosses that made me do those uncreative tasks, but either way I reveled in going to art class; it was a joy and a pleasure. I almost felt guilty for enjoying it so much. My previous job experience wasn’t all bad, it taught me detailed note-taking skills and punctuality. Both of which allowed me to graduate second in my class and with the extremely rare “perfect attendance” award.

“Becoming a Christian and becoming an artist were similar in a sense. It was more of a natural thing I gravitated to as if it were meant to be.”

It was around this time the School of Cartooning and Animation for Missions was open to enrolling seminar students. My wife (a previous YWAM staff member who had also introduced me to the SoCAM director while in Hawaii four years earlier) and I made plans to attend the Photoshop, Illustrator, and Flash animation courses. After the four weeks we returned home having made some good friends and experiences in Taiwan.

I was invited to return the following year to be the instructor for the 3D graphics week. I started immediately converting what I had learned at Full Sail University over to Blender using online tutorial websites and books. There were just a few challenges and differences in switching over from Maya and Zbrush to Blender. On the whole, the idea of what makes up a 3D object is the same in these different applications. What I also found amazing was that this free Open Source program had the modeling and animation of Maya, the sculpting of Zbrush, plus video compositing and editing all rolled up into one program.

Despite my plunge into the 3D world and digital graphics, I still enjoy drawing, painting, and sculpting with traditional media. I heard someone describe this as being a tradigital artist and I adopted this phrase when describing my comfort with both traditional and digital forms of creating.

If I were to offer any advice to young Christian artists who are getting into art as a career or for a career in missions it would be this: discover and know your self worth and the value of your skills and talents. It is a wonderful thing to give your time and talents to noble and spiritual projects. It is a blessing to the recipient and you as you participate in the Great Commission. It is also fantastic if you have a financial support system in place that will allow you to do this. Otherwise, you need to be paid for your art. If art is your job—your career—then your clients need to understand this. Your countless hours spent at the drawing desk, the art supplies, and the money spent at institutions to learn and hone your skill did not come without sacrifice. Unfortunately learning to say “no” may be one of the most difficult skills you will learn next to putting a monetary value to your time and art.

- Matthew Ullrey

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