Ian Ruhfass talks about winning an Emmy for Lead 3D Artist for the Game of Thrones opening, his Illustrations on ProCreate, growing his Instagram account and juggling work + personal life.

Ian Ruhfass

Ian Ruhfass talks about winning an Emmy for Lead 3D Artist for the Game of Thrones opening, his Illustrations on ProCreate, growing his Instagram account and juggling work + personal life.


Being able to go up on stage to accept the emmy was one of the highlights of my career for sure.

Tell us a bit about yourself - where you are from, and just some basic introduction for our readers.

Hello! I'm an artist currently living in Los Angeles, CA. I'm originally from just outside of Philadelphia, PA, and I went to college for 4 years at Savannah College of Art and Design (graduated in 2008). I majored in Visual Effects and minored in Technical Direction while I was there. I've had a career out here as a professional 3D Artist for over 12 years now, and my main focus/passion revolves around lighting, texturing, shader development, and rendering. Not too long ago I started creating 2D illustrations in Procreate as a side hobby. My Instagram channel exploded in popularity within just a few months (currently around 65k followers), and now it has turned into more of a serious side-hobby for me. Now I sell my own products like my Texture Brushes for Procreate, and my eBook - "Growing on Instagram".

Ian Ruhfass

What got you into illustrating?

I've been interested in creating art ever since I was a little kid. My grandfather was an incredible landscape oil painter, so I followed in his shadow, and I got turned onto creating 3D art when I was around 12 years old. After working in the 3D industry for many years, I ended up at Elastic, where I still work today. My good friend/coworker Max Ulichney is one of the best illustrators I've ever seen, and I've always been a huge admirer of his work. One day he brought his iPad into work and showed me this great program, Procreate. It seemed so intuitive and responsive, and I just knew I had to get it myself! I played around with it off and on for a while, until I stumbled upon a style that I really enjoyed. I saw some other artists on Instagram doing similar stuff with hundreds of thousands of followers, so I figured that I could do the same. I started posting my work weekly for the world to see, and the rest is history :)

Congratulations on your 3 Emmys! Can you tell us how that came about, and share your winning artworks with us?

Thank you! All of my Emmy's actually came from being a 3D Artist, not an illustrator. My first Emmy came just a few months after starting to work in the industry.

I was a Lighting Artist on the team at Psyop that worked on the 2009 Superbowl commercial "Coke Heist", which won for "Best Commercial".

Then in 2011 I was the Lighting/Shading Lead Artist at Elastic for the Game of Thrones main title sequence. That won for "Outstanding Main Title Design". This one was a big surprise because we had no idea the show would become such a big hit. When working on the intro we just thought it was a fun/challenging project, but it went on to become a lot of peoples favorite TV show intro ever! It's great seeing other works take inspiration from it over the years. Even the Simpsons created a intro based on it which was great to see.

In 2019, I was the 3D Lead Artist for the Game of Thrones season 8 intro, where we re-did the intro from scratch and designed it in a slightly different way. This won an Emmy for "Outstanding Main Title" as well. Being able to refresh the title sequence after years of new knowledge and rendering technology advancements was something we had wanted to do for a long time, and it felt great. Being able to go up on stage to accept the Emmy was one of the highlights of my career for sure. The after-party wasn't too bad as well ; )

Juggling work & personal life is always a task! Tell us a bit about what your typical day as an illustrator looks like.

Juggling work and personal life is one of the hardest things to do when working as an artist. There will always be work, so I've learned that it's very important to know when to put it aside. It's all too easy to get burned out otherwise, and miss all the great things life has to offer. Since I have a full-time career as a 3D Artist and a baby at home, free time is hard to come by! I try to set aside a few hours on the weekends to sit and draw. Coming up with new ideas for illustrations that I actually like and pulling it off is quite challenging I find. Whenever I think of an idea for a drawing, I'll add it to a list of mine. That way I can refer to that list for ideas whenever I can't come up with something. Once I land on an illustration I'm happy with, I have to re-draw the whole thing while recording. This way I already have a gameplan for how I'm going to draw it, and I do pull it off more smoothly and error-free than the first time - which makes for better video. The editing part takes the longest, and it's also the most tedious part. I edit the video down to around 5-6 minutes for YouTube, and then I create a 1 minute version for Instagram.

We love the 'cute things' identity you have to your work. What inspired you to follow this style?

I don't really know how I landed on the "cute things" style, but it's something that brings me joy. I figure if it makes me happy and I enjoy creating it, why not keep doing it! Everybody draws humans, but seeing a cute face on an inanimate object like a potted plant or a vegetable will never stop putting a smile on my face. There's just something about bringing that object to life and giving it a simple personality that I find interesting and engaging.

What work are you particularly proud of and why?

As far as my illustrations go, I'm particularly proud of my Hot Chocolate illustration. It's quite a simple painting, but it's the one post that got the most traction for me early on, and it really sums up my style quite well. Since it did so well, I always refer back to that video post to make sure I'm not wandering too far away from that feeling and style. My video posts were doing well enough until then, but the amount of views that one received (close to half a million) really opened my eyes to the fact that there are people out there who really enjoy my work. I knew after this post that I was onto something big, and I just needed to keep posting consistently.

hot chocolate illustration

Do you have a setup or workspace? It could be an inspiration for illustrators to get their creative juices flowing.

I don't have a set "workspace". That's the beauty about Procreate on the iPad I think - literally anywhere can be your workspace! Having such a busy life, I don't really know when or where I'll have free time to draw, so being able to draw in my lap while sitting on the couch or lying in bed is incredible compared to being tied down to a desktop computer. I do have a specific setup when it comes to recording my drawings, however. I have a DSLR overhead desk mount along with LED lights on stands ready to go at all times in case I need to record. When it comes to sketching out ideas though, anywhere goes!

Ian's Workspace

What is your design process, and what tools do you use for your work?

I do all of my illustrations in Procreate on the iPad Pro, along with the Apple Pencil and the Articka drawing glove. I find this setup extremely portable, versatile, and intuitive. Procreate is such a pleasure to work with and I find the brush engine extremely powerful. My design process comes in 4 steps:

  1. Come up with an idea for an illustration
  2. Draw it
  3. Record myself drawing it a 2nd time
  4. Edit down for YouTube / Illustration / Twitter

This is a much more tedious process than just drawing something and posting a picture of it, but I find that overhead videos of the drawing process are much more engaging and get exponentially more views. As I mentioned earlier, I keep a long list of possible drawing ideas and add to it every day. This, in combination with the Instagram Explore page are great ways to figure out ideas for what to draw next.

Would you like to plug something in for the readers? Your website, your ebook or maybe a course?

Texture Brushes for Procreate


Expertly crafted texture brushes by luma_llama to give your shadows, highlights, and details an incredible style. Compatible with Procreate 5+

Growing on Instagram eBook


In this eBook I'll share with you my tips and strategies for how I went from 0 to 50,000 followers on in just 6 months on Instagram, completely organically! Also included - Tips on how to grow your business. Also make sure to follow me on Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter!

Instagram: www.instagram.com/luma_llama

YouTube: www.youtube.com/c/luma_llama

Twitter: www.twitter.com/luma_llama

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