Game of Thrones’ ‘White Walkers’ send their creator to Turkey
Oktay Volkan Alkaya - ISTANBULWe don’t know whether you’ve heard the name Onur Çaylı, but you have probably watched at least one of the movies or TV shows he has worked on as a designer.
Çaylı’s long educational career started in the illustration and arts department of Ankara’s Hacettepe University, before proceeding onto the U.K. and then San Francisco’s Academy of Art.
He is one of the most successful artists in the field in Turkey, working with Sony Pictures and Dreamworks on animation for movies such as The Amazing Spider Man and Men in Black 3.
Çaylı has also worked on Avengers: Age of Ultron, Terminator Genesis, The Hunger Games and Unbroken, but today he is more commonly known for creating the “White Walkers” in the smash hit TV show, Game of Thrones.
Çaylı spoke to Hürriyet about his experiences at the zenith of the digital art industry.
Did you plan your career in design during your education in digital arts?
I tried to develop myself in all fields of art. In high school and university I received an education in the arts. Improving general drawing skills is very important to developing a foundation. I started planning my career after I was done with my education. After finishing my degree in the graphic design department, I opted to embrace 3D.
Do you believe there are enough educational opportunities to be a successful graphic designer in Turkey?
We have schools that provide distinguished education. But school can only give you education to a certain degree. The rest is down to ambition for success and love for your profession. After their graduation, people need to keep up with this constantly changing field and monitor the trends.
Academic arts education is essential to developing a foundation as a young artist, but academics need to introduce original work in order to gain the students’ respect. An academic who only teaches in theory can only inspire a student to a limited extent. There’s a need for academics who can inspire students by working with them on artistic projects in practice. Rote education only harms innovation in young minds. Arts and technology are changing, so we need to keep up with the times and update arts education with an international understanding.
Is studying abroad a must, how did an education abroad contribute to your education?
Studying abroad is not a must. There are many artists in Turkey who work internationally that people are not aware of. You can make a name for yourself simply by working from home and learning. You definitely get noticed, if your work is good. Sharing this at appropriate platforms is enough. Studying abroad gave me the opportunity to breathe the same air as miscellaneous artists from around the globe and share my ideas with them to test their abilities. Of course, experiencing different cultures has helped me expand my horizon. The artist initiates the creating process in his own shell, but usually he feeds of the conditions surrounding him. Your visual memory, understanding of the world changes and consequentially you become more creative and worldly.
How did you prove yourself to major production companies?
I got the chance to prove myself by winning competitions at school and I did an internship for a semester. After that, companies started reaching out to me and offering me jobs. By taking part in meetings, and by showing my disciplined work pace, I showed them how much I wanted to do this and how much I loved my job.
Do you believe that you are appreciated in your field in Turkey?
Everybody goes abroad to prove their abilities and get appreciation for their efforts. But artists don’t carry around their home country’s flag. They get inspiration from their home country but they don’t think about anything other than creating and experiencing as a natural process.
Artists shouldn’t be expected to reimburse their countries, because our inspiration is a global value. In my opinion, in order to appreciate work properly we should see it as an individual race rather than a race of nations.
The truth is that we live in a creative and productive country that has always reflected the most beautiful embodiments of arts. Why can’t we create the authentic art style that we see in ancient Anatolian civilizations? Over time we have closed ourselves off to other ideas. We lost our understanding of other thoughts and thus we deprive the artist of a fruitful environment.
Perhaps this sentence is a bit of a cliché, but as time passes the arts and artists are becoming less appreciated. Unfortunately, people only show interest when one of us makes a name for him or herself abroad. I know many people, like myself, who are working in this field and waiting to be discovered. They continue their work without any expectations and knowing that they will never get the appreciation they deserve. They see art as an existential tool of expression.
What are your career plans after this?
After this, my career will be focused on education. I will return to Turkey and share my experiences and knowledge with my young artist friends, to lay the foundation of a new Turkish film sector. I will adapt the education I acquired in the U.S. to open an arts school where I can pass on this understanding.
What do you think of the 3D work in Turkey at the moment?
There are many artists who are doing wonderful work, but only people related to this kind of work know about it. If we provide the appropriate conditions, artists will be able to find an environment in which they can develop themselves. In my opinion, the real problem is that a market like this hasn’t yet been formed.
If you had to rate the projects you have been a part of, which would be in the top 3?
I’d say my short films that have competed in film festivals, Avengers, and Game of Thrones.
Turkey is home to many design students and graduates. What is your advice to those wanting to develop themselves in the 3D field?
I get a lot of messages about this question. Gaining experience and finding my own path were a result of the particular effect of the life around me. I think everyone’s talent and desires are different. My humble advice would be not to let anyone make fun of or belittle your dreams. Don’t doubt your talent and believe in yourself. Your work is the creation of your thoughts, sentiments and soul. I always trust them and reward myself.
Also, this work cannot be done without love. If you can work and lose track of time, not being able to go home until someone tells you “enough,” then this is very fortunate.
In addition, if you want to succeed in the international arena, foreign language ability can help get you to all the sources you need. Nowadays, communication and the arts are advancing in parallel with each other.
Lastly, the urge for success and appreciation from others is very strong, but I think an artist should always race with themselves. This is how you can acquire an original way of expression.